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Have any of you been to Japan?

Discussion in 'Off The Beaten Track' started by ryanbfan, Jan 17, 2011.

  1. ryanbfan

    ryanbfan Active Member


    I am taking a possible trip to Japan in 2012.

    Notes -
    - I don't know how long I'll be there (yet).
    - I am planning on going in the summer
    - I am planning on going with my boyfriend
    - I am planning on visiting Tokyo and Kyoto (so far)

    Things I want to do (so far, still working on this) -
    - Ghibli Museum
    - Harajuku district
    - Fushimi Inari Taisha shrine

    Anyway, what I'm asking for is:
    - Where are some good places to eat?
    - What attractions do you recommend? I am open to anything. I am a fashion student (but not fashion design), I like anime, and I love Geisha and historic Japan. My boyfriend is into history.
    - What other cities do you recommend to go to? I am not staying solely in Tokyo.

    And any other info would be helpful. :)

    Thanks to everyone that helps!
  2. allezfred

    allezfred Master/Mistress of Sneer Staff Member

    :scream: :scream: :scream:

    Well, I see you're from Texas so you're won't find the heat and humidity that much worse. Still. :yikes:
    RunnersHigh and (deleted member) like this.
  3. Japanfan

    Japanfan Well-Known Member

    I lived in Japan for several years back in the 80s - can't comment on touristy because I didn't do much (was always working).

    But the food was almost always wonderful. There are noodle shops at almost every corner and the ramen (soup with a fish-based stock) is always fabulous. And pubs are great for food, the Japanese always eat when they drink and pubs serve tapa-like dishes. I remember eating various delicious pickled foods in pubs, not knowing what it was that had been pickled - but it was always good.

    And of course there is sushi and tempura. And it is worth shelling out the $$ for a meal of Kobe beef, it's a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

    Japanese restaurants always have pictures or miniature replicas of the dishes they serve in the window, so you will always know what you are ordering (the design of the replicas must be a minor industry in Japan.)
  4. Rock2

    Rock2 Well-Known Member

    I went in the summer two years ago (end of June). Got a GREAT deal on flights but, um, you're looking at about 100 degrees with high humidity. There is a rainy season around that time, too, so beware; you could be washed out.

    There are two directions you can go. City and country. City should definitely be Tokyo and Kyoto...two very contrasting cities. Osaka I recommend as more of a 'west coast' vibe and has lots of energy. I'd also consider Hiroshima which I did for a day trip and is a nice little diversion. The museums are awesome.

    Big note. As a tourist you have to apply for your rail passes BEFORE you get to Japan. I forget the process, but the Japan Rail sites will tell you. You get the pass validated in Japan but you get it before you enter the country. Tourist Japan rail passes are a much better deal.

    You could also head north and go into mountains. Northern Island is very cool too...too lazy to check name. There you get mountains, great for hiking and Japan has one of the biggest bathing cultures in the world. Many outdoor spas and natural springs.

    If you want a hybrid, try Kyoto, Tokyo, Nagano area.

    In Kyoto my friend set us up at something like a Monastery. Very traditional accomodations in a spiritual enviro. Came with some meals and semi private meditation sessions. Loved it.

    I highly recommend you also learn a handful of key words in the language. I know this isn't always the American way but you can expect to find very little English spoken there. Signs are in Japanese first and Korean second. English comes way down the line. Restaurants were particularly difficult as few menus had English translations. YOu need to find something with pictures on the menus. Learn key words like "thank you" "help" "bathroom" "chicken" "tea" beer", etc...
    Bring an Eng/Japanese dictionary.

    This is also a very polite culture. Be careful not to speak too loudly on subways, etc. They don't like loud. People even don't talk on their cell on trains, etc. Seen as rude. I was shocked as I stood in the middle of one of the busiest intersections in the world in Tokyo. Six streets converge. Cars adn people everywhere...and I found it so quiet....
    No one shouts, cars don't honk, no screeching tires...wicked cool.

    Oh...again on the heat. I bought a few moisture wicking polyester work out tops. I also brought a few small gym towels. Soaked them in cool water at regular intervals and tucked them into my shirt collar. I was so good to go. All the biz types in suits looked at me with envy ...or they thought I was a big nerd...hard to tell which....

