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Planning a trip to Japan can be overwhelming because there are so many beautiful places to see and so much to do.
But making your Japan adventure a memorable one is important, whether it is your first time or your fifth.
Here are some ways to have a wonderful time in Japan.
Plan it all out or wing it?
Depending on what kind of a traveler you are, try to leave a little time for exploring and absorbing the local culture.
Picking a few great cities to explore, like Kyoto, Tokyo, or Osaka, can help you to be less overwhelmed on your first trip
On your second or third visit you may also want to explore the islands in southern Japan like Ishigaki-jima or Sapporo and the mountainous northern island of Hokkaido.
If you are the “plan it all out” type, pick a few things in each place you want to accomplish when you are there and make a tentative itinerary.
But if you are the relaxed type who likes to make plans as you go, pick a location or two and decide what to do when you get there.
Japan has many great cities and incredible landscapes, and it is impossible to see everything in one trip.
No matter what type of traveler you are, keep an open mind and enjoy your time in beautiful Japan.
Try Something New
Whether it is a new food that you haven’t eaten or an activity that you have never tried before, don’t be afraid to experience something you wouldn’t normally do.
There are many amazing sushi restaurants in Tokyo. Some of them are Michelin starred so you know you are eating the very best of this local delicacy. A truly unique experience would be to try funazushi – a fermented sushi made from a type of goldfish.
Test your boundaries, because trying a unique and new activity will certainly make your trip memorable.
A mesmerizing walk through the Sagano Bamboo Forest in Kyoto will stay with you for a lifetime.
And watching the beautiful lights of the firefly squid of Toyama Bay is a memory you will never forget.
In Tokyo, you can view the intricate masterpiece of the Nakagin Capsule Tower or see the Giant Ghibli Clock.
Did you know that in Shimamoto near Osaka you can find one of the world’s best whiskey distilleries? It has a library of over 7,000 bottles and produces a spirit unique to Japan.
Take Time to Listen and Observe
When experiencing Japan, it is important to be quiet and let it all soak in. The unique Japanese culture and customs are a very special part of visiting this part of the world.
If you listen and observe what is going on around you as you travel the country, you will learn so much.
So many everyday activities have special rituals and customs in Japan. Take time to watch people when on the train, in a restaurant, or walking down the street. The way the people approach life is respectful and probably very different to your country.
There are many shrines where you can spend some time sitting and observing, like the Itsukushima Shrine in Hatsukaichi or the Fushimi Inari-Taisha Shrine in Kyoto.
When visiting the shrines, make sure to observe what the other people are doing, so you can understand the traditions and expectations for the place you are in.
For example, there is special etiquette you should follow when you visit a temple. As you approach the shrine, stay to the sides of the path. The centre of the path is for the gods, not humans. You can read more about the customs you should follow when visiting temples in Japan here.
Find a Balance Between Activity and Down Time
While you want to get so much accomplished on your trip, it can also be memorable to have a picnic, lay out in the sun or do something relaxing. Take the time to leisurely eat, go to a park, or take a walk to enjoy what is happening around you.
There are many parks around Japan where you can enjoy some downtime.
For example, in Yakushima, you can take a break at the beautiful Shiratani Unsuikyo Ravine, where you will quietly enjoy the greenery and be one with nature.
Enjoy some time at the Yunessun Spa, where you can take a bath in coffee, wine, or ramen broth to rejuvenate the soul.
You could also go to the Wisteria Tunnel in Kitakyushu or the Ice Cave in Narusawa-mura.
Better yet, find a hotel that offers all you’ll need for enjoyment. The hotels in Kyoto are great places to enjoy a balanced trip because they are close to many of the attractions in the city
Embrace the Differences
You will find there are many cultural differences about Japan. While you might feel uncomfortable when getting to know the culture, embrace those differences.
Think about how the people of Japan live and what makes their customs unique. Just as customs and traditions from your country are important, there is also purpose to what they do in Japan.
Some customs might be very different or a little shocking from what you might be used to at home.
Did you know that the way the number “four” is said is very similar to the word used for death, so many Japanese avoid using the number?
If you see the number 4 being skipped over, you will know why. Save yourself some money since you won’t have to tip when you go out to restaurants. Leaving extra money is considered rude.
Regardless of what your parents told you growing up, go ahead and slurp your noodles noisily.
It is seen as polite and as an indication, you are enjoying your meal. These are just the beginning of the differences you will see. Embrace every one.
Collect special souvenirs
Souvenirs can be fun to bring back home and share with your family and friends, but memories are going to stay with you much longer.
If you do decide to purchase some souvenirs, make sure they are something truly special and made in Japan.
Perhaps you can find a Yukata, a light-weight kimono valued from between 3000-10,000 Yen, or a beautiful Japanese fan, which might cost you 100-1,000 Yen.
When in Japan, you can also find authentic origami paper that you can bring home and try to fold into creative objects.
If you are looking for an inexpensive souvenir for yourself or a gift for someone else, how about a Tenugui – a towel made of cotton that you can either use or turn into a decoration.
There are also plenty of items you can take home with you for free to remember your trips such as maps or train stamps.
Take Pictures and Keep a Diary
When you get home, make sure you have a record of your time spent in Japan.
Pictures and a diary can help you remember all the fun experiences you had on your adventure to Japan. You could even pick up a special notebook in Japan to record your memories.
There is some photo etiquette in Japan that you should be aware of before taking pictures on your trip. If you see a sign that says, “Satsuei kinshi”or a picture of a camera crossed out, then you should know that is not a place you are allowed to take pictures.
Also be sure to refrain from taking pictures on the subway or inside stores.
Places such as parks or public places are usually okay to take pictures. Just be sure to look for the sign first.
Make your trip to Japan the adventure of a lifetime
Taking these steps can help to ensure your trip is memorable, and that you can take your experience home with you. Make sure to only get souvenirs if they mean something special and support the local businesses by buying items that are made in Japan.
By taking the time to plan new and exciting activities, finding a balance between being active and having downtime, and writing down your experiences, you will make it an unforgettable trip.
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