When I told my friends and family that I am planning a trip to Japan, the immediate reaction was “Doesn’t it have environmental issues?”. But during my research, I was so spellbound by the beauty of it, I wanted to see it with my own eyes and not let the environmental problems damper my desire to see the place. Although our journey to Japan started which these doubts, the minute we landed there, the friendliness in the airport itself assured us we were at the right place.
The politeness in the people was reflected in every part of their day to day activities.A beautiful country only gets more charming when surrounded by even beautiful people.
Japan is a tourist destination for everyone-be it for those who love to shop, trek, visit shrines, enjoy the scenic places like palaces or food lovers. A place for everyone to enjoy in their own style. Japan will offer you so much more. I have visited many places but I am sure Japan will be my all time favourite.
TIME TO VISIT JAPAN
As per my understanding, late Spring (March to May) and late Autumn (September to November) is said to be the best time to visit Japan. It’s also said Japan’s peak season is from April to August.
My visit however was planned in first week of June as a result I did get a few showers. However we did experience the end of the blossoming period. Since our trip was planned as a birthday holiday we chose this time. My recommendation is to visit sometime in May. Although we visited Japan during the peak season we didn’t experience big crowds.
TRAVELING IN AND AROUND JAPAN
Since we are someone who like to travel as the locals do we chose almost all the local transports. This included Shinkansen(famous Bullet Train), local trains, subways and buses.
Japan’s rail pass is the best way to get around the interstate. The local day passes works best in the state you set base at. I would advice taking passes for the local transport depending on your length of stay.
We didn’t face any travel problems as every transport system we used was on time and clear instructions were available for us through maps which we received at the ticket counter. Google map worked perfectly too. Most of the time we didn’t get their peak office hours but when we did, it wasn’t that bad.
Trust me its easily do able and if your stuck there is always someone around to help you out.
OUR HOTEL STAY AND DURATION RECOMMENDATION IN JAPAN
I would advise staying a little over a week to make the most of your trip. We stayed 4 nights in Tokyo, 4 Nights in Kyoto, with a day trip to Hiroshima and Mijiyama,and 1 Night in Hakone.
Most of the hotel rooms in Japan are not that big in size except for Hakone. But that being said everything is accommodated very well in every room. I found all the hotels which we opted for to be clean and easily accessible. We prefer to stay at hotels near public transports.
Tokyo- One Night in Sotetsu Fresa Inn Tokyo Kyobashi.
Reason we chose this hotel was cause it was close to Ginza shopping (first day we just wanted to rest) plus in the morning we had planned an early trip so we needed a place close to the station.
Hakone- One Night in Hakone Pax Yoshino.
We opted for this as we wanted to chose a hotel which would show us how the decor of a traditional Japanese home are. They truly lived up to what we read online. Here I found the rooms to be very spacious with care taken to incorporate the Japanese culture. For example, there were traditional clothes to wear and go for dinner in the hotel. While choosing the rooms there are options of having the bathroom in the room or using one in the common area, so chose as per preference. Since we had the Hakone two day pass getting to and from the hotel by bus was easily accessible as there is a bus stop right in front of the hotel. But we preferred to walk instead as the area was prettier by foot.
Kyoto -Four Nights in Ibis Styles Kyoto Station.
This is literally right opposite Kyoto station. Since we were arriving late and travelling early mornings to our planned destinations, we felt this hotel would be the best option for us. It’s a typical Ibis Style Hotel and I didn’t have much issues with it.
Tokyo- Three Nights in APA Hotel Ginza- Kyobashi.
Out of all the hotels that we stayed in Japan I found this to be my least favourite. We didn’t have problem locating the hotel but its interiorly located so do research should you opt for it .We chose this hotel because it was close to the train station and airport transport was also easier from here as Tokyo was our last stop before heading home. I found the rooms to be smaller and also sometimes it got a little noisy down at the lobby which didn’t bother me much because we were out most of the day and at night we were too tired and dozed off immediately. Given a choice again I would look for another option. However all being said l had no issues with the cleanliness and the staff in the hotel were always helpful when needed.
