Go Big in Japan: 10 Must-Not-Miss Spots
Perhaps just like most, I like being in my comfort zone. But I know for a fact that comfort zones make people lazy. Flying out of the country is stepping out of the comfort zone.
That’s the logic I followed when I joined my friends in a 17-day trip to the Land of the Rising Sun last October.
Japan, more than its postcard worthy destinations, is a place where the quiet meets the excitement and the adventure meets the serene. Home to more than 127 million peace-loving people, this island nation in Asia made me forget the stress-inducing traffic of Manila, the noise of dirty politics, and the anxieties of everyday life.
If you’re looking for something that could beautifully disrupt your routine, try heading to this place where meditation is fun and otakus thrive. Wondering what to do and where to go? Check out what I think are the 10 must-not-miss when in Japan.
1. Fushimi Inari Shrine, Kyoto
The Fushimi Inari Shrine tested my belief that with persistence comes result, but it also made me appreciate the thousands of vermilion torii gates that line the holy Mount Inari. The trek to the summit and back would take about 2-3 hours so make sure you wear hiking shoes so as to make your climb easier! Also, don’t be surprised when you saw guys the same age as your grandfathers walking faster than you.
2. Geisha Spotting in Gion
Spot a geisha (or two) in Gion. There’s a place in Kyoto where you can still smell old Japan in the air. Old Japanese houses and old Japanese customs are still present in this hidden street in Kyoto. Visit Shin-bashi, and you might just see a geisha in the flesh.
3. Kiyomi-zu dera Temple
Marvel at the beauty of Kiyomi-zu dera Temple. Kyoto has thousands of temples and shrines. That’s no exaggeration. But Kiyomuzu-dera is one of the temples so special that you couldn’t afford to skip it. This temple offers more than a stunning view and a religious experience, there’s one activity so blazingly good that you wouldn’t want to close your eyes again.
4. Taste a Legit Kobe Beef in Kobe
You haven’t tasted the best beef the world has to offer if you haven’t sampled the ridiculously good Kobe beef in Kobe. The word delicious was not enough to verbalize how exemplary it was. Plus, the chef that served us also looked ridiculously delicious.
5. RAMEN. RAMEN. RAMEN.
Need I say more? Authentic is always better. Am I right? Or am I right?
6. Harry Potter World, Universal Studios Osaka
Be a Hogwarts visitor for a day in Osaka’s Universal Studios. Your Japan visit wouldn’t be complete if you don’t take a day off and be a little kid again. Where else could you be that kid if not in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter? Window shop in Diagon Alley. Take a big gulp of butter beer in Three Broomsticks. Shake the hand of the conductor of the Hogwarts’ Express, and of course, ride the Buckbeak, the Hippogriff!
7. Experience the Shibuya Crossing in Tokyo
The towering Tokyo Skytree could not eclipse the fame of Shibuya’s crossing. The heart of Japan where the crowd looks good on cam. A friend told me that you DO NOT LEAVE TOKYO WITHOUT A SHIBUYA SHOT. She’s right. Cross and click. Also, before you do that, say hi to Hachiko’s statue first.
8. Take a Food Walk in Dotonbori, Osaka
Pigging out has never tasted so good. In Dotonbori, you’ll find some of the best tasting food in Japan. We tried a lot, but what stuck to my taste buds is Pablo’s cheesecake. Oozing with cheesy goodness, this one’s too good and too affordable to not try. Make sure you have a buddy to share the cheesecake with!
9. Kinkakuji and Ginkakuji Temples, Kyoto
Snap a pic of the Kinkakuji and Ginkakuji Temples. These are the two temples that are probably the most striking. The Kinkakuji, a Zen temple, also famously known as the Golden Pavilion overlooks a large pond. That pond surely adds to the place being picturesque. The Ginkakuji, known as the Silver Pavilion, meanwhile, was inspired by the majestic extravagance of the Kinkakuji. Also definitely worth the visit. Autumn, I believe, is the best time to check out these two.
10. Hiroshima Peace Park, Hiroshima
A look back at the bloody history of the Hiroshima Atomic bomb dome. Decades have passed since World War II, but a stop at the center of the Hiroshima Peace Park could still render anyone speechless. The place epitomizes the destruction, and the resilience that followed, from the dropping of the atomic bomb. Also, the Itsukushima Shrine in Miyajima Island, a huge torii gate submerged in water, is a train and a ferry away, so if you still have time, make sure you check it out.
Japan is one of those countries you visit where there’s never enough time. You can always come back, seat sales are just a click away.
So, if you are you at a point in your life where you’re wondering what the grass on the other side feels like, stop wondering and book that flight. You’ll never know, you might just stumble into something, or someone, that could change the path of your life. Wink, wink.