Japan – 12 things to do on your first visit

1. Eat all the sushi!!! Everywhere I’ve been, sushi was not budget friendly option. Well, not in Japan! If you are a sushi lover, Japan will be a paradise for you because this is actually the cheapest food. My favourite places were the ones with conveyor belt and all you can drink Matcha tea. Plates cost between 100-270 yen and are colour-coded. Chains like Sushiro or Hamazushi can be found everywhere and they are always full of options. Go and stuff your face with all kinds of fish!

2. Visit Akihabara. This district is known for all anime/manga/video games and tech news. If you’re looking for a figurine or other collectibles of your favourite hero – you’ll definitely find it there. There’s few stores high Animate, Mandarake and dozens of other similar shops and establishments. One of the main attraction in Akihabara is Maid Cafe where waitresses are dress up as maids and treat you like you’re the master. You’ll notice plenty of dressed up girls who are handing over the flyers. The experience itself made me rather uncomfortable but hey, it’s Japan! I had to try everything.

3. Shop in Harajuku. Visit Takeshita Street in Tokyo for all pink and girly stuff. This street is all what you ever imagined about shopping in Japan. Colourful clothes, pink cotton candy, cosplay costumes and cat cafes. Harajuku is all about sweetness and quirky stuff. Word Kawaii describes it well.

4.Relax in Onsen. Japanese hot springs will take you to a whole new world. Word “relaxed” doesn’t even describe the way you’ll feel after using it. The whole experience may be a bit intimidating at first. There’s an etiquette you need to follow such as going in completely naked. Once you overcome this, using an onsen is one of the best things in the world. Bathing naked outside while looking at the stars? It doesn’t get any better then this. Feels so natural.

5.Go cultural in Kyoto. While Tokyo is all about modern culture, Kyoto will take you centuries back to times of Shoguns, Samurais and Geishas. This is a very popular place among Japanese tourist as well. You’ll see hundreds of teenagers dressed in traditional kimonos wandering around famous Fushimi-Inari-Taisha Temple or in magical Bamboo Forest. There’s countless amount of temples, shrines and other historically important structures to visit.

6.Feed the deers in Nara. While you stop in Nara to see the biggest wooden building in the world, Todaiji Temple, save some time for the stroll down the Nara Park to feed some deers! They are surprisingly tame and they expect to be fed. You can buy crackers made specially for them. Be careful though, once the deers see you with crackers in your hands, you’ll be surrounded 🙂 I got bitten in my bum! Treat them with respect as they are considered messengers of gods and designated as natural treasure.

7.See rush hours in Shinjuku Station. The busiest metro station in the world. It has over 200 exits and 3.6 million people passing through. Daily. It’s fascinating to see how many people can get into one train.

8.Climb Mount Fuji. This perfectly shaped volcano is a symbol of Japan. You can see it in most of the photos when typing “Japan” in Google images. It’s the country’s highest peak, 2776 meters. The official climbing season starts on 1st of July and closes on 14th of September. With all the huts open and nice weather, this is the safest time to climb. It attract thousands of climbers every day in open season. You can try off-season climbing, without the crowds. More on that on separate post.

9.Rent a camper van. On my first trip to Japan, we rented a camper van and drove all the way to Hiroshima. Japan is very friendly when it comes to road trips. You can find Michi-no-eki (roadside rest stops) everywhere. Domestic tourism is very popular so those rest stops are usually busy. They are also nicely equipped. There’s always the toilet, store with local specialties and onsen nearby. Independent travel is a great way to see local life outside of touristy areas.

10.Take a ride in the bullet train. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not an out of this world experience. Inside it looks just like a normal train. And it’s quite pricey. It’s fascinating though that you can get from Tokyo to Kyoto in two hours and it’s 450km. As a tourist you can buy JR Pass for a week and use most of the trains. More on that in separate post.

11.See a cosplay parade. Hundreds of people walking down the street dressed up as they favourite manga characters. I can’t oversell it. All those people love to be photographed so don’t be shy!

12.Visit Hiroshima. Hiroshima is know for a tragic bombing in the end of The World War II in 1945. You can visit Peace Memorial Park and see the ruins of Genbaku Dome, one of the few buildings that was left standing after the bombing. The city itself is really cool and people are very friendly. Don’t miss their specialty – Okonomiyaki.

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