Japan is an enthralling country. It is a country that thrives on contrasts. The country’s beautiful historical past is present, coexisting with space-age technology and progress. This is a highly modern nation that bears no resemblance to the West. The Japanese have developed a strong sense of national identity, which is further strengthened by contemporary technology. From restaurant robots to cat cafés to towering cathedrals, it’s a sensory overload.
It’s a fantastic destination for all sorts of visitors, including pilgrimage routes, Mount Fuji, whale watching, old temples, and a thriving cuisine tourism business. The nation also boasts a sophisticated transportation system that makes getting around a breeze. In 2015, I went for the first time. After seven years of travel, I stood under Tokyo’s towering skyscrapers, feeling a wave of cultural shock rush over me. It’s unlike any other location you’ve ever been to. While I wholeheartedly suggest visiting Japan, there are some ethical tourism issues, so be sure to read the responsible travel section. Continue reading for a checklist of things to know before you travel, as well as navigation suggestions for Japan. Instead, you may go right to the city travel guides!
Table of Contents
Why should you visit Japan?
Japan is a startling mix of tranquility and turmoil, ancient and modern, and just the perfect amount of weirdness to make it an addictive location to visit that will have you going back for more!
Did we like Japan?
The short answer is YES!
Long answer: We’ll give you some history on our first visit and tell you what we want to see the next time we visit Japan in this post. Follow us on our journey around Japan and see our chaotic week in Japan.
Top Things To Know Before Traveling to Japan
Japan’s history is rich, complicated, and diverse. It is precisely these complexities that have resulted in today’s intriguing culture. Japan has vacillated for millennia between isolationist impulses and fast outward growth. Despite its modest size, it boasts the world’s tenth-largest population, the majority of which is concentrated in metropolitan areas. Even more astounding is the fact that most of Japan’s territory is uninhabited. The landscape consists of wooded mountains and volcanoes. The country is very homogeneous—98.5 percent of the population is Japanese. The dominant religion, Shintoism, stretches back to 1,000 B.C.E. and is often practiced with Buddhism.
Japan’s old civilizations extend back to prehistoric periods, and the country’s history since then has seen clan feuds, power transitions, and gradual expansion. The Shogun, or the age of military rulers, started in 1192. This time spanned several centuries (700 years). During this period, Japan’s military strength, including the samurai and the country’s famed martial arts, was founded. The Edo era began in the 1600s and ended in 1853 when the United States spearheaded efforts to encourage Japan to open trade channels with the rest of the world.
Throughout the decades of Shogun rule, the leaders placed a significant emphasis on the caste system, which favored an isolationist approach to the ruling—limiting outside influence on its inhabitants. Because of this restricted impact, Japan has developed a long history of craftsmanship and customs, ranging from Kabuki to silk to traditional ryokan inns.
Japan fought regional, minor battles with Russia, Korea, Taiwan, and China from the mid-1800s until WWII. Then, in 1941, the attack of Pearl Harbor signaled Japan’s entrance into WWII. The United States replied with the horrific atomic bombs of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, altering history as we know it and leading to Japan’s capitulation.
Japan concentrated on peace and economic prosperity in the decades after the war. Following WWII, Japan joined the United Nations and has since prospered economically. Growth stalled in the 1990s but has now resumed. The tsunami and nuclear tragedy in Fukushima in 2011 were catastrophic to the country. Tourism, on the other hand, is thriving, and Japan is still rebuilding areas devastated by the tsunami.
Japan’s decades of isolationism resulted in a cultural time capsule. Because of the limited outside impact, traditions and craftsmanship flourished for generations, from Kabuki to silk to traditional ryokan inns. Then, a recent history built on that past to create a current and intriguing blend.
Japan Travel Guide – Quick Facts
Currency: Japanese Yen (JPY) is the currency (current exchange rate)
Electricity: 100V/50-60Hz (North American plug; two prongs, no ground. Both flat pins are often the same size. You may need an adaptor.)
Primary Airports: Narita Airport in Tokyo is the primary airport (NRT). Haneda Airport in Tokyo (HND). Kansai Airport in Osaka (KIX).
Water is quite safe. Bring a water bottle and fill it up at the tap as you go.
