Reasons you should visit Japan this year

5/23/2015 07:33:00 pm

1. Logistics:

From Australia, Japan is very easy to get to. The flight time from Sydney is less than driving Sydney to Brisbane. The best flight out is QF21, which leaves in the evening and gets you in to Narita (Tokyo) at about 6am. I'm not a fan of Jetstar so, as far as possible, we fly into Narita on Qantas. Even though we are usually heading to Osaka, where the Jetstar flights arrive, I would prefer to take the Shinkansen on arrival rather than sit in Cairns for 3 hours... Full disclosure, we are usually travelling on staff travel, but it doesn't change my choice. If I were paying real ticket prices, I wouldn't hesitate to fly with JAL (have done in the past), or ANA.

It's so, so easy to get around once you're there. Usually we get a JR Pass, but when you cost things out individually, there's probably not a huge advantage unless you plan to take a lot of shinkansen trips. The trains run on time, and even if you're heading deep into the middle of nowhere, the logistics are easy. We visited Kamikochi last year and I was so nervous about the train and bus connections, but it was seamless. 
Kamikochi express from Matsumoto 
Hotel rooms are tiny, but immaculate. And for a comparable business-style hotel, chains like Dormy Inn and Toyoko Inn are much, much cheaper than in Australia. Plus, depending on where you are, many of them have an onsen. In three days while we were in Nagano, I went onsen-mad, and had 5 baths in a 36-hour window. It was amazing, and I have never been more clean or chilled out.

Plus, so many cities have public bicycle hire (not necessarily designed for people who are 5ft7, but still...)
Chauffeur red bikes "dog bikes" - Okayama 

Public green bikes "machi-nori" - Kanazawa

2. Nature, scenery, generally awesome things:

It's absolutely beautiful once you head out of the cities. I mean, the city has its charm, but given the chance, I would much rather soak my toes in a public footbath, breathing in some crisp mountain air. 

Yudanaka - Nagano Prefecture 
Public footbath!
There is nothing nicer, NOTHING, than soaking your feet in super hot, super clean spring water after you have been walking all day. It even feels nice to put your boots back on because your skin goes all tingly and fresh. More. I want MORE.

Yayoi Kusama's "The Visionary Flowers" - Matsumoto 
There are unexpectedly wonderful things tucked in pockets and corners. It could be nature, it could be the built world, it doesn't really matter, there will be something to see anywhere you go.

Ojizō-sama - Yudanaka 
Komainu (狛犬・胡麻犬) - Osaka 
上高地, Kamikōchi - Nagano Prefecture 
Jigokudani Monkey Park 地獄谷野猿公苑 - Nagano Prefecture 
厳島神社 Itsukushima-jinja - Miyajima (World Heritage Site)
大仏 Daibutsu - Kamakura
Kinkaku-ji 金閣寺 - The Golden Pavilion - Kyoto (World Heritage Site)
Some autumn leaves - Jigokudani - Nagano Prefecture 
Jigokudani Monkey Park 地獄谷野猿公苑 - Nagano Prefecture 
Kenroku-en 兼六園, Six Attributes Garden - Kanazawa 
Kiyomizu-dera 清水寺 Kyoto (World Heritage Site) - and some high school students on an excursion... on a Saturday... posing with a professional photographer! 
Kiyomizu-dera 清水寺 Kyoto 
上高地, Kamikōchi - Nagano Prefecture
And there's so much room for activities!
Bizen Pottery Craft Center - inside a castle - Okayama 
Even Rob does craft in Japan!
Experiencing craft - Hida Takayama Craft Experience Center. Right up the road from Hida Takayama Teddy Bear Eco Village. What could be wrong? 

3. Eating

The food is never boring, although as a somewhat cautious eater, I've had a few too many accidental encounters with chicken ass and various things with very odd textures than I care to recall. Never eat oden. 

Negima Yakitori - the most delicious of the yakitori (chicken ass, and chicken gizzard being the least delicious...) - I think this place was in Shinsaibashi. Wherever it was, the food was so yummy that we had dinner there two nights in a row.
Daikichi - somewhere in Osaka 
I've never quite understood why people complain that Japan is expensive. The food is excellent and super cheap, unless you want to eat in fancy hotel restaurants, but why bother when everything else is so delicious. Even Wagyu and Hida beef can be found for reasonable prices, but you just have to remember that it's quality over quantity. And when you eat really high quality Japanese beef, any concern you felt about the price will melt just as smoothly as marbled wagyu fat.

Beef tongue - Matsumoto 
At least it's always beautifully presented... - Ryokan Biyunoyado - Yudanaka

Okonomiyaki - Osaka 
We are spoiled because we have friends in Osaka who indulge our love of sukiyaki, every single time. 

4. Summary

You should visit Japan. If not this year, then at least once in your life. Soon. But don't be surprised if you find that once it not enough. 

Delicious soup... Japan style...

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