38 Reasons Why I am Excited to Visit Japan

temples in KyotoNext week, I’m going to Japan. It’s my first real visit there. I say “real visit” because back in 2004, on my way home from Thailand, my friend and I stopped in Tokyo for a long layover. After arriving at 6am, we left the airport, saw the imperial palace, realized Tokyo in January is a lot colder than Thailand in January, and camped out in a Starbucks until the sushi restaurants opened for lunch. After eating a luxurious sushi meal, we went back to the airport.

That was my only time in Japan. I’ve always wanted to go back and luckily, now I am. Next week, I’ll be heading on a two-week G Adventures tour around Japan, and then I’ll be spending some extra time in the country to visit all the places not included on the tour.

Now, I’m a huge Japanophile. Despite never really having been there, I’m obsessed with Japan—the food, culture, temples, technology, architecture. I love it all. Whenever I get a home, Japanese art will play a predominant role in it. Out of all the trips I’ve taken in the last few years, I’m most excited about this one. I’m giddy with excitement. Why? Let me count the ways:

1. Sushi – I love sushi so much, I would eat it for breakfast. Anyone who knows me knows about my sushi addiction. I suspect breakfast sushi will happen a few times.

2. Tokyo’s Ginza District – I’m looking forward to the famous shopping/nightlife area of Ginza and the maddening crowds that go with it.

3. Mt. Fuji – I’ve always wanted to climb this mountain and see the sunrise. Now I get to!

4. Bullet Trains – Let’s see if they really are faster than a speeding bullet! And if not, their supposed comfort and luxury will be just as good.

5. Kyoto – The town full of Zen gardens and temples looks to be one of the most picturesque in all of Japan. While I won’t get to see all 2,000 this visit, I’m going to try my hardest.

6. Hiroshima – The atomic bomb memorial looms large here and as a history buff, how could I not see this city?

7. Tokyo Fish Market – The vast majority of sushi in the world comes through this market. As a sushi lover, I can’t wait to see one of the world’s busiest and largest fish markets, even if it means waking up at 4am.

8. Tokyo Subway – People always talk about surviving the London Tube, but the Tokyo subway is the real labyrinth. Bring it on!

9. Osaka – Travelers mention this city a lot, and I want to find out why!

10. Sushi – Did I mention I like sushi?

sushi in japan

11. Zen Buddhism – When I was college, I got into Buddhism. I studied Tibetan Buddhism, but I’m looking forward to learning more about the Zen style.

12. The Emperor’s Palace – I only got to see the outside of it last time. Time to see more.

13. Hokkaido – Just another name I keep hearing. It’s supposed to be one of the most beautiful areas in Japan, and I like beautiful things.

14. Sake – I love sake and want to really learn about the different varieties and purities. I plan on taking a class. Is a sake class similar to a wine class here in the States?

15. Samurais – Because swords and noble warriors are cool. Samurais might not be around any more, but I bet there’s a museum for them somewhere.

16. Karaoke – Because nothing says I’m turning Japanese more than belting out some Lady Gaga with drunk Japanese businessmen!

17. Pod hotels – Sleeping in a pod-sized hole? Sounds interesting.

18. Geisha bars – Hey, why not? When in Rome, right?

19. Sumo wrestling – What could be more entertaining than watching two enormous guys try to push each other out of a circle?

20. Castles – There are a lot of castles in Japan. After seeing so many European ones, I’d like to see how another part of the world does it.

temples in Kyoto

21. Technology – Looking forward to getting a sneak peek of the future.

22. Puppy Cafes – Because space is so tight, few people have dogs at home. So they go to cafes where they can play with puppies. This I have to see!

23. Cherry Blossoms – I’ll be catching the tail end of the cherry blossom festival, and there’s nothing I’m more excited about.

24. Sushi – Ok, that last item was a lie. I’m most excited about the sushi.

25. Nagasaki – Another place I’ve heard of!

26. Crowds – I’ve seen crowds in Asia, but Japan takes it to a whole new level.

27. Lake Ashi – Hot springs? Picturesque view of Mt. Fuji? Sold!

temples in Kyoto

28. Hiking – Japan is supposed to have beautiful pine forests with scenic hiking trails. I hope that rumor isn’t a lie, because I love a good hike.

29. Politeness – The Japanese are uber polite, respectful, and don’t take what isn’t theirs. I’m going to test that theory out by leaving a wallet on the train and seeing if it gets returned to me.

