It’s officially less than a month before my trip to Japan, and as you can probably tell, I’m super excited– there’s so much to do, eat, and see!
Find out what’s at the top of my “to do” list in today’s post.
Japan will be the first Asian country that I’ll visit. I really love the culture and there’s no better country to start my adventure. Of course, I want to see all of Asia, like Thailand, Korea, and more, but Japan has always been at the top of my list. Tokyo (specifically Shinkuju) will be my “home base” for 10 days, but there’s going to be a ton of day trips- some of those are listed below.
Let me know if you guys have any suggestions or tips — I’d love to hear from you!
7. Walk the Shibuya Crossing & Shop at Shibuya 109Photo credit: Candida.Performa
Shibuya crossing is one of the busiest intersections in Tokyo: businessmen, high school students, moms, and a ton of other people are scrambling across all directions. A few feet away is the Shibuya 109 building — AKA my shopping dream since high school.
Back when I was obsessed with fashion, I would spend hours flipping through Japanese fashion magazines and wishing I could buy an entire store at 109. I even bought circle lenses and fake eyelashes so I could be a gyaru
for about 2 weeks! When I get tired and/or disoriented from so many people, I’ll check out the famous Hachiko statue or people watch from the Starbucks nearby.
6. Eat *all* the Food! Photo credit: T.Mizo
Did you know there’s such a thing as an all you can eat in Japan?! Yes, that’s right – all the sushi, yakitori, and karaage you can eat in 2 hours! These restaurants are labeled “Tabehodai” and most of them will have servers bring food to your table, but there are also a couple of buffet-style options where you go and pick whatever you want from a table. Usually they cost around $20/person for two hours of unlimited food, but restaurants with fancier options (like lobster) can be around $45/person. There’s also “Nomihodai,” or all-you-can-drink, for about $20 to $25/person.
Aside from trying to stuff myself with all the karaage in the restaurant, I want to check out traditional restaurants and izakayas (pubs) to taste real Japanese food. San Francisco has a lot of great options– especially in Japantown — but I want to compare the two and see who has the better ramen ;)
5. Wish Upon a Daruma
Photo credit: PuffyJet
My computer keeps trying to correct daruma to drama, but no, it’s an actual thing.
Wtf is a daruma? you’re probably wondering… well, it’s that little round guy in the photo above.
Daruma are round and hollow dolls that help you with your goals. They are usually red, have a beard, and come with blank white eyes. When you have a new goal, such as running a marathon or learning a new language, you take a pen and fill in the daruma’s left eye with a pupil. Then, place the daruma where you’ll see him often and be reminded to focus on what you want. When you complete your goal, fill in the other eye and keep the doll as a memento of your hard work and perseverance!
There’s a city about 2 hours away from Tokyo called Takasaki, and it’s home to the daruma doll. I plan to check out the Shorinzan Daruma Temple, where they were created, and explore the nearby area. Of course, I can’t leave without my own daruma doll – I’m still thinking of what I should wish when I draw in it’s pupil. :)
4. Chill Out with the Snow Monkeys Photo credit: Brian Jeffery Beggerly
I have a small confession to make: I’ve seen photos of the snow monkeys everywhere, but I had no idea they were in Japan until I did more research. This blog post from the Travel Sisters inspired me to buy a JR rail pass and put the Jigokudani Snow Monkey Park on my itinerary.
Look at them, they’re so cute chilling out in the hot springs! I wish I could jump in the water with them, but it’s against the park rules to even touch the monkeys. I think an onsen (public hot springs) would be a better choice…
3. Take the Bullet Train to Aomori Photo credit: JR East
This is the wild card in my itinerary, since I’m not sure if I can make it up there. Aomori is the northernmost point of Japan’s main island and takes about 6 hours by bullet train from Tokyo. If I end up going, the Hirosaki Castle, pictured above, is at the top of my list. The moat around the castle is full of cherry blossoms during the spring, and there’s plenty of fresh air that blows in from the ocean.
2. Try All of Japan’s Vending Machines Photo credit: Michael Howe-Ely
Fun fact: Japan has 1 vending machine for every 23 people, which makes it the vending machine capital of the world. I remember strolling near Okhotny Ryad back in Moscow, and lo and behold, there were two Japanese vending machines just standing there! The instructions– and drinks, naturally– were in Japanese, and I didn’t have exact change to buy a soda.
I told myself I would pass by another day, but unfortunately never got the chance… Until now! I can’t wait to try everything that’s vendable: soda, ramen, sushi, and even sake in a cup.
1. Watch the Cherry Blossoms in the ParkPhoto credit: Kate Nevens
There’s a reason I’m going to Japan in April – it’s prime cherry blossom season! ;)
The first park on my list is Ueno Park. It’s one of Japan’s most popular parks to experience hanami (“flower viewing”). You can also rent a swan boat and peddle through Shinobazu Pond; see the Ueno Toshogu Shrine, and walk through the campus of Tokyo University.
People usually bring a towel and a picnic basket to fully enjoy hanami, but spots fill up really quickly (there’s even a reservation system in some places!). I’m not sure if I’ll be quick enough to grab a spot, but I really look forward to strolling through the park and watching the beautiful sakura.
That’s it for my 7 things that I’m excited to do in Japan – let me know what you think, and I’m always open to suggestions and comments! Thanks for reading!