I have always seen Summer as the time of year to get out and explore. Seeing everyone’s holiday snaps covering the internet got me thinking about how much I love travelling and, whilst wishing I had climbed into everyones suitcases & joined them on holiday, I had a sudden realisation about how little there is about travelling on this blog. It seems crazy to me that I have somehow managed to bypass talking about such a big part of my life, something I love so much, and so today we are going to readdress the balance. A few years ago I was lucky enough to take a trip to Japan with my family and it was breathtaking. Today I am going to share with you what we got up to whilst we were there and where you should go if you are thinking of making the same life changing trip. Let’s explore…
We travelled to and through Japan with the company InsideJapan, on one of their self guided ‘tours’. We worked with the company to work out what we wanted to do and where we wanted to stay & then they booked it all up and it was all sorted. We had the freedom of being able to do what we wanted, when we wanted and were guided through the whole thing by a detailed itinerary booklet, which meant we could just sit back and enjoy the experience because we had pre-planned it all. Such a good way to holiday.
Most of our time in Japan was spent in two of its main cities, Tokyo and Kyoto, with a visit to the historic Hakone to stay in a traditional Ryokan (Japanese Inn) in-between. Whether it was luck, or our choice, that we visited during Cherry Blossom season, I’m not sure. Either way it made the experience even more magical, and let me tell you, the Japanese LOVE their Cherry Blossom. If you are planning a trip that is definitely the time to go, try March, April & May to get the full Cherry Blossom experience.
Right, onto what we got up to. Let’s start with Tokyo. An overwhelmingly wonderful blur of lights and energy that reaches as far as the eye can see.
Where to go in Tokyo?
Takeshita Street in the Harajuku Area of Tokyo – this is the place to be for every Japanese teenager experimenting with fashion. Takeshita street is the epicentre of all things quirky, from Bo-Peep to Punk, the Japanese teens sure know how to experiment. Surely one of the most interesting places for fashion that I have ever been – remember to take your camera.
‘Purikura’ PhotoBooth Arcades – shops which hold rows and rows of huge photo sticker booths, big enough for the whole family. This is a huge phenomenon in Japan and great fun to have a go at – get your photograph taken and then edit them & cover them in stickers. It is honestly the cutest thing ever.
What to do in Tokyo?
Go shopping in the Nakamise Market – with over 50 shops this market is jam packed with everything Japanese that you could ever want and is the ultimate souvenir destination. Due to everything being so different and interesting there, I found myself wanting to get EVERYTHING and I know if we ever make a return trip that I will be taking an extra suitcase for goodies.
Explore the Pokemon Shop – Pokemon began in Japan so it seemed only right that we visited the shop, and I was desperate to go. What a fabulous place, jam packed with ‘Pocket Monsters’. Not one to miss – great for kids (and big kids)
Kyoto – a beautifully traditional place, which perfectly represents the wider Japan with its clash of old and new.
Where to go in Kyoto?
The Golden Pavilion – Wow! That is what everyone says when they reach The Golden Pavilion, which as you may have guessed by the name is a wondrous Temple covered in Gold. This true treat for the eyes is set in gorgeous gardens, with stepping stones & turtles, and looks surprisingly modest.
Philosopher’s Walk – This is, in my opinion, THE place to go to see the Cherry Blossom in all its glory. It is a stunning pathway that follows a Cherry Tree lined canal and although not a long walk, maybe that is a good thing, it sure is one to make time for.
What to do in Kyoto?
Visit The Studio Ghibli shop on the way to the Kiyomizu-Dera Temple – I have long loved the amazing Studio Ghibli films, despite their distinct air of oddness. The shop is crammed full of everything you could ever want and is a great stop off point on the way to the beautiful, hill top Kiyomizu-Dera Buddhist Temple (a UNESCO World Heritage Site). This was my favourite temple and that is saying something because Kyoto has over 2,000 of them. I know.
Eat Black Eggs in Owakudani – take a cablecar up a bubbling sulphur mountain and look out for brilliant views of Mount Fuji. When you get to the top join the locals in the novelty of eating some black eggs, which get their colour from being boiled in the sulphurous, mountain water. Whilst your there you can also pick up all the black egg merchandise you have ever dreamed of… keyring anyone?
These are only some of the many things that we got to experience in Japan, as well as the things we didn’t. I mean I didn’t even get round to talking about the bullet train. Japan really is a special place and I tell everyone who I meet that they should make a trip. If you want to know more I suggest you check out Lionsmane’s Japanese vlogs from his recent trip, with Estee LaLonde. These vlogs are brilliant, they brought back some amazing memories for me and really do give a taste of what it is really like to visit Japan. They also visit some of the places I have mentioned today, so you won’t even have to leave the comfort of your own home to have a good explore.