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  1. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by allezfred View Post
    The one time in summer to avoid is from about mid-August for about three days because a lot of people travel to their ancestral homes so long-distance trains, planes etc are very busy.
    I am planning on going in July, but thank you for the information. If I do go I may likely leave in August.

  2. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by ryanbfan View Post
    Harajuku district
    Well, tastes differ, of course. In my opinion Harajuku is overrated, as well as the general idea that Japan is a fashionable country. In fact it's mostly not the case. Surely you can find some funny-looking people in dresses, that are actually more costumes than dresses, and at the beginning it might look entertaining: wow! people wear what they want and nobody point fingers at their ridiculous outfits! But then you will ask yourself: what do they want to tell with such clothes? Now I am not talking about lolitas and gyarus. I am talking about usual girls who wear 1 kg of cheap bought-in-a-drug-store make-up with artificial eyelashes. They go to Harajuku because that place is full of cheap shops with often-imported-from-China stuff, similar to that crap that you can find in Sennoy Market in St-Pete. They think they look fashionable but in fact they can be easily misunderstood for hookers by foreigners because they often look like the ones, with their vulgar outfits and loud presentation. A proud European elegancy in fashion is the thing that is often not widely available here. If you are interested in fashion, I would recommend to visit some department stores and see what people wear there (it's often a rule to look like the level of the shop requires when you shop). Isetan Higashi-Shinjuku or Ginza area could be good spots. Actually Lumine in Shinjuku could be a good place too, it targets mostly the teen market but it manages to keep it in very decent and truly original forms. It's just fun!

    Roppongi has a pretty sharp nickname "gaijin toilet." At lunch/dinner the area is a great opportunity to enjoy various international fancy restaurants and shops. But at night, sometimes it looks like that ony the worst gaijins in Japan go to Roppongi night dance clubs. The place got its nickname for a reason. When I am in the mood of salsa, I prefer Yokohama.
    In general Tokyo is not rich in super architectural spots. But it has other interesting things to do. I would recommend to visit Noh theatre. Kabuki would be a great entertainment too but it has a competely different style and philosophy. Noh is super sophisticated and it demands your full attention. You are either watching it 100% and don't think of anything else, or feel free to fall asleep. With Noh there's no partial relationships. In Tokyo there are a lot of world-famous museums and art-galleries that are visiting with exhibitions. Check out who will be hanging around at the moment of your vacation and enjoy (if you like arts)!

    Each prefecture in Japan has its special features and food is the category that reflects them the most. Kanto is not on the top of the list but Japan is a mecca for gourmets. So, everywhere the food is fine! Well, more than fine. The choice is up to you. But Japanese restaurants are still the best, methinks. Btw, you shouldn't really worry about the language. The menus have pics, except in fancy French restaurants. There they have menus in Japanese and in French, no pics. That's very good of you that you don't have that arrogant attitude like many monolingual Americans about the English language. Your attemps to speak Japanese (which is not even near as difficult as some people believe, except the writing system), will be very welcomed. Just keep in mind that not all details are presented in travel books. Like for the English "thank you/thanks" it's not enough to say Japanese "arigatou". If you say it to a Japanese person who aften deals with foreigners, no problems, he/she will understand your mistake. But some other Japanese, especially elderly ones, may feel offended, but they will not show it to you. If you are not sure how to use the language, better to stick with English. In general the service is well-served. But ironically some luxury places can be not as good at serving customers as they are supposed to do. I will skip some examples, I just say that if you happen to complain, the stuff in fancy places often tend to explain that they did everything right, only after that they will ask why you think they did something wrong.

    Nikko in Tochigi is worth visiting with a one-day trip or longer, if you have the time. They have a special limited express, the fastest one, that goes directly from Shinjuku to Nikko, operated by JR and Tobu.
    Then Kansai. That is the place where you do find the history. Well, for someone like myself, who grew up in a gorgeous city full of luxury palaces, churches and cathedrals, the architecture of shrines and temples might look too simple. But it depends on how you interprete it. Not every culture should be full of baroque stuff. Many posters already told you about particular shrines and temples. I just add that Kyoto is not like Paris, Rome or St-Petersburg where you can simply walk along the streets and enjoy the beauty of the city. Kyoto has historical spots, what is between them is often dull, no-character grey buildings. Btw, if you see a woman in kimono, with a traditional hairstyle around Gion, she is not a geiko. She is just a woman who is going to attend some event, could be a kabuki show and just a tea ceremony. Geikos are very rare nowdays, consider yourself lucky if you happen to see the one. It's easy to distinguish them: traditional white-face make-up and a huuuuge wig. Nara is a must to visit, one day could be enough. Unlike Kyoto, Nara in my opinion keeps the structure and the general historical style of the city. I mean between historical spots they also have some grey buildings but it's no so blatantly done like in Kyoto. Kasuga shrine is probably my favourite among shrines: deep in the forest, nothing else is around, just like the shrine is supposed to be: mystery.
    All people who I know and who have been to Osaka told me two things: 1. I like Osaka food and people, 2. I don't like Osaka city. Well, it's understandable and I have the same opinion as them. The best food in Japan is in Osaka and Kobe, people are very nice. But Osaka city is just Osaka- crowded, not always clean, loud, etc. But Kobe is another matter. It's the most elegant city in Japan and the most European-looking. I just love it! http://www.feel-kobe.jp/_en/sightsee...ult.php?gid=63 In general Kansai has more sun. The time-zone is the same all over Japan but since Kansai is south-west from Kanto, I always feel that I enjoy more sun there. Great place to visit. And the best castle in Japan is Himeji. www.himeji-kanko.jp/en/spot/ss001.html

    One more thing you shouldn't miss in Japan- staying at ryokan. That is truly enjoyable, refreshing and lazy. Onsens and ryokans are everywhere around Japan, you can choose what place is more convenient for you. I like Nagano. But we often go there in winter, so in summer I prefer Tohoku, or, if I am too lazy to travel far, Yamanashi. Stay at the room with a private out-door hot spring bath. Very romantic stuff with your boyfriend! Still, sneak to the general ryokan onsen when the peak time is over, better late, from 9-10pm till..., or after breakfast. The general ryokan onsen has a lot of types of bath and all of them will be only yours!