Internet Situation: Japan’s internet is great; it is among the quickest in the world. You can virtually rely on easy internet connectivity no matter where you visit. Many guesthouses provide free WiFi.
Local SIM: I strongly advise you to get a SIM card as soon as you arrive. It was not cheap, but it’s useful. Outside of tourist regions, English signs and penetration are quite limited. Having a data-enabled phone allows you to effortlessly navigate trains, check itineraries, and translate on the move. This article provides an excellent description of obtaining a SIM card, which is now accessible before you even arrive in Japan. Because you’re probably mailing yourself your Japan Rail pass (purchase this before you go! ), you may as well be completely prepared and send yourself this as well. If you want to purchase it locally, it will be more difficult but not impossible; begin your study here. You’ll need to bring your passport. Although you may occasionally get a SIM card at the airport, the procedure becomes a bit more tricky if you arrive late. I tend to thrive on complexity, so I went in search of a SIM. I got mine at a Bic Camera shop in Shibuya. They got me organized with data in approximately 25 minutes, albeit the first 10 minutes were a complicated game of pantomime.
Visas: Citizens of North America, the United Kingdom, and Europe do not need a visa to enter for 90 days. Longer extensions are possible for some of these nations, and most countries outside of these areas must request ahead of time. Complete visa requirements are available here.
Noteworthy Festivals: Hanami, or Cherry Blossom season, is a popular time to visit (end of March through early April). Snow Festival in Sapporo (February). Fuji Rock Festival (July).
Awa Odori Festival in Tokushima (August). Golden Week (April 29 – May 5—accommodation is extremely hard to get during this week.)
Safety: Japan is a very safe country. Crazy secure. The culture follows a strict set of regulations, and people follow these cultural standards. Young youngsters travel the subways by themselves. Scams are very uncommon, if not non-existent. Although it is busy, pickpocketing and small crime do not occur outside of, possibly, the airport area. Everything that happens to you will be by chance. There have been a few instances of males on trains acting strangely, but this is unusual. Even in Japan, insurance is about more than just destination safety. I am a big believer in obtaining travel insurance, such as SafetyWing, for every trip; read my essential suggestions for selecting decent travel insurance.
Budget: Japan is an expensive country. It is hard to explore Japan on a shoestring budget, but it is feasible to travel while saving money. I met one man who was sleeping on the beaches and riding across the nation to save money. However, in general, plan your budget such that you feel comfortable spending a little money to enjoy the sights and food. You can save money on meals by getting snacks at convenience shops (there are hundreds of 7-11s), but you’ll probably want to experience all of Japan’s great soups, sushi, other dishes. Even the shared-bed hostels are reasonably affordable, ranging from $20 to USD 35 per night. Plan on spending about USD 70 per person for a low-cost excursion. Budgets may rapidly spiral out of control from there.
This is an excellent budget for a couple in 2016. Matt also provides financial advice on this page.
Best time to visit: Spring, when the cherry blossoms are in bloom (end of March through early April). Autumn is lovely, and the groomed gardens are ablaze with color. Summers in Japan are fairly hot, yet the country is a popular ski destination in the winter. The climbing season on Mount Fuji is only available in July and August, with shoulder months feasible but not popular.
Food Considerations: Being a vegetarian in Japan might be difficult. The notion is not well-known. I tried to convey the intricacies (like no fish broth). To figure out what you can consume, you’ll need accurate translations and planning. Happy Cow gives amazing vegetarian restaurant ideas for cities all around Japan; this lists the meals you can eat, and in the conclusion, it shares decent translations. This is an excellent general food introduction for non-vegetarians. If you have celiac disease, this is an excellent gluten-free resource. Convenience shops like 7-11s feature fresh food for all sorts of diners and are popular among residents and vacationers alike.
Accommodation is one of the most costly aspects of visiting Japan. There are no affordable solutions. The hostels, on the other hand, are immaculately clean. Ryokans (and their cheaper counterparts, minshuku) are traditional Japanese guesthouses that are ideal for learning about Japanese cuisine and hospitality practices. Plan on staying in one of them for at least a couple of nights. There are also bizarre capsule, or pod, hotels in Japan, where you effectively sleep in a high-tech cabinet. If you’re going to be in a city for a few days, I strongly suggest staying at an Airbnb—it’s a terrific way to save expenses and have a lot of conveniences included in the price of your stay. If you want to go during Cherry Blossom season, you’ll need to book months in advance. Booking.com has a decent selection of low-cost and mid-range accommodations. If none of these work for you, check out my in-depth guide on locating great places to stay.
