I agree Japan is expensive but that should not be a barrier for any travel enthusiastic from exploring the most amazingly beautiful and friendly countries in the world. A country I always dreamed of going, the fascinating ancient shrines, temples, castles, scyscrapers and the beautiful landscape attracting visitors like me worldwide. From bursting mega city Tokyo to the quiet and peaceful Kyoto from Mount Fuji to five lakes, Japan got all to attract and impress visitors regardless of their interest.
Japanese cuisine is astoundingly delicious and I loved sitting in a small restaurant and having bowl of fresh noodles and wondering how was it made. The Japanese pays a great deal to perfection, presentation and no compromise on ingredients when it comes to taste.
So don’t get discouraged by the price, there is always many ways to travel within your budget specially in Japan after all you won’t regret once you be there – definitely you will be surprised to see places and will agree with me that this is one of the amazing places on earth.
Even though I knew the best time to visit Japan is Spring and fall but poor me could not make it until June so I missed the flowering cherries of spring and the autumnal reds of maple leaves to add to my favorite postcard like image list. I was there in the middle of mini rainy season so, I happened to see things when it rains a different experience and I enjoyed my trip.
Top Places to visit
1. Tokyo Tower
Tokyo Tower is a great place to visit if you are not afraid of heights, you could enjoy the view of Mr. Fuji and Mt. Tsukuba at night from the observatory in a clear day (you need to be very lucky) but no doubt the night view created by neon lights of the city is breath-taking. This communications and observation tower is located in the Shiba-koen district of Minato, Tokyo, Japan. At 332.9 metres, it is the second-tallest structure in Japan.
2. Meiji-Jingu Shrine
Tokyo’s greatest shrine Meiji-Jingu Shrine should be on your must see list. This Shrine commemorates Emperor Meiji, whose rule saw the momentous passage from medieval to modern Japan. The Shrine was destroyed during World War II but was rebuilt in 158, exactly as before. The Meiji-Jingu Inner Gardens was lovely when I visited in June. Also Meiji-Jingu Treasure House was interesting displaying collection of state costumes and miscellaneous items belonging to Emperor Meiji, including the imperial carriage.
3. Imperial Palace East Garden
The Imperial Palace, where their Majesties the Emperor and Empress reside, is situated in the center of Tokyo. The palace is surrounded by a water-filled moat and tree-covered grounds – a precious taste of nature within the bustling metropolitan city. Kokyo Gaien (Imperial Palace Outer Garden), Kokyo Higashi Gyoen (Imperial Palace East Garden) and Kita-no-maru-koen Park are all open to the public free of charge.
It’s an easy walk from Marunouchi which is a nice shopping area. Free two-hour guided walking tours of the garden are available every Saturday; meet at the Marunouchi central exit of Tokyo Station before 1pm.
There other two gates are Hirakawa-mon and Kitahanebashi-mon on the north side. The gardens are extensive, with various paths to explore. Fortunately, refreshments are available, and there are clean public toilets.
Nijubashi(which means the “Dobule Bridge”) is one of the most well-known bridges in Japan. If you are looking at the bridge from the front, the two separate bridges appear as a single two storied bridge.
4. Sumida River Cruise
One of the great way to enjoy Tokyo is to take a 45 minutes sightseeing cruise in Sumida River between Hinode Pier to Asakusa. As you travel there is commentary in both Japanese and English which seemed mainly to be about the various bridges we passed under (12 in total), but the view along the river is so beautiful that I missed most of it.
You won’t get much in the way of views of famous landmarks and historic sights on this trip, but you do get to see life beside the river. There were some modern apartment complexes and some nicely landscaped green areas where people were jogging or simply relaxing (it was a Sunday morning).
For us it was an enjoyable and inexpensive way to travel from Hinode to Asakusa Kannon Temple another attraction that we wanted to visit that day.
5. Asakusa Kannon Temple
Asakusa district has a lot of temples and festivals. It truly has the traditional old school feel to it. We get off from the river cruise and started walking towards the Senso-ji Temple also known as Asakusa Kannon Temple. You will definitely enjoy spending some time visiting this temple, drawing fortune-tellerng slips, or enjoy shopping at the Nakamise-dori street.
The famous Thunder Gate was interesting special the huge red paper lantern with the statues of Fujin (wind god) and Raijin (thunder god) on both sides. The original gate was built by military commander Taira no Kinmasa in 942, stood south of Asakusa in Komagata.
Once we entered the gate, a whole impressive Nakamise-dori will definitely blow your mind. The street leading to the main temple had traditional shops on the right and left. They sold a bunch of random stuff from traditional snacks, toys, dog clothes, to kimonos and lucky cat statues.
6. Nakamise Shopping Street
Once you pass the famous Thunder Gate of huge red paper lantern with the statues of Fujin (wind god) and Raijin (thunder god) you will enter the busy Nakamise street, one of the oldest shopping centers in Japan. Since Shogun Tokugawa (Ieyasu) established Edo Shogunate, the population in Edo (old capital city, now Tokyo) grew as well as visitors to Sensoji Temple.
In 1688 – 1735, those neighbors who performed receiving and serving visitors in Sensoji Temple were given special right to open their shops in the approach to the temple. This was said to be the beginning of Nakamise.
7. Tokyo Fish Market
If you want to experience the Japanese cultural side then this a place I would recommend to visit. There are guided tour available. It’s easy to get there, just you take Tokyo Metro Hibiya Line and get off at Tsukiji Station, only 10 mins walk from there.
Tsukiji Fish Market is one of the place I always wanted to visit. Have seen documentary firm about this market on Travel Channel. Tsukiji It is home to the world’s most amazing fish market.
More than thousands bustling food establishments line the streets of the market and its surrounds, filled with fresh tuna and hundreds of other types of fish, straight from the auction floor, as well as delicious fruits and vegetables. The freshest, finest food from around the world can be found here, at tsukiji.
Explore this wonderful place you will definitely like the unique tradition of Japan and also will have the opportunity to eat one of the delightful gourmet of Japan..
8. Akasaka Guest House
A nice area to roam around, if you have some spare time while in Tokyo. Go to Yotsuya and it is walkable from there. The large building has history of couple of century it seems. There is a nice lake as well, a good place to go for a stroll.
9. Ginza Shopping District
Even though I am not interested in shopping but as a photographer Ginza was a must see place for me. Why not when someone knows the value of every square meter of land in Ginza said to be worth ten million yet, or US$ 100,000. Actually I was brave enough to be in luxurious neighborhood of all the expensive, shiny goods Ginza has to offer and lucky enough to afford a bowl of delicious Ramen noodles in a tiny restaurant.
Sunday was the perfect day to visit as Ginza closes its main chuo dori street for through traffic. Pedestrians can leisurely walk along the clean, wide street in between the towering skyline. It could be crowded, no longer feels congested but comfortable to walk and relaxing.
10. Kappabashi Kitchen Town
A ‘Kitchen Town’ not far from Asakusa definitely worth to pay a visit. This is the famous street lined with shops for restaurant equipment supplies, souvenirs. The closes station is Tawaramachi on the Ginza line. Take the exit 3, turn around at the top of the stairs, not difficult to find the humongous Chef’s head street located in between two major touristy areas, Ueno and Asakusa. Give it a try you will enjoy it.
The Hotel I stayed in Tokyo
Crowne Plaza Metropolitan, Tokyo, Nishi-Ikebukuro, Toshima-Ku