30. Tai Chi – I used to do this in college, and waking up early to practice in a park is on my list.

31. Hello Kitty – I’m sort of behind the times, so I have no idea if this is still a thing, but I’m hoping it is. If not, I’m sure some other quirky thing has replaced it.

32. Japanese Fashion – the Japanese seem to dig everything retro and 80s and then combine it with a mix of hipsterism. Japanese fashion confuses the hell out of me, but I can’t wait to see things like this:

temples in Kyoto

33. Kabuki Theater – Traditional Japanese theater sounds like a great cultural activity.

34. Ramen – I want to sit in some back-alley, 100-yen ramen shop with my face over a warm, steaming bowl of delicious ramen noodles.

35. Square Watermelon – I’m sure it tastes like regular watermelon, but it’s square. I got to have a piece for the kitsch factor.

36. Anime – I don’t get the whole anime/magna cartoon culture. Maybe going over there will help me figure out why it’s so big.

37. Japanese Toilets – A toilet that warms my butt, cleans itself, sprays water, and plays music? Going to the bathroom never sounded so fun.

38. Sushi – See a pattern here? I bet you can guess what food I’ll be eating the most the next few weeks.

There’s a lot I am looking forward to doing in Japan and with only about 2.5 weeks there, if I hope to tick off all 38 things on this list, I’ll be quite busy. But since this will probably be my only trip to Japan for a while, I’m OK with that. It will be a good kind of busy. Now, is it Sunday yet? I want to fly now.

  1. ooohhhh man, you are going to have a fantastic time. I have to say I did not know anything about the Puppy Cafes. The food is amazing, from Ramen, to sushi, to the food at the 7-11!! Enjoy!

  2. Japan is amazing, I spent 9 months there 20yrs ago and still remember vividly the experience, so much so, I’m back out traveling full time. I’ve done a few things on your list. Hiroshima’s memorial is a must! Enjoy

  3. Dave

    2 months ago, an acquaintance of mine was robbed at Narita Airport. Another friend had her Ipod stolen there. Don’t know if the thieves were Japanese or foreigners… I wouldn’t do #29. And the 100-yen ramen–I never saw that. Square watermelon might not be in season now and it might cost a fortune (I don’t think you can get just a slice). Kyoto temple admission can be more than 500 yen (but the temples in Tokyo are free). But otherwise, excellent list. Enjoy! I just moved away from Japan and I ‘m missing it.

  4. Ah, I envy you Matt! Backpacking through Japan is one my top 5 travel experiences of all time. You’ll have a blast.

    I couldn’t help but notice the obsession with sushi. You know that Thai food tastes better in Thailand, Chinese food is better in China, etc. But the Japanese food in Japan is light years beyond the Japanese food anywhere else. The margin of difference is the most drastic I’ve eaten of any cuisine.

    If you want a great source of free information, do a Google search for “JNTO Practical Travel Guides.” They’re guidebooks (downloadable in PDF format) published by the Japan tourism agency. Before I left for my trip, I went to a copy shop, chose the destinations I wanted, and had a custom guidebook for myself printed up. Best $5 I ever spent.

    On another JNTO page, there’s a “Tourist’s Language Handbook,” a free Japanese phrasebook.

    Japan was the last place I hit before returning to the United States, so my latest blog posts are still about the land of the rising sun.

    Have fun!

      • You’re welcome. With Japan, every yen you save helps.

        On the flip side, certain things are worth splurging on. I spent a king’s ransom on a Kobe beef steak in Kobe. Hit the wallet hard compared to meals in Thailand, but that was a meal to remember.

        For tacky fun, I highly recommend visiting the Toei Kyoto Studio Park. Awesome photo opportunities. Everything you thought was awesome about Japan as a kid is there: giant robots, power rangers, samurais, and did I mention ninjas? It’s popular with Japanese tourists, but few Western travelers have heard about it.

        To get the “real” Japan feel, try to schedule a visit to a temple market. They’re sort of like flea markets, but for cool traditional Japanese goods. Temple markets happen once a month, so you have to check. I went to the Kobo-san market in Kyoto and bought a great used kimono for US$11. Best souvenir of my trip.

  5. Steve

    I don’t think you’ll be able to climb Mt. Fuji until at least early June because of ice and weather. Most people climb in July & August. Time for more sushi!

