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?
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.
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.
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!
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.
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
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!
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.