Transportation: If feasible, consider Haneda over Narita as your arrival airport in Japan.
If they want to leave Tokyo, almost all visitors will wish to get a Japan Rail Pass. You may potentially purchase a pass in-country as of late 2021, but it will be more expensive. Because it’s a tourist permit, you used to have to purchase one before entering the nation.
They’re not sure how long they’ll provide in-country purchases, so simply buy one online before you depart and they’ll mail your pass to you within a few days. The pass provides significant savings on domestic rail travel and is nearly always a good value if you intend to depart Tokyo for at least two other locations of the country. Japan has a well-developed and efficient train network, and this is how you will travel between cities. Also, before you travel, download the Hyperdia app and use it to identify the best rail routes around the country—this software is extensive and incredibly precise. Along with your JR Pass, you’ll need to purchase a Suica card at a vending machine or ticket agent. This card may be preloaded with money to simply pay for local rail/subway lines, and it also works at vending machines. When in doubt, utilize a ticket agent to plan your trip since they can generally identify someone behind the counter who speaks English.
Possible Issues: Items such as your Japan Rail pass and discounted airfares are only available for purchase outside of Japan. You must prepare ahead of time to take advantage of these deals. English language signage is similarly few in Tokyo, however, this has begun to alter in preparation for the Summer Olympics in 2021. In the years running up to the Olympics, the government renovated railway stations to make them more tourist-friendly. Nonetheless, anticipate utilizing translation apps, having a decent map, and being patient. Locals were ready to assist me, even when it required a lot of pantomimes. Younger Japanese (college-age and adolescents) are more likely to grasp written English and speak some English.
Reading Inspiration: Books About Japan
Books about Japan, including fiction and nonfiction
- Shogun: This is an immense, sprawling Japanese story. It combines storytelling, history, love, and adventure into a single novel. It’s also a page-by-page exploration of the complexities of Japanese society, which are best understood via innovative characters and a fascinating tale.
- Memoirs of a Geisha: A well-written and simple read. This work offers a fictitious yet interesting look at the Geisha culture in Japan. The film is also excellent and will whet your appetite for what you will see when you visit Kyoto.
- The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle: It’s a renowned book written by Japanese author Haruki Murakami that details a post-WWII Tokyo with a fascinating cast of people who throw light on Japan’s rigorously regulated society.
- Zen and Japanese Culture: This book explores the subtleties and complexities of Japanese Zen, shedding light on everything from delicate tea rituals to elaborate workmanship to meticulous gardens. It’s a slice-of-life look into the foundation concepts of Japanese culture.
Online Reading and Podcasts
- Sex and Suffering: The Tragic Life of the Courtesan in Japan’s Floating World: Described as “a window into the world of Edo-Period Japanese prostitutes,” this essay deconstructs the life of sex workers in Japan during this time. It covers the development of the geisha and how it has influenced Japanese society today.
- How Japan Stood Up to Old Age: You won’t have to go far to learn about Japan’s traditional regard for the elderly. This is an excellent piece that examines how their culture cares for the elderly and why it is such an essential aspect of Japanese society. And a rebuttal to the darker aspects of such an aging society.
- The Man Who Sailed His House is an enthralling real tale of a tsunami survivor who was discovered floating out to sea on the top of his house. The tsunami is one of the most momentous occurrences in recent decades, and this is a fascinating opportunity to learn more via an engaging long read.
- Japan, And How I Failed to Figure It Out: You can always rely on “Wait But Why” to provide an informed and interesting discussion on any subject, including this lengthy piece on his trip around Japan.
- Let’s Talk Japan: Fill your podcast playlist with any of these episodes for an in-depth look at a variety of themes ranging from current affairs to traditional arts and culture.
Socially Responsible Travel in Japan
- Responsible travel in Japan entails doing study and making a concerted effort to understand and adhere to local standards. Japan is a nation steeped in rituals and customs. The Japanese are quite proud of their cultural history, which is strongly engrained in the way the nation operates. As a first-time visitor, it is impossible to comprehend the intricate layers of history and practices that underpin behavioral standards. Use this guide to responsible travel in Japan to make your trips more courteous and ethical.