  6. I had no idea what I got myself into with the Tokyo subway system…multiple companies operating multiple lines that sometimes connect with one another and sometimes don’t….it was absolutely mind boggling at times and it seemed like I needed to switch trains 3 or 4 times everywhere I went.

  7. I bet the sushi there is SUPER fresh. “Sushi” restaurants in places like AZ or Ohio kind of freak me out! My fiance was stationed in Japan for 2 years, he is my personal sushi expert now :)

  8. mons

    Haha, don’t miss UDON noodle. Although it’s a bit pity that Shikoku is not listed, these things are really great and you’ll truly experience Japan. I hope you enjoy your trip to Japan to your heart’s content 😀

  9. Matt, not sure how long you are staying on afterwards but if you’re coming in May you won’t be able to climb Mount Fuji. Browsing over the itinerary at the G Adventures website it says you’ll be taking a bus to the 5th station and then climbing down. Unfortunately, this is nowhere near as cool.

    I’ve climbed Mount Fuji to the top and while it was one of the harder things I’ve done, it certainly was worth it. Looks like you’ll have to come back during July or August to actually go to the top.

    I’ve also never seen or heard of a 100 yen ramen shop after living here for 2 years. 100 yen sushi, sure, but ramen is going to set you back about 300-700 yen depending on where you eat.

  10. One word. Onsen.
    More than one word. Onsens, or hot spring baths, are a must do in Japan. If you can get to a roten-buro (outdoor onsen) even better. Most hotels will have an onsen, some better than others. I have a couple of pages on my blog about the various onsens we visited and here are a couple…

  11. Oh, and not to mention Snow Monkeys in the onsen. Well worth a diversion to see. Winter is better though because it is just so picturesque with monkeys in the hot spring in the snow.

    As far as castles go Himeji (near Osaka) is awesome as is Matsumoto.

    I’ve never eaten so well consistently. Sushi was best but so was Hida beef (like Kobe but better) and various other regional dishes. If in doubt go omakase (chef’s choice) and you will never be disappointed.

    Hokkaido is gorgeous for its natural beauty – gorges, lakes, forests and mountains.

  12. Your post even has me excited about Japan even though I’ve never been there! Haha. I love how Hello Kitty made it into your list of reasons to visit Japan :)

  13. me love sushi so much!

    um, I thought tai chi was from China?

    anyhoo, your 38 (well actually 35 cos you said sushi 4 times) reasons make Japan sounds more interesting to me. And oh how I love the fashion!

    have a grrreatt Japan trip, Matt!

      • by the way, I just got back from Bangkok last night. and what a coincidence, after reading this post of yours, I went to the new shopping mall in Sukhumvit, Terminal 21.. and they had that toilet that can warm up your butt & automatic spray and everything. Coolness!

  14. Jessica Dovey

    Glad to hear you are excited! If you need a friendly face around Osaka, Kyoto, or Kobe, let me know. I know all the best places–I’d also suggest, instead of spending several frustrating days in Kyoto amidst throngs of tourists and a lot of fruitless walking, head to nearby Nara for the beautiful picturesque temples most people think of when they imagine Kyoto. Bonus: little deer are all over the place, following you around in hopes of a biscuit.

    • Or the deer eating paper (map) hanging out of your pocket. A snow monkey also stole a map from my partner’s backpack. He retreated to a rock and slowly tore the thing to pieces, wetting it and rubbing it into the rock.

      • Jessica Dovey

        The monkeys and deer can be pretty uncouth. At least the deer bow before they bite you in the ass and steal your entire pile of biscuits, then poop on your shoes. Ah Japan. :/

  15. I agree with Shane re: Onsen. Get into those hot springs!

    I’d be interested in knowing what Tai Chi you were referring to as I’ve only ever witnessed the Chinese Tai Chi. How does Tai kyoku ken differ from Tai Chi?

  16. Jessica Dovey

    Just a note on Himeji: it’s the best castle in Japan when it isn’t under construction, which it unfortunately is right now. We call it the “castle box” because it looks like a big box covering the castle with a life sized picture of the castle painted on. Hilarious, but not worth the train ride.

    Try the Kobe beef, yummmmm. And kurazushi. It’s like the McDonald’s of sushi places, and so much fun.

    And if you want to be crushed by lights and people, Ginza of course but also Dotombori in Osaka. Eat some Kansai okonomiyaki if you want to put joy directly into your mouth.