THINGS TO DO
HAKONE THINGS TO DO
Active volcano of Japan which is about 100 km southwest of Tokyo. It’s considered Japan’s 3rd sacred mountain and there are popular summit hikes one can plan to do. You can view it from Lake Ashi cruises or from Owakudani or from Mishima Skywalk and at times, if weather permits, from the bullet train journey. Unfortunately we only saw this from a distant but the sight was beautiful. I would have loved to planned something up close.
Also referred to as Hakone lake or Ashinoko lake. The name of the lake in Japanese means lake of reeds. The lake is known for its views of Mount Fuji. There are several cruises operating here, which are designed to look like sailing warships. The lake lies near the complex volcano that had erupted in 1170 at Owakudani. One can travel to the Shrine, Owakudani, Onsh Hakone park, Hakone Tokaido checkpoint and Hakone ropeway from here.It is also a popular place for hikers.
This is the volcanic valley created from the explosion of the Hakone volcano 3000 years ago. You can still see active sulphur vents and hot springs. You must definitely try the black egg here which is made from eggs being boiled in the hot spring.
Locals claim if you eat the egg it can add seven years to your life.
This is the link between Sounzan and Togendai via Owakudani, all within Hakone. After Hashikursan Ropeway, it’s second of its kind in the nation. The ropeway gandola trip lasts for 30 mins which is covered in the Hakone pass. You get to see the active sulphuric hot spring sources of the Owakudani Valley. This was a first for us, not the gondolas, but being surrounded by hot springs. We were told to stay away from such places but I would definitely recommend this as the experience is due to leave a memory.
On the shores of Lake Ashi is the Japanese Shinto shrine. It is also known as Hakone Gongen. The shrine is located deep within the forest. While doing the Lake Ashi cruise we can also see the torri gates(Japanese traditional gateway) prominently standing in the lake. Very picturesque,so great to take pictures. We visited this shrine from the Lake Ashi cruises however it can also be done from Hakone Yumoto Station.
HAKONE GORA PARK
This is a french style landscape park above the gora station. There are a beautiful variety of roses, one of all colours, in their rose garden. There is also a large fountain in the middle which is surrounded again by beautiful flowering plants where there are benches for one to sit and enjoy the whole view. The garden also has two greenhouses:one is a botanical garden and other a flower garden. There were various activities offered in the park but we didn’t do any as we were too busy enjoying the beauty of the whole place.
HAKONE TOZAN RAILWAY
This is a mountain railway in one of the oldest mountains in Japan. The railway is said to be capable of climbing one metre vertically for every 12.5 meters of horizontal distance. The train ride passes through some narrow, alone wooded valleys tunnels and over many bridges. It also stops at various small stations on the way. We decided to use this ride in the end to get to Hakone Yumoto Station as a wrap of our day. It was a 35 mins ride from Gora park to Hakone Yumoto station but trust me the view of lush greenery and the blooming flowers, which i feel was especially beautiful because of the rainfall,made the whole experience worth it.
This is officially known as the Hakone Seiroku Mishima Suspension Bridge. It is a pedestrian bridge which was built to provide paranomic views of Mount Fuji and Surupa Bay. It’s the longest footbridge in Japan of 400 metres (1300 ft). We had beautiful weather during our visit, no rains and not that much wind. We also went early morning so no crowd, so everything worked out perfect for us. There were various places one can take photos and also there were many activities that you could participate in.
HAKONE YUMOTO STATION SHOPPING
Since we had a late night train back to Kyoto we had decided to take some souvenirs from Hakone. We didn’t have to go far as the there were lovely shops near the station itself. We mostly ended up buying Japanese eatables to take back home.
KYOTO THINGS TO DO
FUSHIMI INARI TAISHA
At the base of 233 metres(764ft) above sea level this shrine is on the Inari mountain. This is believed to be the head of the shrine. There is a 4 km trail where the pathway has torii which is acting as a fence to walk beside. On the way we can see smaller torri which must be donated by individual families or Japanese businessmen. Although we experienced rain during our visit, it still didn’t stop us from being mesmerised with the whole place. I would really recommend you to climb to the top should your health permit.
KINKAKU-JI (THE GOLDEN PAVILION)
Also known as the The Golden Pavilion or Rokuon-ji Temple. It is a Zen Buddhist temple. The gardens and the buildings centres on the Golden Pavilion is said to be the pure land of Buddha in this world. In 1994 it was registered as a World Cultural Heritage Site. It is a three storey building where the top two storey of the pavilion are covered with pure gold leaf. It’s a shame this can’t be seen from inside because it would have been a beauty as the outside just leaves you speechless.