    Hope that helps. Good luck!
  5. ryanbfan

    ryanbfan Active Member

    I can't go any other time unfortunately. In 2012 I will be entering my last year of school in October, and since I go to a quarter school, breaks are about nonexistent. I also get out late (middle of June), so I'm kinda screwed in the time department. My boyfriend goes to a semester school (so he goes about August - May), so it only works if we go in July. I am from Texas and I have been faced with unbearable heat on numerous occasions. I think I might be fine. :)

    I was definitely planning on learning a little Japanese, I have trouble speaking it (I always want to roll my R's) but I know it'll be beneficial to me. My boyfriend is going to learn it also. I, personally, find it rather insulting when some Americans go to another country and expect everyone to know and speak english fluently.

    I bought a travel book on Tokyo and they mentioned people don't like cell phone chatter on subways - since out of country calling on a cellphone is very expensive, I think I'll be good :).

    And I love, love, love ramen (Japan town in LA has good ramen!) so I'm looking forward to having authentic ramen!

    And JapanFan - I read in my travel book for Tokyo there is a street that has kitchenware and has the food replicas. So it must be an industry :)

    Thank you guys so much for helping, it really means alot.
  6. BreakfastClub

    BreakfastClub Active Member

    Will piggyback off this thread...

    I'm going to Worlds in March and planning 11 days of traveling the length of the country before to heading to Toyko for the final 5 days and the competition.

    ryanbfan - I just took a Japanese course in a continuing ed program at the local community college and it was so hard. I always try to learn a little of the language before I go to a country, but I've never tried to study a non-Indo European language before. I'd walk out of each class thinking, "Damn, this makes German feels like a native language..." I learned enough to at least be polite, know a bit about the culture and say a few key phrases. Warning though, it's difficult! :lol:

    My travel companion has never been to Hokkaido (that's the name of the far northern island, Rock2 :)) or Nagasaki so we're flying to Sapporo and our goal is to use our 14-day rail passes to get all the way south to Nagasaki with the only "must see" stop on our list Hiroshima & Itsukushima Island (Miyajima).

    We are just starting to plan and so far I've only bought this book - http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1873756976 to get a feel for the train schedules and main lines.

    I'd love any advice on:

    - What do to/see on Hokkaido in 3 days - Sapporo + ?. We love to hike and it sounds fabulous up there but wonder if it will it still be too icy/snowy in mid-March to safely hit the trails in one of the national parks?

    - Recommendation of cities/places convenient to the main shinkansen lines running north-south the length of Honshu. We can stop anywhere for a day/night and are open to anything off the beaten path...

    - Wondering of Kyoto is worth it? I've never been but my friend has a few times and isn't eager to stop there again and would rather use a day to see something new to him. Any cities less well known that are just as historically interesting and well preserved?

    - Is Nara worth seeing?

    - Recommendations for things to see/do in Tokyo

    - Any advice on Japanese culture, food... I have never ever been able to figure out chopsticks, no matter how many lessons I'm given or how much I practice. Should I pack some plastic utensils? Will that be considered rude?! :yikes:
  7. ryanbfan

    ryanbfan Active Member

    I echo the last two requests!

    And I have heard about Japanese being so, so hard to learn. I used to help a Korean kid with bettering his english and he said he failed Japanese language at his school in Korea. :eek:
  8. nyrak

    nyrak Active Member

    I was in Japan in 1998....I visited Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, Nara, Kobe and some small towns in the "very countryside" where my friend was from in Shizuoka prefecture.....

    Kyoto is awesome, you must see the gold & silver temples....also Gion (sp?) the geisha district is interesting.

    There's a temple on one of the coins, maybe the 10 yen, called Byodoin, it's in a nearby town called Uji.

    Osaka Castle is really cool too.

    Nara is really cool too, but I wouldn't spend more than 1 day there....the Todaiji (sp?) Temple with the big bronze buddha is well worth seeing, as is the surrounding park with the friendly deer you can feed.

