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Author Topic: Japan Trip Spring 2016  (Read 1192 times)

Aimless

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Japan Trip Spring 2016
« on: 13 Jul 2015, 13:53 »

So, the ginger and I will hopefully spend a couple of weeks in Japan next spring, either late March/early April or late April/early May. She's already been there twice, mostly Tokyo but also some other cities, while I haven't even had the occasion to think about what I'd like to do there. I think we'll spend a week in Tokyo and spend a week elsewhere (probably not too far from Tokyo) and my list is slowly taking shape but I'd love some help with it, so...

... if you've been to Japan: what was the most fun thing you did, where was the nicest or most beautiful place you went, what was the best thing you ate?

... if you were to go to Japan, what would you like to do the most and where would you like to go?

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Re: Japan Trip Spring 2016
« Reply #1 on: 13 Jul 2015, 15:15 »

So, the ginger and I will hopefully spend a couple of weeks in Japan next spring, either late March/early April or late April/early May. She's already been there twice, mostly Tokyo but also some other cities, while I haven't even had the occasion to think about what I'd like to do there. I think we'll spend a week in Tokyo and spend a week elsewhere (probably not too far from Tokyo) and my list is slowly taking shape but I'd love some help with it, so...

... if you've been to Japan: what was the most fun thing you did, where was the nicest or most beautiful place you went, what was the best thing you ate?

... if you were to go to Japan, what would you like to do the most and where would you like to go?

Being serious, I could ask my cousin, and his wife (the latter of whom is Japanese), but I'm so forgetful you'll probably have to smack me around with a clue-bat.  Off the top of my head, I'd head to cat island, but then again, I'm a major cat person.
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Re: Japan Trip Spring 2016
« Reply #2 on: 13 Jul 2015, 17:04 »

I checked with the experts...
http://travel.nationalgeographic.com/travel/top-10/things-to-do-in-japan/
Plus, I've a friend there I'd need to visit.  He consults for Nat'l Geo and helped create this list.

Visit Kyoto’s Ancient Sites (a week)

Japan’s capital from 794 to 1868, Kyoto is bathed in history. The most iconic remnant of the city’s imperial past is the outrageously gilded Kinkakuji, once a shogun’s retirement villa and now a Zen Buddhist temple. Perched on the bank of a serene pond, Kinkakuji casts a famed golden reflection in the water. Just as captivating are Kyoto’s less ostentatious sites, such as the minimalist and cryptic dry landscape garden at Ryoanji.

In all, Kyoto boasts 17 World Heritage sites (Kinkakuji and Ryoanji included), but with some 2,000 temples and shrines across the city, not to mention numerous gardens, they represent a fraction of Kyoto’s alluring heritage.


Overnight in a Temple (24 hours)

Mount Koya has been a place of pilgrimage since the monk Kobo Daishi was inspired to found the Shingon school of Buddhism amid its ancient cedars in the ninth century. Among the highlights of a visit—besides wandering the eerie, almost primeval Okunoin cemetery and the multitude of temples built in Daishi’s honor—is the opportunity to stay with the monks at one of Koya’s mountaintop temples.

Eko-in is one of nearly 50 such places open to guests, and it offers a typical Koya experience—a Spartan and tranquil tatami-mat room, a multi-course vegetarian dinner exquisitely presented on lacquerware, and the chance to join the monks and pilgrims for early morning prayers.


Gallery Hop on "Art Island" (skippable)

With three major galleries and many smaller art venues, picturesque Naoshima in the Seto Inland Sea is a standout on Japan’s contemporary art scene. The best of the galleries is the Tadao Ando-designed Benesse House, a sleek hotel and gallery that hosts work by artists such as David Hockney, Bruce Nauman, and Frank Stella.

But art isn’t restricted to conventional spaces on Naoshima. Nineteen dazzling outdoor installations dot Benesse’s beachfront grounds, while in the laidback fishing village of Honmura, several of the old wooden buildings have been transformed into permanent art installations. Even the island’s I Love Yu public baths have had a pop-art makeover. Naoshima has been dubbed “Art Island” for good reason.