- Recognize Cultural Norms
- A big component of Japanese culture is based on respect and hierarchy. Everything from bowing etiquette to washing to the phrases you use falls under this category. Customs such as avoiding wearing shoes on tatami mats and how you enter the baths have exact, distinct behavior. Elders are respected, and it is courteous to let them enter before you on buses, in stores, and other public places. Locals are seldom annoyed if you make a few mistakes since they understand the regulations are complicated. However, it is best to learn a few pleasantries and expressions of appreciation, since they are much appreciated and go a long way toward making you feel welcome in the country. The suggested literature listed above is a wonderful place to begin deconstructing these cultural conventions. Also, have a look at this Etiquette Guide to Japan—cheap it’s and will save you a lot of embarrassment!
- Make Ethical Food Selections
- Japan is one of the few nations that continue to eat whale and dolphin meat. Responsible visitors should refrain from supporting this sector of the country’s food business. Documentaries like The Cove have put light on the brutal processes involved in murdering these creatures, and the worldwide population largely opposes the ongoing eating of these forms of meat.
- Animal tourism should be avoided
- The tide of public opinion against dolphin and whale tourism has turned in many countries, but not in Japan. The country has a thriving dolphin and orca tourist sector, with many of these species still captured in the wild. In contrast, the great majority of governments have discontinued collecting wild animals in favor of captive breeding operations. I don’t recommend going to dolphinariums or orca circuses. Nor, for that matter, bear parks or dog fights.
- Reduce Your Environmental Impact
- The Japanese are environmentally sensitive and have undertaken initiatives at all levels to reduce the detrimental effect of living on their beautiful natural environment. Every kind of public transportation conceivable is available in the country. Make use of it. This is a must-see on every vacation to Japan. The country’s public transportation systems are among the greatest in the world; utilize trains, buses, subways, funiculars, and other modes of transportation to explore every nook and cranny of this fascinating country. Limit your trash and take advantage of the country’s recycling containers. And for women, a menstrual cup is not only convenient for travel but is also environmentally beneficial.
- Support Local Artists
- Throughout Japan, there are magnificent crafts and artisanal works. Purchasing these ancient crafts is an excellent way to support these businesses and ensure that they continue to exist for future generations.
Best Things to Do in Japan
Japan is a small country with a high-speed train system that enables you to go from top to bottom in an instant. There’s a lot to see, however, and each neighborhood has its personality. You can see the highlights in a one- or two-week journey, but get beneath the skin of a place and understand it, try to spend more time in each location, and explore further. There’s too much history to witness in one trip—the number of UNESCO World Heritage sites in the nation alone is impressive—so focus on an area and stick to it. It took me a few days simply to get over the overload and figure out how everything worked. The Japanese are big on systems, so everything from ordering meals to riding their trains has a certain method that you’ll have to figure out! The following choices are based on notes from my journey as well as suggestions from A Little Nonstop Asia readers who assisted me in planning my locations and activities. Enjoy the 100+ photographs in my Japan Photo Essay for a visual itinerary.
My Top 6 Favorite Japan Experiences:
- The temples in Kyoto’s northern and southern Higashiyama Districts are explored.
- We spent the day strolling about Kamakura, seeing the Buddha, and going to the beach.
- Relaxing at the top of the mountains on Miyajima, with panoramic views of the islands around Hiroshima.
- I’m chowing down on okonomiyaki at a little restaurant in Hiroshima,
- Sitting at Nara’s stunning Isuien Gardens, the most beautiful gardens I visited on my whole trip.
- Hiking behind Kyoto’s Fushimi Inari Taisha shrine.
I took a SIM card to me on my trip around Japan, which was necessary for me to quickly traverse the city, and I was delighted I had it. In addition, I downloaded this Tourist Map picture into my phone and utilized it to assist me to navigate.
Things to Do
- During the Cherry Blossom Season, go to Ueno Park. This is a fantastic location for stunning views. The season runs from the end of March until the beginning of April.
- Grab a cup of coffee at a unique café. Tokyo has everything, from pets to maid cafés. My pals went to a maid’s café, and they recounted their experience here.