    Kobe is pretty cool too, seemed a little more western to me than the rest of the country. There's the Shin-Kobe Ropeway that'll take you to a hill above the city for an amazing view & an interesting herb park.

    The Japanese people seem to be very welcoming to tourists, and more than willing to help and/or practice their English with you. It's a very polite society, but they don't seem to expect foreigners to know all the rules/protocol etc....like if you look Japanese you're expected to act Japanese, if you're a foreigner, you'll be cut some slack....none the less they will appreciate any attempt you make at the language, bowing, that kind of thing.
  9. ks777

    ks777 Well-Known Member

    I've been to Kyoto and Nara when I was like 12yo. I am not into temples and shrines so I was bored to death. I guess I'd rather die if I have to go see the temples and shrines again. I am not into museum either.. I only enjoyed this Deer park in Nara. That's about it.
    When my friend came to visit me in Tokyo from the US, I took him to the Tokyo Disneyland and Sea Paradise. I also took him to a Pachinko Palor for gambling. At night I took him out to Roppongi bars and clubs. He seemed to really enjoyed Japan.

    By the way, I never been to Hokkaido..
  10. UMBS Go Blue



    Keep up the suggestions - have been to Tokyo once before, but for only 72 hours and most of it with friends who led the way (which was great for once, because I am usually the taskmaster).

    Will be there for Worlds. Just finished all my air and hotel plans. 2 days in Tokyo and 2 days in Kyoto before 5 more days in Tokyo for Worlds. :cheer2:
    KatieC and (deleted member) like this.
  11. ks777

    ks777 Well-Known Member

    My least favorite subject was Japanese. For some reasons, I was always failing it.. not sure why.. it's my first language.. Oh well:lol:

    Here is my favorite youtube video of Japan.
  12. walei

    walei Well-Known Member

    If you like anime or other otaku culture, you have to visit Akihabara preferably on the weekend! I was very amused the last time I was there for the people watching and some memorabilia shopping!
  13. allezfred

    allezfred Master/Mistress of Sneer Staff Member

    Well, so long as you are prepared. It will be very humid even at night. Approx 35C during the day and approx 28C at night (sorry I don't know the temps in fahrenheit :eek: ).

    Nobody will expect you to speak any Japanese and any effort will be praised. Excessively in most cases. :p

    The key to pronouncing Japanese is keeping the accent flat and definitely try not to roll your R's as Japanese people only do that when they are angry. :lol:

    In short, yes. Mr. allezfred is from Hokkaido and the thaw doesn't really begin in earnest until April. Summer is much better for hiking as it is not as hot or humid as the rest of Japan.

    I wouldn't say that there are that many must-see sights in Sapporo, but it's a really fun town. Susukino is the big entertainment district and the area around Sapporo station has miles and miles of underground shopping.

    The Clock Tower is probably the best known landmark, but it's frequently described as one of the most disappointing tourist attractions in Japan.

    The city is laid out on a North American grid system so it's very easy to get and find places. Odori Koen Park divides the city in two and might be nice for a walk if it's not too cold. You'll also find Sapporo Tower here too.

    I believe there's a botanical garden in the grounds of Hokkaido University and a small Ainu (indigenous people of Hokkaido) museum, but I've not been.

    I've been to the Sapporo Beer Garden a few times and would recommend it highly. Most people go there for the lamb BBQ know as Jingis Kan (Genghis Khan) which is an all you can eat deal and involves a hot plate in the shape of the island of Hokkaido and a Mongolian warrior's helmet. It's great fun and quintessentially Hokkaido.

    The last time I was there I went to the most amazing hot spring at the Sky Resort Spa at the JR Tower Hotel Nikko at Sapporo Station. When they were building the hotel a few years back they struck the hot spring source and now you can take a bath on the 22nd floor looking out over the city of Sapporo. Amazing.

    Hitsujigaoka (literally the hill of the sheep) is a nice observation point out over the whole city, but it might not be as appealing in winter as in summer. There is a snow festival museum (the festival takes place in February) and a place where you can have Jingis Kan (right next to a field with lots of sheep in it :shuffle: ), but I wouldn't say it's a must see.

