Japan is a destination unlike any other. With a unique fusion of modern life and ancient traditions, Japan caters to many types of tourists.
Whether you want to embrace the colourful culture, learn about the country’s past, or experience the futuristic buzz of Japan’s cities, there are endless unforgettable memories to be made in this enchanting country. Here’s the 7 things you must do during a visit to the Land of the Rising Sun.
1. Find your zen in a Buddhist temple
If you need some moments of peace after the excitement of city sightseeing, Japan’s Buddhist temples are the place to be. The best time to visit is first thing in the morning. This is when the temples are at their most peaceful. Therefore, you can fully enjoy and appreciate their calm and serene atmosphere.
Lose yourself in the monks’ chanting and take in the beautiful architecture. Alternatively, simply take a moment for some mindfulness as the sun reflects off the golden decorations and bathes the temple in light. You’ll leave to continue your day with a new spring in your step.
2. Taste the traditional Japanese cuisine
An essential part of sampling Japan’s cuisine is to try the street food. Head to some Japanese Yatai (food stalls) to check out what’s on offer, from yakisoba to katsu curry. You won’t be disappointed!
Of course, you can’t say you’ve fully explored Japan’s cuisine without trying the sushi! Grab a table at Sukiyabashi Jiro in Tokyo, where they serve up the best sushi in the world.
On the other hand, you could choose to get acquainted with different Japanese foods over a Kaiseki. This traditional Japanese tasting meal is made up of many small courses, all presented in the simple yet exquisitely beautiful way that only the Japanese seem to manage.
3. Observe Japan’s iconic cherry blossom season in Spring
Nothing evokes thoughts of Japan quite like the cherry blossoms! These beautiful flowers are called Sakura, which burst into life every spring. Consequently, the country becomes coated in a dusting of delicate pink.
The Japanese welcome the display by observing hanami – or flower viewing. People will picnic under the cherry trees and stay until nightfall, when the blossoms become illuminated by lanterns. Ueno park in Tokyo is a popular spot, where the blooms last from late March to early April.
4. Step back in time with a visit to Hiroshima
This is one for the history buffs! Hiroshima offers a stark reminder of World War II’s global reach. The town that was completely destroyed by the atom bomb in 1945 is now home to the Hiroshima Museum and Peace Park. In addition to this, there is the great cenotaph which lists the names of almost 300,000 victims – and more are being added each year.
As you wander around the park, contemplate the paper cranes at the children’s memorial. Next, pause for a moment at the Flame of Peace, before ringing the Peace Bell in hope for the future. It’s a heartbreaking and haunting place, but well worth the visit.
5. Take a trip on the Japanese bullet trains
The Japanese take efficiency to a new level with the Shinkansen, the fastest high-speed train in the world. Originally unveiled for the 1964 Olympics, Shinkansen always depart on time – not a second too late or early – and zoom across the Japanese countryside at a cool 320km per hour.
Since passengers can now opt for a train rather than a plane, people can actively lower their carbon footprint. In fact, this issue is fast becoming of more concern to frequent travellers. Being able to enjoy travel and simultaneously protect our precious planet is important, so everyone’s a winner with a ride on the Shinkansen.
During your Japanese adventure, you’ll find that these bullet trains make it a lot easier to get from A to B. For instance, you’ll be able to whizz from Tokyo to Kyoto in just 2 hours. Meanwhile, another travel experience is ticked off your bucket list. Result!
6. Refresh and revive yourself at a Japanese tea ceremony
The Japanese tea ceremony is known as The Way of the Tea and is considered serious business in Japan. The ceremony is steeped in history and tradition. Therefore, it’s a great way to delve deeper into Japanese culture.
Tea rooms, called chashitsu, are typically made of wood. Before entering and taking a seat on a traditional tatami mat, guests must remove their shoes and wash their hands.
Japan’s capital has several famous tea houses. Happo-En has six different floors and a famous 500-year-old bonsai tree. Alternatively, you can enjoy your tea at Jidaiya, where you can wear a traditional kimono during the ceremony.
7. Snap a shot of a Mount Fuji sunrise
The iconic, picture-perfect view of Mount Fuji is famous worldwide. Indeed, on Instagram alone, you’ll find millions of shots of this picturesque volcano. It may appear familiar, but it also has a sense of being completely intangible and other-wordly.
Despite this, a trip to Japan actually will allow you to see Mount Fuji with your own eyes. In fact, on a clear day, the permanently snow-capped peak is visible for miles. You can even get a good view of it from Tokyo – just head to the Tokyo Tower or Tokyo Skytree to see for yourself.
However, Mt Fuji is best enjoyed from the beautiful lakes in the regions surrounding the volcano. The sight is most spectacular at sunrise, which is undoubtedly the best time of day to snap the perfect shot of Fuji for the ‘gram. No filter required.
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