Japan. A mythical land far away that came to life for us over the two weeks we were there.
Before I go into any detail posts I thought I would just share some summary thoughts and layout our itinerary that we followed.
We spent 14 nights in Japan which went a little like this:
- We arrived in Tokyo at 6 am on a Monday morning. We spent four nights in the big city in the Ikebukuro neighbourhood. Ikebukuro is the second busiest station in Tokyo but we stayed about 15 minutes walk from the station in what seemed like a quiet suburban area.
- We then took the train to Takayama which is much calmer and has an old town which is has been preserved and was really beautiful. We spent two nights in a traditional hotel for our anniversary. As a bonus, the train ride to Takayama is absolutely beautiful through the mountains.
- Next up was Hiroshima for 1 night. This was a very interesting place to visit and I quite liked the town. In retrospect I would have spent 2 nights to do a daytrip to another nearby town which we missed. Also I would have gone to Kyoto first as the travel times would have made more sense.
- Then we were in Kyoto for 5 nights. I LOVED Kyoto. It is a much more ‘human sized’ city than Tokyo and we stayed in a convenient neighbourhood for sight-seeing and exploring and just living.
- Finally we spent two nights in Osaka (as we were flying out of Osaka). In my opinion Osaka felt more like a town that you live in than you go to on holiday.
The Japanese Rail Pass is really worth it and easy to use. We got a 7 days pass that we used from leaving Tokyo. We then only had to buy a single ticket from Kyoto to Osaka at the end of our trip. You have to order the Pass in advance but it was couriered to us and when we were ready to start using it we just went to the station and it took about 25 minutes to exchange.
Some other short thoughts:
- Japanese people are really the most polite, helpful and friendly people.
- June/July (also known as the rainy season) is probably not the best time to visit. It is HUMID!
- As you can see from the pictures above the landscape is pretty varied from urban jungles to mountains and a lot of rice paddies in between.
- Getting up a little early means you miss the crowds. We rarely felt like we were shuffling along with the tourist crowds which was quite refreshing.
- I could have spent a fortune. Be warned! Japan is full of beautiful, well made and lovely things.
- Matcha might be a trendy item at the moment but you can keep your matcha lattes and matcha cakes for yourself.
- Maybe it was because we hadn’t done enough research but it was quite hard eating out (or even shopping) as a vegetarian. It was just difficult to tell what was totally vegetarian and we did have a couple incidents of meat in our salad or fish sauce in our noodles. We eventually just stuck to eating the same things from a very prolific supermarket. Happy Cow is useful but if you are staying in Tokyo for instance which is massive (I mean MAAASive) the restaurants are really spread out and without them all being mapped it is hard to tell where convenient places are. Food, particularly fruit, is also surprisingly expensive.
I’ll be back soon with more photos and details of places we visited.