Monday, April 15 2024

Sushi, manga, sake. What’s not to love about Japan? While every country likes to claim that they are distinct, Japan truly does stand in a place all its own. The mix of traditional and modern influences have meshed to create a truly unique civilisation. This group of nearly 7,000 islands forms a country that has seen a dizzying array of changes over the past century. From the flashing lights and skyscrapers of Japan to the quiet cherry tree lined street and temples of the countryside, Japan is a world unto itself. While I’d definitely recommend seeing as much of the country as possible, especially since Japan has a network of high-speed trains that can take you to every corner of the nation, the best place to start is Tokyo. 

A Capital Idea: Tokyo

Tokyo has everything you have ever wanted in a city alongside a thousand other things that you never dreamed of. You could spend a lifetime trying to visit all of the bars and cafes scattered around the city. Foodies will be blown away by the cosmopolitan and traditional culinary feasts that the country has in spades. Anyone with anywhere to go will immediately fall in love with Tokyo’s public transportation planners who have made damn sure that every single train will arrive on time at every single stop. And, let’s not forget about the lush parks where you can get away from it all in your own private oasis. 

sushi restaurant photo
Photo by AraiGodai

Looking for Something Fishy?

If you love Japanese food, your first stop should be Tsukiji Fish Market. It’s the perfect spot for jet-lagged sushi fanatics. The world’s biggest, busiest fish market opens at 5 in the morning and pushes on until the rest of the world is getting out of bed. After you’ve taken in this truly mad spectacle, grab some ultra fresh fish from one of the vendor stalls alongside the market then head to a cooking class. Tourist have been infatuated with authentic Japanese cooking classes for decades now and it’s easy to see why. You’ll find countless classes all over town and it’s a way to take home and savour the tastes of Japan forever.

SUMO photo
Photo by antonioperezrio.com

Fighting for a Good Time

Ready for some more traditional Japanese fare? Get to Ryogoku Kokugikan, Tokyo’s National Sumo Hall. If you happen to find yourself in Tokyo during one of the grand 15-day tournaments that take place in January, May and September, you’re in for a real treat. Even if you know nothing about sumo wrestling, it is well worth an evening of your time. The entire spectacle is so quintessentially Japanese and so different from any other type of sporting event that you have ever been to in your life. You most certainly won’t regret it. 

Shinjuku Gyoen photo
Photo by sheila mckinney

A Place of Tranquility

Tokyo has the largest metropolitan area in the world. There are more than a whopping 35 million people living in greater Tokyo and space is more than a little limited. The average one-bedroom apartment is a mere 15 sq m/ 170 sq feet. While the city and the people inside of it are phenomenal, sometimes you just need to get away from it all. When that time comes, head down to Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden. It’s the number one attraction in Tokyo according to TripAdvisor users and it’s the perfect spot to recharge your batteries.

Mt Fuji photo
Photo by nipomen2

Best Day Trip

If you only set foot outside of Tokyo once, make it for a trip to visit Mt Fuji. Whether you go by car, train or bus, you can be from the city to Mt Fuji within two hours and it is well worth the trip. The iconic peak now has World Heritage status. At 3,776 meters/ 12,388 ft, the mountain is Japan’s tallest peak. It has been a pilgrimage site for the last couple of centuries and is one of three mountains considered to be sacred by the Japanese. While there are many summit hikes going at any given moments, for the lazy travellers among us it’s probably just as satisfying to just sit under a cherry tree and gaze up in wonder.

Photo by Kenny Teo (zoompict)

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