Category Archives: Asia

Kodai-ji Temple- A Beautiful Zen Temple in Kyoto

Kodai-ji Temple is an outstanding Zen temple in Kyoto offering one of the best sightseeing experiences in the southern Higashiyama area. At Kodai-ji, you can admire a traditional Japanese garden, visit important cultural properties, wander through a bamboo grove, and relax at a tea house- all without the crowds that flock to Kyoto’s more famous…

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Best Shrines in Japan- My 8 Favourite Japanese Shrines to Visit

I always look forward to connecting with Japanese traditions and one of the best ways to do this is by visiting shrines in Japan. Shinto shrines in Japan are respected places of worship, rich with spirituality and superstition. Here you can witness age-old rituals and discover beliefs that are the foundation of many Japanese customs….

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Matsumoto Castle- Visiting an Original Japanese Castle

I’ve visited several castles in Japan but one that stands out in terms of beauty, historical interest, and visitor experience is Matsumoto Castle. As a National Treasure of Japan, Matsumoto Castle is one of the finest of Japan’s 12 original castles. Its towering black donjon, elegant scaffolds, and engraved roof tiles blend strength with grace,…

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Visiting Nezu Shrine- One of Tokyo’s Oldest Shrines

Away from the busy crowds and ultra-modernity of central Tokyo sits Nezu-jinja, one of Tokyo’s oldest shrines. Hidden among tall trees and lush azalea bushes, Nezu Shrine is a place where you can experience the tranquility of nature and recall the traditions of old Tokyo. As I wandered around Nezu Shrine, I felt like I…

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Visiting Horyu-ji Temple, Japan- The World’s Oldest Wooden Buildings

Walking up the main approach to Horyu-ji Temple, it was obvious that we were going to have a peaceful visit. While crowds were flocking to nearby Nara Park, we had Horyu-ji Temple almost all to ourselves. I welcomed the chance to visit a temple without groups of tourists, but wondered why there were so few…

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Best Temples in Japan- My 13 Favourite Japanese Temples to Visit

On my first trip to Japan, I wanted to experience the country’s traditional side, so I made a point to visit as many temples in Japan as we had time for. Even though we visited numerous Japanese temples during those 2 weeks in Japan, I didn’t get my fill and continued to search out more…

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Senso-ji Temple- Getting to Know Tokyo’s Oldest Temple

It wouldn’t be a trip to Tokyo without visiting Senso-ji, one of the city’s most significant and famous temples. As the oldest temple in Tokyo, Senso-ji attracts thousands of visitors each day who come to worship, participate in traditional rituals, and admire the temple’s vibrant red buildings. During the day, Senso-ji Temple is buzzing with…

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Exploring Nachisan- A Sacred Mountain Site on the Kumano Kodo Pilgrimage

What I love so much about Japan is the rapport between nature, history, and spirituality. The strong connection between the three can be felt throughout the Kansai region, especially on the Kii Peninsula, but one of the finest examples of this balanced relationship is at Nachisan, a sacred mountain site. Getting to Know Nachisan Nachisan…

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Nabana no Sato Winter Illumination- A Spectacular Light Festival in Japan

There are plenty of winter illumination events in Japan, as decorating cities and gardens in extravagant light displays has become somewhat of a modern Japanese tradition. One of Japan’s largest illumination displays is the Nabana no Sato winter illumination, at the Nabana no Sato flower park in Kuwana. Each year millions of LED bulbs transform…

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  • Danial - The sakura light tunnel is absolutely amazing. I could actually spend a couple of days here admiring the Winter Illumination!November 15, 2018 – 7:31 pmReplyCancel

Getting to Know Nagano and Zenko-ji Temple

Nagano was familiar to me as the host of the 1998 Winter Olympics, but beyond that I didn’t know what there was to see and do besides winter sports. What I discovered during my one day in Nagano was a pleasant city surrounded by low mountains, with a relaxed vibe that quickly drew me in….

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Jigokudani Monkey Park- See Hot Spring Loving, Wild Snow Monkeys in Japan

My main reason for visiting Nagano was to do a day trip to Jigokudani Monkey Park, home to Japan’s famous hot spring loving, wild snow monkeys. I was inspired to visit Jigokudani Monkey Park by all the adorable photos I was seeing of snow monkeys soaking contentedly in the hot pools. As an animal lover,…

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Gokayama, Japan- Enjoying Historic Architecture and Traditional Crafts in Ainokura Village

As with most places I travel to, I was inspired to visit Gokayama by a photograph I had seen. It was a scene I couldn’t resist- a tiny village of thatched roof houses, their steep, sloped tops covered in snow, perfectly complementing the mountainous backdrop in the distance. From then on, I often dreamed about…

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9 Ways to Experience Japanese Traditions in the Chubu Region of Japan

