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Well, Japan is such a varied place, it really depends where you are going to be for how long... etc. There are so many things/places to see/things to experience in Tokyo alone that could fill an entire 2 weeks of vacation. Give us some more info and I'm sure us Japan freaks will be more than happy to fill you in...
Here are some starters:
Asakusa/Senso-ji at dusk (a must experience imho)
akasaka (eating $$$)
Shinjuku (eating cheap/shopping)
Roppongi (getting drunk/laid)
Pontocho/Gion (eating/drinking - best if you speak some Japanese)
Gion (culture fake/real geisha roulette)
Golden Pavilion (mobbed at all times, but beautiful)
Higashiyama (temples everywhere... philosphers path stroll)
Imperial Palace park/ Nijo
Shimabara (dissapearing (dissapeared?) history)
One of my favorite places in my Japan travels was Ohara... about a 45 minute bus ride north of Kyoto... fairly rural and les spopulated than most places you are likely to visit... also have a nice temple and grounds there.
Himeji: must see.
Miyajima: must see. (feed the deer)
Nara: must see. (feed the deer)
Nikko: creepy shrines and spas.
When I went to Tokyo everywhere we went was for artistic reference or inspiration. I'm a sucker for the museums and such anyway.
The Edo-Tokyo Museum is enormous and contains tiny recreation models of old Edo, as well as life-size exhibits (buildings, palaquins, parade floats, a bridge).
The Ghibli Museum is NOT to be missed, even if you aren't an animation buff. The crazy-awesome architecture aside, the place is jam-packed with original animation concepts, sketches and cels...just pinned to the wall. You also get to see one of their exclusive, rotating short films and they have traveling exhibitions from other studios. When I was there, it was Wallace&Gromit/Ardman Bros stuff; the one before that was Pixar. It is so popular that you have to buy timed tickets weeks in advance (through your travel agent, or online in JPN if you're staying that long) and you cannot be late or they won't let you in.
The Meiji and Asakusa shrines were amazing. Meiji has the bonus of being in the middle of Harajuku (the nearby station & bridge are packed with people in fantastic costume). Asakusa has a massive market and great street food.
Ueno Park has a market, great up-close Zoo and the National Museum.
Nakano has good shopping. Ginza is a phenomenol area to stay in, and though the shopping is super, radical expensive, you should not miss the 8-story Art Store (I can't remember the name, but it's logo is a red paperclip). I went back to that place multiple times and made off with some amazing supplies.
Akihabara is the place to go if you want nerdy toys or comic books. I personally had to buy 2 new suitcases in JPN to take back all the art books and comics I picked up.
I know you're going to want to go to Tokyo Tower but I have to say it was pretty blah. Definately don't pay to go up to the extra level...the wait is forever and you get out of the elevator only to step into the line to get back in to go down (it's really not that much different from level one anyway).
Also, keep in mind that Mondays are the Japanese "day-off" and most things are closed. Do a little research to see what things are open on Mon so that you don't waste those days.
Thanks mate i am pretty sure i will become a japan freak a soon as i get there =), yea sorry about being so vague i guess i am just starting too get really excited about this holiday i have had it booked for like 8 months now and its suddenly nearly time to go.
I will be staying in an apartment in Roppongi (Tokyo) for 2 weeks then a week in Kobe and a week in Fukuoka and a final night back in Tokyo and i will have a full train pass the whole time, so i will be able to go pretty much anywhere except far up north and across to some of the islands.
I have been browsing the net and have a general idea of what to expect and some places to check out but was just interested if anyone had some personal favorites especially art/visual related that are a must see. I have also been learning Japanese but i am really bad when they start to speaking really fast, hopefully i can pick a fair bit up while i am over there. I bet the girlfriend will drag me to one of the Onsen's and i will make a fool of myself.
This is going to sound completely insane, but try to hit up at least once McDonald's, Wendy's, Pizza Hut and whatever other American chains you come by. They will have burgers in flavor combinations that are limited strictly to Japan, so you can easily pick up a teriyaki burger or a pineapple corn pizza and see what it's like. Hell, it's fun just to walk in and see what's different --you'd think fast food restaurants would all be the same, but they're not.
Also, be sure to try some local ramen shops. Best fast food EVER.
As for actual places....Akihabara is the place to go if you want tech toys for insane amounts of money that you can't really get anywhere else (yet); just bear in mind the difference in voltage if you bring anything back. And don't bother going to Harajuku --it's really not the happening place it was back in the 80s/90s, although the cosplay shops do occasionally have some interesting items.
Of course, I must insist: Visit both Tokyo Disney AND DisneySea, if you can afford the tickets and the time. The Little Mermaid Lagoon section of DisneySea has the loveliest amount of detail built into everything. And there are a ton of rides there they don't have anywhere else in the world. (Plus, a definitely different cultural mindset. The Little Mermaid stage show I saw was an amazing collection of well-shaped lanterns, but the plot took a wild veer from the Disney version: after Sebastian sings that things are better under the water, Ariel agrees to listen to her elder and decides not to venture up top.)