    Sapporo is famous for its ramen and there is a ramen village in one of the buildings at Sapporo Station with restaurants serving ramen from all over Hokkaido.

    About 30 minutes by train from Sapporo is Otaru which is right by the sea and famous for its canals, glassmaking, sushi and music boxes. There is also a ski slope overlooking the city.

    About a three hour and a bit journey along the Pacific Coast is the city of Hakodate. It was one of the three ports (along with Yokohama and Kobe) forcibly opened to outside trade by Commodore Perry in 1858 and it is a lovely city with stunning night time views from Mt. Hakodate. The Goryokaku star-shaped fort remains are an interesting sight and the old Western neighbourhoods with the Russian orthodox churches are worth a walk around.

    Sendai. We are actually thinking of going here while we are in Japan. Hometown of Shizuka Arakawa. Near to Matsushima, one of the three famous views of Japan (the other two being Miyajima/Itsukushima and Amanohashidate). Regional specialty is gyu-tan. :swoon:

    Nikko. It should be in your guidebook. Access via Utsunomiya (specialty gyoza :swoon: ).

    Since you have never been, yes. Kyoto can be disappointing when you have the image of a city where all the houses are wooden and geisha teeter around every corner in geta. It's a big moden city of 1.5 million people with all that entails, but historically it is very important.

    Key sights that I would recommend are Kinkakuji, Kiyomizudera, Nijo-jo and Arashiyama.

    Yes, yes, absolutely yes. I used to live in Nara, but that doesn't make me biased. :p

    Why? Nara was the first capital of Japan. Even if it was for only about 70 years, it was formative for Japan as a nation. Most of the sights like Todaiji, the Nara National Museum, Kasuga Taisha and Kofukuji are located in Nara Park. Don't feed the deer. Or touch them. Or show them any food.

    Horyuji is about 20-30 minutes southwest of Nara city. Oldest wooden structures in the world.

    Most of the above are on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

    In the southern part of the prefecture, there's Yoshino (famous for its cherry blossoms) and Muroji (which has beautiful five-storied pagoda set in the Japanese countryside. Lots of monkeys!).

    As with language, most Japanese people will be forgiving of your inability to eat with chopsticks. I personally didn't find them that hard to learn to use. :shuffle:

    If you eat in a restaurant with western food, they should have knives and forks (a lot of things like curry rice or fried rice are eaten with a spoon). It is acceptable to eat sushi (but not sashimi) with your hands.

    You really have to go out of your way to offend Japanese people and I think they'd be more amused by you bringing your own plastic utensils than anything.

    With its authentic elevator. ;)

    Seriously, it's in a nice park which will be lovely when the cherry blossoms are in bloom.

    If you are in Osaka, the aquarium is amazing as is the Umeda Sky Building. Dotombori is great to walk around. Regional specialties are okonomiyaki and takoyaki. :swoon:

    :lynch: :drama: Nara is worth more than a day! In fact, it's a great place to base yourself as you can travel to either Osaka or Kyoto in 30 minutes.

    But if you want to just see Todaiji, yes that can be accomplished on a day trip. And the deer aren't friendly. They are rude and aggressive. Big rats! :scream:


    I'd recommend visiting Hiroshima (regional specialties hiroshima-yaki and oysters) for the Peace Park and Miyajima.

    If I think of anything else, I'll post it.
  14. BreakfastClub

    BreakfastClub Active Member

    LOL, my instructor, who was native Japanese (her English was a little rough at times :lol:) kept emphasizing "not so, uh, mmm English is like when you are singing... you know..." and she say something in English exaggerating how we raise and lower pitch for emphasis and how in Japanese it's so important to keep it all flat and even. No sing-songy.


    Thank you so much Allezfred and everyone else who gave feedback. Much appreciated!

  15. Tinami Amori

    Tinami Amori Well-Known Member

    Summer?????!!!!!! - OKINAWA! .....:rofl:


    As far as the rest, I am going to be lazy and repost old info I posted about Kyoto on this site in 2007, perhaps some of it is useful. (I can't give a link, it's in the archive section for premier members). It was designed for someone who was going in Autumn, so some may not apply.

