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A to Z Travel Blog - Japan

Updated: Jan 31, 2022


Gosh, they say "time flies when you're having fun" I must be having lots! I don't know about you but it just seemed like the other day I posted about Incredible India and now we're almost halfway through November. I must admit I'm running a little behind schedule. Sorry, it's either feast or famine in the world of freelance. You can guess which one it has been of late. Will be back up to speed by Christmas. Sorry, I know... it's the C-word. Last from me on that one till December.

Excited to say hello "Konnichiwa" to the exotic land of Japan. You might be familiar with the movie Lost in Translation or/and Godzilla? I used to love watching the cartoon Godzilla, not realizing until I had completed some research that Godzilla originated in Japan. It was the anniversary of the origin movie on the 3rd of November. Such a great animated cartoon with historical references such as The Lost City of Atlantis. Amazing what inspires you to travel the world!

It was a dream come true when we finally visited a few years back during one of the most beautiful times of the year, to celebrate Sakura - Cherry Blossom. The timing can vary depending on the weather conditions, we managed to see them in late March. No matter what time of year you visit, I'm sure you will have an amazing time.

*This post contains affiliate links, which means I make a small about of money to keep the blog running. You get lots of great information, at no extra cost passed to you.

Bright blue sky with a close up of Cherry Blossom.
Japanese Cherry Blossom - Prunus serrulata ©MDHarding

A to Z Travel Blog - Japan

There is so much to see and do in Japan, with little time as well as the language barrier we opted for a tour. This took us by bus, bullet train and boat to see the major highlights not to be missed such as The floating Torii Gate, Hiroshima and much more.

Would you like to take a twin holiday to both Beijing and Tokyo? To discover more click here.

The Torii Gate when the water level has dropped.
Torii Gate, Hatsukaichi, Japan ©MDHarding

Reaching Japan

We travelled with Virgin Airlines from London to Tokyo which took just under 12 hours. There are many airline's to choose from, though I believe that the last Virgin Atlantic flight flew back in 2015 and was taken over by ANA.

Views across Tokyo from the Tokyo Tower.
Views Across Tokyo from The Tokyo Tower ©MDHarding

Currency

If you can order your Japanese Yen currency online then you will get a better rate and also save yourself the hefty airport additional handling fee of between £5 - £10 per transaction. The Post Office credit card also offers good exchange rates and charges no fees per transaction. So don't let the bank eat away at your hard-earned cash. Go treat yourself to something delicious!

Japanese Wild Deer with guide book in it's mouth.
Japanese Wild Deer Eating a Delicious Guide Book ©MDHarding

Food

There are lots of interesting local savoury and sweet treats to enjoy. Local markets offer a wide selection of fish, meats and something resembling deep-fried custard creams on a stick. Yum!

If you are visiting the active volcanic valley area Owakundani in Hakone, also known as "Jigokudani" meaning "the Valley of Hell". You might like to feast on the local delicacy of black-boiled eggs.

Visitors lined up to see the eggs being boiled and to buy one to eat.
Owakudani, Hakone ©MDHarding

What You Need To Pack

Pack comfortable clothes, depending on the time of year you travel, you might need a water-resistant jacket and don't forget your walking shoes! Can't find what you're looking for? Can highly recommend Craghoppers for all your travel clothes needs and accessories.


*I have recently been working with Maier Sports and I am highly impressed by the spring jacket and both pairs of trousers I have. They have over 61 sizes available! You can read more about the Maier Sports spring collection Jacket and trousers here and also the Maier Sports winter collection trousers here.


Top Tip: Pack light so you can go shopping and buy new technology, crafts and gifts for friends/family.

Top Highlights Not To Be Missed

1. The Shinkansen (Bullet Train)


The fastest train in the world set a new record in 2019 with a speed of 360 kilometers per hour but runs at a capped speed of 285 kilometers per hour. One of the most popular and easiest routes to experience the Bullet Train is via Tokyo to Kyoto. This route takes 2 hours and 15 minutes.


