For various reasons and circumstances, we have decided to take a month off and travel to Asia. We also reference this trip as our honeymoon 🙂 We had something with Japan, so even though at first we wanted to go in June/July (when it’s rainy season, so a rather no-go), we have postponed it for August to be able to enjoy it 🙂
This is the first post which gives a glimpse on budget, first impressions and pictures from almost every city / town we have visited.
Yasaka Shrine is a Shinto shrine in the Gion district of Kyoto, the so-called Geisha district. We have found during our trip that every Shinto shrine is rebuilt every 20 years from scratch so that tradition is passed from generation to generation.
First things first, since everybody is interested in costs, here are the first “investments” we had to make:
- 550 € for an open-jaw return ticket with Emirates (not paid to say this, but if you have the chance to fly with them, I highly recommend them 😉 ). We have landed in Tokyo, Haneda airport (which is closer to the city than Narita) and we have taken a return flight from Osaka (Kansai airport).
- 500 € for a 21-days JR pass (delivered in 3 working days). This is a pass which can be bought only outside of Japan, being dedicated to tourists. It gives you access to almost all their trains (regional, express, Shinkansen — the bullet trains). There are 3 periods available for JR pass: 7, 14 and 21 days. (Later edit: we have kept track of all the trains we have taken, as we were doubting at first that JR pass is going to be that much profitable, and the cost for all the trains we have taken was around ~800 €/person).
Japan Rail Pass featuring sakura (the period when cherry trees blossom) and Mount Fuji, two of the most widespread Japanese symbols. On the back side it contains the holder’s name as well as the validity period.
Accommodation wise, it also depends on your budget. During August, it wasn’t that difficult to find accommodation, although in some smaller cities, AirBnb had few available options. We had found apartments from 36 € / a day for 2 persons, but as well with 100 € for a traditional Japanese style room with tatami floor and mats to sleep. As said, there are options if you want, especially if you don’t mind sharing your space with others 😉 Ah! Probably the most expensive and least private place was a hut on Mount Fuji at 3.250m, for 75€ / person, where we slept with 80 others. Understandable why though 😉
Traditional Japanese room (washitsu) with tatami floor (made of rice straws) and paper doors (shoji). Japanese are crazy and famous for their paper. This has been our room in Onomichi, a small but very nice place, my favourite during this trip 🙂
Food wise, Japan is actually pretty cheap for the quality of food. The best noodles I had (soba, a type of noodles) were in Tokyo in a claustrophobically small restaurant, at around 7 €. The best sushi we had was in Okayama and somewhere under 30 € for two people. The average cost would be somewhere between 10-12 €. And remember, water is free everywhere, which is a high plus, Japan 😀
This is the display of a restaurant which features food from their menu. There is a whole industry around making “plastic” food for display, at least 50% of the restaurants have it. The other 50% always show pictures in their menu 😉
For planning, we had a rough itinerary and accommodation booked for a week. And that was it! For the rest, we have arranged everything on the go and adjusted a bit according to recommendations 🙂 Our inspiration was Japan guide which is incredibly well documented (Mariska and Jesus were right!), every country should have such a complete guide! There, I said it 😛
So for the first post, let’s see a photo from each place we’ve been:
Fish market in Tokyo. This is a rather small, size wise, tuna fish, which I gladly discovered as being absolutely delicious when freshly eaten. Japan has a tuna flavour for me. The fish market was very clean and not killing you with its “fishy” smell 🙂
The Geo-Cosmos which is the symbol exhibit of Miraikan (Science Museum, Odaiba island, Tokyo), produces a rendition of our Earth shining brightly in space with a super high precision exceeding 10 million pixels. It is the world’s first “Globe-like display” using organic LED panels.
Pagoda at Toshogu shrine in Nikko, a town north of Tokyo. Pagodas are places of worship, very very rarely open to the public.
Tanabata Matsuri is a yearly festival in Sendai where a shopping street is “dressed” with these kind of decorations, some made by schools, some by shops, some by people of Hiroshima praying for world peace. They are almost 15m long and made out of washi paper and bamboo.
Pikachu day in Yokohama. Full of pikachus everywhere!