  17. This all sounds like fun, and it also sounds exactly like Korea! Other than the sushi…Koreans don’t really do very well with making any non-Korean traditional food! :)

  18. Hey Matt,
    It is just great. I loved Japan. I spent there a month a visited all main islands except of Okinawa.
    I highly recommend you:
    1. Nishiki market in Kyoto,
    2. Try hitchhiking around Japan, it is extremely cool,
    3. Crabs and fish roe in Hokkaido, you can easily buy them on markets,
    4. Matsuyama in Shikoku,
    5. Beppu with its great onsens,
    6. Hiroshima,
    7. Fukuoka,
    8. You can great affordable food in food courts of big supermarkets.
    Enjoy your trip.
    Looking forward to read your experiences!

  19. Chris Booth

    Don’t neglect your consumption of okonomiyaki! My favourite japanese food that isn’t sushi! There’s a whole floor in a building in hiroshima debited to little okonomiyaki shops. It’s in the LP guide so you’re sure to find it. Well worth having a light breakfast beforehand!

        • Jessica Dovey

          It’s got cabbage, some batter.. an egg.. vegetables.. Pancake is the closest thing anyone can think of to describe it but doesn’t really cut it.

          Kobe (repreSENT) is famous for its soba meshi, which you can get at most okonomiyaki shops.. Like.. okonomiyaki with noodles. Last night I went to the neighborhood shop and sat around eating while all the regulars said “hello” over and over at me between chugs of shochu (liquor).

  20. I lived there for 6 years and loved it.

    I lived in Matsuyama in Shikoku and I’ll second any Shikoku recommendations, just be sure to sample udon when you are on the island.

    I also lived in Nagano, of Winter Olympics fame, and there is a village just outside of Nagano that is considered to be the origin of Soba. The soba there is fine, but the wild mushroom tempura is excellent.

    The sushi is good, but be prepared to be blown away by the variety of cuisine not found in North America (if you can bring yourself to eat something else other than sushi).

    If you can find a smoky dive of a yaki tori place (grilled chicken skewers), then be sure to partake.

    You mentioned Hiroshima. It is well known for oysters and okonoemiyaki and its okonoemiyaki is quite different from Osaka okonoemiyaki mentioned previously. Luckily they go well really well together.

    Also, toilets…range from the thrones that you could retire on to squats that make you wonder how Japan gets its reputation for cleanliness and politeness.

    Have fun.

  21. I’m sure you’ll have a great trip! My boyfriend and I are kicking off our 2 year backpacking trip (which we’ll document on our travel blog acoupletravelers.com) through Europe and Asia with Japan in September. We’re only going to spend 2 weeks there since it’s not exactly backpacker friendly but I too am really excited to travel there (for the first time). We’re hoping to see a lot since we have so little time and like you mentioned in your list there are so many awesome things to do. As a food blogger I’m sure you can imagine how excited I am about the fish market, sushi and ramen shops!!! I’ve been looking into Mt. Fuji though and it looks like the climbing season is really only in July-August : //

  22. Dang Matt,

    I never even imagined that Japan could be THAT fun man. I’m pretty sure it’s going to be quite an experience for you and you seem to know a lot about it already.

    Definitely looking forward to those updates, take care and have fun! 😉


    PS. Do you speak any Japanese?

  23. Wow, so exciting! Indeed a very good list of reasons to visit Japan. I think the sushi is a good enough reason on its own :-) Add in the architecture, the quirkiness and the history, and you’re in for a treat!

  24. Laura

    Do try Kobe beef. Is not available outside Japan (no matter what restaurant menus may suggest) and is truly amazing!

      • !00% Kobe beef isn’t available outside of Japan. What you get in the States is Wagyu cows crossed with Angus. We’re lucky enough in Oz to have some full blood wagyu but it still hard to get and not quite as good as the stuff in Japan. Legend has it that the Japanese cows are fed beer and grain and massaged daily. Kobe is just one type of beef from one prefecture. Other prefectures have their own breeds of cattle like Hida beef in Gifu prefecture. That was the very best meat I had in Japan and not as expensive as you might think – depending on where you eat it.
        We went to a Michelin starred ‘meat’ restaurant in Kyoto that was extraordinary…
        and we went to a place in Takayama where you grill the meat at your table that was very very cheap but the hida beef was extraordinary…

  25. Kristen

    Love reading your posts! I currently live in Japan and it is a great place (for the reasons above and so much more!) I just wanted to ask about #14. Is that supposed to be Hokkaido (maybe a misspelling)? I have heard from so many people that it is an amazing and beautiful place – both in winter and summer. I hope you can make it there on your trip!

