Japan Travel Tips

Why add Japan to your Bucket List?

The moment I arrived in the Japan I knew it was going to be something special; from the cheerful tweeting bird sounds playing at the train station and road crossings to the man who appeared out of no-where at the JR (Japanese Rail) office to extend the queuing barriers. The Japanese have perfected most things it seems, including the art of queuing and everything runs very smoothly and ensures a stress free trip.

So what really makes it such an amazing place to visit and why should you add Japan to your bucket list?

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Japanese simply love their cherry blossom and you can find it everywhere

How much the Japanese love their cherry blossom

Forgetting for a moment how beautiful the cherry blossom is, well you can see from the picture. What made Japan so special for me was the Japanese’s total love and respect of the cherry blossom, known as sakura. Go explore Ueno Park, in Tokyo, it’s a beautiful place to visit, during March/April you’ll see hundreds and hundreds of people picnicking under the trees and along the paths. I chatted to an elderly local man who visits every day during cherry blossom season,  his love for the sakura was so infectious I felt a buzz of happiness through just talking to him.

Becky’s Tip – If you’re visiting Ueno Park, Tokyo. Don’t go early or late to miss the crowds, go for the full Japanese (and a bit crazy) experience.

Yes it’s Another Karaoke bar

The Japanese have a real love for Karaoke and walking the streets you’ll come across bars full of singing men and women, I wandered into Fantasia bar, Kyoto and once I’d opened the door there was no way I was leaving. It might seem a bit daunting at first but the Japanese are so lovely and welcoming you’ll soon be singing away with them. I did an amazing version, well I thought it was good, of Backstreet Boys, accompanied by the rest of the bar.

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Some real passion shown in the Sumo Wrestling boughts

Japan’s National sport is Sumo Wrestling

This is a unique sporting event I was lucky enough to experience whilst I was in Osaka. The day starts with the student matches, so gives you a chance to work out the rules before the serious competitors enter the arena (although they aren’t too difficult to figure out!)

The serious bouts start around 14.00, this is where it really gets interesting, you can see the different techniques used  especially with the really large versus smaller wrestlers; I have to admit these were my favourite bouts and I was always shouting for the small guy! The atmosphere in the arena was amazing the whole day; there was a lot of love for a wrestler called Endo, so naturally I supported him too.

Becky’s Tip – Before you arrive in Japan check out whether there are any tournaments on during your visit and make sure you book your tickets in advance. 

Luckily this toilet comes with English translation but some it’s just guess work!

What’s all the fuss about the toilets? 

If you’ve read a blog on Japan, surely someone has mentioned the toilets, they are amazing, yes, I’m talking about toilets I know! They have an insane amount of gadgets, including various water jets, dryers and heated seats which is a real luxury (even on the train).  My favourite option was the music button which played music or waterfall sound effects,  to disguise what you’re doing in there, although for me it was just disguising my giggles.

Becky’s Tip – I’d recommend starting with the low water jet and work your way up so as not to have too much excitement on your first trip to the bathroom, he he!

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Exploring Kyoto’s Fushimi Inari Shrine, at sunset

Spotting all the Japanese Torii

I’d never heard of ‘torii’ before my visit to Japan but once you visit you simply can’t forget them. A torii is a traditional Japanese shrine gate, they come in various sizes and most of them are painted bright orange. For me the bright orange torii vividly sticks in my mind, every time I saw one I couldn’t help but click away with my camera, as was everyone else including the Japanese of course!

My favourites were Fushimi-Inari in Kyoto, where the torii wound up the mountain side taking you on a magical walk exploring the mini shrines on route. I also loved the torii on Mijajima Island (UNESCO World Heritage Site), at low tide you can walk underneath the magnificent structure and high tide it becomes a beautiful floating torii. See my photo on Instagram

Becky’s Tip – If you’re visiting Fushimi-Inari in Kyoto, after 5pm is a great time to visit, you miss the crowds and dusk is a great time for photos. 

Just trying out for size – Do you like my free slippers too!

Experiencing my very first pod (aka Capsule Hotel)

I think I’m one of those people who just get excited over little things so for me every part of staying in the capsule hotel was so exciting. I was walking around with a permanent grin on my face and clicking away with the camera. Although these hotels were initially designed for business men working late, they are ever-increasing in popularity with tourists, which is probably why in the hotel reception there was a large collection of giant suitcases that were never designed to fit in the lockers. I’m pleased to say with a bit of brute force my rucksack fitted perfectly, well it was 1, 2, 3 and then slam the door shut!

Read more about my experience here: What it’s like sleeping in a Capsule Hotel

One of the many whisky bars in Japan – only 4 stools but plenty of whisky!

All the bars are mini size

You’ll notice very quickly that all the bars in Japan are designed for between 6-20 people,  smaller seems to be the better because you meet more locals. My favourite best place to do this was in Shinjuku district, there are about 4/5 tiny streets to explore, known as Golden Gai.

In this area there are over 200 little bars each with its own quirky style, see what takes your fancy and try as many as you can, without falling over! The best technique was to follow the laughs, although due to the size sometimes these were already full up but you’re spoilt for choice so just try the next bar!