Shibuya/Harajuku and Shinjuku Areas
- Shop and explore around Shibuya Station and the “Hachiko” dog monument. (Shibuya Hachiko Exit)
- Visit the Starbucks overlooking the Shibuya Crossing crossing and watch the crowds cross the street when the light changes.
- Visit the Meiji Shrine (Harajuku Station)
- Yoyogi Park is a great place to unwind (Yoyogi Station)
- Take a stroll in the “Omoide Yokocho” district at night. These pubs, restaurants, and booths hearken back to a different age in Tokyo. (Shinjuku West Exit)
- Enjoy the free view from the Tokyo Metropolitan Building’s north tower (10 min walk from Shinjuku Station West Exit)
Asakusa, Ryokoku, and Ueno Areas
- Visit the Sensoji Temple (Asakusa)
- Visit the Edo-Tokyo Museum (Ryokoku, closed Mondays)
- Allow some time to visit the National Museum (Ueno, closed Mondays)
- Take in the night view from the top of Tokyo Sky Tree. It’s more expensive, but it boasts amazing city views in the evening.
Places to Eat and Sleep
- Agora Place Asakusa: This is a popular district in Tokyo because the guesthouses are reasonable and it’s yet close to the highlights.
- Oak Hotel: A buddy recommended this as a nice ultra-cheap choice.
- Stay in a lovely area. APA Hotel Keisei Ueno-Ekimae for moderate, and Hotel Gracery Shinjuku for a wonderful starting point for your hunt.
- Graze on delectable Tokyo fare. Use Mark’s Tokyo for Food Lover’s guide if you like meat or fish. Vegans should consult this list of vegan restaurants in Tokyo.
Best Day Trips From Tokyo
This quaint tiny hamlet is less than an hour’s drive from Tokyo’s central business district.
It is primarily recognized for its well-preserved 17th-century architecture. The village is low-key and low-slung, which has enabled the architecture and old temples to be preserved. Many of the structures are from the 1800s, and the architecture is much older. The city was larger than Tokyo before Tokyo became the capital, earning it the moniker “Mother of Tokyo”. Candy Alley in the city is a tiny street packed with traditional sweets and artisan candy businesses. It’s a terrific location to get cute, lovely keepsakes. The Candy Alley was packed with Japanese visitors, but the city as a whole seems to be less touristic than the other simple day excursions from Tokyo.
I had a great time spending the day in this lovely seaside town, which is about an hour and a half from Tokyo. The most notable sight is the massive bronze Buddha statue, which dates from the 13th century. There is a bigger Buddha in Nara (an excellent day trip from Kyoto), but Kamakura is well worth a visit. I loved exploring the Hase-Dera temple, which is located quite near to the Buddha. They also offer excellent sweet potato ice cream that you may have to cool down. I suggest getting an ice cream cone and then strolling down to the beach to watch the kids play in the water. You may get a bus from the Buddha area that will take you back to the railway station. If you don’t have a SIM card, download an offline map of Kamakura—much it’s simpler to walk between the temples since there aren’t many signs directing you to the ocean.
Nikko National Park
Nikko is a UNESCO World Heritage site that is worth seeing. This village is a little farther away—about two hours from Tokyo’s metropolitan center. If you are in Tokyo for a time, this is an excellent weekend excursion. Many temples originate from the mid-eighth century, and this is a fantastic place to work out while seeing the lakes and mountains (Kegon Waterfall is a beauty). Futarasan Shrine, Tosho-Gu Shrine, and Rinno-Ji Temple are all worthwhile stops.
Edo Wonderland Nikko Edomura, a ninja-samurai theme park, may also be entertaining for children.
Snow Monkeys of Jigokudani
Plan a weekend vacation north of Tokyo to observe snow monkeys bathing in hot mountain springs. It’s around three to four hours from Tokyo and is simple to get there with a Japan Rail Pass. This is a winter and early spring pastime since the monkeys are too warm later in the year to be caught monkeying about in the water.
Day One: Walking Itineraries 1 & 2 Northern and Southern Higashiyama Districts: this has been a long day, but it has been spectacular, and I have followed my notes faithfully and have liked everything I have seen. More information about each is provided below.