Ski Niseko (if you're into skiing, take 48 hours)

This small ski resort town in Hokkaido boasts the finest powder in the country and three major ski resorts to match: Niseko Village, Niseko Annupuri, and the Grand Hirafu/Hanazono.

Away from the resorts, the allure is prime backcountry powder and ample opportunities for ice climbing, telemark skiing, and boarding through virgin snow. It’s not bad in summer either, when winter activities give way to summer favorites like whitewater rafting, mountain biking, and kayaking. And Niseko also has a year-round draw—mineral-rich hot springs perfect for soaking away aches and pains from a day on the slopes.


Experience Traditional Accommodation (every night)

The gentle scent of tatami, the understated elegance of the interiors, the meticulous service, the outdoor hot spring baths, the multi-course meal of local seasonal produce, the calming silence—all combine to make a night at a traditional Japanese inn, or ryokan, an unforgettable experience.

Unforgettable, but not cheap, with room and meals that can reach ¥100,000 per night. Fortunately, Japan has all bases covered—the smaller and less formal minshuku, which provide a similarly traditional though less luxurious experience, are usually less than ¥10,000 a night.

Soak in a Natural Hot Spring (easily done daily)

There is something quintessentially Japanese about getting naked for a soak with strangers. In fact, the Japanese have been using communal onsen, or natural hot spring waters, to relax and heal for centuries—the earliest mention dating back 1,300 years to bathers in Dogo, Shikoku.
Dogo is still one of the country’s most renowned onsen resorts. The grand, three-storey Dogo Onsen Honkan at the center of the resort is a 19th-century architectural gem complete with a bathing room (albeit unused nowadays) set aside for the imperial family.
Not that you need venture to Dogo for a good soak—there are thousands of public baths and ryokan with onsen across the country, all worth stripping off for.


Explore Tokyo’s Old East Side (massive, overpriced tourist trap)

Sensoji, a Buddhist temple in Asakusa, is about as touristy as it gets in Tokyo. Head a few blocks in any direction, however, and the tourists soon give way to a part of the capital that has never strayed far from its pre-war status as the city’s premier entertainment district.

> worth a day> Most representative of that is the tiny Hanayashiki Amusement Park, home to retro rides that include the country’s first (and possibly most sedate) rollercoaster. Nearby is Rokku Broadway, where historic theaters like Engei Hall put on a bill packed with slapstick comedy and traditional comic storytelling. Not surprisingly, the area also teems with good watering holes—like Kamiya Bar, where the local tipple is a legendary concoction of brandy, gin, and curaçao aptly named Denki Bran (Electric Bran[dy]), first mixed here in the 1880s.


Hike the Northern Alps (for the very fit hiker types)

The breathtaking peaks of Japan’s Northern Alps are considered the country’s premier hiking grounds. And for good reason—from the small town of Kamikochi, the gateway to the area, visitors have a choice of easy day hikes or week-long adventures that would challenge the fittest of hikers.

In the peak of summer, the most popular routes can crawl with weekend hikers, but come on a weekday or wait for autumn and visitors get to experience the Northern Alps’ jagged, nearly 10,000-foot peaks and virgin forests as nature intended—unspoiled by crowds.


Tour Hiroshima’s Peace Memorial Park and Museum (VERY graphic.  A few hours at most)

Dedicated to victims of the atomic bombing of August 6, 1945, the Peace Memorial Park and Museum are poignant and moving monuments to the horrors of nuclear weapons. 
The disfigured frame of the park’s A-Bomb Dome, one of the few buildings in central Hiroshima to survive the blast, serves as a vivid reminder of the destruction that befell the city. Other parts of the park are equally evocative—none more so than the Children’s Peace Monument. Built in memory of one of the many children who died from leukemia as a result of the fallout, it’s always decorated with origami cranes of hope sent from children across Japan.


Sample the "B-Grade Gourmet" (duh. daily)

Japan is known for fine cuisine like sushi, tempura, and kaiseki, but its low-cost culinary underbelly (“B-grade gourmet,” as the Japanese call it) is just as mouth watering. The king of the B, ramen noodles, are ubiquitous, filling, and something of a national obsession—some shops are revered enough to have people waiting in line for hours just for a few minutes of ecstatic slurping.