Becky’s Tip – The Golden Gai is also quite close to the ‘red light’ area in Tokyo so just be careful when you are navigating that you don’t end up in the wrong place….like I did oops!

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Delicious breakfast at Tokyo’s Fish Market – now that is some FRESH food!

How can I not mention the awesome food

Japan is well-known for their sushi, but there’s so many more delicious foods you can try. Some of my favourite included Ramen, a tasty broth. In some restaurants you select and pay for your ramen by chosing a picture on a machine, a great way to try something different too.

Tofu, there are some an amazing restaurants in Tokyo. Even if you think you don’t like tofu, which was me before I went then try it, I can promise you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

And lastly, Japan does some awesome street food, my favourite was exploring the Kyoto’s Nishiki Street Food Market. You’ll see so many weird and wonderful types of food, I experienced by first Octopus on a stick!

Becky’s Tip –  Go to Nishiki Street Food Market with an empty stomach so you can try as many things as possible!

 

Is Japan on your Bucket List or have you visited Japan? What did you like the best?  Tell me about your favourite Japanese memories or ask me any questions in the comments section below. 

Why Japan should be on your Bucket List!

 

Becky works full time in the UK; however her real passion is travel. She was a late starter, not going on her first solo trip until she was 32 flying off to Australia, which had been a dream since she was 9 years old. Becky has now totted up 40 countries across 6 continents. Becky has taken on several multi day hikes and summited Mount Kilimanjaro in 2012. She also has a love for wildlife, especially penguins. Follow her travels on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest at Becky the Traveller.

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Comments (28)

  1. This is such a great post. I have to choose between visiting Japan and Australia in April… I thought I’d decided on Aus, but now Japan is definitely back in the game!

    1. Ah a very difficult decison, I have visited both in April but the cherry blossom is defintely an experience you can’t miss. Australia is lovely in April too but I think I would pick Japan 🙂

    1. Ah well hopefully I might have persuaded you to change your mind. I could have written pages and pages but I think some things are also nice as a surprise when you visit a country. Yes I really couldn’t miss the toilets out, they were so technical!

  2. That’s amazing that you tried out the capsule hotel! I tried to do it too for my stay but it was booked out, which just supports your statement about its increasing popularity. Just incredible 🙂 nice job here!

  3. The cherry blossoms are so beautiful, what a treat to see those! The food looks absolutely amazing. I am glad that you included the toilets, so many buttons! Next time take a video if the toilet and various features (not while you are using it of course).

    1. Thanks Jen. Yes they really were so beautiful and the food I could have listed so much more, it’s all delicious. Ha ha I can just imagine the video, me laughing and everyone outside wondering what on earth I was doing 🙂

    1. Ah thanks Milijana, I am so glad you found it useful, defintely something to refer back to when booking your Japan trip so you don’t miss anything out. Ha ha I know the toilets, made me smile, which is kind of a bit werid for a toilet but that is the magic of Japan!!!!!!!!!!

  4. I’ve always wanted to see the cherry blossoms in Japan. Hopefully I’ll get there in 2018, and I’ll definitely have a drink in Golden Gai. Thanks for the tips!

    1. Ah that’s fantastic, I would recommend if you are thinking about going in 2018 to start planning end of 2017. I was late booking accommodation and didn’t do until end of January and a lot of the good places were already booked up. Golden Gai is great, you will love it. Happy to help, let me know if you would like to know anything else. 🙂

  5. Yes I really enjoyed my time in Japan especially when it was cherry blossom season. Next time I go back I want to see the Sumo wrestling!

  6. This is great! I’ve always been curious about Japan. Those cherry blossoms are sooo beautiful, and I love the way you describe the culture! It sounds like everyone is warm and welcoming, which is so important to me when I travel.

  7. Japan is so awesome. I didn’t get to see a sumo match but I did see the geishas, which was amazing. Also love the photoofthe cherry blossoms. I saw them in Korea and always so great to see. 🙂

  8. Japan is on my list to visit and reading this article really makes me want to book the first flight out 🙂 That’s really interesting to read about the toilets. It’s even more impressive to learn that even the toilets on the train are that well equipped. The food and taking in a sumo fight are the top things on list. Hopefully, 2017 will be my year for Japan.

    1. Ah that is fantastic Rosemary, you will definitely have a fantastic time. Yeah the UK toilets on the train are pretty awful so this was a new experience for me ha ha!!! So many different types of food for you to try out, I’m sure you will love it 🙂

  9. Ahhh Japan sounds amazing, such a magical place, especially during Cherry Blossom season 😀 the blossoms look something out of a fairytale land, you have captured them so beautifully! I’m longing to visit xx

  10. Very good post Becky, I really loved your writing style, so funny… 😀 I really have to try those capsules for one night, it looks like a long washing machine 😀 The toilets look funny too with all those gadgets. But let’s be serious for a moment, I love Japanese people because they are so well educated and organised starting very young, but on the other side they have some kind of craziness when it comes to music and electronics.

    1. Ah thanks so much Gabor, really appreciate you saying that. I always think it sounds funny in my head but never sure what other people think!!! Yes the capsules are defintely a fun experience, mine was much bigger than a washing machine!!! Yes I totally agree, a visit to the huge Sony Centre is a great place to visit for their techy gadegets 🙂