HIGASHIYAMA JISHOJI ( THE SILVER PAVILION)
Along the Higashiyama mountains in eastern Kyoto is another Zen Temple which is the Silver Pavilion. After the Golden Pavilion this was built as a retirement villa of shotgun Ashikaga Yoshimasa. The temple has a beautiful moss garden and a unique dry sand garden. Although its called Silver Pavilion, this two storey building is not silver. It’s merely given this nick name to contrast it with the Golden Pavilion.
EIKANDO ZENRIN-JI TEMPLE
Shakado the first building, has a small rock garden and beautifully painted sliding doors. Moving on there is Amidado, which houses the principal object of worship. From here,there is Tahoto Pagoda, a two story structure in between the trees on the hillside above the temple. On reaching the top you can gaze the beautiful view of Kyoto. There is also the Hojo Pond, the main pond where all the small streams running through the temple grounds connects to. It was really very peaceful here. Since it was raining during our visit the sounds of the water running along the pond added to the ambience of the place. The autumn colours of the maple trees on the temple grounds were mesmerising.
This famous bamboo forest is in the outskirts of Kyoto at the base of what is called the “storm mountains”. On either side of your walkway is the lush green bamboos which are growing in rows, high, but yet giving enough sunlight for one to enjoy the scenic view of the whole place. We did find it hard to find the place but someone can help guide you at the station itself. You will have to take the Sgano lines to Saga- Arashiyama Station and then either take a bus or do the 15 mins walk as we did and get to enjoy seeing the traditional houses on the way.
RYOAN-JI (ROCK GARDEN)
This is the most famous rock garden located in northwest Kyoto. The story behind the rocks is actually unclear. There are 15 rocks layered out in patches but when you see them in any angle there is always one rock which is always hidden.
This is the oldest market place in downtown Kyoto. It’s a narrow five block long street where there are lots of restaurants and shops. There are a variety of food related stuff you could find here- be it fresh seafood produce, knives, cookware,Japanese sweets, pickles, dried seafood and sushi. We did some street food tasting here as well because the place looked so inviting. Our tastebuds were not disappointed. It’s a popular place for both locals and tourists. I would recommend giving this a try should time permit.
KYOTO RAILWAY STATION
This is Japan’s second largest station building, which under its 15 story roof has a shopping mall, hotels, movie theatre, Isetam department stores and several other government facilities. There is also an observation deck where you can see the Kyoto Skytree.
DAY TRIP FROM KYOTO- HIRSOHIMA
Located in the northwest of Hiroshima Bay in an island called Itsukushima where you will find Miyajima (Shrine Island). It’s a famous shrine which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. There are a number of temples in Itsukushima which includes Toyokuni Shrine (five storey pagoda) and Daiganji Temple (one of the three most famous Benzaiten temples of Japan). The island is also known for its maple leaf autumn foliage and hill side cherry blossoms. The highlight is the placement of the torii gate, in the midst of the water, where during high tide it is said to be seen floating in the water. In Japan I believe it’s ranked as one of the three best views and I couldn’t agree more. We had taken a train and then did a ferry ride to reach the island. Upon stepping down the island you encounter wild deers (who do no harm as such) walking alongside the tourists. Although we did a day tour here,there are also overnight stays available on the island’s ryokan. There are also many restaurants and souvenir shops in the locality. I have to point out one has to try Hiroshima oysters here. They come in all sort of variety including raw, frilled and fried and they come with the typical Japanese dishes. There are many restaurants to chose from, each equally good. A definite try!
HIROSHIMA ATOMIC BOMB DOME
This site was designated as the World Heritage Site in 1996. Although this happened in 1945, Hiroshima decided to keep this intact as a reminder of the nuclear war. The place is still having some parts which are standing and although it happened long ago one does feel sad while visiting the place. We met school kids from Hiroshima who had their day trips planned here and they would come up to all tourists and give them some peace message and ask us to write something.