Day Two: Arashiyama Walking Itinerary 3: The walking was a little easier on this day since the Bamboo forest isn’t far from the train station. If you want to remain for the day, there is enough to do in the surrounding region. I spent some time at the Okochi-Sanso Villa simply sitting with a notepad and the tea included in the entry charge.
Day Three: Nara Day Trip: More information about this may be found in the Nara section of the book. It’s a quick day trip from Kyoto, particularly if you have the Japan Rail Pass, which includes the majority of the ticket fee.
Day Four: Fushimi Inari Shrine & Wandered Gion District: I spent the day hiking about the shrine, and then I went to the Gion district for my last meal in town and to get a feel for this lovely neighborhood.
My Favorite Kyoto Temples:
- Kiyomizu-Dera Temple
- Kinkakuji (Golden Pavilion)
- Shoren-in Temple
- Chion-in Temple
- Honen-in Temple
Where Can I Eat and Sleep?
Kyoto is a fantastic place to get a centrally located Hostel. It’s a city you’ll be visiting for a few days, so it’s wonderful to have some room.
- Guesthouse Santiago: This hostel was clean, efficient, and well located. It was an excellent bargain, and I would return in a heartbeat.
- Reich Hotel Otsu Ishiyama stays at a wonderful location. It is for a medium option and Hotel Hokke Club Kyoto for a wonderful starting point for your quest.
- In Kyoto, there are many places to eat. This is a comprehensive guide of where and what to eat in Kyoto.
Day Trips From Kyoto
Osaka is a massive city—the second biggest in Japan—but it’s a world apart from vacationing in Tokyo. While roaming around Tokyo might seem lonely and intimidating, Osaka is seen as the friendlier of the two cities. Osaka is well-known for its cuisine scene, so plan to dine in the Dotonbori district in the evening. This is a free guide to the culinary scene in Osaka. If you haven’t experienced takoyaki, or battered octopus, here is the place to do it. Consider going to Osaka Castle as well.
This port city, next to Osaka, is famed for its beef of the same name. If you’re seeking Kobe Beef, you won’t be disappointed since there are many in the Sannomiya neighborhood. There is a lot of foreign influence here, which is unusual for Japan. During the late 1800s, this was one of the few sites where foreigners were permitted to dwell. In the Kitano-Cho region, several previous foreign mansions have been maintained. Consider that the Ashiya district is one of Japan’s few luxury districts. Boutique boutiques, wealthy mansions, and yacht ports may be found here.
If castles and 14th-century architecture are of interest to you, this is a must-see. It’s also a quick train stop on the Bullet Train. Himeji is famous for its majestic castle, which has withstood many battles and natural calamities.
This old Japanese city predates Kyoto and is about an hour away. This was Japan’s capital in the eighth century, and as such, it features some incredibly spectacular temples and architecture. It’s a quick day trip from Kyoto (a full day, but it can be done in a day), although one A Little Adrift reader recommends staying the night in Kyoto to view the Nigatsu-do temple at night. Many of Nara’s temples have been listed as UNESCO World Heritage sites. This page contains Nara navigation information.
Things to Do in Nara
- Nara Park is a short walk from the railway station. Purchase some deer cookies here so that you may feed the deer not only at Nara Park but also throughout your temple visits.
- Todaiji Temple is a must-see attraction. It is one of Japan’s most important temples and holds the world’s biggest bronze statue of the Buddha.
- You should go to the Isuien Gardens. It was the most magnificent garden I saw in all of Japan.
- It’s well-groomed. There is also a tea house. They also offer the greatest example of “borrowed landscape,” combining neighboring mountains and temples into the architecture of the garden.
- On your way out of the town, look for the reflection of Kofuku-Ji Temple. I planned my evening departure from Nara to get a glimpse of Kofuku-Ji as the sun sank and the temple mirrored in the river.
- Pay a visit to Nigatsu-do Temple. If you’re staying in Nara, make a point of visiting this location at night. Shelley, an ALA reader, lived in Nara and recalls, “It is incredibly calm and beautiful with the lanterns aglow”. It’s on a hill with a view of the city lights”. It’s also a beautiful place to visit throughout the day or early evening.
- Also worth a walk is Nara machi, a historic portion of the city (though actually, it’s all old) with many traditional businesses.
Where Can I Sleep?