  26. Thats one amazing big list! Hope you tick them off by the end of your trip.
    I too am going to Japan next month. By the way, I am going to Nara, dont see that in your list??
    Following you now:)

  27. I don’t know how you feel about inarizushi, I don’t like it much. EXCEPT, when you go to the fushimi-inari shrine (the birthplace of inarizushi) it’s incredible! You can also try suzume in that area. (barbecue sparrow)

    Osaka has a street where you can buy the food models you see in all the shop windows.

  28. Jenessa

    Just so you know there are Cat Cafes too!! We need those in the States for lonely college students who miss their cats.

  29. Hey Matt, two tips:

    1) Be patient when climbin Mt Fuji (if weather allows). Believe it or not there is a huge crowd once you reach the trail’s end and it can take you almost an hour to cover the last 250 meters

    2) In Kyoto, make sure you visit the Harimaya Station Free Cafe for some great free rice cookies, orange juice, coffee and more! Unbelievable!

  30. Hi, I am Japanese and come from this page.

    Nice to hear you are going to come here next week! I bet you will fall in love with my country:) Unfortunately, it’s too late for sakura (Cherry Blossoms) but you can find them in the country side or north area in Japan. I recommend KANAZAWA and KAMAKURA, both cities are small but has long histry, Kanazawa called ‘petit Kyoto’, Kamakura is close to Tokyo and it was built by samurai.

  31. andy

    Hi Nomadic Matt, so sounds great trip you planning, I gave you little bit topics.

    ONE: Did you have an reserve to see the fish market? will need registration to see the TSUKIJI fish market befor site visit, you can see folloing

    TWO: Cherry brossums are final season in Tokyo area, recommended you to check an travel schedule any areas, Tohoku (near FUKUSHIMA region) or HOKKAIDO area are good choice to see the cherry brossums.

    THREE: If you want to see an japanese pop culture with OTAKU, please chech “OTAKU encycropedia” in english book, don’t hesitate this book just as true guide for you.


    and last FOUR: You can check the SHIMBASHI-stn or SHIBUYA-Stn, #17 pod hotels stand for these areas. I think so scarely you to sleep the pods X(

    Have a good trip!

  32. Noriko

    Hi. I am from Kansai area where my family and friends live, and I live in Tokyo now. I’m impressed you learn a lot about Japan. There are many kinds of Sushi in each area adapting nature of the locality. You seem you like Edomae Sushi, famous around Tokyo.
    When I have guests visiting from Singapore, I took them to a traditional tea ceremony in Kyoto. If you can drink green tea without sugar, you should try it.

  33. Although I needn’t all these 38 reasons to visit Japan but I really enjoyed your your 38 reasons and I hope to visit Japan, too.

    I want to ask you a question:
    How did you find this great nation after Tsunami Disaster?

    I saw a little photos about the disaster before and after. It is a big change.
    I also read a lot of emotional situation between Japanese people when this crisis happened. This proved to me that the nation of the atomic bomb still full of heroes.

    Good post matt

  34. Moto

    Hi, there.
    Seems like you are really exciting to visit Japan and you have already studied lots of staff, wich is very impressed. My name is Moto and I am originally from Japan, was born and raised in beautiful pacific coast city of Fujisawa right next to ancient Kamakura-city, where once was held capital in Japan year of 1192. About 35 miles down south of down town Tokyo.

    I am writing this right now because this might helpful information for you before or while you are visiting in Japan. I just really hope you have a good time there because I am proud of my country.

    Although a big earth quake hit in upper north, people are never give up and find a way for a better life. Altogether they work on it. As long as you avoid to visits those area, you are pretty fine to travel right now. You’re on the tour, and places you are going like Tokyo, Kanazawa and south west area are just fine and no worries at all.

    I heard a week ago, cherry blossoms were nice in Kyoto, so it must be little bit late there, but don’t worry, that means good time to see in Kanazawa and Hida area and Tokyo, wherever upper north from Kyoto. Must be great time to visit. Luck you!!

    In the US, most schools start in the end of August, right? In Japan, school starts in April and after graduate college, people go to new work places, so cherry blossoms are a feel like welcome gate to new environment for students and fresh mans.

