This month, one of our wandergirls spent two weeks wandering through extraordinary Japan. We’re sharing some of her favorite finds to inspire you for your next trip!
GOOD FORTUNE IN ASAKUSA
After having breakfast in beautiful Japanese ceramics, we went to Asakusa, to visit Senso Ji, one of the most visited temples in Japan. Inside, you get to read your fortune, and if it’s bad, you tie it to the racks and leave it behind! We walked through the streets full of Japanese graffiti, and stopped for a Shabo Shabo lunch which is a type of meat preparation with a special Japanese beef that you can even buy it in gift boxes!
DIVING INTO THE ANIME CORNER: AKIHABARA & HARAJUKU
Imagine a Japanese Time Square, but instead of lights and musicals, it’s all about the animes! You can buy any figurine you can think of, and it’s a gamers’ heaven! In Harajuku you will find quirky vintage clothing stores and cosplay shops. You can also play around the photo booth, which makes you look just like a manga character! We then visited a cat café, which is basically a café full of cats you can pet –the Japanese are fascinated with cats and thematic cafes!
EXPERIENCING JAPANESE FOOD & DRINKS
First off, a Michelin experience at Ginza Iwa, a six-seat sushi restaurant, with chefs preparing the food right in front of you –absolutely delicious! And right next door, we stopped at Ichiro’s whiskey bar –he doesn’t speak much English, but he will definitely entertain you! The next day, we went to the fish market and chose our own fish with our guide and chef, who prepared a meal for us at lunch! And in the evening, casual drinks and food at Gompachi –the inspiration behind the restaurant in Kill Bill.
RANDOM FUN: KARAOKE & SUMO TRAINING
The Japanese have so many unusual ways to entertain! Like watching a Geisha show, or going to Karaoke which was supposed to be a 30 minute trial, and ended up lasting all night! We also went to see Sumo training –it’s usually hard to get into a tournament because they happen at very specific times in the year, but you can enjoy watching the training and make some new, very big friends!
ONTO THE JAPANESE ALPS
In the Japanese mountains, we visited the Matsumoto Castle, which almost looks suspended in water! We saw the oldest Buddhist temple, in Nagano, and then drove to the thermal baths on our way to Kanazawa –warm natural water, open to the public.
With landscapes that look like the perfect postcard, we visited the castle and its surroundings, before heading to the Geisha neighborhood and visiting a Geisha house. Fun fact –they love gold leaf so much around there, they cover everything with it, including ice cream!
On our way to Kyoto and still cruising the mountains, we stopped in Hida Furakawa to experience a typical Japanese festival. We also drove through the Unesco Heritage Site of Shirakawa, the villa of Ogimasgi. And finally, we arrived to Kyoto, which has more than 1,400 temples and shrines –to be visited very early or late, otherwise it’s filled with tourists! Experience the beauty of Zen gardens, water mirrors and Japanese paintings.
In Kyoto, we enjoyed so many traditional activities, such as the tea ceremony, a Zen meditation class (with Ted Talk Speaker Rev. Takafumi Tawakami) and Maiko dinner –where you can experience Kaiseki cuisine and see the Geiko (Geishas of Kyoto) perform and teach you some fun drinking games!
A NIGHT AT THE TEMPLE
Koyasan is one of the main spiritual sites of Japan, where the founders and spiritual leaders have been buried for almost 1000 years. We spent the night in a temple, and experienced the ceremonial traditions early in the morning.
CONTEMPORARY ART ON ANOTHER LEVEL
We took a ferry onto the small island of Naoshima, where we found one of the most interesting projects of contemporary art in the world: The Benesse House is a museum and a hotel all in one, designed by Tadao Ando. And apart from the many artists housed within the museum, there is outdoor art to be discovered all around the island, and houses that have been transformed into art installations. It is a completely unique experience, and definitely worth the time.
All in all, Japan was a magical adventure; a total immersion into a culture that is so different from everything we usually know –and it a great luxury to experience it.
Until next time,