A faraway place that fascinates many with its contrast between modernity and tradition, Japan is hard to see all in one visit. But to get a glimpse of its scenery and culture, a couple of weeks can suffice. We’re bringing you our favourite spots and activities, as well as some practical tips!
Japan’s trains run like clockwork and, more importantly, they run everywhere. Rail is definitely the most efficient way to get where you’re going—whether it’s to or from the airport, your hotel, a popular shopping area, a famous temple, or the next city on your itinerary.
What’s more, JR (Japan Railways) offers the opportunity for tourists to buy a Japan Rail Pass, which ensures unlimited travel on all their lines. This also includes the use of the N’EX (Narita Express) for getting to and from the airport quickly and comfortably, and most of the famous shinkansen (bullet) trains. It’s important to note, however, that the Japan Rail Pass must be ordered from outside Japan prior to the trip, and that it does not cover metro lines and non-JR train lines.
Where to go + what to do
Tokyo, the country’s capital and the largest urban region in the world, really is an experience of its own. A few recommended activities for the travelling divinista:
– Shopping in posh Ginza;
– Visiting Meiji Jingu (a famous Shinto shrine) and checking out cosplayers (youngsters who dress up as anime characters, J-rockers, and more!) on Jingu bridge in Harajuku;
– Getting a feel for otaku and anime culture in Akihabara Electric Town;
– Wandering (and shopping!) in trendy neighbourhoods like Shibuya (the home of the famous intersection featured in many a movie set in Tokyo), Daikanyama and Sangenjaya;
– Going to Tsukiji Market (the biggest wholesale fish market in the world) and watching the auctions (huge tuna are bid on by buyers for restaurants and food companies);
– Heading out to Kamakura for the day and seeing the Daibutsu (“Great Buddha”);
– Visiting the Imperial Palace grounds around Tokyo station;
– Taking in the beauty of Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden and its breathtaking Japanese garden;
– Riding the train out to Mitaka and visiting the Ghibli Museum, designed by Hayao Miyazaki himself, the mastermind behind films like My Neighbor Totoro (1988), Spirited Away (2001), and The Secret World of Arrietty (2012).
But as much as there is to do in Tokyo, and as exciting as life in the big huge city can be, Japan has much, much more to offer.
Take the Odakyu Limited Express Romancecar train to Hakone, one of the top spots to try an onsen (hot spring). The scenery is beautiful, and the experience of bathing outdoors is unforgettable.
Kyoto, just a couple of hours south-west on the shinkansen, is a must-see, with its beautiful temples and shrines (Sanjusangen-do, Kiyomizudera, Kinkakuji, to name just a few) and geisha mecca, Gion.
In Japan, people tend to pay for purchases in cash rather than with cards, so make sure you have plenty on you (don’t worry—Japan is a very safe place to be, even for tourists!).
Money can be withdrawn from your Canadian account using Yucho ATMs, which are found in post offices; practical, because they are very commonplace.
As for electrical outlets, they are very similar to the ones we have in North America, except that voltage is lower (100V). You won’t need an adaptor (with the exception of devices that have three-pronged plugs), but do keep in mind that it will take your phone, laptop or camera a bit longer to charge.Happy travels!