    Japan is a nice place to live and a very enjoyable tourist destination. I am a gaijin permanently living in Japan and for all these years I have never heard any single rude word from either a man or a woman. It doesn't mean that nutjobs don't exist here. But you have close to zero chances to be robbed/killed/raped/whatever, since you are in one of the safest country in the world. Most of my friends who visit Japan, after a couple of days, end up with stopping checking their e-mails. They say something like that: "I open my laptop, see over 60 unanswered e-mails and close the laptop back. I want to enjoy your peacefullness and relaxing style. I will come back to the hectic reality when I am back home."

  3. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by let`s talk View Post
    Well, tastes differ, of course. In my opinion Harajuku is overrated, as well as the general idea that Japan is a fashionable country. In fact it's mostly not the case. Surely you can find some funny-looking people in dresses, that are actually more costumes than dresses, and at the beginning it might look entertaining: wow! people wear what they want and nobody point fingers at their ridiculous outfits! But then you will ask yourself: what do they want to tell with such clothes? Now I am not talking about lolitas and gyarus. I am talking about usual girls who wear 1 kg of cheap bought-in-a-drug-store make-up with artificial eyelashes. They go to Harajuku because that place is full of cheap shops with often-imported-from-China stuff, similar to that crap that you can find in Sennoy Market in St-Pete. They think they look fashionable but in fact they can be easily misunderstood for hookers by foreigners because they often look like the ones, with their vulgar outfits and loud presentation. A proud European elegancy in fashion is the thing that is often not widely available here. If you are interested in fashion, I would recommend to visit some department stores and see what people wear there (it's often a rule to look like the level of the shop requires when you shop). Isetan Higashi-Shinjuku or Ginza area could be good spots. Actually Lumine in Shinjuku could be a good place too, it targets mostly the teen market but it manages to keep it in very decent and truly original forms. It's just fun!
    I wanted to see Harajuku because everyone has told me to go there and I've always been interested . Even though the fashion there probably isn't as great as you say, I'm curious to see what people wear and people's styles. I also heard Shibuya is another good stop for those into fashion. There was another place near Harajuku too that I read was neat, it also starts with an S.

  4. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by ryanbfan View Post
    I wanted to see Harajuku because everyone has told me to go there and I've always been interested . Even though the fashion there probably isn't as great as you say, I'm curious to see what people wear and people's styles. I also heard Shibuya is another good stop for those into fashion. There was another place near Harajuku too that I read was neat, it also starts with an S.
    I thought Harajuku made for a fun afternoon of people watching and souvenir shopping. I've also never seen a store called Condomania anywhere else. Harajuku is right by the Meiji Shrine, which is lovely.

  5. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jenya View Post
    I thought Harajuku made for a fun afternoon of people watching and souvenir shopping. I've also never seen a store called Condomania anywhere else. Harajuku is right by the Meiji Shrine, which is lovely.
    I heard the best day to go Harajuku is Sunday because of all the cosplayers out and about. And I also heard about the good shopping! I love shopping.

  6. #26
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    I'm going to piggyback a question here - what is the difference in Japanese, between the usage of "Nippon" and "Nihon"?

  7. #27

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    Quote Originally Posted by mkats View Post
    I'm going to piggyback a question here - what is the difference in Japanese, between the usage of "Nippon" and "Nihon"?
    Nihon is colloquial/conversational. Locals use it.
    Nippon is more official, when in conversations with foreigners for example, both locals and foreigners expected to say Nippon.

  8. #28
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    Arigatou!

  9. #29
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    Quote Originally Posted by ryanbfan View Post
    I also heard Shibuya is another good stop for those into fashion. There was another place near Harajuku too that I read was neat, it also starts with an S.
    Shinjuku? It's not so far from Shibuya and Harajuku. Btw, Shibuya is a little different than Harajuku. It's mainly the clubbing place, shopping comes second, in a place like "109". So, the hit time is late evening and night for young ones. At daytime is just a busy busy place.
    Shinjuku is pretty mixed. There are a lot of offices, surely you will observe a bunch of folks in business attire (local business style is yaawwnn). It's indeed one of the most popular shopping area with many brand shops and some departments stores, each of them has its own market. Lumine, Mylord are for teen and young ones. Marui is also for young people but for those who are making some career. Keio and Odakyu are mainly for middle class and upper middle class. Isetan and Takashimaya are elite, with good taste. If you are s shopper, you will love Shinjuku. Be ready to spend the whole day walking from one store to another.
    Quote Originally Posted by mkats View Post
    what is the difference in Japanese, between the usage of "Nippon" and "Nihon"?
    None. Just the different readings of the same kanji. No difference in writing or in meaning. The usage slightly differs. Nowdays "nihon" is everywhere, no matter who, or of what age, or nationality a Japanese person talks to. "Nippon" is used mainly for public speeches, like in the parliament, in cheering for a favorite team, and in little kids' talks. They are normally taught "nippon" first since it's more or less official one (weird method but..). Stick with "nihon" in everyday life, with "nippon" in a skating rink.

  10. #30
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    Thank you for the explanation! And yes it is Shinjuku!

    And I am MOST DEFINITELY a shopper.

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