    Take a good fotocamera! And lots of film! Even Black and White film, because some areas in Kyoto give out wonderful Black and White fotos…

    This is a good time of the year! The trees might be changing leaves in beautiful shades and colors (or maybe a little later in October), and Kyoto is one the MOST beautiful cities in Japan.

    Even if one does not have a tour-book or directions in Kyoto, just walking through the streets of various districts is just a beautiful experience. Just walk around…. There is always something to find that is pleasing to the eye….

    If the conference organizers already planned a 1 day site-seeing trip, most likely it will cover the main Shrine, Temples, a visit to the Geisha district (Gyion), and probably will end up at a Tee-House for a ceremony. (maybe not, but that’s how most “organized tours” worked so far).

    There are between 100 and 120 Temple and Shrines in the area of Kyoto, and all of them are a treat to visit. Few of them do look “the same” to a westerner, who is not deeply familiar with local history, and some of the look “the same” to everyone….. after you see the 50th at least…… :lol:

    Besides the mains ones already named in this topic, few of my favorites are the following, mainly because of the beautiful Gardens and Grounds which surround them.

    - Byodo-In Temple (in Uji City, suburb of Kyoto. J-R system UJI train stop)
    It’s a ancient Grand Villa belonging to the Head of the Fujiwara Family, which was converted to a Temple by one of the sons in the early 11th century.

    It was an actual Grand-Residence, in suburbs of Kyoto City. It has one the BEST grounds, with gardens, rivers streams falling into ponds, tree-lined walkways. It was called “The Garden of Aristocracy” of the given times.

    The fact that it was a private residence originally makes the “temple layout” a bit more interesting than the ones which were built as “temples” from the start.

    - Tenryu-Ji Temple (in the Kyoto City, Ukyo-Ku)
    Is one of the 5 Great Zen temples of Kyoto, and has one of the best Zen Gardens and grounds. The gardens are preserved as they were designed in the mid 14th century, and specifically structured to high-light the beauty of each of the 4 seasons. No matter what time of year you visit, the gardens have a well arranged design to suite the season.

    - Rokuon-Ji Temple (in the Kyoto City, Kita-Ku)
    It’s also a small private villa of a nobleman converted to a temple. The grounds and temple which stands at the edge of a large pond, is small (relatively to others), but that’s the one that is often used on the fotos symbolic for Kyoto.

    There is also a tons of Museums, Arts and Crafts houses and Historic sites……. Need a week at least to see most of them.

    1. If your friend maybe interested in Silk Production, Textiles and Kimono Design.

    - The Chirimen Pass/Bito Factory (in Yoza-Gun area).
    A silk producing factory of the late 18th century which produced some of the best fabriques for the hand-made kimonos. It’s an interesting area, that was part of the japanese Silk Road, and the few streets around Bito factory are untouched for many decades, remaining “as is in those days”. That’s one of the truly “un-touched by modern” parts of Kyoto.
    I believe you can visit the place during regular “working hours” 9 to 5 or 6….

    - (there is another museum about Silk Production, but it is a replica of the original Silk Plants in the area, not an original factory).
    The Tango Chirimen Museum (Yosa-Gun, Kyoto)
    It’s an active exhibition of the production process, and you get to see the ACTUAL silk produced. If you bring some drawings of “what you want”, they’ll make your design come out on silk and give it to you, and can even produce “little household items” with silk coverage with your design.

    - Nishijin Textile Center (Kamigyo-Ku, Kyoto City).
    Everything you want to know about Fabrique Manufacturing in Japan. Hand and machine made. Big emphasis on Kimono making. Hand-woven fabriques demonstrations, and 5 times per day they have a Kimono Fashion Show inside a hall with a “Kimono Walkway”.

    The best part, is one can go into a fitting room, and they will dress you up in the Classical Kimono for either Geisha, or Geiko or Maiko….. These are multi-layers, multi piece Kimono sets, and it takes over 30 minutes for each fitting.