HIROSHIMA PEACE MEMORIAL PARK
This is located the centre of Hiroshima. On 6th August 1945 when the atomic bombing of Hiroshima occurred it is said over 70,000 people were killed and another 70,000 suffered from fatal injuries from the radiation. There is a museum near the park which is set up to give some of the stories relating to the place. I would recommend visiting to see a part of their history still being preserved.
THINGS TO DO IN TOKYO
GINZA SHOPPING STREET
The famous upmarket shopping street in Tokyo where you can find the most famous international departmental stores, boutiques, art galleries, restaurants, night clubs and cafes. It is located south of Yaesu and Kyobashi. You can easily spend a whole day here if you are in Tokyo for shopping only. Unfortunately we would spent only a couple of hours here.
SHINJUKU GYOEN NATIONAL GARDEN
In Japanese this means the imperial garden. It was originally a residence of Naito family after which it came into the management of Imperial Household Agency but now its under the jurisdiction of Ministry of the Environment. It is one of the largest and popular parks in Tokyo. One can spend a whole day here. Inside the park there are various walking trails. It’s a paid park hence very well maintained. There are three types of gardens: Japanese landscape garden; French garden and an English Landscape garden. Each garden is beautiful and has its own uniqueness to it. There is also a greenhouse which has many tropical and subtropical flowers. I love gardens so for me this was a definite place to see.
Dedicated to deified spirits of Emperor Meiji and his wife Empress Shoken is this shrine which is located in Shibuya. It does not have the empresses graves. The shrine was destroyed during World War II but was built shortly after. The shrine can be reached by the JR lines either through the southern entrance near Haraluru Station or from the northern entrance near Yoyogi Station.The torri, 40 feet high, at the entrance of this shrine is black in colour different to all the other shrines we visited. The walk to the shrine is surrounded by lots of greenery and one can find barrels on the path leading to the shrine which is said to be donations given by individuals. There is also Meiji Jingu Treasure House and an Inner Garden inside which we only found out after our visit hence missed out.
Located in Asakua, is this oldest and most significant ancient Buddhist temple. Adjacent to the temple are the five storey pagodas, Shinto shrine and the Asakusa shrine. Each shrine planned in our itinerary was supposed to be different, and it certainly was. This one was red in colour. Because of my early visit I was able to see the traditional Japanese way of praying. Also visiting early you can explore the beauty of the temple without the crowd. It does get very busy here so do keep that in mind. Upon entry there is the usual cleansing of hands and rinsing of the mouth. There are also lots of local shops nearby for one to buy souvenirs.
The communication and observation deck which is the second tallest structure in Japan i.e. 332.9 metres(1092 ft). It’s inspired by the Eiffel Tower and painted white and orange to comply with the air safety regulations. Unfortunately for us when we reached the place the weather was not so great so we didn’t go up and saw it from down only. I would recommend seeing it from up should the weather permit.
This market is famous for its tuna auctions. Along narrow lanes you will find wholesale and retail stores.There was vast variety of local food and some were really tasty, one of the best seafoods I have ever had. For me the highlight was going inside the fish market.
We saw some huge fishes which we had never ever seen before and were told most of them get exported directly from the market. It can be a little smelly and dirty but hey you are entering a fish market. I would say it’s worth the experience.
This one was not initially in our itinerary however we accidentally came across this place and didn’t regret it. Located in Harajuku it is a pedestrian shopping street lined with various stores. For me the highlight in this place were the locals. We got to see youngsters dressed in the cute Japanese style buying goods. Since we were there over the weekend the place was packed with them. I would also recommend trying out the local sweet savoury street food. They were delicious.
Just south of Takeshita Dori is the broad tree lined avenue called Omotesando. There are famous brand shops, cafes and restaurants on either side of the road to explore. Here you will mostly find the older and wealthier shopping as compared to Takeshita.
TOKYO IMPERIAL PALACE
This is the residence of the Emperor of Japan. Located in the Chiyoda ward is this large park like area which consists of the main palace, the private residence of the imperial family, an archive, museums and administrative offices. Upon entrance you can see two bridges . The stone bridge in the front is called Meganebashi (eyeglass bridge) and the back bridge is called Nijubashi (double bridge) each named based on the look.
