So I’m going to Japan this November. 6 full days of seeing, eating, and drinking the things that Japan has to offer. 6 full days and yet, it’s obviously not enough. So that’s a crisis. How do I fit Japan in just 6 frigging days? IMPOSSIBLE!
So making the itinerary is quite the challenge now. But since I’m the queen of itineraries, Impossible is nothing (hello Adidas TM). I haven’t made the daily itinerary yet, and to be honest I don’t plan on doing that. I just want to make a general guide for places we should be at on a specific day like be at Kyoto on Days 2 and 3. I want to get lost in Japan so specific plans are not an option for me right now (but I’m pretty sure my OC-ness will take over and I’ll end up making a complete guide for myself and for my friend who’s going with me). But what I do have at the moment are the top (insert random number here because I don’t know how many I’ll end up blogging about) things I want to see or do in Japan.
My friend and I will be staying in Osaka so my plans mostly revolve around the area or involve having to travel to and from said place. So here we go.
1. Bullet Train to Tokyo! - it’s on every Japan guide’s must do list, that should pretty much explain why this should be done at least once, right? It’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Japan, really. Ok, maybe after anime, hentai and Maria Ozawa, for some. It’s always on time! And why wouldn’t it be? It travels at the speed of 186mph! I’ve first read about Japan’s bullet trains when I was 5 years old and discovered my sister’s old “Science Discovery” books. And every year I’ve dreamt about Japan, I’ve dreamt about being inside this baby and feeling like I’m in 2046! Because in my head, super speed = futuristic!
It’s pretty expensive though. At least for our 3rd world currency. Osaka to Tokyo will cost you Y8,510 (that’s Php 4,681) one way and the shortest route will take (at least according to Hyperdia! ) is about 3 hours long. And have you seen how they look like? They look like they came from outer space! Voltron style.
But if the (awesome awesome – they really should make this part of its name) bullet train (and Tokyo is an experience in itself) is too expensive for your budget, then you can always take the bus. Budget buses are available and will only cost you about Y6,000 (around Php 3,300) for the premium seats. Hey it’s a 12 hour trip for the over night buses so it’s best to take the comfortable seats, right?
2. Since we’re now in Tokyo (in my dreams), might as well go to Tsukiji Fish Market! I’ve always had this fascination with going to wet markets in my travels. It smells bad and the fishy scent sticks to my hair but I don’t care. Markets always make for good pictures, and the hustle and bustle always make for a good adrenaline rush. Bonus points if there merchants are trying to out shout the other merchants to get people to buy their wares.
And what makes Tsukiji Market fantastic, you ask? According to Time, it’s the largest and busiest fish market. At 5am there are live Tuna Auctions! Have a sushi breakfast here and you will get without a doubt the freshest catch. And also this is where Jiro (see Jiro Dreams of Sushi), buys his fish! If it’s good enough for Jiro, the 85 year old Sushi master, it’s good enough for me.
3. Shibuya Crossing – it’s probably one of the most famous scenes in Japan. The THRONG of people crossing this intersection, all in a rush, with the bright lights around and above them. I just want to take a picture of this and say that I’ve seen this in real life.
4. Nijo-jo. It’s a castle in Kyoto built by the first shogun of the Tokugawa shogunate, Tokugawa Ieyasu. He ordered all of the feudal lords to contribute money to have this castle built. Talk about bullying. Anyway, he was very paranoid about assassins (because he was quite an asshole) so he had the corridors fitted with “nightingale floors”. Floors were made to squeak/sing like birds when somebody stepped on it.
One of the reasons why I’m stoked to see this castle (aside from the fact that it’s a castle! a castle built by a shogun bully!) is because one of my favorite books of all time had a character fashioned after Tokugawa Ieyasu. They named him Iida Sadamu and he was the biggest asshole in the book (well Shigeru was quite the manipulative jerk but he’s lovable and quite handsome so I forgave him) and he also built a castle with nightingale floors to protect him from would be assassins. The book was full of intrigue, war, ninjas, feudal lords, suffering, drama and a lot of action hence it being my one of favorites. It’s a pretty fantastic book. I think I’ve read it more than 30 times since I got it as a birthday present from Trina (the friend I’m going with to Japan).
So to see a nightingale floor with my own 2 eyes, hell yeah! I will not miss it for the world.
5. Gion district is also in Kyoto. It’s a well preserved and well known geisha district in Japan. It’s a district that still has ochayas (tea houses) where patrons are entertained by the geishas or geikos (as they would prefer to be called). To this day, geikos can still be seen walking around the district in full outfit (make up and all) getting to and from their appointments, I guess.
To be honest, a geiko sighting is all I care about. I find them fascinating. Trained in the art of entertaining, music, dance, etc. And the elaborate costumes they have to put on every time, their hair, their make-up! ALL THAT EFFORT!