    2. If your friend maybe interested in Tea-Ceremonies….

    - Ageya Tea Room at the Sumiya Motenashi Art Museum (in Shimogyo-Ku).
    “Ageya” is a traditional establishment where Geiko performed tea ceremonies with music and dancing. This Ageya is the only one preserved “as in the old days” specially for tourists to view without reservations.

    There are few other historic Tea-house buildings in Kyoto, but they required advance reservations (and I don’t know how to recommend making such…… sorry).

    - If there is further interest in the Tea-Ceremonies, there is a place called Omotesenke Kitayama-Kaikan in Kita-Ku.
    It’s a museum of the “Traditions and history of Tea-Ceremony” AND! in Autumn times it teaches short classes on “Tea-Ceremonies”, you get to learn how to “serve tea like a Geiko”….. :lol:

    3. If your friend is interested in “local crafts, lifestyle and architecture”…

    - Miyama Kayabuki Art Museum and other museum buildings (Nantan-City, Kyoto).
    Pretty darn interesting place to spend few hours, has paintings of the times, local farming and industrial tools, every-day life items, arts and crafts, etc. It’s part of a “classic Japanese hill-side village” which you can walk through.

    - (If she is willing to take a short ride out of town). There is Residence of the prominent merchant Mikami, which is close to the town around Miyazu Castle.
    It’s located in Miyazu City.

    The Mikami’s House is “Z” classic Japanese residence with all the “attributes” you see in the movies and travel specials. Sliding rice-paper doors and walls, tatami matted rooms, gardens, rice-preparing station and kitchen, you name it….

    - Museum of Ikebana (Nakagyo-Ku, Kyoto City)
    A small museum on one of the top floors of a building, but with fantastic display of classic Japanese Flower Arrangement Art – Ikebana.
    One must find the telephone first, and make reservations, they allow limited number of visitors per day, since museum is small.

    4. Sake Times…… watch it made and drink it..

    - Ama-No-Kura Sake Brewery (Miyazu City, same area as Mikami’s house).
    It’s an operating Sake Production plant (in the old style). You can visit, they even let you try to “participate” in some of the processes. And there is a tasting room.

    - if there is further interest in Making of Sake, then there is Gekkeikan Okura Museum (in Kyoto City, Fushimi-ku). That place has tools, equipment, really cute grounds to walk about, with little river ways…… and they let you try LOTS of Sake……

    5. Weird stuff….

    - ONI Museum – The Devil’s Museum. (in Fukuchiyama-city, greater Kyoto).
    All sorts of stuff about Japanese and Foreign Devils…… Masks, symbols, dance costumes, dolls, sculptures…… Pretty cool place.

    - Kyoto Chopstick Culture Museum (Yamashina-Ku, Kyoto City).
    One of the best collections of Chopsticks, simple and jeweled, from all over the world and mostly Japan. Plus, the admission fee includes “Chopstick making work-shop” – Your are taught to make your own Chopsticks.

    - Japanese Hair-Style Museum (Higashiyama-Ku, Kyoto City)
    Display of Geisha wigs, other wigs, hair-styles, combs, hair-holding pieces, head-dresses…. Pretty fun and quick to see.

    Ride on a real House-boat. Jukkoku-bune. It rides on small rivers along the villages. The docks are in Hideyoshi and in the Ryoma. But get a tel. numbers at the hotel and call.

    - Sanjukkoku – bune . Or you can take a bigger size house-boat, more touristy but easier to reach, and it rides on a bigger size canals/rivers. The docks are in Fushimi-Ku, Kyoto City.

    - Or find any boat-ride that says “bune”, it means “skinny boat”, and it rides in more rural areas of the rivers, along villages and nature.

    But there are so many more Arts and Crafts Mfg. museums – Ceramaics and Pottery, Cedar and Wood Finishes, Roof-tile making, Caligraphy,

    6. Walks over bridges……

    - Kozuya Bridge is the famous bridge running almost ½ kilometer across to the Yawata City. It’s the longest wood-bridge in Japan, and it floats on the river without fixtures into the base of the river basin.

    - Togetsukyo Bridge (Ukyo-Ku, Kyoto City)
    Beautiful views along the bridge which runs over Oi River. It’s lined by views of trees and water reflections…..