Not that it’s all good. Some, like the vending machine hotdog or convenience store fried noodle sandwich, should probably be labeled "Z-grade."

++bonus material++
Jigokudani Monkey Park, near Nagano, site of the Winter Olympics. 24-48 hours for the district.

Himeji Castle in Kyoto.  A personal MUST SEE for me.

Imperial Palace in Tokyo.  A full day.  Tours are available.

Mt. Fuji.  minimum of 24 hours and be in good condition to climb to the summit.


 :clairedoge: me go to Japan too ??  :clairedoge:

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Re: Japan Trip Spring 2016
« Reply #3 on: 13 Jul 2015, 22:00 »

Sadly, all my trips to Japan were for work, so I didn't see much outside offices and factories. The same applied to Korea.
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Re: Japan Trip Spring 2016
« Reply #4 on: 14 Jul 2015, 15:30 »

So. Very. Very. Jealous. Honestly I want to just get lost in the museums (preferably with all the ukiyo-e prints) and visit the Studio Ghibli museum and stay at a hot spring resort and eat lots of good food.
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Re: Japan Trip Spring 2016
« Reply #5 on: 16 Jul 2015, 12:36 »

I have no advice other than take lots of photos to show off when you get back!
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Re: Japan Trip Spring 2016
« Reply #6 on: 18 Jul 2015, 04:18 »

One of my fave subjects.

I see you've chosen to go at prime time Sakura season, you'll need to find a website that gives a rough estimate of when the blossoms bloom when it starts in the West in Nagasaki and works its way East across the country over the space of a month or so.  Check the following website to get a rough estimate of dates to look out for next year.  https://www.jnto.go.jp/sakura/eng/index.php.  You'll need to book at least three months in advance for accommodation as it's one of the busiest times of the year.

Other then that, here are other places I can recommend starting in and around Tokyo (buy a Suica card for using public transport which is easy enough from the relevant machines at a station).

Shinjuku - Gyoen National Garden will be a must visit during the cherry blossom season.
Asakusa & Senso-ji Temple
Akihabara - Otaku heaven (I spent far too much money on collectible figures on my first visit).
Ueno Park & zoo - the Tokyo National Museum is also located here
Ginza - rich people shopping area
Imperial Palace - another cherry blossom location
Skytree, Tokyo Tower and/or Sunshine City (visit at least one for a awesome view of Tokyo, or all three like I have to get a great perspective of the city from three different angles).
Sunshine City aquarium - awesome seal show, spent 5 hours here on my last visit to Japan and took over 400 pictures.
Ikebukuro - where Sunshine City is located, also great shopping area

My main advice is to plan ahead if possible and choose locations close to each other and then walk between them, keep use of the metro system to the minimum if possible.  You'll find all sorts of wonderful things as you stroll about.  My favourite discovery was walking from Tokyo Tower to Hamarikyu Gardens and finding an old tiny shrine huddled in the shadows of several modern day skyscrapers.

Other places around Tokyo are Studio Ghibli Museum if you like their anime (buy ticket before travelling), Nikko to the North of Tokyo which has a World Heritage site and on the walk from station to site there is this wonderful little shop by an artist called Kousyuuya (use a search engine for website) who does the most fantastic dragon art paintings, he'll create one there and then for you and isn't expensive at all.  South of Tokyo is Kamakura with the massive Buddha and as many Temples and Shrines as Tokyo and Kyoto have but more densely packed so walking between them is pretty easy.  The best place to fill up your quota of temple and shrine visiting :)

Kyoto is a must for more temples and shrines and Hiroshima for the Memorial Park and museum.

JR Pass is a must buy purchase if travelling outside Tokyo, Shinkansen are the best trains in the world, if you can afford it splash out and treat yourself to the Green Pass for that extra VIP feeling.  Oh, and when travelling from Tokyo to Kyoto and beyond make sure you ask for a window seat on the right of the train, approx. 30 minutes out from the city is where you'll get to see Mount Fuji.

I would suggest checking out Tripadvisor and SeeJapan websites for ideas, Hyperdia for planning train rides when travelling on the Shinkansen.
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