    I live in the US for 8 years so, need be update but what I heard was Fish market in Tsukiji are planning to move another place according to news paper in Feb. Another concern is so many tourists from inside of Japan and all over the world, visits to that place at once in early morning, sometimes the crows cause business very slow in the fish market. So the tourists can not allowed to enter the certain time in the morning. You can enter the fish market but can not go to actual trading time, like expensive tuna dealing and trading any more. You might check it out before you go.

    If you have free time in Tokyo, those are things to see. You like anime, and computer staff, I recommend you to go to Akihabara, Tokyo. So many stores in one street, so easy to get around and you will not get bored pc gadgets. DVDs sold in Japan are protected regional code, so you might not watch with American DVD players in the US .

    If you like girls in fashion, go to Harajuku, Japan. They are teenage girls most of all I guess. It’s fan to watch and you can walk around window shopping. Kiddie Land shop has lots of Japanese toys and hello Kitty staff.

    You like fashion, you might want to go to Shibuya and Aoyama area, too. You can go around with trains or subways easily. Really sofisticated elegant and trendy area.

    If you want an exciting night life, go to Roppongi. You might see lots of Americans at bars. The elegant restaurants and bars are never sleep at night. So safe walk around town at night, dawn whatever.

    Sumo wrestling, you need a ticket way ahead of time even though cheaper back side seats. Front row very expensive seats are reserved by people who are crazy about Sumo though out of seasons, like baseball or football in the US.

    Kabuki is one of the popular tourists spots in Ginza. You need ticket ahead of time. They have English translation during shows, I think head sets phone style, but must be fun to watch. Only men on the show, no women actors!!

    In Hiroshima, please try Hiroshima-yaki, which is like pan cake but with savory taste with lots of vegitables, noodles and eggs on the teppan-yaki style.

    Inside bullet train, if you like ice cream, try Japanese gree tee ice cream. Those are comes in pretty small cups compares to the US but taste so good. Minty very refreshing taste but creamy rich also.

    If you have a time in Japan wherever, please visits convenient stores, like Seven-Eleven. They have sweets, denish style bread, Japanese ice cream and much more. Young generations go there almost everyday because so convenient. It’s on the every corner like Starbucks. Also visit Department stores especially under ground floors. Usually they sell foods ready to go and taste so good with beautiful display. Expensive but fun to explore. Busy train station have always department stores inside train station, easy access.

    In most places of Karaoke, they have tons of American songs. You can enjoy.

    In Osaka, try some Takoyaki, which is like tiny round pancake but vegetables and octopas inside. Sounds weired? But really taste good. It’s a street food so enjoy on the street, who cares!!

    I really hope you have a good time there. Have fun!!
    Von voyage= Kiotsukete!

  35. Moto

    Oh! One more thing,

    If you are lost, you need help, just speak to people less than 3 words.

    For example, you want to go to bath room, please do not say,
    ” Where is the nearest bathroom, you know?” That is too long.
    People freaks out for sure. You just go ” Where Is Toilet?” That’s all you have to say.

    If you want to buy train ticket, but you don’t know how to do it, “Train ticket Shibuya!!” People would try to understand what you want go to Shibuya and assist you to use vending machines at train stations.

    The key is less than 3 words, and very slowly with smile. Everythin goes well this technics.

    I think some people in Japan, they hesitate to speak English. They are smart enogh at school with grammers and idioms at English class, but reality, they do not have an opertunity to speak like real conversation with foreign people. So please do not freak them out!!
    Good luck.

  36. Great post.
    I have never thought about Japan before, but after reading more and more this country is on my top must see list.
    For now I’m excited to read your posts. Good work :)

  37. japanese

    if you like to have sushi for breakfast, it will be the perfect opportunity when you visit tsukiji fish market. aftebidding most of the restaurant/eat-inn/cafe/dining facilities at that area are about open. please enjoy!!!

  38. That’s a nice list Matt, but you’re going to miss a few of these things unfortunately.

    Mt Fuji is closed off now, it doesn’t open until June and even then it’s quite limited due to the snow and wind up there. Usually it’s only open in July and August.

    The bullet trains are well worth using (shinkansen is the official name for them). They are expensive, but domestic flights in Japan are even more expensive so its usually cheaper to stick with the shinkansen (sometimes faster too).

