Visiting Japan

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  • RyanDS 21 Feb 2015 20:48:02 12,838 posts
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    So I have a holiday booked for Japan, it is my wife and I for 17 nights and pretty much the plan is to follow the itinerary here:
    http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2400_tokyo_14.html

    With the difference of skipping Takayama and spending an extra day at either Tokyo or Kyoto.

    Anyway, my query was are there any essentials that people would recomend? Shibuyu, Golden Gai and Tokyo fish market I have marked out as essentials. But does anyone have anything they especially recomend? And specific bars / sites / cool game shops that they would say are essential?

    With the caveat that I will be with my wife, so I can only geek out so much. (Saying that she has already insisted on the Studio Ghibli museum.)
  • uberbeard 21 Feb 2015 20:57:39 1,489 posts
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    Make sure you have a bit of time to just get lost and wander around. When I went to Tokyo, I spent more time just wandering and getting lost then I did with any real direction and it was fantastic, especially at night.

    Yoyogi Park was nice but ultimately missable unless something is on but Shibuya was awesome. Drawing a blank on other names, I wish I'd done more planning myself but it was mostly in the hands of my aunt.
  • Dante_Cubit 21 Feb 2015 21:27:42 1,996 posts
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    Japan is fucking amazing to visit but I would recommend not getting too hung up on particular sights. It is one of those places where just wandering around is thoroughly enjoyable. In addition to the places you have listed (the Ghibli museums is great - definitely go) I'd say Harajuku on a Sunday morning is worth a look. It's a real taste of how crazy Japanese culture is. Mandarake in Shibuya is a very cool shop to visit and I'd recommend eating in as many crazy subway station japanese restaurants as possible. They are generally very cheap, taste great and it's a real experience. Having fuck all idea what you are eating and just pointing at a plastic representation of something with an egg is quite the experience.

    In Kyoto I would thoroughly recommend Kinkaku-ji which is one of the most stunning places I've ever seen. Kyoto has a billion temples and you quickly develop a kind of temple blindness. Take a wander around the old city and check out lots of the fantastic artistry. It really is the cultural centre of Japan. I would also recommend getting really fucked up at Rub-a-Dub, Kyoto's only reggage and dub bar. It's a tiny underground place filled with Japanese rasta wannabes. Hilarious.

    Edited by Dante_Cubit at 09:30:31 22-02-2015

    Edited by Dante_Cubit at 09:30:53 22-02-2015

    Edited by Dante_Cubit at 09:31:27 22-02-2015
  • grey_matters 21 Feb 2015 22:17:12 4,778 posts
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    Climb Fuji.

    Its a balls but ok if your are half fit and you can bask in that success for years. Realistically, you have to stay overnight on the side of the mountain which is pretty cool (despite the kinda-shit food and very shit sleeping conditions). Bring rain gear though. I can't stress this enough.
  • RyanDS 21 Feb 2015 22:20:14 12,838 posts
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    grey_matters wrote:
    Climb Fuji.

    Its a balls but ok if your are half fit and you can bask in that success for years. Realistically, you have to stay overnight on the side of the mountain which is pretty cool (despite the kinda-shit food and very shit sleeping conditions). Bring rain gear though. I can't stress this enough.
    I've been told to avoid Fuji and see it from a distance instead. But I am happy to defer if you can say why it was great. Is it the view?

    For reference I am going mid April.
  • grey_matters 21 Feb 2015 22:35:11 4,778 posts
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    RyanDS wrote:
    grey_matters wrote:
    Climb Fuji.

    Its a balls but ok if your are half fit and you can bask in that success for years. Realistically, you have to stay overnight on the side of the mountain which is pretty cool (despite the kinda-shit food and very shit sleeping conditions). Bring rain gear though. I can't stress this enough.
    I've been told to avoid Fuji and see it from a distance instead. But I am happy to defer if you can say why it was great. Is it the view?

