It’s a land of great natural beauty and historic interest, with a vast range of sights for the visitor. Sheshtyn Paola visited Japan in the autumn of 2016 and gives us the lowdown of some of the highlights
Japan is a country of vast opposites – from the bustling, bright streets of Tokyo to the serene beauty of the mountain regions. Even within the cities, mysterious Buddhist and Shinto temples sit alongside and within busy shopping districts.
On one day you could find yourself soaking in the sights and sounds of the city, eating some delicious ramen, visiting a cat cafe or making your way down Harajuku’s crowded and colourful Takeshita Street (crowded is an understatement).
And the next, visiting the elegant gardens and koi ponds of the Tokyo Imperial Palace.
You can even go on a pilgrimage to the Meiji Shinto Shrine in Shibuya – although you might want to avoid this during New Year, when between two and three million people descend onto the grounds.
Gadgets, games and geekery
Japan is known for its thriving and innovative technology industry.
For those interested in this sector, Tokyo’s Akihabara district offers a sweeping range of electronics stores, selling everything from computers and mobile phones to game consoles and accessories.
A must-visit is Yodobashi Camera, a chain of electronic stores that sell far more than just cameras. It’s a massive store with seven floors of shop space, two floors of cafes and restaurants, plus parking for 400 cars.
Thanko sells a selection of wacky gadgets and gizmos such as built-in camera glasses and mini camcorders.
When it comes to computer and console games in Japan, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. There are pockets of video game stores through the cities that offer a selection of “vintage” games and consoles, some going for hefty prices. These are devices we all threw away in the late-90s with the idea that they went out of fashion – think original Gameboys and Super Nintendo cartridges galore.
Well-known shops include Super Potato in Akihabara, and basically every store in Osaka’s Nipponbashi, colloquial referred to as Den-Den town.
- Staying in a ryokan (traditional inn) in the town of Hakone. You can catch a cruise across Lake Ashi and – if you’re lucky – get a glimpse of the glorious Mt Fuji. We stayed at the Ichinoyu Honkan ryokan in Tonosawa. A tip: Ask for a room with a private onsen (hot spring bath)!
- Visiting the amazing Kokedera moss temple, or Saihoji, which is one of Kyoto’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites. A tip: Reservations are required to visit the Moss Garden in Kyoto. You need to write requesting an appointment about one month in advance through the post office.
- A visit to Koyasan (Mount Koya) south of Osaka. Stay in Buddhist temple lodgings and visit Okuoin Cemetery – the largest (and most beautiful) cemetery in the country.
- Spending a day at Universal Studios in Osaka. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is definitely a highlight – but be prepared to hear Hermione and Harry talking in Japanese!
If you want to leave your trip in the hands of the pros, Inside Japan Tours did an amazing job of planning ours. They provided us with a comprehensive itinerary, organised tickets, booked accommodation and more – highly recommended!
This article was originally published in the Autumn 2017 issue of Business Class.