I love the Japanese Onsens – these are hot springs. Japan literally has thousands of these. They can be either indoor or outdoor and often contain special pools at different temperatures. Whenever I fly into Tokyo (NRT) I head for the countryside surrounding Narita and some of the outlying Onsens. Sexes are separated and clothing is often not worn. Like massage, the Onsens are a fabulous way to deal with and soak away the tiredness of jet lag upon arrival!
There are many amazing temples in Kyoto but the coolest one is a temple that most people don’t know about so it makes the perfect break from the crowds. Otagi Nenbutsu-ji features 1200 stone sculptures of the Buddha’s disciples scattered throughout a shady temple complex, all with different facial expressions and poses: scary, serene, cheerful, cute, and just plain bizarre. You can spend hours exploring the quirky figures.
My favorite thing to do in Japan.. is eat! They have such a great representation of many different cuisines, from Indian to Thai to, of course, their own home-grown creations. My favorites are all the snacks, which range from shave ice to deep-fried dough.
Stay in a capsule hotel. I recall seeing a documentary about them when I was young and it seemed to represent to me the futuristic and quirky side of Japan. I stayed in one when I went to Tokyo.
Cherry Blossom Festivals
Josh Cohen Japan Guidebook / Open Journey
Don’t miss the cherry blossom festivals. The photo is of the Nago Cherry Blossom Festival in Okinawa.
Nicole Smith Bitten by the Travel Bug
With white alabaster skin and full red lips, Geisha’s are an instantly recognizable ‘face’ to Japan. If visiting Kyoto be sure to enjoy an evening with the Geiko – the Kyoto-style and ‘higher quality’ geisha of Japan. Whilst there are chances to see the Geiko or Maiko (trainee Geiko) on the streets of Kyoto or at Gion corner, to have the chance to really appreciate the art you should book a Kyoto Cuisine and Maiko Evening which will give you a chance to see these beautiful performers up close and the opportunity to play traditional drinking games and talk to the girls (through a translator for the most part as they are encouraged to speak Kyoto-dialect.)
There are 13 Reasons Why I Fell in Love with Japan. Go to Takayama for the beef, Hiroshima for the history, Tokyo for everything. The Onsens are great, the sushi is amazing, eat lots of cheap ramen noodles. Spend a lot of time in Kyoto – the temples, gardens, and bamboo forest are wonderful.
Chris Christensen is the creator of the Amateur Traveler blog and podcast. He has been a travel creator since 2005 and has won awards including being named the "Best Independent Travel Journalist" by Travel+Leisure Magazine.