I’ve been selling travel for 25 years – yes, a very long time! – and I’ve been lucky to travel to so many destinations, but I am yet to get to Japan. It’s not that I haven’t wanted to, because I would love to go if the opportunity should arise, which it hasn’t as yet but I know that it will. I’ve sent lots of people to Japan, and for a myriad of reasons, and EVERYONE (and I do mean everyone) absolutely loves their trip to this amazing country and often become repeat travellers heading back year after year. Whether you go to sightsee, take in the fabulous skiing, immerse yourself in the culture and cuisine or travel for business, Japan is sure to capture your heart.
Tokyo is home to around 13M people and the main areas of Shinjuku, Shibuya, Harajuku, Asakusa and Ginza are a feast for the senses and extremely diverse in their offerings; from the old and traditional through to the youthful and flashing lights of the entertainment areas, it’s all there to be discovered. Journey out to Mount Fuji and Hakone for the day from Tokyo, which is a must for any visitor, immerse yourself in Kyoto’s temples, shrines and gardens or witness firsthand Hiroshima and Miyajima.
We have lots of clients who are avid skiers that travel to Japan each year, and others that go to enjoy the Cherry Blossom season, participate in festivals or enjoy amazing cultural experiences such as the onsen (hot springs) or traditional ryokans.
But don’t take my word for it – here’s what a handful of my clients have to say!
“It’s amazing to visit the famous sites and cultural delights that Japan has to offer including Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, Hiroshima; but for the real Japanese experience travelling off the beaten track is a truly memorable experience.
Having a Japan Rail Pass is a must. The efficiency of their rail system is amazing. If your train is timetabled to be at a certain place at a certain time, it will be there nearly to the exact second so be on time. If you get to the platform 1 minute later than the time, you’ve definitely missed the train. Even when we travelled to more unknown areas, and English was not shown on signs or spoken, we just knew the colour line to take and the time – we would always get to our destination.
The first city outside of the capitals we found interesting was Kanazawa. We explored the beautiful Kenrokuen Gardens, absolutely tranquil when the Cherry Blossoms are out. We learnt about some of the history of the Edo Period by visiting the Kanazawa Castle Park and of course, I should have bought the beautiful tea set that I saw at one of the many handicrafts shops around the area. One of my only regrets.
Hida-Takayama was another spot that we loved. The Town Village still remains with Edo period houses to view while walking through the village. There are sake breweries and merchant houses with latticed bay windows and you might even catch a glimpse of a Geisha Girl walking down town. You must try Hida Beef – blows wagyu beef out of the water, and that’s saying something.
If you are travelling for the winter thrills of skiing and snowboarding, then Japan definitely offers some of the best conditions and facilities available on Earth. Every time we have been to Japan for skiing we have been spoilt with masses of snow and fantastic weather, but be prepared as it can be very cold. One of the spoils that we take is using the onsen facilities. Whether it be your own personal onsen, or the more traditional group onsen, they are a wonderful way to soothe the muscles after a day on the slopes.
And last but not least, the food is absolutely delicious. You can find sushi, noodles, tempura, sashimi, okonomiyaki, bento boxes mostly anywhere but each city has a particular cuisine. The cheapest and quickest place to dine is at the train stations and business precincts. However, for the most exquisite dining experience, you must try a Kaiseki meal. It is not only delicious; it is a work of fine culinary art.”
Keelee & Robert B.
“The Japanese are extremely proud of their country and are very polite, welcoming people. We always feel safe and the country is clean everywhere.
I absolutely love the richness of culture in Japan. Recently we visited Kyoto and we were lucky enough to be invited to lunch at a private farmhouse in the country. Now with its 19th generation in residence, it gave us an appreciation into the respect the Japanese have for their heritage. Another highlight was when we visited the gold temple “Kinkakuji”; with its exterior completely gilded in gold leaf and its beautiful gardens surrounding it certainly didn’t disappoint.
Tokyo is a busy city and has so much to see. For a bird’s eye view of the city, visit the Tokyo Skytree. The views are breathtaking.
Food is always a highlight for us on any overseas visit, but I must say that Japanese is a favourite. We have been to Japan twice and we will certainly be returning.”
“Japan is an amazingly clean, safe and organised country to visit with great cultural experiences (an enormous and vast range of options to see and do), an amazing transportation system which always runs on time and the food is to die for! It’s a country of contradictions – you imagine a very conservative and serious people, which is true in many respects, however the Japanese really know how to have a good time – the nightlife is vibrant, fun and relaxed. Almost nothing is taboo…
I loved it all. Kyoto was amazing. The tiny streets and bars along the canal were really authentic. And Tokyo was just so happening; it was like a crazy London/Paris in terms of vibrant nightlife but so safe.
And thanks to JTB, here are a few more photos to whet your appetite!
Japan is obviously an amazing destination, and with a house full of rugby fans, the Japan 2019 Rugby World Cup is on our hit list, but who know – maybe we’ll get there sooner!
Photo Credits: Thanks to JTB and Thai Airways for all photos.
Thanks also to Keelee & Robert, Sonia & Dan who were all happy to share a few of their Japan travel tales!