Howdy all. So I wanted to compile a reasonably comprehensive list of the places I’ve been to in Japan with a short comment/paragraph each. Japan is a great destination. And there is so much to see and do within its borders. If we are lucky enough, hopefully at some point in the first half of next year Australians will be able to travel there – there is talk of a ‘travel bubble’ which will include some Asian countries with low to no numbers of covid-19. It will depend on how we’re all doing and it seems foreign travel that’s non-essential won’t be possible until at least March. Anyways Japan is just one place which just gives and gives the visitor so much. So, here are some places I’ve been and what I thought about them.
Tokyo is the obvious place to start. It’s the capital and the biggest city, and one of the biggest cities in the entire world. And one of the tallest. So if you’re visiting and want to start with a view of the skyscrapers and the rest of the cities, well then you are spoilt for choice. There are two main options if you want to head to a high place and check out the city from there, one being the Tokyo Skytree, at 634 metres it claims to be the tallest tower in the world. It opened in 2010, but the Tokyo Tower is older – constructed in the 1950s, and although only around half the height, is still a great option for the views! I’ve only been to the Tower.
Another place I haven’t been but am keen to try because, well it sounds so kitschy is the Robot Restaurant. Robots dance and perform a show for you as you eat. If you do like robots, well then you MUST visit the Miraikan – the Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation. There are loads of interactive displays, it’s great for all ages and you will meet (if he’s still there) the Asimo robot who walks and talks and is pretty bloody amazing.
Of course, there’s the two Disneylands – Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo Disney Sea. [Check out City Rumble – Tokyo Disneyland versus Tokyo Disney Sea] They are a little way from the centre of Tokyo, but easy enough to visit by train or car. And probably bus. Personally, if you want to only see one I would choose Tokyo Disneyland, it seems to offer a little bit more. The rides are better for sure. Tickets for both can be bought at, of all places, 7Eleven!
Tokyo also has its temples, Meiji probably being the most famous in the middle of the amazing Yoyogi Park. This area is right next to Harajuku where you’ll see a bit of Japanese ‘alternative culture’ if you will. Hang around in the right places and youngsters dress up as characters from anime and the like for others to photograph. You’re also close to Shibuya, a great district of Tokyo with plenty of hustle, a famous intersection and a statue of the famous dog, Hachiko.
Another temple well worth visiting is Sensoji, in the district of Asakusa. Other districts with their own uniqueness worth checking out include Shinjuku and Akihabara, the electronics centre but also the place where you will find ‘Maid Cafes’, which I must admit to never having visited. It’s a very interesting district.
Ueno is perhaps the one filled with the most sights. The large Shinobazu Pond is more of a lake, and is beautiful in many ways (and heck, you can go paddling on a swan too if it takes your fancy!), and next to it is the brilliant Shitamachi Museum, a restored old house from yesteryear.
But Ueno is also home to the museums, and the zoo. The National Museum, the Museum of Western Art and the National Museum of Science and Nature (plus a couple of others) are located there.
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg for Tokyo, there’s also the Emperor’s Palace as well and much more. Just riding the metro is an experience in itself!
Not far from Tokyo, thirty minutes or less on the right train, Yokohama is a port town and just walking around the bay area is worth a couple of hours in and of itself. The Landmark Tower offers some great views of Yokohama and the area below, there’s great shopping and many other things of interest including a Model Railway Museum and not one but TWO noodle museums – one called the ‘Cup Noodle Museum’, the other a Ramen Museum located in a different part of the town. Back at the bay area there is also a Maritime Museum where you can board a cool old boat!
Hakone & Mt Fuji
On a clear day you can see Mt Fuji from parts of Yokohama. Many people hike it, although it needs to be the Summer – I haven’t climbed it myself. You can see it from the beautiful area of Hakone, an easy day trip from Tokyo. You can travel by train, cable car and gondola over the mountains where sulphur pours out and the smell is something else. Then down to a lake and a boat ride in some stunning countryside.