In Sumida not far from Asakusa, with the height of 634 metres (2080 ft) is this broadcasting and observation tower. There are two observation decks with a view of Tokyo. The enclosed decks are 350 (Tembo Deck) and 450 (Tembo Gallery) metres respectively making it the highest observation decks in Japan. Unfortunately for us upon reaching the place the weather changed and became cloudy as a result we opted out of doing this. It’s a shame because it looked very nice from outside. I would recommend doing it but check the weather.
Located in Shibuya Station is the famous scramble crossing. It is surrounded by huge televisions screens mounted on top of the buildings. When you see down you will find one the busiest junction in Tokyo. Wait for a couple of signals to change to actually see how the intersection. At every red signal the intersection fills up with crowd and then check the crossing as soon as the signal turns green. In the split second when the signal turns red again the same amount of crowd forms again waiting to cross.We actually went up on top of one of the buildings to see the view from top. For me this was a different kind of tourist attraction were worth the effort in getting to it.
Tokyo is famous for its shopping and Roppongi Hill is one of the shopping places one can enjoy. Opened in 2003 the building complex holds offices, shops, apartments, restaurants, hotel, art museum, observation deck and more. We mostly tried the cafes and shops in this area.
TOKYO METROPOLIAN GOVERNMENT BUILDING
Also referred to as Tocho, governs the 23 wards of Tokyo, as well as the cities, towns and villages and that constitutes the whole Tokyo Metropolis. Since we missed out on the Tokyo Tower and Skytree we were lucky to get the view from here. There are two towers in the 243 metre tall building and each observatory is at height of 202 metres.We were able to see famous landmarks like Mount Fuji, The Tokyo Skytree, Tokyo Tower, Meiji Shrine and Tokyo Dome.
Also called Akiba, which is named after a former local shrine, it is famous for its many electronic shops in a district in central Tokyo. Hundreds of electronic shops to chose from, offering everything from newest computers, cameras, televisions, mobile phones, electronic parts and home appliances to second hand goods and electronic junks. Some of the major stores include Sofmap, Laox, Yamaha Denki, Akky, Bic Camera and Yodobashi Camera. One who is into tech stuff can easily spend a whole day here and still not find enough time to see it all. I would recommend, should you want to buy anything then, do a little research before going as it will avoid all the confusion which this place can create.
Japan has many more places which one can visit. For us the above were the things we wanted to do during our visit.
OUR ITINERARY IN JAPAN
- Landed in Narita International Airport and sorted our travel passes.
- Took Narita Express and headed to our hotel.
- After check in at Sotetsu Fresa Inn headed to Ginza Shopping Street.
- Took the early morning 8.56 am bullet train and went to Hakone which reached Odawara at 9.31 am.
- From Odawara got the local train to reach Hakone Yumoto Station.
- Checked in at the Hotel Hakone Pax Yoshino.
- Walked to Hakone Yumoto Station. Took the bus opposite the station to go towards Lake Ashi.
- Enjoyed Lake Ashi Cruise Pier.
- Got onto the gondola and got off at Owakudani Station and headed towards Owakudani to enjoy the volcanic experience. We also decided to have our lunch here in the stalls set up by the locals.
- Took the Hakone Ropeway down and got off at Hakone Gora Park. Spend some time exploring the park.
- Took the Hakone Tozan railway and headed down to Hakone Yumoto Station.
- Walked back to the hotel.
- Headed to Hakone Yumoto Station. Took the bus opposite to Hakone Yumoto Station to Lake Ashi.
- Took another bus from Lake Ashi to get to Mishima Skywalk.
- After exploring Mishima Skywalk took the bus back to Lake Ashi.
- Got on the cruise heading to Motohakone Shrine.
- Explored Motohakone Shrine
- Took the cruise and the bus ride back to Hakone Yumoto Station.
- Spent time buying souvenir in the Hakone Yumoto shopping street.
- Checked out of our hotel and headed back to Hakone Yumoto Station to catch a Hikari to Kyoto from Odawara Station.
- 2 hours train ride in Hikari to Kyoto Station. We took the evening 6.08 pm train which reached at 8.11 pm Kyoto Station.
- Checked in at Ibis Style Kyoto Station hotel and rested.
- After breakfast at the hotel, took the local train and got off at Inari station and made our way to Fushimi Ku Shrine- Inariyankayuti
- From here headed to Arashiyama Bamboo. Walked from Saga- Arashiyama station and on reaching the bamboo forest enjoyed the walk inside.