    Emperors Palace is closed so you can’t go inside. It’s only open twice a year on the emperors birthday (January) and Boxing day I believe. By go inside it means being squeezed in a crowd though, you don’t see much inside.

    The fish market (Tsukiji) is closed off to foreigners really early now due to drunks who used to bid on fish they couldn’t afford. It’s open from 5:25 am to foreigners now though and restricted to 120 visitors a day. (this is for the main auction of expensive fish).

    You’ve already missed the Cherry blossom (sakura) unfortunately, it’s in full bloom for around 3-4 days each year, so you have to be quite precise! Most of it has faded in colour and washed away due to rain already.

    Sumo competitions are also only a few times a year, but there are practising places that are viewable if you do some homework.

    Apart from that everything else should be possible :-) sorry to put a downer on it, but Japan likes their traditions and things like sakura season aren’t going to change even i they wanted it too. So you need to plan ahead to see certain things. I’ve spent over a year in Japan so far and have missed out a few things due to being late by a few days. Such is the nature of travel though.

    The crowds especially you won’t have trouble finding 😉

    In the cities the language barrier is not so bad. Don’t expect convenience store workers to speak English though. But you can usually get help in major train stations.

    I know an excellent sushi place in Ikebukuro if you’re interested. I’m not really a sushi fan myself, but the stuff in this 20 seat shouty-chef place is terrific.

    If you want to splash out on food there is a few good novelty and high end places around too. I’d recommend Ninja restaurant where you’re served by ninja’s who perform tricks in order to get your food – great stuff!

    Oh and I saw above you didn’t know what okonomiyaki is – it’s perfect food, that’s what it is. DIY pancake BBQ with meat and vegetables sums it up nicely :-)

  39. I’m so happy to see that you are excited, and interested in Japan. I found this page, cuz msn japan has a article telling us about this.
    you have only 2 weeks, and I guess you can’t finish 38 reason… Nagasaki, Hokkaido is not possible during this itinerary. and this is so sad because I’m from Nagasaki.

    also I would like to tell you, most of Japanese are not eating Sushi like other country. I can tell I’m eating Sushi more often in other countries, cuz there is not many choice of Japanese food. so I hope you can try some different things, for Japanese, Sushi is used to a special food for Special day. for me, it is still very special, and I would like to have very nice place, not like cheaper place.

    if you can go to Shinjuku Station in the morning, you can see crazy people there. I read somewhere, Shinjuku is most population passes through a day. it was very similar to my hometown population. especially Marunouchi line around 8 to 9 AM, you can see there are some people who works for pushing people to the train near the door. I used to take this train, and got sicks few time because of not much air in the train.

    anyways, enjoy Japan, I hope you like Japan more than before.
    and sorry for my funny English.

  40. Frank

    Hey Matt,

    You have an awesome Blog Here! I currently live in Tokyo and have been so for the past two years. I absolutely love it here. First and foremost have a great trip! Based on your post you should still be here. I’d love to show you around Tokyo and pick your brain a little. If your looking for a Free meal and annoying questions about blogging please take me up on my offer. In all seriousness I would absolutely love to consult and collaborate with you over a nice meal and a cold beer or beverage of your choice. Safe Travels my friend!


  41. I went to Japan for a G Adventures trip in December 2011. Had a great time there. I really liked the beer can vending machines! The people are really friendly and the food is great too!

  42. Hi, I’m Japanese and really happy to read your blog.

    Some already mentioned, but I recommend to go to the basement of the Department store. We call there ‘Depachika’. You will find all kind of testy foods including SUSHI, cakes, chocolates, Japanese sweets (Wagashi) and a lot more. Sometimes they give you free sample.
    When you go to the department store, you should go there at 10 am when the door opens. You will feel like you are VIP at the store. I won’t tell you why, you should find out (^^)!

    If you have time to go north, you may still be able to see Sakura (Cherry blossom).

    Anyway, have a great trip! Everyone’s looking forward to reading your blog soon.

  43. Delhi

    I am just curious why an extremely seasoned traveler like you chose to go with G Adventures instead of going on your own? Is the trip comped?

  44. You will love Japan! Don’t miss the Ibaraki area with all the Toories and also Nara… beautiful place too! Enjoy the japanese kids learning english and doing homework with foreigners. You can’t miss that! Let me left a tip on WIFI around japan. http://goo.gl/72sLnO – all the best on your trip!!

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