JAPAN

TRAVEL

GUIDE

Japan Insider

Japan has been on my bucket list ever since I had one! It is a beautiful and fascinating country with rich history, traditions, and culture. Nippon or Nihon is the name of Japan and means the land of the rising sun. I can’t think of a more perfect name. Sunrises are as stunning as you could imagine. We were stunned by how clean and organized the country is. Perhaps the best in the World transportation system that can take you from point A to point B with comfort and speed. You can really on a wide range of transportation means from bullet trains to buses. The food is delicious, healthy, elaborate and straightforward at the same time.  And, the tea cannot indeed be described unless you try it for yourself

Where Did We ?

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Japan

Favorite Booking Resources for this Trip.

5 Most Favorite Experiences

Tokyo Skytree

Tokyo SkyTree

It is the second tallest man-made structure in the World after Burj Khalifa. Features stunning 360-degree views of Tokyo and the surrounding cities. It has 2 observation decks on 350 floor and 450th.

Guide to JR PASS and Shinkansen Lines

Ride the Shinkansen

Riding the Bullet train was one of my favorite experiences while visiting Japan. It goes so fast and smooth that your perception of the surrounding changes. Definitely worth trying

Arashiyama Monkey Parka

Feed the Monkeys

While in Kyoto, make sure you pay a visit to Arashiyama and Sagano. There is a beautiful Bamboo Forest, I'm sure you know about, but it is not a very well known fact that there is a monkey park on the other side of Togetsu Bridge.

Matcha Tea Ceremony

Tea Ceremony

If you are into indulging in people's culture, Japan's tea ceremony ritual is one of the best ways to get a taste of Nippon's cultural heritage. It is so elaborate and beautiful that you feel you that you have to take notes.​

Owl Cafe Kyoto

Owl Café

We have cat coffee shops in America, but the pet-themed cafés in Japan are raising the bar quite high. We visited a Hedgehog, , and an Owl Cafe. Sipping coffee while petting Harry Potter's owl, how cool is that?!

Other SEEs and DOs worth mentioning

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  • Sagano Bamboo Forest
  • Hary Hedgehog
  • Sake Tasting
  • Kabuki
  • Shibuya Crossing
  • Senso- Ji Temple

In the Western part of Kyoto, you can experience this enchanting grove. It is precisely what you could expect from the name and much more. Beautiful sun rays slipping through the green stalks of the Bamboo plant. This place is magical in every aspect, and it doesn’t escape the tourist crowds. Best time to visit would be early in the morning or late at night. There is no admission fee to enter the forest, and it is open 24/7.

Hedgehog coffee shop? Okay, I know how this sounds! Crazy! That is what I thought, but it is exactly what you can imagine from the name of the cafe. Enjoy your coffee in the company of a hedgehog… in your hands! Lovely eyes, little hands, and legs, fluffy stomach but tingly back. They are really friendly, and you can even buy yours here.

You can do this anywhere, but brewery or a sake bar would be your best option. There is a lot of restaurants that have a wide variety of sakes, and you can pay a flat fee for unlimited sake tasting. How cool is that!

Kabuki is a classical Japanese dance- drama. The theater is a vibrant piece of art, featuring elaborate makeup worn by some of its performers. It is sometimes referred to as the art of singing and dancing. It is mainly performed by male actors, and female performers are rare. When tickets go on sale make sure you get yours right away. They are sold out in hours almost like a Beyonce concert. In Tokyo, you can enjoy this art in the world-wide famous KabukiZa Theater.

Shibuya Crossing is one of the craziest urban phenomena I have witnessed. It is the busiest intersection in the world! Hundreds of people, sometimes over a thousand cross at a time. It is almost like the blood that’s rushing through your veins with every heartbeat. You can get a great view of the crossing while you sip your coffee at the Starbucks on the 2nd floor of the Q- front building. It is definitely an experience you should not miss.
P.S. And because you are reading this blog I will share a secret with you. There is an observation rooftop that is open to anyone, located on the 8th floor of the MAGNET building. You can easily spot it, its right on the intersection.

