We just got back from a 10 day vacation in Japan and it was amazing. I’ve been downloading the photographs from my phone to my computer and categorizing and saving them. And I can’t help going through them again and again and reliving the holiday. I’m so bursting with it all, that I thought I’d share my fave experiences in Japan with you.
What we thought would be a 10 day long holiday was actually a very short holiday. Japanese culture has the best of both worlds. They are one of the most advanced country there is.. right down to their hi-tech WCs. They also have a rich culture and give great importance to respect and putting others before themselves. You ask a Japanese for directions, and if he can’t speak your language, he’ll walk with you all the way and drop you to your destination. We experienced this first hand at one of the railway stations, where the gentleman escorted us right up to the exit we were looking for and then went back in to get his train.
So from riding the Shinkansen to watching a traditional tea ceremony, 10 days is just not enough for it all. But we still packed in quite a bit. I haven’t written these in any order of preference because I loved each one of them! So let’s get started.
My Fave Experiences in Japan:
(1) Tokyo Skytree
Since Japan is all about the latest and most modern, let me start with the Skytree. At more than 2000 ft high, it is the tallest tower in the world.
At the base they have a huge shopping complex where we could have spent the whole day, but we had to make do with a few hours.
There are observatories at 2 levels, the higher one being at 450 mt, and the view from both is amazing. We walked the entire circumference and got a view of the whole city.
We also get a direct downward view from a small glass window on the floor. Looking down it is one thing, walking over it another. It’s a little scary to step over that glass seeing how far down you can fall.
A pic at the highest point is a must!
My fave experiences in Japan were from both ends of the spectrum. Right after visiting the Skytree, we went for lunch to Asakusa. From ultra-modern to old and traditional in a 10 minute train ride. I took this photograph of the Skytree from one of the lanes of Asakusa, and the pic says it all.
I saw ladies going on hand-pulled rickshaws and was reminded of childhood shopping trips in Patiala with my grandmom. Lots of interesting things passed us by while we were waiting for lunch, including this fashionable dog! 🙂
We had a delicious tempura lunch with friends at this quaint little restaurant. The restaurant was highly recommended by their 90+ year old grandma. I have no pics of the tempura coz the recommendation was absolutely right and I was too busy devouring it to click it!
After lunch we went shopping along these streets. We found everything from souvenirs to local sweets being freshly made and served there. Sort of like the halwais in our local markets.
At the end of this street is the Sensoji Buddhist temple.
With the bright red pagodas…
… and the soft white lanterns, it is picture perfect.
And I loved how we had to take blessings from the fire like we do back home.
(3) Ninja Restaurant
Another of my fave experiences in Japan was dinner at the Ninja Restaurant. It wasn’t just the food… it literally was a whole experience. From the Ninja that greeted us, to the drawbridge that fell for us to enter. To the private magic show and the little dragons hiding in little coves.
All this in ADDITION to the great food. The meal was served one course at a time. (I forget how many 100 courses there were.) I don’t remember the name of anything I ate (except sushi!) Only that everything was better and more exotic than what they had served last. Check out this video to see what I mean.
They also had this delicious, cute snow frog for dessert.
And this bonsai which covered a whole lot of matcha ice-cream.
What was really amazing was this, waiting for us at the exit after dinner. (It was my daughter’s birthday)
How can a Japanese experience be complete without a ride in the Bullet train?
We loved it!
(5) Kyoto Station
And while we’re talking about trains, we must talk about their stations too. Especially Kyoto Station. It is a world in itself and you can easily spend a couple of days here. It has the usual, huge shopping area (called the Cube) and so many restaurants.
We lost our way the first time we were trying to cross over from one side to the other, and ended up here, getting a whole new view of the station.
It’s a gorgeous structure with a sky-walk about 11 floors above the platforms. We went up one escalator, and then another. And before we knew it, we were here.
The city view is amazing, including a view of the Kyoto Tower.