Shiny happy selfie with Pikachu! The ‘victory’ sign we’re doing is a kind of religion, everybody, really, E-V-E-R-Y-B-O-D-Y is doing it when taking a picture, so we’ve blended in!
We have climbed Mount Fuji (Japan’s highest peak at 3776 m) from 5th station, at 2300 m. This is the view from the top, you can see the shade of the almost perfectly conic shape of Fujisan. One of Japan’s symbols, Mount Fuji is actually an active volcano, which most recently erupted in 1708.
We wanted to go to Ise as I fell in love with the bridge on www.japan-guide.com‘s homepage. We have later found out this is THE MECCA of Shinto shrines from our amazing couchsurfer, Yuki and his friends, Tsukuda and Hiromi. That night they’ve treated us GREAT food! Thank you, Yuki, once again 🙂
After Ise, we have made a stop in Okayama. First thing that I associate this place with is the great sushi we had. There is a conveyor belt going around with sushi, you pick whatever you like (or can order if not there already) and then you pay based on the number of the standard plates.
One of the Three Great Gardens of Japan, Kurakoen garden, is in Okayama. The islands, trees, immensity of green fields, tea and rice fields made it one of the must sees for me in Japan. Definitely worth it!
Ok, last picture from Okayama, for now, I promise 😛 This is how rice fields look like, first time for me to see one from such a close by distance. Mind the deep water 😉
Naoshima island breaths art. Full of museums (most of them designed by famous architect Ando Tadao), we’ve found one of the most intriguing of them at Benesse Art Site: Yayoi Kusama’s “Pumpkin”. We are absolutely not centered, not very good looking due to our lack of patience to stay in the queue 😛
Miyajima Island, one of the most scenic spots in Japan, has long been regarded as an Island of Gods on the beautiful Seto Inland Sea. This historical island is home for Itsukushima Shrine, a World Heritage site, which has this famous Torii gate. As you can notice, there was a low tide that day, so perfect to walk all the way close to it 🙂 beautiful indeed!
Our next stop was in Hiroshima, Peace Park and Peace Museum. On August 6th, 1945, USA dropped the first atomic bomb (called “Little Boy”) above Hiroshima, followed three days later, on August 9th, by a second bomb (“Fat Man”) dropped in Nagasaki. Hope this will never happen again!
Onomichi was this small city I have chose as my favourite in Japan 🙂 this is the view from the Observatory. In the inn we were staying at overnight, we’ve found a Japanese person who has spent 22 years in US and returned to Japan especially for this place. It was lovely to exchange opinions with him. Absolutely recommended to check out Miharashi-Tei if you happen to pass by 😉 http://miharashi.onomichisaisei.com/en/
We’ve been to Nara and Osaka next, but seems my phone has few memories from there 😛 Here we are at Inari Shrine in Kyoto, which has almost 10000 (!) Torii gates, all of them donated either by companies of individuals. Took us like 1.5 hours to go all the way to the top of the mountain, but it was definitely worth it 😉
Kinkaku-ji temple in Kyoto has 2 floors out of three covered in golden leaf. Crazy, but it exists! And it is worth visiting 😉
“Maiko” is the term used for an apprentice who wants to become a geisha. We’ve been to a show where they’ve presented tea ceremony, played traditional music, theatre, maiko dancing and also an interesting puppet show.
The show was organized by Gion Corner and at least when we went, it wasn’t that much crowded. We were there 30 minutes before, but it wasn’t really needed.
Himeji Castle is the largest and most visited castle in Japan, being registered in 1993 as one of the first UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the country. Impressive about it is the fact that it is built out of wood.
The last temple we visited was Higashi Honganji, which is one of the biggest wood structures in the world. The part we’ve liked the most was its large space inside which let people take a moment and meditate, something we have barely encountered in all the temples we have seen, thus greatly appreciated.
Must say also that we had to take our shoes off, not for the first time though. But that part of story will follow in the upcoming posts 😉
Japan was amazing. Respectful and helpful people. Cleanness all around. Order. Quality products. And lots of them. More about all these in the upcoming posts. Until then, have you been to Japan? If yes, what did you like best? If no, what in this list triggered your curiosity? Arigato gozaimashta for your comments ツ