    For reference I am going mid April.
    No, not the just the view (although that is impressive). There's a bit of hardship really but it's rare that you get a chance to walk nearly four vertical kilometres. Vertical. It takes planes an appreciable time to get to that altitude. Do it if you like that sort of thing. Reject this suggestion utterly if you don't get some enjoyment of enduring some (mild) hardship and succeeding.

    Edit: Just saw that you are going in April. If there is snow/ice at this time, fuck that. Fuck that entirely. Viewing it might still work though (or work even better).

    Edited by grey_matters at 22:37:34 21-02-2015
  • Deleted user 22 February 2015 01:45:09
    Ueno park for the Cherry Blossoms. I've read that it gets busy though. Cherry Blossom festivals everywhere, apparently, so plenty to choose from.

    Cherry Blossom, Mount Fuji, Suzuka and noodle soup from a van are all that I'd definitely do on visiting Japan.
  • Deleted user 22 February 2015 01:47:07
    Was it Mount Fuji that let off steam recently, or another volcano in Japan? Maybe viewing from a distance is good enough..
  • oldskooldeano 22 Feb 2015 02:03:35 2,966 posts
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    The first thought I had when I saw Mt.Fuji in the wild as it were, was "I'm going to get to the top of that fucker one day!"
  • TheRedWoman 22 Feb 2015 04:16:40 22 posts
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    While in Kyoto, definitely go to Kinkakuji, but Kyomizu temple is also amazing. From there you can go down the Philosopher's Walk which was oddly awesome. My friend and I walked down it practically in silence. Neither of us quite knew why.

    And if you do have time, take a short(ish) train to Nara (from Kyoto). Nara is great, especially Nara Park which... you won't expect.
  • Phattso 22 Feb 2015 05:56:35 24,816 posts
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    If it's April you'll have missed the Cherry Blossom season, I think.
  • Mola_Ram 22 Feb 2015 06:18:08 21,194 posts
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    Ing Bar in Kyoto is fantastic, if it's still there. The temples are also recommended, but best try to get to the major ones (eg. Kiyomizu-dera) early, because they get *really* crowded.

    Also, if you don't mind a day trip from Kyoto, go to Iga-Ueno, a former ninja village that has a fantastic ninja museum. And a throwing star range. I used to live there when I taught English in Japan - it was fookin great.

    Don't really know much about Tokyo I'm afraid. Never really liked the place.
  • Kosmoz 22 Feb 2015 09:23:46 8,184 posts
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    Go to Nara, home of the bowing deer. And if you have time in Tokyo go to Disneyland and Disney Sea. Although if you only have time for one Disney Sea has the better rides and more distinct areas. There is a bar in shibuya called moonshiner (or something similar) just off of basketball street. It's not very obvious and you have to go up a really old lift to get to it, but it's dark and smokey and has endless cool spirits.

    Another place to consider, although I didn't actually get the chance to go myself, is a city called Atami. Its one of the shinkansen stops between Tokyo and Kyoto. It's a really beautiful coastal city built on the side of a hill. Very Mediterranean. Lots of hot springs there too.
  • Dizzy 22 Feb 2015 10:11:59 3,710 posts
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    Korea town in Osaka... Actually spend more time in Osaka. Tokyo is a bit boring compared to Osaka.

    Btw when are you going? I will be there in July and August.

    Edited by Dizzy at 10:12:37 22-02-2015
  • RyanDS 22 Feb 2015 11:46:14 12,838 posts
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    We are going mid april, so miss the cheries unfortunately.

