Pukaar Magazine

Travel Guide: The Best of Japan

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Tokyo

Begin your Japanese adventure in Tokyo. The bustling capital is filled with high-rise buildings, neon lights and quaint hidden alleyways just waiting to be explored.

Pay a visit to Sensó-ji, Tokyo’s oldest and most significant Buddhist temples. Built centuries ago to enshrine a golden image of Kannon (the goddess of mercy), the landmark now draws flocks of crowds from around the globe.

Soak up the beauty and take a leisurely stroll around the Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden. The site was completed in 1906 as an imperial garden belonging to Lord Naito, but after World War II, it became a national park and opened up to the public. Shinjuku Gyoen seamlessly blends three distinct styles together – Formal Garden, Landscape Garden and Japanese Traditional Garden.

If you love a good city view then Tokyo Skytree, one of the world’s tallest towers won’t disappoint. At its base, you can enjoy hundreds
of shops and nearby cafes, and once you’ve made your way to the broadcast tower’s 360-degree observation decks, it’s here where you can appreciate the magnificent views of the city.

Hakone

Take the bullet train from Tokyo to the mountainous town of Hakone. Known for its hot springs’ resorts, and views across Lake Ashinoko of the iconic Mount Fuji, Hakone is the perfect escape away from the lively capital. A great way to see the town is via the Hakone Ropeway. Here you will travel up to the Ówakudani valley and witness the breath- taking views of the volcanic terrain and hot springs.

Mt. Fuji – Image credit: Unsplash

The Hakone Open-Air Museum, which opened in 1969 and the first of its kind in Japan, is the perfect day out for both art and nature lovers. Absorb the stunning scenery of lush greenery as you view the museum’s fine collection of paintings and sculptures. Here you will find works by artists including Picasso, Henry Moore, Taro Okamoto, Medardo Rosso, plus more.

Kyoto

Located on the island of Honshu, Kyoto is Japan’s ancient capital and is a must visit. Famous for its gardens, Buddhist temples, Imperial palaces, shrines, geisha’s and traditional wooden houses, Kyoto still remains the spiritual heart of Japan.

An attraction not to be missed in this charming city is the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove. Wander aimlessly through the magical and atmospheric grove as towering green stalks of bamboo surround you. It’s an extremely photogenic spot, so don’t forget your camera. The attraction begins outside the north gate of Tenryú-ji and finishes just below Ókóchi Sansó.

Arashiyama Bamboo Grove – Image credit: Unsplash

Takayama

If you’re after a less touristy spot, Takayama could be your place. A city filled with tradition, Takayama is situated in Japan’s mountainous Hida region. The city, which still features many of its old buildings, is known for its hillside shrines, pretty river setting, as well as its biannual festival.

Held on April 14-15 and October 9-10, the Takayama Matsuri festival is one of Japan’s greatest and most beautiful festivals. The main focus of the event is around half a dozen elaborately decorated floats that are pulled through the old town. What was once a simple village festival, that started around 350 years ago, now attracts a large number of spectators from near and far.

 

Eat

Dine like a local at Onigiri Asakusa Yadoroku, the oldest onigiri (rice ball) restaurant in Tokyo. Proudly serving its renowned dish since 1954, the restaurant source the best rice for each season and use local Edo- mae seaweed. It’s a quaint and charming spot for authentic, healthy fast food in the city.

onigiriyadoroku.com

If you’re visiting Hakone, Gora Brewery & Grill is a must. The restaurant opened in 2017 by celebrity chef, Nobuyuki ‘Nobu’ Matsuhisa and combines craft beer with original Japanese cooking. The menu offers everything from Black Porkloin Tonkatsu and Wagyu Beef Gyoza to Yellowtail Sashimi with Jalapeño and White Fish Tiradito.

itoh-dining.co.jp/gorabrewery

Try Yakitori (skewers of meats or vegetables), one of Japan’s many staple dishes at Sumibi Torito in Kyoto. The secret to its delicious and simplistic food lies in the cooking method where each dish is grilled to perfection on a charcoal fire. As well as it’s great menu, the restaurant also boasts a contemporary décor. It’s a great place for late night food and drinks.

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Onigiri, a traditional food in Japan – Image credit: Unsplash

Sleep

Embrace the Japanese culture and opt for a futuristic capsule hotel during your stay in Tokyo. Nine Hours offers a central location and is situated just a 2-minute walk from JR Shin-Okubo Station. Check-in is open 24-hours a day and guests are provided with a locker, shampoo, towels, toothbrush, Nine Hours clothing and of course, a sleep pod, which is air conditioned and heated. Facilities are separate for men and women.

ninehours.co.jp

For a traditional and authentic experience, the Nanzenji Ryokan Yachiyo in Kyoto boasts a relaxing ambience and features charming Japanese-style rooms and large public baths. Its large on-site restaurant overlooks the beautiful and tranquil gardens and provides freshly prepared Japanese dishes daily. Attractions such as the historic Nanzen- ji Temple, Eikando and Heian Jingu Shrine are in close proximity of the hotel.

kyoto-nanzenji-ryokan.com

Boasting incredible views of the Alps, Hidatakayama Futarishizuka Hakuun is conveniently located in the heart of Takayama, with the Old Town just a 5-minute walk away. The ryokan (Japanese Inn), offers a comfortable and relaxing retreat and features traditional-style rooms with a private wooden cypress bath. Guests also have access to the on-site hot spring, an ideal treat after a long day of exploring and sightseeing.

ryokan-hakuun.co.jp

A traditional capsule hotel – Image credit: Unsplash

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