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Experiences, Food & Cities of Japan

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Manga (Japanese comics), anime (Japanese animation) and video games are Japan’s most ever-present pop culture exports. Tokyo is the heart of Japanese pop culture. Throughout Tokyo you’ll be struck by the Japanese street fashion, ‘Harajuku girls’ and the sounds of J-Pop playing. At first, this might appear peculiar, it’s a dominant aspect of Tokyo’s vibrancy and distinctiveness. Tokyo is bursting with game stores, arcades and video game cafes. Get yourself your very own self-confessed ‘game addict’ tour guide and explore their favourite gaming spots. Spend a day playing alongside the local gamers and be sure to stop off at maid café for lunch to get the full experience of a day in the life of a true otaku.

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Tokyo:

Experiences:

Cherry blossom:

Cherry blossom is iconic of Japanese Spring. Cherry blossom season lasts a week, at the end of March into early April. These delicate pink blooms, known as Sakura, are amongst the most breath-taking and beautiful of Japanese sights. Cherry blossoms are especially appreciated due to their short-lived existence, which symbolises both new beginnings and the fleeting nature of life.

Tokyo game show and AnimeJapan:

Plan your visit to the Tokyo game show, held in September. Here, the main gaming world creators compete for their latest innovations at the world’s biggest video game expo. Visit Tokyo during mid-March to witness the final two days of AnimeJapan; the world’s biggest anime fair, where you can watch performances of the most loved characters and purchase popular Japanese merchandise.

Golden Gai:

Go on Golden Gai night tour to experience Tokyo’s backstreet drinking den, tucked away in the corner of Shinjuku. 200 tiny drinking shacks are chaotically jotted along the narrow streets, radiating a speakeasy charm. Get to know the locals and barmen in these small unique bars.

Restaurants:

Maid Café:

Maid café in Tokyo, the most famous of Japans many themed/cosplay restaurants, has become a staple of Japanese Otaki culture. The waitresses are dressed up and act as anime and Magna characters. Waitresses are not just hired to serve food but also interact with customers in unprecedented ways; providing massages and playing video games with them. The food is playfully created with hand-crafted messages and quirky designs.

Tokyo Skytree:

Not one for the faint-hearted: experience lunch at 2,080 ft at the Tokyo Skytree; Japan’s tallest structure at 634m. The second tallest structure in the world! The food served is French-Japanese fusion cuisines. You need to book months in advance to secure a spot at this lavish restaurant.

Tsukiji Fish Market:

Experience the chaotic rush of locals in the Tsukiji fish market tasting tour. Weave your way through the world’s largest wholesale fish market, accompanied by a guide, tasting all the fantastic flavours of the fresh fish.

Kyoto:

Experiences:

Ryoanji Temple and Rock Garden:

Something that may appeal to those who like to explore their imagination, as well as the Japanese culture, is the Ryoanji Temple and rock garden. The gardens origin and meaning are unclear; therefore, it is open to individual interpretation. One notable feature of the garden’s design is that from any standpoint at least one of the rocks is hidden from the viewer.

Golden Pavilion of Kinkaku-ji:

A temple where the two top floors are completely covered in gold leaf. It was burnt down in 1950 by an obsessed Monk and rebuilt in 1955. It is a Japanese masterpiece overlooking a scenic pond.

Fushimi-Inari-Taisha Shrine:  

Explore the most impressive sight in Kyoto. The most important of the thousands of shrines dedicated to the Shinto god of rice. Travel through the countless arcades of vermilion tori (shrine gates) winding through a heavily vegetated mountain.

Camellia’s Tea Ceremony:

Koyoto is the centre of the Japanese tea ceremony, the three main schools are located here. Camellia’s, located off the popular tourist lane Ninenzaka, is a relaxed and enjoyable way to experience a tea ceremony which has strict rules and etiquette.

Restaurant:

Kitcho Arashiyama:

For those willing to spend extra to be treated to a luxurious kaiseki (traditional multi-course dinner); Kitcho Arashiyama is a must. The service, setting, ingredients and presentation are all exquisite quality. Styled as a tea ceremony house, eating on traditional Japanese style floor mats and low tables, you look out over the garden while you enjoy dishes such as boiled blue crab.

Hakone:

Experiences:

Hot Springs:

Hakone is one of Japan’s favourite hot spring resorts, here you will find many bathhouses and ryokan (inns). Yumoto has a hot spring with especially high-quality water, which has benefits for your body and mind. These hot springs are in areas with impressive natural beauty, which makes it an ideal location to relax and unwind away from the hectic cities.

Mount Fuji:

Mount Fuji and the neighbouring lake are the symbols of Hakone. This is due to the natural, undeveloped beauty of the area. See this picturesque landscape from the sightseeing boats or the Hakone Detached Palace Garden.

The Hakone Open Air Museum:

The Hakone Open Air Museum displays eye-catching sculptures in front of the striking backdrop of the valley and mountains. The combination of modern art and natural beauty provides a powerful visual juxtaposition.

Restaurant:

Tamura Ginkatsutei:

Tamura Ginkatsutei specialises in traditional style pork katsu. Served in a dish with a flame underneath, you watch it bubble and cook right in front of you. For vegans, there is a Tofu Katsu variation in a broth which is also very popular.

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