Yet another question we are asked frequently is, “Which stop are you most looking forward to on your trip?” Certainly hard to choose just one stop since we love each stop we’ve chosen. However, we would have to say that Japan is the country that holds the most intrigue.
We think that the ten days we will spend in Japan are truly going to be like visiting nowhere else. And we really know very little about the country, culture and people which only makes it more exciting. I had one friend tell me that leaving your chopsticks stuck in rice during a meal is incredibly bad social etiquette and another tell me that most of Tokyo is like Times Square times ten. But that’s about it.
We’ve relied on others to give us some tips. Our friend, wordsmith and long-time Japan resident Dax Oliver offered us some sensational insight on places outside of Tokyo to explore. Dax lived in the Tokyo area for about eight years in the 00’s working and exploring the country, so we’ve decided he’s probably a better source for info than watching “Lost in Translation” yet again (where the only thing we learned is that for relaxing times, to make it Suntory Whiskey time.)
I’m assuming that you’re already planning to hit places like Mt. Fuji, the Imperial Palace, and the National Museum, so they’re not listed here. These are a bit more off the beaten path. I recommend looking up these locations on Google Street View too, because most Japanese streets have no names. Really. That U2 song was actually about finding an address in Tokyo.
I’ve only been to Kyoto once, so I can’t give you many recommendations there, but it’s definitely worth a few days. Don’t go to Osaka –there’s nothing to do there if you’re a traveler. There’s also nothing really in Nagoya or Yokohama either.
If you have time, Hiroshima is worth a day to see everything about the nuclear bomb. It’ll really drive home the horror of nuclear weapons. On a nearby island in the Inland Sea is also one of Japan’s three official “Best Scenic Landscapes”. I don’t know if I’d say that, but the Inland Sea (a stretch of ocean between the major islands of Honshu and Shikoku) can be very pretty. Hiroshima also has good oysters.
Himeji Castle is worth a half-day, since it’s one of the only original castles left in Japan (at least the materials are original – the castle was taken apart and put back together in the 1950s). It’s also the most beautiful castle in the country, which is why it wasn’t burned down after the Meiji Restoration. Himeji is on the bullet train line.
If you want to eat something weird that you can’t normally get in the States, my most practical suggestion is natto – fermented soy beans. I love it and the best way for you to try it is the breakfast menu at Yoshinoya restaurants (they’re all over the city). It’s only served in the morning, though. I was also partial to raw horse meat, so try it if you can find it, but it’s very rare in Tokyo (no pun intended).
More from Dax and more on Japan tomorrow!