.....And a word of advice: pack an extra stick/tube/whatever of deodorant. If you run out or lose your deodorant, you will not be able to replace it. They don't *have* functional deodorant, and you'll save yourself a great deal of frustration and wasted time trying to find some.
You know, I wanted to try a Denny's over there just because the idea of it was so bizarre, but I never did.
That's a great point about mcdonald's and other fastfood. You also may want to check out MosBurger... the best japanese burger chain. And Mr.Donut for sure for some seaweed donuts. yum!
Akihabara was fun. though I quickly tired of the "geek" shops. sounds like the place has totally otakufied in the past couple years since I was there though. there's some good places to eat in nearby ochanomizu... izakayas and the like. good simple cooking and not too expensive.
there's a famous street for love hotels in Shibuya (can't remember the name at the moment). is an interesting stroll if nothing else.
Yasukuni shrine is always an interesting place... you could go and pay your respects to the spirits and piss off some Chinese nationals at the same time. Visit the companion war museum for an "interesting" take on the history of Japanese warfare in the 20th century.
if you can't find deodorant for men you could usually find it in the woman's aisle. you'll find a plethora of cosmetics you never thought possible in the woman's aisle.
Kobe is an interesting place and nicely located for other excursions elsewhere. I took a scary tram ride up the mountain (for me every tram ride is a scary tram ride) and ended up at a mini shopping village that looked like it was pulled out of a Holland garden. talk about psychedelic. Try the Kobe beef, even if you have to go into debt, it's totally worth it and you'll never find it anywhere else.
a trip to Himeji from Kobe should take 20 minutes on the bullet train... a definate must see in that case. I would recommend going further afield since you'll be there for such an extended period. Hiroshima is about 1.5 hours by bullet train, and Miyajima island is worth the trip alone... you'll be heading that way to Fukuoka anyway.
The train pass is awesome. best deal in the entire country. use it. often.
There are tons of place sI wish I had gone but didn't have the time. I would suggest at least 1 or 2 nights away in a more rural setting... or a spa town at least. Tsumago is a place I would have liked to visit... as well as spending the night in an obanazawa onsen (that's far out of your way though... plenty of onsen to choose from elsewhere).
too much to write about, too little time.
And I knew I'd forgotten something! I wasn't a big fan of Mosburger, but Mr. Donut! You must go to Mr. Donut! And any bakery or convenience store will have melon bread, which is the best thing EVER.
.....Damn. Now I want some melon bread. Aw, crap.
I liked Nara Park, with all the deer...thought they can get aggressive trying to get food from you. And for the life of me, I can't remember where it was, but there's a massive wooden Buddha in a temple where one of the pillars of the temple has a hole in it the size of the Buddha's nostril that you can crawl through. *researches* Todaiji Temple! There we go...
If you were swinging to Kyoto, I'd say go see Kinkakuji and the Ryoanji Zen temple --the latter has the most amazing moss garden, though they're more famous for their gravel and rock garden.
Ah yes, that moss garden is unbelievable! you may need to make a reservation in advance though.
Wow thanks everyone for your time for posting these suggestions, there greatly appreciated.
There so much to do and see that i fell i am going to have to make up some kind of checklist to make sure i don't miss anything. Seaweed donuts!!! thats awesome.
I will be pretty cashed up as me and my girlfriend have been saving for this trip for 8 months so we don't have to worry about money and just have fun!!. I haven't got a choice about Disney as the girlfriend is dragging me there no matter what. We are also going to hike up Mt Fuji apparently allot of people do it?.
Chingwa: Yea i watched Nanking a month ago so seeing some of the shrines war museums will be even more interesting.
I just saw this dam thats going to be a fun one to work out?
Most WC's I ran into were euro standard toliets. The only time I ran into the one you pictured was at a Zoo (NASTY) and then at a train station...but the train station gave you a choice of either. Another fun fact--the euro toliets will have toliet paper, but the Japanese hole-in-the-ground DON'T. Luckily, there are hawkers on every corner trying to give you a free pack of tissues with their business info on 'em. Take a few of those and keep them on the off-chance you or your girl run into one of these and don't have a choice.
As for handling? Pull your pants to your knees and squat. ;D
I confess I did use one just for the experience of it. The toliets at our chez-nice Euro hotel in Ginza were bidet with all the water fixings and THAT is an experience when you lean wrong and hit a button. Fun times with bathrooms all around!
yes this is a good general statement. Japan is both bathroom hell and bathroom paradise.Fun times with bathrooms all around!
Just when I think the stair wells couldn't get any more steep and one-person across, the tables any closer together, or the shops any smaller...I find a bathroom at a resturant where you can't sit down AND close the door b/c your knees are in the way (and I'm 5'2", 100lbs).