Each country has its own unique culture, but there’s something really compelling about Japan, a place that widely respects and complies with tradition. Japanese traditions, whether it be those associated with architecture and craftsmanship, ceremonies and celebrations, or etiquette and hospitality, are a big reason why I keep returning to Japan. On my previous two…

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Exploring the Arashiyama District of Kyoto

On the last of our 3 days in Kyoto, we decided to explore the Arashiyama district, a mountainous, forested region in the western outskirts of the city. We were initially drawn to this popular sightseeing district by photos of its famous bamboo grove, but quickly discovered that Arashiyama has far more to offer, both in…

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Fujiyoshida Sengen Shrine- Traditional Starting Point for Climbing Mt. Fuji

In the midst of a dense, old growth forest at the foot of Mt. Fuji, sits a small shrine complex with a special connection to the sacred volcano. Kitaguchi Hongu Fuji Sengen Shrine (Fujiyoshida Sengen Shrine) is the traditional starting point of the Yoshidaguchi Climbing Trail. Pilgrims would come here to pray before beginning their…

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Saiko Iyashi no sato Nenba- A Charming Open Air Museum of Japanese Crafts and Culture

On the northwest side of Lake Saiko, one of the Fuji Five Lakes, is a charming village called Saiko Iyashi no sato Nenba. This traditional Japanese village was once a small farming community until it was destroyed by a typhoon in 1966. It has since been recreated and turned into an open air museum where…

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Oshino Hakkai- 8 Sacred Ponds in the Fuji Five Lakes Region

Oshino Hakkai was a place I missed out on during my first visit to the Fuji Five Lakes region, so on my second trip I made it a priority to visit. What piqued my interest was a photo I saw of thatched roof houses on the shoreline of a pond, backed by a snow-capped Mt….

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Exploring the Fuji Five Lakes- Things to Do Even When You Can’t See Mt. Fuji

Perhaps no other place in Japan is iconic as Mt. Fuji. The allure of this sacred volcano attracts many tourists to the Fuji Five Lakes, an ideal area for viewing Mt. Fuji’s perfect cone. There’s just one problem. Mt. Fuji is notoriously shy, often hiding behind low hanging cloud. Where Are You Mt. Fuji? I’ve…

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  • Shreya - Hi Rhonda, very informative post . We are planning to go to Tokyo next month. Is it recommended to rent a car directly from Tokyo to Mt Fuji ? Or reach in the five lakes area and then rent a car? We will be taking the trip with our parents so prefer minimal walking. Thanks!April 8, 2019 – 6:59 pmReplyCancel

    • Rhonda Krause - Hi Shreya. It’s definitely easier to rent a car once you get to Kawaguchiko so that you don’t have to worry about driving in a big city, paying road tolls etc. There’s a rental shop right beside the train station!April 8, 2019 – 8:15 pmReplyCancel

Visiting Meiji Shrine- Tokyo’s Most Important Shinto Shrine

Early on an August morning, while Tokyo was just beginning to wake up, I was already standing in front of the large wooden torii gate marking the entrance to Meiji Shrine. Breathing in the fresh morning air, I happily began walking down the wide graveled path leading to the main shrine building. Shaded by tall…

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  • Danial - Of all the Shinto shrines I’ve seen and read about, Meiji Shrine does not look to be covered in vermillion (compare that with the striking Fushimi Inari Taisha) and left in its original wooden color.January 2, 2019 – 7:41 pmReplyCancel

How to Spend 4 Days in Tokyo- Our Itinerary

Ah, Tokyo. Just hearing the name conjures up images of densely packed skyscrapers, streets lined with larger-than-life advertisements and crowded public spaces. Yes, that vision is correct, but as we discovered during our 4 days in Tokyo, there is much more to the city than first meets the eye. Tokyo is a city where the…

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  • Lindsay - Hello! Great, helpful post! I am heading to Japan at the end of August. I am wondering if you think it is worth getting a 14 day JR pass and activating at Narita in order to take the express train and use the Yamanote line within Tokyo or to get a 7 day and not activate until we leave Tokyo to to go Hakone, Kyoto and then back to Tokyo? Your assistance is appreciated!July 30, 2018 – 8:59 pmReplyCancel

    • Rhonda Krause - I recommend pricing out the individual train trips vs the cost of the passes and see which is the better value. The cost of using public transportation in Tokyo is not that expensive in the grand scheme of things and the JR pass is, so I probably wouldn’t get a 14 day pass primarily to travel around Tokyo. The trip from Tokyo to Kyoto is pricey, so the pass has value there. I’d crunch some numbers (use Hyperdia for train ticket schedules and prices) to see what makes the most financial sense.August 3, 2018 – 9:59 amReplyCancel

  • Nele - This is the most useful post about Tokyo I’ve found so far! I’m going next month and really struggled to find a good itinerary to find out what to do on what days while we’re in Tokyo, but this has been super helpful. Thanks for sharing!September 30, 2018 – 9:13 amReplyCancel

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