Best for travel in Japan
If you have been dreaming of traveling to Japan and want to start planning your vacation, this travel guide is packed with all the tips and information that you’ll need to know before your trip to the “land of the rising sun”. From foods to try in Japan, to how much money to budget, to what travel gear to pack, to the best things to do in Japan, we’re covering everything. And I mean everything! We’re even answering your embarrassing questions like, “What are the toilets like in Japan?”
We are sharing exactly how much it costs to travel to Japan, and we’re throwing in some money-saving budget tips! This is the ultimate resources with everything you need to know before visiting Japan for the first time. Transportation in Japan is incredibly efficient and comfortable, but it ain’t cheap! To save the most money, purchase a 7-day JR Pass and you won’t regret it. If you plan to visit more than 1 region, the pass quickly pays for itself – just a roundtrip from Kyoto to Tokyo is enough to make up the steep price. (Plus, you get to ride the famous Japanese bullet trains which is a bucket list experience in itself!)
THE TOP 10 CITIES YOU HAVE TO DISCOVER
Between architectural masterpieces and idyllic natural surroundings, Nikko (about 150 km N of Tokyo) is one of the most charming towns in Japan. A beauty recognized by UNESCO, which has inscribed it on its World Heritage List. The site where the city and its sanctuaries are located is quite vast, but you can easily go around it thanks to the various tourist buses. The most emblematic place? The famous red bridge of Shinkyo, which, according to the legend, would have been formed by two snakes above the torrent. You should also visit the Toshogu shrine, one of the most beautiful in the country. Before leaving, admire the magnificent century-old cedars surrounding the city, and take a break at the Japanese garden of Rinno-ji Temple.
Tokyo is known for its diversity and vastness. The Shibuya and Shinjuku neighborhoods are the most likely to satisfy modernity addicts, with their futuristic architecture and crowded crowds. As for Akihabara, it will love new technology and manga fans. You will be surprised to discover some parentheses of calm: go to the alleys of Asakusa, around the Senso-ji, to get a glimpse of the ancient Edo and its art of living. In Yanaka, a quiet neighborhood life awaits you, with its shops, small restaurants and temples. The large park of Ueno, where the oldest zoo in the country is located, will bring greenery and tranquility to those who need it. Finally, the island of Odaiba will delight families with its beach and numerous theme parks.
The immense port of Yokohama (about 40 km SW of Tokyo) has been completely redeveloped, giving itself a futuristic look: the Minato Mirai district is a real architectural laboratory! The first city in Japan to trade with foreigners, it is still home to the largest number of different nationalities in Japan: its Chinatown district is well worth a visit. Take a walk in the beautiful Foreigners’ Cemetery before discovering its interesting museums.
Established on a hillside on the edge of the Pacific Ocean, Kamakura (about 60 km SW of Tokyo) has two faces. On the hillside, a historic city that retains a rich religious heritage, a legacy of its former status as a feudal capital: the great Buddha is undoubtedly the local star, but don’t miss to visit one of the 65 other temples, all different and splendid. On the opposite side, a seaside resort frequented by Tokyoites from the weekend, where you can enjoy seafood (on the island of Enoshima) and surf.
Kyoto is the historical and cultural capital of the country: a real open-air museum! The districts of Gion and Pontocho, where the famous geishas live, are the most emblematic, but the path of Philosophy or the green district of Arashiyama are also a must. Less known, the Demachiyanagi district, in the north of Kyoto, will plunge you into the daily life of the Japanese. Perhaps you will be able to attend a wedding in traditional dress at Shimogamo Shrine? Last colorful stop, a walk to Fushimi Inari, a shrine that lines up thousands of orange torii in the mountains.
In Japan, deer are seen as messengers of the gods. In Nara (about 460 km SW of Tokyo), they walk in total freedom and will convince you to feed them! Along the way, you will come across the largest Buddhist temple ever built, the Todai-ji. Don’t miss the path leading to the Kasuga Taisha Shrine and its 3,000 stone lanterns.
Osaka owes its expansion to its merchants, who sold the raw materials necessary for Japanese cuisine to the whole country: fish, rice and sake transited through its ports and counters. This gave Osaka an incomparable taste for gastronomy! Browse Sennichimae Doguyasuji Street to find the best utensils needed for the amateur chef that you are. The Dotombori district, with its giant screens and colorful signs, is famous for its street food stalls and electric atmosphere. Here, we live the night and the well filled belly!
Takayama (about 300 km W of Tokyo), nicknamed “Little Kyoto”, looks like an ancient village. In the old town, you will be immersed in a very traditional atmosphere with its shops and sake breweries. Don’t miss the morning market (asa ichi), which takes place along the Miyagawa River, where there are many curiosities to nibble on. To finish off, follow the marked paths that criss-cross the temples and cemeteries established on the city’s heights.
In Japan, mountains mean hot springs! In Hakone (about 90 km SW of Tokyo), a set of small villages scattered in the mountains, enjoy onsen, baths fed by natural hot springs: some have a view of Mount Fuji! The valley of Owaku-dani, accessible by cable car, presents curious natural phenomena, such as geysers or sulphur springs. The opportunity for beautiful hikes. Finally, take advantage of a cruise on Ashi Lake to admire the unique beauty of the landscape.
Kanazawa (about 400 km NW of Tokyo) is proud of its heritage: it preserves magnificent samurai and geisha quarters, and supports its porcelain and silk workshops. Its garden, the Kenroku-en, ranks among the 3 most beautiful in the country while its castle transports the visitor to the time of the daimyo (lords). The Museum of the 21st century offers a welcome breath of modernity. Treat yourself to a plate of ultra-fresh sushi at the fish market where Pacific crabs compete in size.
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