Japan is awesome (and so can you)

I’m just home from a two week holiday in Japan and it was *amazing*. Everything I imagined and more. I’m sure the bulk of the amazing things will appear on Flickr over the coming weeks in some form or another.

I’m going to jot down some things in case the like of Greg or Davids or Becky ask for Japan tips, while this is all fresh in my mind. Also, so I stand a good chance of remembering them myself.

Ann and I were hugely indebted to past travellers like Chris, Yumiko, Chrissy and David for tips and guidance. I couldn’t match them for knowledge, but these are things what might be worth keeping in mind…

Don’t go too many different places – we visited Tokyo, Naoshima, Kyoto, and Oshino, all different and all brilliant. But we could have done with maybe a day longer in the cities, minimum, if only to feel more grounded (changing hotel in Tokyo didn’t help).

Stay put for the first few days – so, everyone I know deals with jetlag differently. For us it came on hard the first few days, but having the relative luxury of the Hyatt Regency to retreat to was a smart move. Shinjuku’s a super place to explore any time of day, so being around there was good too. If we’d jumped on a train across the country a few days in (our original plan) it’d have wrung us out.

Do all the touristy things – because OMG it’s wonderful. Seriously. It also meant we could have extremely different experiences in Kyoto and Tokyo without taxing our Japanese phrasebook. Generally this is something I want to get better at in other countries anyway (prompted in large part by a wonderful experience at the Space Needle), but the rewards paid off hugely throughout this holiday and we did nothing I wouldn’t recommend.

Get internet – a last-minute tip from Chris and immeasurably smart. We used the eConnect 3g package and the whole thing worked without any effort on our part.

Tokyo does an awful lot of hard work for you – very easy on tourists, that city.

Try cycling around Kyoto – we didn’t, but it likely would have been a wonderful way of exploring the town. Lots of people cycle there. Related: cyclists in Kyoto give no fucks.

Bean paste is a nasty trick played on naive visitors – it’s just the worst.

Go deeper at the big temples – two of the most magical moments of the trip came from pushing a little beyond the surface. We went in to the formal garden at Meigi Jingu where we saw a man feeding birds by the ponds. He gave Ann a few seeds and soon after a couple of birds had flown to her hand to eat from it. In Nanzenji we mooched up to a quiet temple before exploring a path behind it that led into the mountains, where we found a little waterfall behind a shrine that visitors can shower in. We did so as the sun set, in total seclusion. It was freezing and incredible.

There is so much of everything – seriously, there’s so much to explore. You’ll never see everything you want to see, and you have to be okay with that.

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BONUS Foursquare links:
Ann’s lists for Tokyo and around Mount Fuji. My lists for Naoshima and Kyoto.