And a view of the stairs / escalators that got us to this point.
Steps by day… and a full on stage by night!
Check out this video to see a little of the Halloween show they had running there every night.
This one comes into this list mostly because of my kids. They experienced Halloween for the first time.
We celebrate everything in India, from Diwali to Eid to Christmas. But the malls aren’t decked up for Halloween here and there is no trick-or-treating.
In Japan everywhere from Disneyland..
.. to the Tokyo Skytree was ready for Halloween.
So the kids had a blast dressing up..
.. and posing..
.. every opportunity they got!
The kids had zombies chasing after them down the streets of Universal Studio. I didn’t get any pics coz I was keeping myself warm with a cup of hot coffee at the ‘Three Broomsticks‘ at that time. But I haven’t seen the kids this excited and happy in a long time.
(7) Golden Temple
The visit to the Golden Temple was the most beautiful of all my experiences in Japan. It is coated with gold leaf and is as beautiful as our Golden Temple.
The gardens are gorgeous. (Here we all tried to aim a coin from a distance into the stone bowl in the centre.)
And nature is at its best. I got a lesson in the use of primary colours (red-blue-yellow) by the best teacher.. nature. I also had the most delicious black sesame ice-cream which I couldn’t find anywhere else.
The Todai-ji temple in Nara is beautiful.
I could keep clicking all the beautiful details all day.
The Buddha statue is almost 50 ft high.
There is a hole running through one of the temple pillars, which they say is as wide as the Buddha’s nostril.
It’s supposed to be lucky if you can go through it!
But what made Nara one of our most remembered experiences in Japan was all the deer outside.
My daughter absolutely loves all animals, and she had an unforgettable day going up to all the deer..
.. and petting and feeding them.
(9) Japanese Food:
Like so many of our other experiences in Japan, the food is not just about the food… it’s a whole experience.
We ate this traditional meal at the Yumoto Fujiya Hotel, a traditional Japanese ‘ryokan’ style resort. Take a look at the menu…
These are the appetizers. Can you guess which one is which? While each one of these was delicious, the salmon roe was my fave!
So many little servings, each presented with so much thought and style. Just the plating of these must take them ages!
I felt absolutely spoilt and pampered by the time I was done with the dessert.
We had another traditional Japanese meal experience in Kyoto.
I can get used to being fed like this every day!
(10) Harry Potter
There’s a reason why this one has been listed last. And it’s NOT because it was the least amazing of our experiences in Japan.
We are a family of Harry Potter fans, so this, at Universal Studio in Osaka, was our absolute favourite day!
In case you’re not a Harry Potter fan, you may think I’m going on a bit. But I would still say you hang on till the end.. coz it was truly a magical world.
We had to walk through the Forbidden Forest to get here, where we saw Ron Weasley’s car stuck in the bushes.
We saw the Hogwart’s Express as soon as we entered and we knew we’re home!
It was really tempting to pick up an owl for ourselves.
And the kids did manage to get wands for themselves at Ollivander’s.
They really do have a collection..
In fact, a HUGE collection. And the kids had such a blast choosing their own wands.
The kids used their wands to do magic in various areas of the park. Watch my daughter use her wand to make water jump out of a pot.
There was an awesome 3D ride in the castle.
After which we had some delicious Butter Beer.
Next stop was the Triwizard Tournament.
Watch the Durmstrangs..
… take on the Beauxbatons
And finally, we saw the ‘Expecto Patronum’ show. Watch how the Dementors surround the castle, and Harry Potter’s stag Patronus chases them away.
This was our last day in Japan. So Harry Potter was a great end to a fabulous holiday.
We Will Have To Go Back!
These were my fave experiences in Japan, but there is still so much we couldn’t cover. There was a typhoon passing through while we were there, so a few days were washed away. The day we went to Mt. Fuji was rainy and cloudy and we couldn’t sight the mountain.
10 days is just not enough. I’m looking forward to the next time already.