Category Archives: Asia

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 at Nabana no Sato flower park in Kuwana. Each year millions of LED bulbs transform the gardens into a twinkling wonderland complete…

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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

Visiting Tottori Hanakairo Flower Park- One of Japan’s Largest Flower Parks

I love visiting gardens on my travels, so it’s no surprise that the Tottori Hanakairo Flower Park was a highlight of my 3 day trip to the Tottori prefecture of Japan. With about 50 hectares, the Tottori Hanakairo Flower Park is one of the largest flower gardens in Japan. There’s a wide variety of flowers…

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Japan Rail Pass Guide- How to Buy and Use the JR Pass

If you’re planning a trip to Japan, you may have heard about the Japan Rail Pass. It’s a convenient, easy to use pass designed for tourists who will be travelling by train in Japan. We decided to buy a Japan Rail Pass for our 2 week trip to Japan, since train was going to be…

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  • Paula - Hi!
    I was researching about JRPass and on their website is possible to add Hiroshima to the route, as it is considered part of JR line. Is it possible that they changed it during 2017?December 19, 2017 – 6:42 pmReplyCancel

    • Rhonda Krause - You can use the JR Pass to get to Hiroshima, but only on certain types of trains. We took a Nozomi train, which the pass is not valid on, but chose it because it left at the time we wanted and got us there faster than the other trains. Had we chose a different train (other than Nozomi and Mizuho trains), we would have been able to use our pass.December 27, 2017 – 4:48 pmReplyCancel

  • Maria - Hi Rhonda! I am so glad you made this article, we are planning our first trip to Japan in May. We will be staying in Shinjuku area, however, we are planning to spend 1 night in Kyoto. I was tasked to plan our itinerary and just looking over the guides using JR Pass to Kyoto is overwhelming. Seeing that you already went that route (Tokyo – Kyoto) I have a few questions if you help me out: Was is hard finding your platform/train number? Where is the best seat, left or right window? And is the trip non-stop or you have to ride another train, and hoe do you know when to get off? Thank you so much.April 15, 2018 – 7:15 pmReplyCancel

    • Rhonda Krause - Hi Maria. It wasn’t hard finding the platform because everything is well signed in both English and Japanese. Once you’re on board, the train cars have a screen that will tell what station(s) are coming up next. They also will make an announcement when you approach a station. I believe the Shinkansen from Tokyo Station to Kyoto is direct, but you can double check using the Hyperdia website or app. It will show train schedules and if there are any stops along the way or transfers you have to make.April 22, 2018 – 9:47 amReplyCancel

  • Malcolm - I bought a rail pass for my upcoming trip to Japan. Knowing that it is valid for 7 days, I planned my trip accordingly: I arrive in Tokyo Monday afternoon, and will travel by bullet train to Kyoto. I will return to Tokyo by train the following Monday morning. I am writing to verify that the rail pass will not expire before Monday morning, since I activate it on the previous Monday afternoon. Any information that you can provide will be great! Thank you!May 29, 2018 – 12:11 amReplyCancel

    • Rhonda Krause - Hi Malcolm. The pass is valid for 7 consecutive days period beginning on the date the PASS is first used. So if you specify your starting date to be a Monday, then the 7th day would be Sunday. The pass wouldn’t be valid the following Monday because that would be the 8th day. Hope this helps!May 29, 2018 – 1:47 pmReplyCancel

  • Paula - Hi, 
    Regarding seat reservations-can we make them when we show up at the station to take our trip? Or do I have to book in advance? Trying to avoid two trips to the station! Also, if we didnt have a reservation, you show your pass at a manned gate then walk to the Shinkansen platform-how do you know which car to get on/what seats aren’t reserved?ThanksJanuary 1, 2019 – 11:38 amReplyCancel

    • Rhonda Krause - Hi Paula. Once you exchange your voucher for the actual Japan Rail Pass you can make seat reservations at any time. I usually make my reservations as soon as I arrive at a destination for my departing train trip, but I’ve also made them while waiting for my desired train to arrive. If the route is popular and/or its high season, I would make reservations in advance. The cars are all labelled and screens on the platform tell which cars are reserved and which are free seating. If you have a reservation ticket, it will have a car number on it so just wait where that number is on the platform and the car will stop there.January 7, 2019 – 2:44 pmReplyCancel

Visiting the Edo-Tokyo Museum

It’s not very often that I go out of my way to visit museums when I travel, but once in a while I find one that interests me enough to pay a visit. The Edo-Tokyo Museum was one of those that caught my attention. Even though this was my second trip to Tokyo, I still…

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  • [email protected] Australia - EDO-TOKYO Museum reminds us of how did Japanese people live long time ago. Thanks for sharing. I just realize how gorgeous their ways of living is.October 10, 2016 – 11:47 pmReplyCancel

  • M - love all your “Tips”. excellent blog. Immensely helpful. Great photosDecember 21, 2017 – 11:24 pmReplyCancel

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