See Also – A Day at Hakone
Kyoto is brilliant and very often people’s favourite city in all of Japan. It’s got plenty to see and do, including a bunch of temples which you chose as you like. However, you probably shouldn’t miss the Golden Temple – the amazing Kikankuji which folks from all over Japan flock to see in their thousands. Not far away from the temple is the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove which is a really beautiful (and popular) spot. Go for a walk amongst the tall bamboo.
Also there is the Kyoto Tower, another opportunity to see a city from on high and observe its position inside a ring of mountains. Something a little different and very cool, the Manga Museum is not to be missed! Again, cosplayers dress up (I think on Sundays) and pose for others to photograph.
Explore the Geisha District, beautiful if it’s Cherry Blossom Season (around late March to early April in Kyoto). Also there is a theatre where you can watch a Geisha performance. If you have the money though you can attend one in a much smaller setting in one of the many places there.
See Also – First Taste – Kyoto
Nearby to Kyoto, Osaka is apparently a fun place to visit. I only spent an afternoon there, and I checked out the excellent Aquarium. Also somewhere near or in Osaka is Universal Studios Japan, yes a theme park with American origins – all the kids at the school I used to teach at in Japan, when I was living there, absolutely LOVED it. Osaka is also famous for the Osaka Castle.
Also nearby Kyoto, a convenient day trip. Check out Nara Gardens which contain many temples and buildings, loads of adorable deer and one main temple in particular, the incredible Todai-ji.
Fans of the work of Osamu Tezuka or indeed Manga/Anime in general may find the Osamu Tezuka Manga Museum in Takarazuka, a 30 minute train ride from Kyoto, well worth the time to visit.
Hiroshima and Miyajima
Hiroshima is a great city to visit. You’ll want to see the A-Bomb Dome, and the Peace Memorial Museum where you can learn about the effects of the first ever atomic bomb used on a city/people. It’s very moving and not to be missed. Hiroshima Castle is in a large park and worth some time, and I also attended a baseball game there watching the might Carp play. It was a lot of fun and not a bad way to spend a couple of hours – although it did drag in the end!
A train and ferry ride from Hiroshima takes you to Miyajima. A beautiful little island with a tori out in the water (a gate). There are walking paths and more temples and it’s really worthwhile.
Takayama is up in the mountains and a very picturesque town indeed. Great for a walk, but also is home to some amazing festivals such as the Takayama Autumn Festival. Parades with these amazing floats take to the streets, and even if you are not there at festival time (varies) you can still check out the amazing Festival Floats Hall where many are store when not in use. There is also a miniature display of the whole town which changes from day to night whilst you are in there, and also other famous buildings in Japan. It’s known as the Sakurayama Nikkokan. Also of interest was they extremely kitschy Showa Museum – lots of great stuff from the 1950s and 1960s in there!
I visited Nagoya back in 2011 and enjoyed a tour of the castle there – it’s a great castle in the Japanese style and worth a visit. I also visited the Noh Theatre, which had a bit of a display happening when I was there.
Sendai and Northern Honshu
Sendai is the biggest city (I think) in this region. It’s interesting too with plenty to keep you occupied such as the Aoba Castle (also known as the Sendai Castle) which is really big and offers some great views of the city. Naturally there are some interesting temples and the Akui Waterfall which, although not that big, is worth seeing.
Morioka and Iwate are familiar to me because I lived in the second city of Iwate Province, Ichinoseki, and although Ichinoseki isn’t crammed full of things to see and do, Morioka has a festival or two, its own castle and a couple of historic houses open to the public. And, like much of the country, if you venture into the countryside you’ll find interesting temples and a Japanese favourite – the Onsen, hot baths which are so common throughout the country. Hachmantai is one of the most famous mountains of the region and not that from it you’ll find the Yakahashiri Lava Flow, a three kilometre stretch of hardened lava from an eruption of Mt Iwate back in the 1700s.
And of course – there is more, more and even more! I haven’t even been to the far south or Okinawa, or indeed to Hokkaido in the far north which I’d love to visit. Japan has so much on offer, you can keep going back time after time because you WILL find stuff you haven’t seen or experienced before when you do!
See Also – Seven Reasons to Visit Japan
Thanks for stopping by today as ALWAYS. And May the Journey Never End!