    Plan is:
    Tokyo
    Tokyo
    Day trip to Kamakura
    Tokyo
    Day trip to Nikko
    Tokyo or Kyoto
    Kyoto
    Kyoto
    Kyoto
    Mount Koya
    Osaka
    Osaka
    Hiroshima
    Mijayama
    Tokyo
  • neilka 22 Feb 2015 11:54:54 22,649 posts
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    You can do Disneyland and DisneySea in the same day if you powerwalk it, crushing all children in your path. I would imagine.
  • Kosmoz 22 Feb 2015 11:57:32 8,184 posts
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    neilka wrote:
    You can do Disneyland and DisneySea in the same day if you powerwalk it, crushing all children in your path. I would imagine.
    It seems that the only way to get in to both in the one day is to buy a three day pass, which seems stupid because they aren't massive parks.
  • RyanDS 22 Feb 2015 12:04:18 12,838 posts
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    Would you say Disneyland or Sea would be better? I would only look to do one.
  • Kosmoz 22 Feb 2015 12:13:55 8,184 posts
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    DisneySea is better. Disneyland is very similar to the other Disney parks around the world, but Sea is more unique. Has better rides too, more geared towards adults.
  • ProfessorLesser 22 Feb 2015 13:24:30 19,693 posts
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    I'm also going in April, probably just a little after you! In 2012 I was there for 6 weeks as well.

    Honestly I would get out of Tokyo ASAP, especially if you want to get the most out of the cherry blossom. It'll be just dying in Tokyo, but if you get to Kyoto quickly there should still be plenty in bloom. I was lucky enough to be there for the entire wave previously. Maybe read up about the different trees as well - it's fun to recognise the different types, and plenty of trees won't be cherry at all, but plum and peach :)

    Back to Tokyo, aside from Tsukiji and the night-time city view (Tokyo Tower is good), I can't really think of many experiences there that you wouldn't get somewhere else. Settle in and get out, is my advice. Make Kyoto your hub and you'll have a much better time. Ueno Koen really had more of a feel of a standard municipal park, there are much better gardens and parks to see. Ueno is full of slimy con-artist monk bastards as well.

    Kyoto itself is my favourite place on the goddamn earth, I literally can't express how beautiful and interesting it is. There are more temples than you can see in a year, but some key ones would be:

    Kiyomizu-tera - 'pure-water' temple (bring your blue tunic), beautiful, walking distance from Gion district - busy as shit on a nice day.
    Kinkaku-ji/Rokuonji - golden pavilion, stunning.
    Heian-jingu - classic big red gate you'll have seen in tourism photos, but very nice grounds as well, x1000 if you make it in time for blossoms
    Sanjuusangendo - 'shrine of 33 gaps', this one has a much more Buddhist flavour, gives you a nice hit of delicious senko incense, and looks like proper ancient culture. Learn a lot.
    Nanzen-ji - personal favourite, short walk north of Gion. If you've seen Lost in Translation, this will be familiar. There's a nice canal-side walk off into the foresty hills that'll take you ultimately to a small shrine on top of the hill, set in a short cliff-side tunnel in the wall. Peaceful, poignant, much quieter than everywhere else.

    And if you do get blossoms there, I personally recommend walking through Maruyamakoen up the hills, getting lost, only to find the Shogunzuka garden at the top. Beautiful cherry blossom garden with a viewing platform over Kyoto extending below you. Bliss :)

    Aside from that, go to Arashiyama, see the bamboo forest. Go to the Nishiki market, eat spicy stuff. Visit some trendy udon/tempura specialists on Shijo-dori. Find sakura street at night if the blossoms are out! There's also a hidden Ghibli merchandising store on a street near Kiyomizu which is cheaper than the museum store but has all the official stuff... treasure trove.

    Happy to be in touch while you're out there as well, if you need any pointers. I'll be going with friends. PM me if you like :)
  • One_Vurfed_Gwrx 22 Feb 2015 13:38:10 3,564 posts
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    I never bothered with the Disney parks with my family, although we considered it, and went to Hirakata Park halfway betseen Kyoto and Osaka on the Keihan line. Oldest theme park in Japan, we went on its 100th anniversary. It isn't the biggest but it is a lot more Japanese and cheaper. 4 decent size roller coasters IIRC including a cool wooden one.ay even be really quiet as we went on a summer holiday weekend and never had to queue for anything. And depending on season they have a swimming area or ice rink.

