Japan is an amazing travel destination if you enjoy a mix of nature and skyscrapers, tradition and innovation, adventure, art, food, and much more. Although it won’t be your cheapest trip in Asia, you can still visit Japan without going bankrupt. There are plenty of things to see just by walking in the streets. My boyfriend and I spent three days in Kyoto, one and a half day in Fuji and three days in Tokyo. If we had to do it again, we wouldn’t change a thing, except to book everything earlier.
What surprised me, and will surprise first-timers
If you don’t want to spend a fortune on accommodation but don’t want to stay in a hostel either, I recommend Sakura Terrace The Gallery. It’s modern, cozy and very close to Kyoto Station, which not only connects you to anywhere you want to go, but also has a great food court area. Otherwise, a friend recommended Piece Hostel.
Also, there’s a nice cocktail bar called TurQuoise Bar 2 near the Gion-Shijo subway station. What’s unique about this bar is that there is no music, only delicious cocktails and quiet conversations. After greeting you with a mix of gourmet nuts and fried fruits, your designated mixologist will ask you what kind of alcohol you like, and what kind of taste you are looking for. Sour, sweet, spicy, flowery, fruity, smoky? They will then make your cocktail as if it was a piece of art. And the good thing is that it’s as satisfying to watch your cocktail being made than to drink it.
Climbing Mount Fuji is a must if you enjoy hiking. The ideal time to go is from early July to mid September, as it’s the official climbing season. It’s quite a hike, at 3776 meters high, but I’ve seen as many young as older people there. With a little bit of preparation and planning, anyone can do it.
Visiting the official Mount Fuji website beforehand is key, and so is reserving a lodge if you want to do a night hike to see the sunrise, which I recommend. There are different lodges, and I believe they are all similar, but we chose the Fujisan Hotel lodge as it was one of the closest to the summit.
The day before and after our hike, we rested at Kagelow hostel. It’s definitely the trendiest accommodation you can find near the mountain. They have a spacious common area and make decent coffee.
So if you want to do a night hike, you can take the bus at 4:40 PM from Fujisan Station. You’ll arrive to the 5th station at 5:45 PM. Start your hike at 6 PM (we followed the Yoshida Trail) and go to bed around 10 PM. In order to see the sunrise at 4 AM, you’ll need to wake up at 1 or 2 AM depending on the location of your lodge. Indeed, it will take you twice as long as it usually would, because you will be surrounded by hundreds of people (beware if you are agoraphobic). Going down is easy but not as fun as going up. It took us about 3.5 hours to hike down. Overall, it was a memorable experience. We’re lucky that our friend Ivan helped us plan the hike because we were quite last minute.
In Tokyo, the best areas to stay in are Harajuku, Shinjuku or Shibuya. Our top choices in terms of accommodation had no availability, so make sure you book long in advance. Other than what you’ve seen in the video, there’s the Tsukiji Fish Market which I really wanted to visit but didn’t get a chance to. And although I’ve been told the tuna auction taking place early in the morning is overrated, I still think it’s something worth experiencing. After all, markets give you a hint into a country’s culture.
If you have any other recommendations of things to see or do in Japan, feel free to post them in the comment section below.
At last, many thanks to our kind friends who shared their recommendations (Ivan, Luce, Guillaume, Cassandra, Mutsumi, Joelle, Raouf, etc.).
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