    - Uji Bridge (in UJI City),
    Runs along the view of mountains and is one of the oldest ones in the region.

    AND LAST BUT NOT LEAST! Hot Springs Bathing!
    I don’t have fones of these places, nor the map. But, in any hotel they will have a directory, and you will need to call to make reservations at a Hot Springs Resort of your choice, or at least find how to get there.

    There are few “modern looking ones” (in square glass-and-concrete buildings) and few “old style and architecture” with great views of the countryside. I’ll only give the later ones.

    Some have only indoor tubs and pools, some have out-door tubs and pools – it’s called “roten buro”.

    Some let you be naked, some require bathing suites. Do ask which is which.

    - Yunohana Onsen – Hot Springs Health Spa in Kameoka. 10 minute train ride from the Kyoto City. It’s up on the hills, no city noise. Has lots of great pools and tubs to sit in.

    - Yakuno Kogen Onsen (in the Village of Yukuno, Fukuchiyama-city, Kyoto)
    Although the building and facilities are fairly modern, the bathing areas are all “Wall to Wall Glass”…. You look out right at the country side as you take the waters.

    It has indoor and outdoor pools, tubs, jakuzzies….. some of the best selections. They have a “rock bath” and they put herbs and grasses into it for special healing effects.

    - (my favorite) Amanohashidate Onsen – Hot Springs/Bath house.
    In Miyazu City right in front of the Amanohashidate Station.
    It’s somewhat “modern” but the outdoor facilities give the Best Views of all the Hot Springs…

    But again, you can get a directory in a hotel, or at least contact info for these Hot Spring places and pick your own.

    ……… and the very very last, but not least…… A Cave Park.

    - Shizushi Limestone Cave Park (in Funai-Gun, Kyoto)
    Has walks inside caves. Totally worth it. Take 1-2 sakes, and it’s even better. You’re in an underground Cave, it’s dark and lights shine off the walls….

    It’s not the Caves alone but the park and the nature areas around are worthy of a visit also. There are walk-ways in the part to watch birds and local plants, and snack facilities at the entrance.
  16. dramagrrl

    dramagrrl Well-Known Member

    Go here!!! A bakery that makes pretty much only Totoro cream puffs in different flavours... I can't believe such a magical place exists. :D
  17. sailornyanko

    sailornyanko New Member

    I've heard that's really a red light district...
  18. ryanbfan

    ryanbfan Active Member

    Geishas aren't prostitutes. If there's any red light district it is probably not Gion.

    And I just wanted to restate that I can only go in the summer.
  19. allezfred

    allezfred Master/Mistress of Sneer Staff Member

    What was that somebody said about a little information? :p

    The one good thing about summer in Japan is that there lots of festivals (matsuri) some with really nice fireworks displays. The Gion Matsuri in Kyoto is generally held around the end of July. Lots of people dress up in yukata (a lighter less formal kimono).

    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.
  20. equatorial

    equatorial Well-Known Member

    Some FSUers live in such heat and humidity ALL YEAR ROUND.:shuffle: :drama::p
  21. ryanbfan

    ryanbfan Active Member

    I am planning on going in July, but thank you for the information. If I do go I may likely leave in August.
  22. let`s talk

    let`s talk Banned Member

    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.:confused:

    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! www.feel-kobe.jp/_en/sightseeing/result.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." :lol:
  23. ryanbfan

    ryanbfan Active Member

    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.
  24. Jenya

    Jenya Let me show you Tel Aviv

    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. :lol: Harajuku is right by the Meiji Shrine, which is lovely.
  25. ryanbfan

    ryanbfan Active Member

    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.
  26. mkats

    mkats Well-Known Member

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

    Tinami Amori Well-Known Member

    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.
  28. mkats

    mkats Well-Known Member

    Arigatou! :)
  29. let`s talk

    let`s talk Banned Member

    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.:cool:
    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.
  30. ryanbfan

    ryanbfan Active Member

    Thank you for the explanation! And yes it is Shinjuku!

    And I am MOST DEFINITELY a shopper. :rollin: