The World of Japan - 夢を追い続けてねMysterious places 2015-18

The world of Japan 

I have always wanted to visit Japan, one of the world's most advanced industrialized nations which boasts a rich and fascinating history that dates back thousands of years. It has been on my bucket list for a while. This dream has come true in 2015 as I booked my first trip to the country of cherry blossom. Japan is only 8.5 hours away from Oz. I love doing what makes me feel alive :)

My first stop was Tokyo. I was blown away by the diversity of Japanese culture, kindness, attention to detail, beautifully crafted and gift-wrapped food items, such as 'wagashi' which are typical traditional sweets. Every region has its own delicious food creations and some spectacular landmarks. I fell in love with Japan and its food ever since I moved to Australia, it has become my number one. Trips to Japan helped me to get familiar with its unique culture and tranditions. My favourite Japanese dishes include 'yakiniku', 'shabu-shabu', 'yakitori', 'udon' and 'tsukiyaki'.  

Anyway, going back to my Japanese adventure, I arrived in Tokyo Narita where I got my visa upon arrival. I stayed in Tokyo nearby Disneyland. It was a perfect location for my first time in Japan, as the main landmarks are just minutes away. I was really lucky to have my friend there who picked me up from Narita and introduced me to Tokyo. My Japanese is communicative these days but at that time, I just took up Japanese a month before heading to Japan. However, it didn't matter as everybody was kind and helpful. Wherever you go, every corner of the country has something magical in it. Being lost in translation can be fun from time to time :)

I have visited the most famous cities and some hidden gems thanks to my friends. I'm planning my 10th trip to Japan in spring '18. Climbing My Fuji should be interesting :) 

Must-see landmarks in Japan:

1.  Sensoji Temple in Asakusa, Tokyo 

Explore a Buddhist temple in Asakusa - one of the oldest temples in Japan, is about as touristy as it gets in Tokyo. Head a few blocks in any direction, however, and the tourists soon give way to a part of the capital that has never strayed far from its pre-war status as the city’s premier entertainment district. Check out tiny Hanayashiki Amusement Park, home to retro rides that include the country’s first  rollercoaster. Nearby is Rokku Broadway, where historic theaters like Engei Hall put on a bill packed with slapstick comedy and traditional comic storytelling. Not surprisingly, the area also teems with good watering holes—like Kamiya Bar, where the local tipple is a legendary concoction of brandy, gin, and curacao aptly named Denki Bran (Electric Brandy), first mixed here in the 1880s.

2. Tokyo Skytree

Skytree is the tallest building in Tokyo, with an observatory and restaurant at its higher levels overlooking downtown Tokyo, and a large shopping structure at lower levels. The Skytree is a relatively new addition to the skyline of Tokyo, opening 5 years ago and drawing record crowds ever since. The Tokyo Skytree main tower is a modern, neo-futuristic design making the tower itself quite photogenic. There are numerous spots nearby for photographing the Skytree, so even if you don’t want spend the money to go up, you can enjoy some of what the Skytree has to offer from the ground. For views of Tokyo, here are two tiers to the Skytree, both in terms of pricing and height. The 350 meter observation platform costs a little under $20 per person, while the 450 meter observation platform costs a little under $30 per person.

3. Tokyo Tower 

Tokyo Tower is a Japanese icon and famous site in Tokyo. Tokyo Tower features public observation deck and cafe. The Tokyo Tower design is based on the Eiffel Tower, but is 333 meters tall (9 meters taller than the Eiffel Tower) making it the world’s highest self-supporting iron tower. The tower has two observation decks: Main Observatory at 150m and the Special Observatory at 250m, that provide views of the Tokyo Bay Area and of some of the surrounding areas. On very rare occasions, when the air is particularly clear, you can see Mount Fuji. When first opened in 1958, the primary function of Tokyo Tower was that of radio and TV transmitter tower. However the much taller Tokyo SkyTree was built to fulfill this role in a much larger city, with many more tall buildings. Even though Tokyo SkyTree is almost twice the height of Tokyo Tower, as of 2017, it was still the second tallest structure in Japan. If you have limited time, I recommend visiting Tokyo Tower over the Skytree. There was something romantic about sitting in the Tokyo Tower's cafe which is decorated with plenty of beautiful lights. That was enough to persuade me to go back there one more time in 2017.

More places in Tokyo that you should see include: Omotesando, Odaiba, Shibuya, Shinjuku and Harajuku. These are my favourite spots. 

4. Kyoto - old capital of Japan

Quiet temples, sublime gardens, colourful shrines and geisha scurrying to secret liaisons - that is just the beginning to discovering Kyoto. Japan’s capital from 794 to 1868, Kyoto is bathed in history. The most iconic remnant of the city’s imperial past is the outrageously gilded Kinkakuji, once a shogun’s retirement villa and now a Zen Buddhist temple. Perched on the bank of a serene pond, Kinkakuji casts a famed golden reflection in the water. Just as captivating are Kyoto’s less ostentatious sites, such as the minimalist and cryptic dry landscape garden at Ryoanji. In all, Kyoto boasts 17 World Heritage sites (Kinkakuji and Ryoanji included), but with some 2,000 temples and shrines across the city, not to mention numerous gardens, they represent a fraction of Kyoto’s alluring heritage.

5. Yokohama

(Japanese: 横浜市 Yokohama-shi) is the second largest city in Japan by population (3 million), after Tokyo, and the most populous municipality of Japan. It is the capital city of Kanagawa Prefecture. It is a charming city indeed and until today, Yokohama remains popular among expats, has one of the world's largest chinatowns and preserves some former Western residences in the Yamate district.

Top attractions in Yokohama: Minato Mirai - city centre, Sankeien Garden, Chinatown - the 3rd largest Chinatown in Japan, Osanbashi Pier - spectacularly designed passenger ship terminal, Yamashita Park, Ramen Museum, Kirin Beer Factory, Hakeijima - amusement park with aquarium and rides. Minato Mirai and the Isanbashi Pier are top attractions for me.

6. Osaka - it is a large port city and commercial center on the Japanese island of Honshu. It's known for its modern architecture, nightlife and hearty street food. The 16th-century shogunate Osaka Castle, which has undergone several restorations, is its main historical landmark. It's surrounded by a moat and park with plum, peach and cherry-blossom trees. Sumiyoshi-taisha is one of the most popular shrines in Osaka and Japan. 

7. Kamakura -  it is a seaside city situated south of Tokyo. The political center of medieval Japan, modern-day Kamakura is a prominent resort town with dozens of Buddhist Zen temples and Shinto shrines. Its most recognizable landmark is the Kotoku-in Temple’s Great Buddha, a roughly 13m-high bronze statue still standing after a 15th-century tsunami. Yuigahama Beach on Sagami Bay is a popular surfing spot. Also, the bamboo forest is one of the most iconic places to see. You can try some original macha tea there.

8. Hakone - is situated west of Tokyo. It is a mountainous town known for its hot springs resorts - resorts with onsens and views of the iconic volcano Mount Fuji. It also encompasses Hakone Shrine, a Shinto shrine with a red “torii” gate overlooking Lake Ashi, which can be toured by boat, as well as the boiling sulphur springs of the Owakudani Valley.

9. Mount Fuji - on my bucket list '18. I'm going to climb Mt Fuji in spring '18.

10. Enoshima - is a small island off the Shonan coast of Japan’s Kanagawa Prefecture. It’s known for the Enoshima Shrine, with statues honoring Benzaiten, the Buddhist goddess of music. It's also home to the Enospa hot springs and the 19th-century, English-style Samuel Cocking Garden with its Sea Candle lighthouse. The Iwaya Caves feature tidal pools and Buddhist statues. Popular mainland beaches overlook the island.

Japanese people

Japan is famous for its supposed ethnic and social homogeneity, but there is much more to the story of the Japanese people than this popular myth. Today's vision of Japanese society includes minority groups that historically have been sidelined, such as the Ainu of Hokkaido and the Ryukyuans of Okinawa, as well as Koreans, Chinese, Brazilians and many more nationalities. 

Above all things, Japanese people have excellent values and manners. They are kind and helpful. These values definitely correspond with my own values. Perhaps that's one of the reasons why I love Japan.

Photo blog 

Kyoto

Little streets in Kyoto. I dressed up in Kimono. June '17

Don't forget to wash your hands before entering a temple. Temple in Kyoto. 

Fushiminari Temple in Kyoto

Golden Temple in Kyoto

 Osaka, city centre, January '17

Osaka

Osaka 

My friends in Tokyo

Love corner, Osaka, Umeda.

Xmas '16 in Japan - Yebisu markets, November '16

Hakone

Osaka Castle 

Shibuya, Tokyo

June '17

Kamakura 

Osaka 

Osaka City View from Umeda

Osaka love stairs

Hakone

Kyoto

New Year's Eve '17 

Kyoto

Enoshima

彫刻の森美術館 The tower of lights in Hakone 

Enoshima 

Kyoto City Centre 

Let's marvel at something together...

Tokyo Tower 

Enoshima

'Good luck' love notes

Kyoto

Arashiyama

Decorations for New Year's Day

Osaka Castle - New Year's Day '17

Kyoto by night

Temple in Kyoto

Kyoto 

Kyoto vibes

Famous streets in Kyoto

Lost in translation 

Akihabara for tech savvy earthlings

Shinkansen is the fastest type of transport in Japan

Shopping

Sake

Nothing compares to reaching for Zen moments in Genko-an.

If you are seeking peace and harmony head to spectacular Genko-an Temple situated in Kyoto. Established in 1346, it holds a few secrets. In the main hall of the temple, there are two windows, a square one and a round one, which are the symbols of Genkoukan. They are called 'the window of enlightenment and window of delusive, both expressing Buddha's teachings. The window of delusive expresses the inevitable troubles that humans pass through during their lives. The window of enlightenment has a large circle representing the Zen's state of mind, 'Zen no Entsuu'. This is the way of living without any stereotypes. The circular window expresses the whole universe. Which window are you drawn to? I like the circular one.