6. Watch a Sumo Wrestling Match – take your pick in watching a match in Tokyo, Osaka, Fukuoka, Aichi throughout the year. We’ll be in Osaka, November so we won’t get to see the match there. Fukuoka has matches in November but Fukuoka is nearly 10 hours away from Osaka by bus!
Sumo wrestling is more than just 2 fat guys in a circle trying to push the other one out. It’s a way of life really. Sumo wrestlers are required to live in a training facility called stables where all of the aspects of their daily lives are dictated by tradition. The grand champion is called a Yokozuna. Do you remember this big guy (although he wasn’t really a sumo wrestler but he can be one, don’t you think?)?
I really want to watch a match. I mean, I’m already going to be in Japan during a Sumo tournament, so might as well right? But getting to Fukuoka is no joke!
You can get there by train
- Travel time: can take up to 4 hours.
- Fares: Y 7,760 one way or Php 4,268
You can also get there by bus:
- Travel time: can take up to 10 hours.
- Fares: Y 6,100 one way or Php 3,355
So fuck, right? But I’d give away my left kidney to be able to watch a match.
7. Daytrip to Shirakawa-Go. Historic villages that are part of UNESCO’s World Heritage sites. That alone should be enough to get anybody’s blood boiling. Actually, I know nothing about this place. Just that it’s a UNESCO World Heritage site and that the pictures I’ve seen are terribly pretty. And I want to go! Plus, the name Shirakawa sounds so haunting for me. Like an old family that used to be so rich, powerful but was reduced to nothing.
But like just all of the out of Osaka sites I want to see (except maybe for Kyoto), this place is far!
The only route I know is Osaka-Nagoya-Shirakawago (I haven’t researched extensively enough about this). And I’ve only considered the train because it’s the fastest way to get around and if you just want to go on a day trip, you need all the time you can save.
- Travel Time: Can take up to 1hr and 30minutes
- Fares: Y 6,400 one way or Php 3,520
Nagoya -> Shirakawa-go
8. Mt. Fuji – I’d like you to point me towards the direction of a person who says he/she doesn’t want to see this nearly-perfectly shaped snow-capped volcano and I’ll slap that person’s face. HELLO! Why would anybody not want to see this beauty? I’d climb it if I thought I’d be able to survive the ascent. But just to see it, maybe get to the lowest stop (is that how you call it mountain climbing people?) and that’ll be enough for me.
Climbing dates are between July to August normally and since I’m going in November, climbing this summit is a no for me. But I’m looking for maybe a place I can get a good view of this baby, get some awesome shots and “emo” the day away (with a bottle of sake would be nice).
9. Okinawa – I’ll let this picture of Mr. Miyagi teaching Daniel-san the ways of the Karate speak for itself.
10. Hiroshima Peace Park - the park is located in what once was the city’s busiest commercial and residential district so I can only imagine how emotional the place can be for visitors. The war was crazy and both sides thought they were in the right side. People fought for freedom, beliefs, ownership and for a lot of other reasons I can’t even begin to fathom – right or wrong people died. Most of them innocent people who wanted nothing to do with the fight or people who blindly followed what they were being told. I could write a whole essay on this topic but I’m not going to do that in this post. But for sure, I want to see this place and pay my respects to the people who fell victim to the bad side of technology, ambition and misguided beliefs.
11. Himeji-jo – it is said to be the most magnificent castle in Japan (and it’s also the largest). Not just beautiful or biggest or formidable… it’s MAGNIFICENT. It’s in Hyogo prefecture, considered to be one of Japan’s premiere castle and is one of the country’s first Unesco Heritage Site.
I don’t know much about this castle except for it’s white exterior and that has been seen in several films I’ve seen like Akira Kurosawa’s Ran and a James Bond movie my dad made me watch when I was a kid.
12. Fushimi Inari Shrine - this one’s just in Kyoto so it’s pretty easy to get to from Osaka. Actually the only thing I want to see in this place is the torii lined foot path leading to the inner shrine. I don’t think there’s anything else special about this shrine except for the torii but it’s seated at the foot of Mt. Inari so there are several trails leading up to a couple more shrines. But again, I’m here for the torii. Just because they’re absolutely beautiful!
This isn’t even half of what I want to see/experience in Japan. But this is definitely in my top 10 (or 12). And then there’s food to talk about, and shops, and amusement parks. Oh geezus, I don’t think I’ll ever end with my list of things that one must do when one is in Japan. And I haven’t even been there yet. Imagine what I’ll be like after my trip.
I’ve been in love with Japan and I’ve romanticized their culture, their history and nearly everything for as long as I can remember. I blame it on the books, my Asian history teacher, the movies, and Little Tokyo in Makati Cinema Square for this love affair with Japan.
And then there’s my love affair with New York but that’s for another post :)
4 months til Japan! My bones can’t wait!