    Nijou castle is nice in Kyoto and my wife enjoyed it. You can do the imperial palace tour there but need to book in advance on their website as prebooks only with limited places. I assume you are aware that Ghibli Museum is the same. Also worth checkimg if there are any big local festivals during your stay so you can see one.
  • One_Vurfed_Gwrx 22 Feb 2015 13:39:05 3,564 posts
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    Also Himeji Castle near Kobe/Osaka as one of the few relatively original castles near your locations.
  • Phattso 22 Feb 2015 13:49:52 24,816 posts
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    @RyanDS If you're going to Kamakura you go via Hase station and town and, actually, the beach and walk up to the temple is more interesting than the temple/buddha itself which is fairly crammed with tourists and not one of the better examples in Asia. Haven't seen enough in the rest of Japan to say whether you'd be better served there. I might just be biased because Big Buddha in Hong Kong pretty much renders others moot. ;)

    But Hase as an example of a coastal town is very nice - the train journey there, on a clear day, is very picturesque and I have lovely memories.

    Either Disney is good - what the others have said is spot on. Also keep Odaiba in mind. It has a Sega Joyopolis there which, while it's not exactly Disney, is an interesting way to spend a few hours. Plus: SEGA! It's just around the corner from the (sadly underwhelming, but still worth a look) giant Gundam. There's a science and tech museum there as well if memory serves.

    You're going to fucking LOVE the Ghibli museum. Even the walk from the station to there is great. One of the most *nice* places on the planet, for reasons I can't quite put my finger on.

    I've recently come back from a week on Okinawa island and that was an interesting place with a very different vibe from the rest of Japan - might be worth a thought if you don't mind the faff of getting down there, get out into nature, or an island or whatever.

    When in Tokyo itself, to echo what others have said, definitely get on Shanks' Pony as often as you can. You'll find all sorts of crazy shit from just wandering. Chances are you're gonna want to go up Tokyo Tower, for example, so get a metro close-ish and then proceed on foot. Not like you can miss it. :)

    Enjoy! It's only 2hr flight there for me from Shanghai, so I've been lucky enough to go a few times over the last year or two. Tossup between Japan, Hong Kong and Taiwan for my favourite place in this part of the world.
  • RyanDS 22 Feb 2015 15:03:57 12,838 posts
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    Cheers guys! A massive amount of great info there that has me rewriting my itinerary.

    One thing I learned today as well is that Studio Ghibli is a nightmare to book. We were lucky, we managed to book the day we leave Tokyo, everything else was booked.

    ProfessorLesser, I will be heading out on the 10th.
  • colinmac 22 Feb 2015 18:32:28 774 posts
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    What an awesome thread. I fancy a trip there - but am getting on a bit now and the family won't want to do it.

    I may go with a mate some day and I'll keep this thread at the back of the head.

    Wish I'd done it years ago.
  • arty 22 Feb 2015 18:42:34 586 posts
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    Just curious, but is the language a larger than normal barrier when visiting Japan?
  • Kosmoz 22 Feb 2015 20:30:43 8,184 posts
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    arty wrote:
    Just curious, but is the language a larger than normal barrier when visiting Japan?
    Yes and no. A lot of places in the big cities will have English on menues and signs and the like, so I managed to get by with pointing and gesturing. My girlfriend who lives there, in Hamamatsu, speaks just enough to get by day to day so that helped a bit. Very few people spoke English in my experience.
  • ProfessorLesser 22 Feb 2015 20:39:53 19,693 posts
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    Language barrier = Distance from Tokyo/(Japanese language ability*Tourist prevalence)

    Big hotel in Tokyo, and you know how to ask how much something is? You'll be fine.

    Tiny ryokan in Hokkaido and you can't tell Japanese from Chinese? You're gonna have a bad time.

    Edited by ProfessorLesser at 20:40:47 22-02-2015
  • DarmokJalad 22 Feb 2015 22:09:14 63,703 posts
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    Ikura desu ka

    I'm off to Japan next year so I've been brushing up on my Nihongo.
  • mrharvest 23 Feb 2015 02:30:22 5,591 posts
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    @Razz When are you going mate? We could hook up - I go maybe twice a year anyway since it costs 50 or so from here.
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