- Our next stop was Ryoanji Temple (rock garden). From Saga Station we headed to Emmachi Station by train and walked (bus option also available). Walk is a little confusing but local shops and the locals helped us in finding the place.
- Back to hotel.
- Had early breakfast at the hotel and headed to the Kyoto station to get the 7.20 am Hikari to Hiroshima. It’s little less than 2 hour journey.
- Got off and walked across to catch the ferry to Meiji Jinga.
- Got off at the Miyajmacho Shrine and enjoyed the shrine.
- Spent time here to enjoy the small town and tried the local cuisines for lunch and did some shopping.
- Took the ferry back and made our way to Hiroshima Atomic Bomb by bus. Had a walk through one of the historic sight.
- After that we headed towards the Memorial Peace Museum by bus.
- From here we then went by bus to Hiroshima where we had a 17.47 pm Sakura train to get to Shin- Kobe.
- From Shin- Kobe we had a Hikari at 19.29 pm to Kyoto which was roughly 30 mins train ride.
- Back to the hotel and rested.
- Had breakfast at the hotel and planned to see the different shrines in Kyoto.
- We first opted for Golden Pavalian Kinkakuji. We used combination of train (got off at Emmachi Station) and bus (got off at Kinkakujimichi stop) option to get here. There are also bus options from Kyoto station but then you would have to change again to catch another bus. No direct option.
- From here we decided to go to Higashiyama Jishoji by taking the bus 102 and got off at Ginkakuji-michi stop and walked.
- Then we walked to Eikando, Zenrinji Temple, which took us 20 mins (should you wish there is also bus option available).
- From here we decided to go to Nishiki market and did some street food tasting.
- Since it was our last day spend time in Kyoto collecting souvenirs and also exploring the Kyoto Railway Station.
- Early morning took the 7.42 am Hikari train from Kyoto which reached at 10.40 am Tokyo.
- Checked in to APA Hotel Ginza.
- Headed to Shinjuku garden by train by getting off at Shinjuku-Gyoemmae Station and walking.
- Made our way to Shibuyu crossing by using the train and getting off at Shibuya Station.
- From here went by train to Tokyo sky tree station to see Tokyo tower.
- Next was Takeshita street by train (get off at Harajuku station) and also did Omotesando street since they both are close together.
- Next went to Roppongi Hills by train (get off at Roppongi station and follow signs to Nishi-azabu gate) and did some more shopping.
- Headed back to hotel
- started off early morning going to Sensoji by train getting off at Asakusa station.
- Also did some souvenir shopping in Asakusa market which is just opposite the shrine.
- Walked our way to Tokyo Skytree.
- Headed to Imperial Palace by train getting off at Takebashi station. Since it’s huge ended up spending some time here.
- Went to Meiji Jingu by train by getting off at Meiji-jingumae Harajuku Station and explored the whole place.
- Did some shopping on the way back and headed back to our hotel.
- Early morning decided to go to Tsukiji market. We got there by train, getting off at Higashi-Ginza station and walked to the market.Enjoyed some time exploring the whole place and also did some street food tasting.
- Then went to see the Tokyo Metropolian Government Building. We chose the train option and got off at Nishi- Shinjuku station and walked to reached the building
- Headed to Akihabara by train (get off at Iwamotocho station and walk) and did lots of shopping.
- Did more shopping near our place in Ginza and headed back to the hotel.
Note: Above itinerary, stations will vary depending on the time of travel.
FOOD TO TRY IN JAPAN
- Sushi- traditional Japanese dish which is prepared with vinegared rice which is usually accompanied with ingredients like seafood, vegetables and occasionally tropical fruits.
- Sashimi- another traditional Japanese delicacy made up of fresh raw fish or meat sliced into thin pieces. This is often eaten with soy sauce.
- Tempura- This consists of seafood or vegetables and is usually battered and deep fried.
- Yakitori- This is a Japanese type of skewered chicken. While cooking the meat is usually seasoned with tare sauce or salt.
- Miso Soup- traditional Japanese soup consisting of stock called dashi into which miso paste is mixed. There are many more regional and seasonal ingredient added as per personal preference.
- Tsukemono Pickles- these are accompanied or garnishes to a meal. They are Japanese preserved vegetables which are served with rice.
