Octopus Balls, the Suicide Forest, and a Cat Cafe: A Week in Japan

When people talk about how unbearable Japan is in August, I thought they were exaggerating. Not that it’s really unbearable due to heat, it’s just SO humid. Living in Miami nowhere near prepared me for this level of humidity. I was dripping, not even conscious of my body creating sweat. Putting the humidity aside, Japan is absolutely beautiful and diverse. There’s so much to see, it’s difficult to choose a route. Since I only had 7 days, I chose three easy-to-visit cities– Osaka, Kyoto, Tokyo.

Osaka – Kyoto – Tokyo

Visa:

  • US Citizen, no visa up to 90 days

Currency:

  • Yen (1 USD=109)

Language:

  • Japanese

Notes:

  • Osaka is known for having the BEST foods. Be sure to try the Takoyaki, Kobe beef, and sushi.
  • Most monuments shut around 5-6:30 with last entrance at 4. Plan ahead!

Foods:

  • Kobe beef
  • Sashimi
  • Ramen
  • Rice bowl
  • Shabu Shabu
  • Kombucha tea
  • Sake
  • Sushi
  • Japanese Soba Noodles (buckwheat noodles)
  • Izakaya (type of restaurant with small plates like tapas)
  • Okonomiyaki
  • Yakitori
  • Udon noodles
  • Unari (eel)
  • Yohinoya
  • Mochi
  • Red Bean Paste balls
  • Matcha (everything)
  • Soybean Ice Cream
  • Tempora
  • Glutenous rice balls with Matcha Sauce

 

 

Osaka

Transport:

  • train, bus, metro

Stay:

  • I Couchsurfed, but Hostelworld has some inexpensive unique options.

Bucket listers:

  • Marvel at the vintage billboards along the river in Dotonbori
  • Eat Octopus balls- Takoyaki
  • Cuddle and feed the sacred deer in Nara
  • Try Kobe beef (Osaka is in the Kobe region)
  • Crawl through the pillar at the Golden Pavilion in Nara for good luck
  • Try your luck at Pachinko (gambling)

See:

  • Minoo park
  • From afar or up close, Osaka castle is marvelous
  • Aquarium Kaiyukan
  • Check out Dotonbori at night when the lights come on
  • Visit the Red Light district – NO photos
  • Sunset from Umeda sky building
  • Day trip to the ancient city of Nara

 

Kyoto

Transport:

  • Osaka to Kyoto — Train (4$)
  • metro, buses, tram

Stay:

  • Tabetoma Nijo Castel ($20 per night) is a traditional Machinya home in central Kyoto, around the corner from Nijo Castle.

Bucket listers:

  • Try the fresh unique foods, from live seafood to Matcha ice cream at Nishiki Market
  • Watch the sunset on the River
  • Walk through the Bamboo Forest
  • Climb to the top Mt Inari (233m), through the Fushimi-Inari  Taisha Shrine
  • Catch a Geisha sighting in Gion
  • Watch & eat freshly made Soba Noodles from Sobanomi Yoshimura
  • Dunk your hands into the Dragon Pond to ‘Fill your heart with peace and happiness.”
  • Get a written oracle from the Kinkaku-ji Shrine.

See:

(Arranged by neighborhood and metro stop.)

Arashiyama

  • Dragon pond
  • Kimono Forest
  • Tenryu-ji Temple and Gardens
  • Bamboo Forest

Ryoanji

  • Ryoanji Temple
  • Kinkaku-ji Temple (The Golden Temple)

Inari

  • Mt. Inari
  • Fushimi-Inari Taisha Shrine

Central Kyoto

  • Nijo Castle
  • Imperial Palace Park
  • Imperial Palace
  • Nishiki Market
  • Kiyamachi Street
  • Pontocho Street

Gion

  • Gion Quarter
  • Hanami-Koji

 

Tokyo

Transport:

Stay:

Bucket listers:

  • Sneak into Tsukiji Fish market
  • Stand in the middle of Shibuya Crossing
  • Go to a Cat Cafe
  • Shop in Harajuku
  • Walk through Aokighara – The Suicide Forest
  • Watch the Tuna Auction at Tsujiki market
  • Stay in a love hotel
  • See Mt Fuji (Climb if you have time)
  • Play in an arcade in Akihabara
  • Eat at Daiwa Sushi outside of Tsukiji market

See: 

  • Sensoji
  • Harajuku district (fashion, food, cat cafes)
  • Meji Shrine
  • Shibuya (lost in translation intersection)
  • Opt for going to the top of the FREE Shinjuku Government Building (instead of Tokyo Tower)
  • Imperial Palace
  • National Museum
  • Akihabara- Get lost in the Anime
  • Hagashi Gyoen Garden
  • Ginza market
  • Tsukiji market (fish market)
  • Shinjuku (red light district & love hotels)
  • Roppongi (clubs)

 

 

 

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