If you’re exploring that part of the island, Hiroshima is a must-see. It’s a short trek from Nara or Osaka and offers plenty to keep you busy for at least two days
Things To Do in Hiroshima
- Spend the day learning and remembering at Hiroshima’s Peace Memorial Park. Learning about the impact of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and other regions at the Peace Park is a sobering experience. The exhibitions are solemn and well-presented. The park is peaceful and serene. I hired a bike from my accommodation and spent half a day in Peace Park before riding about the city processing. I went to the Shukkeien Garden to unwind and process.
- Miyajima Island is a great place to spend the day. This location is roughly an hour’s drive from Hiroshima, and you’ll need to take a train to the boat to go to the island. Take the boat over from Miyajima Station. You’ll pass the spectacular floating Itsukushima Shrine on Miyajima.
- The gate “floods” at different times of the day, forming a floating torii. It was originally erected in the 6th or 7th century. The tides are constantly varied, so verify when you’ll be able to view the gate both floating and receding and then traverse the beach to stand beneath the gate as the tide recedes. Aside from the gate, you may spend a half-day climbing the mountain. You may either trek or take the cable car to the summit. Even if you use the cable car, there is a bit of a trek to the summit. I rode the cable car up and then walked down via the lovely woodland pathways.
- Okonomiyaki is a popular Japanese food. You won’t want to miss out on trying okonomiyaki in Hiroshima. The Hiroshima variant differs from those made in other parts of Japan. Most okonomiyaki restaurants will also prepare a vegetarian version of the dish, so don’t be afraid to try one of the city’s numerous okonomiyaki eateries. It’s generally a good and reasonably priced lunch or supper choice.
- Shikoku Island is a must-see. Shikoku is well-known for its “88 Temple pilgrimage”. It’s less touristic than Miyajima, yet it’s a gorgeous site and one of Japan’s four major islands. This island is well-known for its hospitality, seafood, and udon noodle dishes.
Where Can I Sleep?
- Hiroshima is a wonderful location for finding a central Hostel. It’s a place you’ll spend a few days in, like Kyoto, so it’s wonderful to have some room.
- J-Hoppers Guesthouse: This was an excellent chain across Japan, with a well-run hostel and great city recommendations. There is also a strong backpacker community. The best okonomiyaki I’d ever tasted was just across the block at a restaurant they recommended.
- Stay at a wonderful place: Hiroshima Pacific Hotel for a medium option, and Hotel Granvia Hiroshima for a wonderful starting point for your quest.
Other Places to Visit in Japan
The land is full of breathtaking scenery. These are a few alternative cities/regions/options for tourists wishing to complement their trips to major cities with a few tiny villages or unique off-the-beaten-path excursions.
- Mount Fuji. This landmark location is the highest in Japan, and it is located on the boundary of two provinces, Yamanashi and Shizuoka. Both prefectures provide beautiful views of the mountain, which is an active volcano, and are up to two hours from Tokyo’s metropolitan core. Check the season you’re going since you can only climb Fuji at particular periods of the year. If you visit Japan at the proper season, seeing the sunrise from Mount Fuji is a fantastic way to end your stay. This website has a wealth of information to help you get started planning a Fuji trek. This is a story about climbing Mount Fuji. If you don’t visit during the climbing season, there are also wonderful alternative trekking paths across the nation (several options below).
- Wisteria Tunnels of Kawachi Fuji Gardens. I didn’t make it this far south, but I had highlighted it as a possible plan since it seems like a beautiful location. More information on the lovely tunnels may be found on this website.
- Kumano Kodo pilgrimage route. This old pilgrimage path is a lovely trip across Japan. There are one- to two-day treks as well as longer ones.
- The Nakasendo Way links Kyoto with Tokyo. This walking path follows historic Edo-era routes and is also breathtakingly beautiful.
- Hakone National Park offers spectacular views of Mount Fuji. Consider purchasing a Hakone Freepass to have access to all transportation choices. This is also a great place to stay in a traditional Japanese ryokan and soak in a hot spring bath.
- In Koyasan, stay in a monastery. Vegetarians should come here and reserve a room at one of these Hindu monasteries. The food is vegetarian, and it’s a great location to learn etiquette and traditions without having to worry about food allergies.