- Udon- thick wheat flour noodle which often comes in as a noodle soup. It’s usually topped with thinly chopped scallions.
- Soba- This is Japanese name for buckwheat.it is thin noodles which is either a combination of buckwheat and wheat flour or just buckwheat. They are served either chilled in a dipping sauce or in a hot broth as noodle soup.
- Sukiyaki- consist of meat which is slowly cooked or simmered at the table along with vegetables and other ingredients in a shallow iron pot in a mixture of soy sauce, sugar and mirin.
- Ramen- translated as pulled noddles. Consists of Chinese wheat noodles in a fish or meat based broth, often flavoured with soy sauce or miso with toppings like sliced pork, nori, menma and scallions.
- Oden- its a type of nabemono (one pot dish) which consists of several ingredients like boiled eggs, daikon,konjac, processed fish cake, stewed in light soy flavoured dashi broth.
- Kashipan- name given to Japanese filled or topped bread. There is also kare pan which has curry paste filling. Mushi pan which is steamed cake which comes in several flavours such as cheese and green tea. Melon pan which is shaped like a melon and has a crunchy surface. We mostly experienced these varieties in Miyajima.
- Sake Japanese alcoholic drink also referred to as Japanese rice wine. It’s is made by fermenting rice that has been polished to remove the bran.
- Takoyaki- ball shaped Japanese snack which is served as appetizer made from wheat flour- based batter and cooked in special moulded pan. Typical fillings found are minced or diced octopus, tempura scraops, pickled ginger and green onion. Another delicacy which we tried in Miyajima.
- Sakura ice cream
- Do try the black egg in Owakudani
- Momiji Manju- Japanese maple leaf stuffed with various filings and baked. We tried this in Miyajima.
- Filled cookies and chestnuts
Many eatable are available which can be taken back as souvenir or even as memories of the place.
THINGS TO NOTE IN JAPAN
- Enquire about Japan pass. This has to be bought in your home town as it is for tourist only and not available in Japan. If you come without one then you can still travel however you will end up paying more for it.
- Japan pass comes for 7 days, 14 days etc. Plan your dates to decide on the pass to buy and also to plan the activation. We activated our pass in the airport mentioning the exact date as we wanted the 7 days to start from the next day.
- Since we were not doing much first day we opted to use the Narita Pass for that day. Note its only valid in certain places so check your options.
- Buy the interstate tickets in the airport itself. For this also you need to know the exact dates of travel. We had checked the train timings from their website so we went prepared for all the questions.
- During your bullet train journeys one is allowed to carry food on the train. But since Japan is so clean make sure you use the trash can provided and don’t litter the place.
- Study the local travels ahead of your trip. First day go to the station and speak to someone to clarify your doubts or do it at the airport itself when your planning your interstate travel.
- Hakone local travel we also bought in the airport, which is called Hakone pass.
- Right opposite to Hakone Yumoto Station is the bus stop where you will find a Hakone tour office. Go and get information regarding the bus timings and the different buses to take.
- Hakone is a small town so things close early (around 6 pm).
- Do research on the entrance fees for each place.
- Golden Pavalian Kinkakuji- It’s a beautiful place so i suggest reach just when it opens to avoid crowd and enjoy the place
- Check the weather and be prepared. At times we shuffled our itineraries depending on the weather.
- English is not their first language. It’s funny but when you ask for their help they will give you their phone to type the word in English and will get the word translated in Japanese. Japanese people are that helpful so you won’t struggle.
- The seven eleven store in Japan is totally different to their usual store. They offer fresh food so you are always get to have fresh food even on the go.
- Japanese never walk and eat at the same time. Infact they consider it rude to eat while walking so avoid to do so as much as possible.
- It is also considered rude to tip a waiter. Hence don’t offend them.
- Most of the time during our visit we didn’t hear people talk loudly on their phones. If you have to take a phone call make sure to speak softly.
- Although for us, as tourists shrines are attractions to visit but one needs to respect that for the Japanese it is a place of worship. Hence don’t scream loudly and if taking photos don’t come in between someone praying.
- There are no restriction in clothing like Thailand when visiting shrines but most of the time one is decently dressed.
- Bowing is the traditional way of saying hello and responding thank you is to be done in the same way.