Japan Jam-packed: Roundabout of Land of the Rising Sun
by Irene Han
Ever since I visited Japan two years ago, it keeps drawing me back. It’s become my favorite travel spot. There’s just so much to see and do in Japan that I’ll never get tired of it. I don’t even know where to begin so I’ll just share some of my favorite things from my trips to Japan.
A good way to get a taste of Japan is starting from Tokyo and then move down to Kyoto and Osaka or vice versa and making a few day trips along the way.
I always make sure to stop by Tokyo for the endless food and shopping options. I come from New York so I feel right at home in this fast paced city life. I recommend checking out Tsukiji Market for an affordable and high quality sushi meal and shopping at Shibuya and Harajuku for trendy fashion.
A lot of tourists visit the Tokyo Tower or Skytree for a view of the city. If you are looking for a cheaper alternative (500 yen discounted rate with online coupon) or looking to get a nice view of these landmarks instead, I would recommend the World Trade Center Building Seaside Top observatory. I loved watching the sunset from here and you can also check out the Roppongi area afterwards since it has a good nightlife.
If you like hot springs, you should spend a night or two in Hakone or Lake Kawaguchiko on the way to Kyoto. Both locations are very scenic and fun to spend the afternoon exploring. During my last trip to Japan I stayed at a ryokan called Konansou at Lake Kawaguchiko. I woke up to a clear view of Mt. Fuji in the distance. This was definitely my most memorable hotel experience. The staff also goes above and beyond to make sure your stay is comfortable. You can also enjoy traditional Japanese meals included in your stay and reserve a private hot spring session with a view of Mt. Fuji while you soak.
Kyoto is rich in culture and history. My favorite memory from our visit was renting a kimono and walking through the streets of Gion district during cherry blossom season. The Kiyomizu-dera Temple and other nearby temples are great for photo ops.
A visit to Kyoto isn’t complete without walking through the famous Inari Shrine tori gates. I enjoyed going early in the morning to beat the crowd. It’s a very peaceful uphill hike.
There are also many day trips you can take from Kyoto. A lesser known one is Uji, a small city situated between Kyoto and Nara. Uji is famous for its green tea, so you can see why it’s become my favorite day trip spot. There’s a popular restaurant there called Nakamura Tokichi Honten that serves matcha/green tea meals and sweets. Their tea jelly with matcha ice cream and sweet red bean dessert is to die for!
As you move along on your trip, you’ll reach Osaka. A great way to discover this metropolitan area is buying the Osaka Amazing Pass. It includes free admission to a lot of popular facilities in Osaka such the Osaka Castle, Umeda Sky Building Observatory, river cruises and more. It also includes free transportation within the city. The pass also comes with a booklet and coupons to get additional discounts at other facilities and restaurants. I bought the day pass and visited multiple locations which saved me a lot of money.
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Lastly, my favorite thing about Osaka is the Namba area. You can easily access so many street foods, restaurants, and shopping malls by foot. It’s just a very lively and colorful area to stroll through at night around Dotonbori Street.
There’s still so many things about Japan that I can list. I’m already thinking about my next trip to Japan and explore new areas such as Hokkaido.
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