Japan is a trending travel destination, but there’s more to the land of the rising sun than just the Shibuya scramble crossing, Sakura petals, and quirky street fashion. Of course, it is impossible to do all there is to do in Japan in just one visit. Among the plethora of things that I’ve experienced in Japan, here are a few that stood out:
1. Lost in Translation
There are too many places to visit, and asking for directions is not an easy task, especially when the only japanese sentence I know was “Sumimasen, Nihongo ga wakarimasen” — Excuse me, I don’t understand Japanese. In between asking for “Mizu Samui” — direct and incorrect translation of Cold Water — and “Intaneto Paswerdo”. Ditching my English itinerary, and saying “hai” (yes) to everything, I found myself lodged in Buddha’s nose, in a public bath with hundreds of naked men, and in Gion with a Geisha on my side — not naked.
2. The enchanting Geisha
It is easy to get yourself into the habit of harassing Geishas with your camera, instead, show some respect and say “Kirei desu” and you’re sure to be melted by their acknowledgement. Remember, it’s “Kirei” (beautiful) not “Kirai” (hate). Make sure to drop by Gion Corner in Kyoto to get a glimpse of dancing Geishas and other performances.
3. Cycling in Kyoto
If you decide to cycle in Kyoto, you might want to do it over a few days because Kyoto is Huge. I rented a bicycle, and we made too many long stops and ended up cycling more than we would like. It was however, an amazing experience. I just wished people wore helmets. Though on a side note, people drive very slowly in metropolitan area.
4. Temple/Shrine Hunting
The one with orange gates ? The one that is gold ? Oh, Fushimi Inari ! Kinkakuji ! Ginkakuji ? Kiyomizu Dera ? After Kyoto, you might want to rethink your temple obsession, and no, they’re not all temples, there’s shrines too. Each one unique and have great stories backing them up. My favourite part is however the zen gardens. I could imagine myself sipping a hot cup of green tea on a rainy day. Speaking of rain, check out this never ending flow of water.
Fitri, sometimes I wonder, why on earth are you fascinated by simple things!
5. Temple Lodging
Not a lot of people get to visit Koyasan, I remember walking around town in the evening and I swear I was the only one roaming around. Knowing at the end of the town, there’s Japan’s biggest graveyard. It’s scary and calming at the same time. But associating ghosts with the death is disrespectful so there’s no room for horror stories in this area. And not only out of respect, the place is too beautiful to even think about Sadako — Thank god there’s no TVs.
6. Walked a graveyard and loved it
A visit to Koyasan is not complete without a visit to Okonuin. My favourite place for this Japan trip. There’s something about walking along giant cedar trees, with mist still hovering above the tombstones and cobblestone pathway, alone. The snow adds to the already mesmerizing ambient.
7. Braved the Onsens
Right after coming back to Osaka from Koyasan I went straight to Spa world to have a quick bath. I thought that it’ll be deserted during post-lunch time but man I was wrong. It could not be any more packed. But heck, I had already paid so I rushed through the crowd with a small towel barely covering anything and straight into the wrong pool. The freezing cold pool. After a minute or so I decided to rush to a warmer pool. And finally relaxed for half an hour or so, trying not to gawk at passerby.
8. Saw more animals than I thought I would
Even in the bigger town, Nara, there’s deers roaming around freely on the park, street and buildings. Some were just busking while others, terrorizing the mini shops around the park. There are several cat cafe’s in Osaka that you could try and If you find yourself in Arashiyama, pay a visit to the Monkey park. It’s a tough hike (they didn’t advertise this) but the view and monkeys made the hike up worthwhile.
So what are you waiting for, get out there.