Highlights of Japan

It's been a long while since I last did any recommendations for a city/country, which can prove to be more useful summaries of my trips. I've created a new tag for trip recommendations and will slowly add more entries to them. I realised I've only done summaries for Seoul and Venice so far, so there's probably alot more work to be done. I will do it in point form like what I did for Venice so that it can be a guide that is easier for reading.

Here are some of my experiences/recommendations in general:
  • It is probably cheaper to go to Hokkaido by flying to Osaka/Tokyo and then flying to Sapporo via Jetstar. Jetstar's domestic flights can cost below ¥8,000 one-way inclusive of taxes!
  • Feast lots! I love sushi, sashimi, crabs, scallops, prawns, ramen, udon, soba, tonkotsu, tempura, shabu shabu, and the list can go on and on. Japan has so much to offer for feasting. Throughout my 19 days in Japan, I hardly get to try all the kinds of food I listed down to try.
  • Visit the public bath houses or hot springs. It's quite an experience.
  • When you take the JR trains, do consider hopping on to the Limited Express trains. The fare is the same as the normal trains. By waiting just a little longer for the Limited Express trains, you might still end up reaching your destination earlier. It's faster because they stop at significantly less stations.
  • If you love seafood, you MUST visit Hokkaido.
Recommendations for Kyoto:
  • It probably takes 4 to 5 days to fully enjoy this city if you love to visit monuments. If you can't find decent & cheap accomodation in Kyoto, you can consider staying in Osaka and then taking the train over for several day trips.
  • Do not go for the sightseeing bus tour called 京都ひるバス. There are cheaper options for city sightseeing buses.
  • Visit Kinkaku-ji. You shouldn't miss the beautiful golden pagoda.
  • Visit Kiyozumi Temple. The scenary there is beautiful. The street leading to the temple is also a pleasant place to walk in.
  • Fushimi Inari Shrine is another nice beautiful place to visit. Beware of the long long walk up to the "summit" and back though.
  • Heian Shrine is not too bad a visit as well.
  • If you wish to visit the imperial palace, you have to make a reservation online. I didn't find the visit that awe-inspiring though.
  • Have meal(s) in Yodobashi Kyoto, e.g. Shabu Shabu Tamimaya, Wakura. There are also several other nice restaurant options there.
  • If you love tonkatsu (pork cutlet), you can to go to Katsukara in Kyoto train station.
Recommendations for Kobe:
  • Kobe-A1 is a very popular steak restaurant with tourists. How can you miss out eating kobe beef in its hometown?
  • Arima Onsen is a must visit if you wish to visit a hot spring in Japan. The town has quite a number of public bath houses. I went to Taiko no Yu and it is one of the nicer onsens I visited in Japan.
  • Mount Rokko is quite nice, but go early if you really want to go there! The ticketing counters for the museums at the summit close at around 3pm to 3:30pm. The cable car and bus (at the summit) frequencies are at 20 minute intervals, so you are probably off visiting Mount Rokko in the morning.
Recommendations for Nara:
  • I didn't spend much time in Nara, but you definitely must visit Nara National Park if you are in Nara. Otherwise, it feels like you haven't been to Nara. There are several sightseeing spots in the park area.
Recommendations for Osaka:
  • Spa World is a very nice and gigantic public bath house. If you have time to relax, you should visit it.
  • Dotonburi is a must-must. The restaurants there are so interestingly decorated. The food choices there are amazing. And you will definitely see the iconic and famous crab restaurants.
  • Shinsaibashi has some nice restaurant options but it is more of a shopping district.
  • Univeral Studios Japan! It's one of my favourite theme parks!
  • Osaka Museum of History is very interesting if you like history museums.
  • Osaka Castle is iconic and beautiful, but the exhibits are somewhat boring to me though.
  • Kaiyukan (aquarium) is pretty interesting if you love to see aquatic life.
  • Umeda Sky Building offers quite a beautiful view.
  • Shinseikai offers more budget-friendly shopping and you can try Osaka's soul food (skewers of fried meat/vegetables)
  • Try ramen in Ippudo?
Recommendations for Tokyo:
  • If possible, avoid the peak-hour rush between 7:30am to 9am. The amount of squeezing and discomfort in taking the subways during the rush hour is amazing.
  • Asakusa is a must-visit! After all, it's one of the icons of Tokyo.
  • If you love fresh seafood, you can't miss Tsukiji Fish Market! Nigiri sushi originates from Tokyo, so you must try sushi here if you love seafood. If you have patience to stay in queue for 1 to 2 hours or so for a seat in a restaurant, try Sushidai (寿司大) or Daiwa Sushi (大和寿司). Otherwise, Yamazaki is also a nice option (also recommended by Tripadvisor users) with hardly any queue.
  • If you love tempura, do try Tsunehachi in Shinjuku district.
  • If you love curry, do try curry rice with pork/chicken cutlet in Go Go Curry.
  • Try ramen in Ichiran Ramen.
  • Visit Tokyo Disneysea if you love theme parks. Tokyo Disneyland caters more to the kids though. Go very early (before opening time).
 Recommendations for Sapporo:
  • Visit Nijo Market if you love seafood! Do try the hairy crabs. King crabs are very expensive though.
  • Visit Historical Village of Hokkaido. It's just such a beautiful open-air museum.
  • Do visit Tokeidai (aka Sapporo Clock Tower) and also Sapporo TV Tower for some shots.
  • Try soup curry if you can take slight spiciness.
  • Try Sapporo beer and/or Yebisu beer.
  • Try Yubari melon! It's so sweet!
  • Try the creamy ice-creams!
  • Try all kinds of crabs (king crab, queen crab, snow crab and hairy crabs). If you take raw seafood, you will love raw crabs. They are so amazingly soft and sweet. So heavenly!
  • Mitsui Gardens Hotel is pretty reasonably priced for an excellent location in an expensive country.
Recommendations for Otaru:
  • Try more seafood in Otaru! After all, Otaru is famous in Hokkaido for seafood and Hokkaido is well-known for great seafood.
  • Visit Sankaku Fish Market and have a meal in Ajidokoro Takeda. Fresh and fantastic seafood!
  • Visit Otaru Canal during day-time and also during night-time if possible. They even have a festival during winter with beautiful lights along the canal.
  • Visit the music box museum, kaleidoscope shop and Kitaichi glass shop in the city center areas.
  • Take a trip to Otaru Aquarium for beautiful seaside scenary.

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