A 15 Day Guide to Japan: Something Old & Three Things New
There is no doubt the mystery and allure a metropolis like Tokyo can bring. However, what else does Japan have to offer? The sand dunes in Tottori are called the calming nomad. Walk back in time and explore traditional grounds during the day in Kyoto, while satisfying your inner foodie and nightlife in Osaka. Then blast up north to Sapporo and explore city life, along with the wonders of Hell Valley. This builds to your destination, Tokyo.
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Where to stay in Japan
Umeda Holic Hotel
Umeda Holic Hotel is a contemporary urban retreat offering stylish accommodations in the heart of Umeda, Osaka, blending modern design with Japanese hospitality.
JR Inn Sapporo-eki Minami-guchi
JR Inn Sapporo-eki Minami-guchi offers convenient and comfortable accommodations just steps away from Sapporo Station, ideal for exploring the vibrant city of Sapporo.
APA Hotel Shinjuku Gyoemmae
APA Hotel Shinjuku Gyoemmae provides a convenient and cozy stay near Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden, blending modern amenities with a prime location in Tokyo.
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Things to do in Japan
Nature and Hiking
Sand Dunes - create a unique experience to visit the only desert in Japan. Complete with nature, above and below you - ride a camel or sandboard down the hill to the waterfront. (Insider tip: Bring cash for activities and bus access.)
Chugoku Nature Trail from Iwado to Otani - walk north along the coast and hike to the top of the mountain! This is a medium-challenge trail that offers aerial views of The Sand Dunes , coastline and forest.
Parks and Sites
Kiyomizu-dera - Discover this Buddhist temple beautiful landscape, with backdrops of Kyoto. A great place for all ages to appreciate.
Iwatayama Peak Rest House - Monkeys are self-roaming here, interact with them and enjoy the view of Kyoto down below. Cash only.
Arashiyama Bamboo Grove- Calm your spirits and get lost with a walk though the bamboo grove.
Jigokudani (Hell Valley) - Take the train over to Noboribetsu station, then a bus (cash only) or taxi up to the village. I really enjoyed the journey through the city on the way to the Jikokudani park, embracing the nature and simplicity of things around me.
It is the sulfur waters here that heat the onsen resorts in the city. The interaction of sulfur against the landscape creates a beautiful scenery like nothing I have seen before. Be sure to put your feet in the river to relax your tensions during the day.
Mt. Takao - Take the Chu-o line (Orange) or Keisei line to Mt. Takao and choose from multiple hiking paths to get to the top and see the view of Mt. Fuji! (Climb a mountain, to see another mountain? ) It is the most infamous mountain in all of Japan.
Kamakura- Spend a day along the beach, watching kite and wind surfers and visiting the giant Buddha, even going inside the structure! You can even learn how to wind surf or surf, for an afternoon getaway. Schools are located close by in Zushi.
Tokyo Skytree - Great observatory deck in Tokyo to see all of the metropolis at once!
Odaiba - great for kids! cozy for adults, this mall has a virtual playground and plenty of space to walk around and have special moments.
Hakkone Onsen - Spa day (1 Day)
Spa day at Hakkone, Hurray!- Take the train from the airport to Shinagawa Station, get off, then switch to the Shinkansen headed towards Odawara Station.
Appreciate the engineering and train ride on the side of the mountain to Hakkone.
A one-day onsen retreat includes room service or scheduled timed dinning. Either way, you are there to rejuvenate your body after all that walking! Most Onsens separate women and men retreats. However, most have private onsen retreats in-suite or for reservation.
Places to eat & drink in Japan
Oimatsu Arashiyama (Kyoto)- Do make a point to stop by for a frozen orange and or shaved ice dessert, a traditional Japanese treat that pairs well with sunny days.
Fruits and Season (Tokyo "Ebisu") - A surprisingly light cream made from soybeans (Vegan!) that satisfies one of the many dessert cravings you will have that day!
Isetan (Tokyo "Shinjuku") Underground - Ridiculously delicious desserts that you try to save for sharing, but you end up eating... good luck!
Bills Omotesando - Okay, this is not Japanese, but you might be curious how Japan interprets western breakfast? This is a great selection.
Hase Shokudo (Kamakura) - Next to Hase station, this is a must visit if you love authentic Japanese cuisine and want a unique experience!
Dosanko-pudding (Hell Valley - CASH ONLY) - An absolute must! Hokkaido is known for their curry (among many other things) and this did not disappoint! Also try the egg dessert!
Ippudo (Tokyo-Ebisu) - It is custom to slurp your noodles, you can practice that here and this yummy ramen house.
Shirube Izakaya (Tokyo Shimo-kitazawa location). In Japanese, “Nori” reflects the “vibe” that is generated when a group is working in unison. You can see this energy here and enjoy smashing izakaya food with your mate.
My favorite drink is Kuro-Kirishima Shochu on the rocks. Reservations are required for a true Japanese dining experience. You must make a reservation for most of restaurants or else you will be denied.
Osaka: Food to Try
Okonomi-yaki - This dish is from this region, it is a pancake mixed with vegetables and meat covered with sauces. Quite filling, so don't over indulge it.
Monjai-yaki - This dish is similar to Okonomi-yaki, however the vegetables and proteins are placed on the griddle, then the binding agent is added. You can eat it with a small fork or spatula.
Tako-yaki - For a quick meal, these octopus ball-shaped dumplings are topped with garnishes of your choice.
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This guide is part of our ongoing series on travel to Japan.