Whether you just want to shop around for Wagashi and Takoyaki or wish to draw your omikuji (a good or not so good luck fortune), Senso-ji is the best place. The food is absolutely fantastic, and the temple is magnificent. Just be very patient, there are a lot of tourists like us.

What/ Where to Eat?

Shojin Ryori

Shojin Ryori

This is a Japanese style of cuisine adopted and further developed by the monks in temples. Even if you are not Vegan or Vegetarian, it is a meal that is definitely worth trying!

Namagashi treats

Wagashi

Wagashi is the name for all Japanese "goodies" aka confections. They can be sweet or savory. Namagashi, in particular, is a beautiful, mostly sweet snack widely served at a traditional Japanese Tea Ceremony.

Sushi at Tsukiji Market

Sushi/ Sashimi

If you haven't had Sushi or Sashimi at the World's Biggest Fish Market- Tsukiji, you have never experienced the real taste of Japan most famous dish. The fish is so fresh, delivered to the little restaurants around the market every morning. Our choice was Sushi Maru, this meal will set you back about 30$, but it really was worth it.

Ramen Noodles

Soba/ Ramen

Soba and Ramen are noodle type dishes. Soba is made of buckwheat, and Ramen is made of wheat. Soba is served in a fish or kelp broth while Ramen's broth is mainly made of pork or chicken. They both can be topped with vegetables and meet. Soba can also be served cold. Oishi!!

Insider Tips Japan

Transportation

Through my initial research before visiting Japan, I found that that train might be the best way to get around. Their public transportation system is probably the best in the world. A vast network of Shinkansen and regular trains as well as great metro in the cities and buses, cover almost any route or a place you want to go to.

Budget

Budget is always very personal, and it can vary depending on many factors such as food, activities, entrance fees in museum or parks, gifts and so on. If you would like to have a more elaborate meal like fresh sushi at Tsukiji market (about 30$), you should plan for it. Personally, my friends and I did a lot of things like going in Tokyo SkyTree, had a Buddhist temple lunch, bought some gifts and spent about 60-70$ on average per day. And this is without lodging, flights and the JR pass. But I am confident that you can do it with 20-30$ a day too.

Documents

Entrance in Japan is permitted with a tourist visa for 90 days or the respective type of visa for your trip. Citizens of certain countries like the US do not need to acquire a visa before their trip, but it is best to check whether you need a visa or not based on your citizenship prior before you leave. I use an app called Travisa that gives me a good idea whether a visa is required or not but it is also best to double check with official authorities such as the Embassy.

Currency

The official currency of Japan is the Japanese Yen. Be prepared for a lot of zeroes, but not as much as in Vietnam. There is a lot of street ATM type of currency exchange machines where you can easily exchange money from many different currencies. Avoid exchange at the airport, the fees are just too high. You can also use no foreign fee ATM to withdraw money from your bank account in the local currency.

Etiquette

If you are visiting from America, one thing that you need to know right away is tipping is neither required nor encouraged. Sometimes service charge is included in the bill at a fancier restaurant but no tip. Pay the bill, and that's all. Pay respect to the elders, or main guests, especially at a tea ceremony and learn to say "Arigatou gozaimasu", it means thank you very much in a polite way.

Travel Tips and Resources

We have put together original articles to further help you with your travel planning! In the links below, you can find information about transportation, lodging, insurance, planning and booking tips and tricks that we use to make our trip ideas come to life.

City Guides

Japan's current capital and Emperor's home. It is a beautiful, vibrant, full of culture, heritage and... LIFE city.

Kyoto Travel Guide

Kyoto was Nippon's capital from 794 to 1868. Rich in history city, very traditional, picturesque portrait of Japan.

I think of Nagoya as the right mix of urbanization and exposure to nature. It is one of Japan's major ports along with those of Tokyo, Osaka and Kobe.

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