It was very comfortable, with views disappearing as quickly as they arrived outside the window. A must while in Japan!

Close-Up of the front of the white Bullet Train.
Bullet Train, Japan ©MDHarding

2. Mount Fuji

Japan's only active volcano - Mount Fuji stands at 3,776 metres. The tallest peak in Japan, it is also a pilgrimage for many, who come to climb and walk around the sacred site. We didn't have the allocated time to climb Mount Fuji but took a boat trip around the lake, with beautiful views.

Mount Fuji in the background with a snow peak visible through the clouds.
Mount Fuji ©MDHarding

3. Geisha Experience


The Geisha Experience is one I will always remember. I took this one in Kyoto only a 15-minute walk from our hotel. It is very popular but appointments are well spaced and the photoshoot is not rushed. The make-up artist is very skilled. Once the make-up has been applied, the wig is then placed, followed by your kimono. The photographer will keep you right with where to stand and look. It is very well organised and the time passes so quickly! Highly recommend it!

Me dressed as a Geisha in a purple kimono with pink and red flowers, matching floral headband and paper parasol.
Geisha Experience, Kyoto, Japan ©MDHarding

4. Traditional Tea Ceremony


The Traditional Tea ceremony is known as chanoyu, or sado said to date from the Kamakura period (1192–1333) by Zen monks. Then during the 16th century, it was used more formally by the rulers of Japan and wealthy merchants to forge and reinforce ties (Shogun Period).


Over the years creation of different wares have been produced with Raku ware particularly prized in the tea community. Most often in the form of tea bowls, these lightweight glazed earthenwares were molded by hand rather than thrown on a potter’s wheel


The art of tea drinking is today formed as part of a ritual using traditional utensils such as chashaku (to take out a measure of green tea, used in the same way as a spoon), then there is the chasen (sort of handheld whisk) to mix and froth.


There is also etiquette to siting for the tea ceremony. The host will show you your mat - Chashitsu. Firstly, You will enter on your knees and use your fits to help you balance while seating. It is important not to stand in the centre of the mat and to not use your palms (hygiene).


Today the tea is also served with a traditional sweet also made with matcha. If looking for or expecting something sweet, sorry, it isn't. Even some of the red coloured almost like a chocolate colour isn't sweet (made from beans).


The experience is really unique and I highly recommend it.

First photo shows the tea cups and instruments laid out ahead of a tea ceremony in a museum, the top picture shows the traditional making of the tea at a ceremony taking place for the the group at the hotel and the bottom picture the final cup of green tea alongside a traditional Japanese sweet you would enjoy alongside.
Traditional Japanese Tea Ceremony ©MDHarding

5. Zen Japanese Gardens


There are many zen Japanese Gardens throughout Japan. The Kiyosumi Garden is one that comes to mind readily with its Koi pond, birds and turtles. I loved discovering the meaning nature takes, from larger rocks symbolising mountains and taller/upright stones - trees. The dry landscape uses sand and rocks to bring out the meaning of life. Mostly used for meditating and being at one.

View across the Kiyosumi Garden with it's pond, small bridge traditional Ryotei and memorial Hall. All surrounded by a variety of trees.
Kiyosumi Garden,Tokyo, Japan ©MDHarding

6. Ama (lady free divers) Pearl Divers at Mikimoto Island


Pearl diving has been said to have taken place over 7,000 years ago in UAE. In Japan, it has been said to date back to the 8th century. By the early 1900s, the Japanese discovered ways to make cultured pearls.


The centuries-old women diving role - ama (sea women) in Japan is dwindling. Once a thriving traditional way of mainly fishing. There are only 2,000 ama (lady divers), mostly due to new generations not being interested in learning the technique and also loss of demand. Today many are employed by Mikimoto Pearl Island for tourism.


We were thrilled to have been able to visit and witness an ama dive. Taken back by the skill of the freediving women ranging in age from '20s through to '60s, who were able to hold their breath for up to seven minutes. In a day, can be plunging more than 100 times to sustain their living.