Guide to the Best Places to Visit in Japan
Tokyo and Mt Fuji
Japan is a real charm for the Aussie traveller. Whether you’re traveling alone or in a small group, you’ll always find something fascinating around the next corner. Sometimes it’s people watching from a noodle restaurant in Tokyo’s funky neighbourhood of Harajuku or it might be a visit to a 12 storey stationery store in Ginza, in the centre of Tokyo. As with most travel experiences it’s often it’s the unplanned surprises that are the most memorable.
Japan will likely be one of the top travel destinations over the next couple of years, especially with world focus on the Rugby World Cup in 2019 and the Olympics in 2020. It’s very easy to get around as an independent traveller, and you can also join small group tours to get a better appreciation for the food and culture.
I’ve travelled to Japan quite a few times for work and for holidays over the past twenty years. And each trip brings a new experience, remarkable new memories and a thirst for further travel around Japan.
It’s a great idea to start your trip to Japan with a few days in Tokyo. On my last trip to Tokyo, I enjoyed wandering down the cobbled streets of Kagurazaka before lunch, walking along the back streets to the Yayoi Kusama Museum*, before heading back to Ginza for some shopping and dinner. Getting around Tokyo is safe and easy for the solo traveller, and it’s quite common to see people eating alone.
However, for a real insider’s view to the city of Tokyo, we can recommend a small, personalised 5-day tour of Tokyo with a real focus on food. Everything is organised for you on this culinary adventure by 2 Kiwi’s who have an intimate knowledge of the place. You’ll get to try a delicious variety of street food, eat in some back street alleys and dine in some of the hard-to-find Izakaya’s, and still have time for shopping and exploring. It’s an active walking tour, so you’ll get to work up a good appetite whilst exploring the city.
Then jump on a Shinkansen bullet train to explore the beautiful countryside surrounding Mt Fuji. About an hour south of Tokyo is Hakone, a stepping stone to some of the most beautiful views of Mt Fuji. Cross your fingers for clear skies and the best views of Mt Fuji from the Hakone Ropeway (think cable car), visit the Hakone Open-Air Museum with it’s Picasso Collection and Hot Spring foot bath, indulge in an amazing selection of Gyoza (Japanese dumplings) at the Gyoza Center, and take the tram back down the other side. It’s do-able as a day trip from Tokyo, but much more enjoyable if you book a hotel for a couple of nights and can unwind in the hotel onsen spa in the evening.
From Hakone, continue your travels down to Kyoto by Shinkansen to discover the many temples and experience a more traditional side to Japanese life away from the big city. And from here you can easily fly out of Osaka back home. There’s certainly enough to see and do in a week, and maybe longer if you have the time.
Don’t be put off travelling to Japan because of the language barrier. I’ve found it really easy to get around Japan, especially with help of Google Maps. The stations all have English signs, so you know which platform to catch your train from and which station to get off at. The restaurants even have picture based menus to help you choose your meal. It can just get a little creative when you’re trying to work out if it’s chicken or pork noodles, but that’s a story for another time :-).
Contact Cathy or Chris at Travel Architects to plan your Japan holiday!
*NB. You may have heard about Yayoi Kusama’s famous pumpkin installations. In fact, one of her installations is now on display at the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra.