Getting Around in Japan - Part 2 / by Dario Branco

So now that we all know how to get from A to B in Japan is time to know where to go.

I will try to keep it short and nice and not go into many details. The most it will be three places I found cool and unexpected.

Expect some to be obvious if not most of them.


First of Tokyo

Without a doubt spend one morning in Tsukiji Outer Market. The big fish market got moved to another location but that doesn’t mean you should not enjoy going to Tsukiji Outer Market. I am biased towards street markets because usually is where I find the best photo opportunities as well the best food to try. Here you will have plenty of opportunities to try sushi, oysters, bean cookies, dangos, eel liver, you name they probably have it. Also if you are in the mood for a more refined meal you also have options but be aware of the lines.

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After spending the morning in the market I recommend going to the Mori Building Digital Art Museum. Buy the ticket online a few days in advance because tickets go fast. Be ready to be assaulted visually. I found it very confusing at times and hard to follow what was happening. With that said, there are parts of the exhibit that are a little easier on the eyes and more interactive.

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To finish of the day, walk around the Odaiba Kaihin-Koen. There you will have an amazing view of Tokyo skyline with the rainbow bridge as the foreground. At first, going here was not in my plans but looking back I am glad I did it right after leaving the Mori Museum.

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Nagano

I only spent one day in Nagano and I only wanted to go to the Jigokudani Monkey Park. There are two ways to get there. By Train and Bus. By Bus takes around forty minutes to get there and forty more walking on the trails leading to the park. If you want to see the monkeys get in the water I recommend going during winter. Also, beware that these are wild animals and if you are not careful you might bet bitten or worse. While I was there a fight between several monkeys broke out and one of them was bleeding quite a lot.

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Another cool place I ended up going last minute was the Zenkoji Temple. This was the first big temple I went. Maybe because of that it was one of the temples that I enjoyed the most. Again for photo opportunities, it is an amazing place and to experience Buddhism religion and Japanese culture.

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Kyoto

From all the places, Kyoto has the most obvious places to go as well as the most “You have to go to”. Take two mornings to go to Arashiyama Bamboo Grove Forest and Fushimi Inari Shrine. The sooner you go the better your chances are that it won’t be crowded.

I didn’t experience the bamboo forest as I should because when I was there my morning was quite hectic. However, there is more to see in that area than bamboo groves. So walk around and don’t be afraid to get lost.

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As for the Fushimi Inari Shrine, don't be discouraged with the crowds at the beginning. Once you start getting further and further away on the trail the quieter it gets. If I remember it right, it took me around one hour and a half to get all the way to the top. I recommend taking some water although you can buy it on the way and also a good jacket just in case.

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Kinkaku Ji was maybe the only tourist trap I went during my stay in Japan. I do recommend it for the beauty of it but it is all over very quickly. Thirty minutes and it is all over and it is very very crowded.

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Hiroshima

If this is your first time going to Japan be sure to include Hiroshima in your itinerary. Go to the Peace Museum and the Memorial to learn about what happened before and after the atomic bomb was dropped. It will be emotional in some parts.

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On a more cheerful note, spend an afternoon in Itsukushima Island. If you have the JRPass the ferry is free of charge. Walk around the gardens and enjoy the sunset by the iconic Itsukushima Floating Torii Gate. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the chance to explore the gardens as much as I would have liked because of some trains problems. Next time for sure.

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Hakata

Sadly, Hakata was the biggest letdown of the trip. The Fukuoka Tower is impressive from the outside and the beach around is cool for relaxing. Inside you learn a few cool facts about it and see the view and that is it.

In the city, the place I enjoyed the most were the Yatai Food stands.

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Osaka

Probably the best market I was in all Japan, Kuromon Ichiba Market. Not only I was able to try real certified Kobe Beef but also big enough to capture a few good photography moments. Again, I am always biased towards markets. One small tip to experience the real Kobe Beef, if they don’t have a certification then the beef is not the real thing.

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On the same line of thought, one more surprising place I went was the Shinsekai area. Here you will find a lot of places to have a snack and buy some weird stuff. I ended up going there for lunch since I walked all the Denden Town looking for the cosplayers.

Also in Osaka, I was surprised by the size of the subway stations. Without exaggeration, it is like a second city. Most of the stations I’ve been are enormous and it would take me almost thirty minutes to get to the gates.

I was thinking if I should considering Nara as a different location. Since it only takes around one hour to get there by train from Osaka might as well include it in the places to go in Osaka. There is not much I can say about Nara more than you go there to see the Deers all around the park and feed them. Yes, it will be crowded but as in Fushimi Inari, the longer and off the path you go the quieter it gets. One afternoon is enough to visit Nara.


Lake Kawaguchi

Here was all about photographing Mount Fuji. I will focus on this location on my next post. Still, if I would recommend a place it would be a small Japanese Restaurant. I was so lucky to be the only customer there that night. In a way, I am glad I didn’t bring my camera and phone so I could experience everything properly without any distractions.

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And so you have it. I know this is not the most detailed list in the world. These are just a few places I really enjoyed and that I keep remembering.