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So my lovely wife has spilled that she's planning on taking us to Japan April next year as a b'day present to me (woot!), so am starting to investigate where to go/stay/see. Have trawled the archives and have added the Ghibli Museum to the list (though only kiddies 12 and under can go on the Cat Bus @:-( ), and Akihabara always seems to be the geeky place to go, but hoping to get some tips from CA'ers.
Guess we're looking for general touristy type things, as well as some art inspiration, be it views, galleries, etc.
http://www.artofbrain.com/ - Crawling back
I went a long time ago with a friend of mine and his mom put us on a tour of the old temples and villages. It was amazing, I wish I could go back and visit some again. Maybe you can find some traditional stuff like that.
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Japanese to speak isn't that difficult. A bit different. I was tempted to learn it awhile back just on the off chance I wanted to give a shot at Japan one day. But then I realized both that it wasn't happening and that the written language is much much harder than to speak it.
Still takes a lot of effort to try to learn it to the point where it's useful though. You won't be having a conversation besides simple things like "WHERE IS THE RESTROOM?" likely anytime soon just starting out
If you like museums, I recommend going to Ueno Park and checking out the national museum and more. Asakusa is a fun time even if it's cliche/touristy and it does have some beautiful buildings. You could go out to Odaiba for some fun too, they have multiple huge shopping malls out there and a huge ferris wheel. Walking around Tokyo Dome city was also another favorite thing for me but there's not much to do there that's unique unless you're going to a concert.
Most of the students I knew did use translation devices and no one ever seemed to mind but that's just me. I don't think you need to learn Japanese at all. Tokyo and Kyoto/Osaka/Nara are all huge tourist places that are not too hard to get around.
"A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step."
Lao-tzu, Chinese philosopher (604 BC - 531 BC)
I'm not sure if Rosetta stone would be the best option. I knew someone who tried the French one and my mom told her that her vocabulary was mixed up. I guess it's better than nothing but since the trip is next year, I would strongly invest at least in a beginner Japanese class or even private tutoring. (Unless you or your wife already know some substantial Japanese to get around.) It's important to know the difference between formal and informal speaking, and when to use them. You might be lucky to run into a few people who might know English but I wouldn't count on it.
If you are not allergic to soy and gluten like I am, have a blast with food. Otherwise these are helpful: http://www.selectwisely.com/
Knowing that 200 yen does not necessarily equal 2 dollars will save you - It's more like 2 dollars and 50 cents. It's a common misconception when people first try to figure out currency conversions. The dollar just keeps on getting weaker too, which kind of sucks.
Some staying ideas since the cost of typical hotels can be insane:
Gaijin Apartments: http://www.sakura-house.com/en/
I haven't been to Japan yet but I know when it comes to flying, some airlines won't fly straight to Tokyo - more like outside of Tokyo, like Narita, (grumble: American Airlines - although they are planning to change next year), which can be a bummer. The train cost is like from Long Island to Manhattan, about 20 bucks, assuming you don't transfer somehow in the airport.
And as odd as it sounds: Most of the streets actually don't have street names. They have their own weird little way of getting around: http://sivers.org/jadr/
If an earthquake aftershock/small tremor happens, cover your head.
I guess that's it for now.
All the cool people buy Jump every week.
Last edited by Psychotime; July 15th, 2012 at 09:38 AM.
I was an exchange student here in 2004, and we went on the senior school trip. We went to Kyoto, Nagasaki, and Nara. The places that struck me the most and I would recommend for your itinerary would be:
Ginkakuji : Golden temple, in Kyoto. You can't get very near the temple, but it is iconic, a must see. Kyoto is also great for little tourist shops and temples. There is a bamboo forest as well that is pretty breathtaking. It is also nice to visit rock gardens there. You can really get that zen feel.
One of my favorite and most memorable places in Kyoto was Kiyomizu-dera, pure-water temple. You stand in line to drink from the waterfall there and it's supposed to be lucky.
Peace Park & Ground Zero in Nagasaki. Here is something that you cannot see anywhere else in the world. It will really get your mind and heart working. I could not get the clog out of my throat when visiting the small museum. We hung 1,000 paper cranes here.
Nara national museum: OLD OLD things here. It was awesome.
I was in Sacred Heart school so we spent a lot of time going to churches and also learning about the 25 martyrs for christianity in Nagasaki. That was pretty interesting too.
Many people who want to go to Japan want to visit Tokyo first and foremost, but I'm not sure why. I always got the feeling Tokyo has kind of a culture in and of itself, kind of like NYC. If you want to get a feel for what kind of makes Japan Japan, I would recommend another city.
But no matter where you go, make sure you visit and Onsen, (hot spring), or at least a public bath. I lived in Sapporo which has the best Onsens and Skiing if you like that sort of thing.
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I highly recommend the Sekaido art store in Shinjuku: http://www.sekaido.co.jp/ lots of cool art gear and books to check out there. In that same neighborhood, you can also check out this little shop called Fewmany: http://www.fewmany.com/index2.htm this shop/gallery sells merchandise from local artists. Both of those stores are on the same block as Kinokuniya which also has a decent selection of art books and magazines.
I stayed at this place: http://www.libertyhouse.gr.jp/ the owner is super cool and down to earth, he knows all the cool hang outs and cheap eats, plus it’s about two blocks away from the Sensoji in Asakusa.
I found these locations super cool and interesting:
http://www.thetokyootaku.com/2009/09/sengakuji-temple/ - You can pay your respects to the 47 ronin.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kench%C5%8D-ji – Near the Daibutzu, this temple has some awesome tengu statues.
http://www.jnto.go.jp/eng/location/r.../takaosan.html - Takaosan is a hidden gem of Tokyo, close but far enough from the hustle and bustle, the temple at the top of the mountain is amazing and so is the view.
Shimokitazawa is the used clothing store capital of Tokyo, you can get some cheap used gear. I went this bar/club in that area http://s-era.jp/ I saw SGT. live there.
This is a handy site for planning out routes:
Couple of suggestions;
Osaka Aquarium is amazing, its huge and has some different animals in it. Can be good inspiration for creature design?
Also, if you travel to Hiroshima, there is a ferry to take you to an Island called Miyajima. Its a pretty cool Island, its layed out like an old japanese village, strips of shops on hills and curves. there are things to see as you go up the mountain, buildings, bridges, rivers, ponds and deer walking around. Very cool place!
When I went there I stayed in a Ryokan, its like one of those traditional japenese houses, where you sleep on the floor and stuff, very expensive but very cool.
go to some hot springs! there are many in different cities.
in terms of food (if you got extra money and your not vegetarian/vegan) get some Kobe Beef in Kobe. best. beef. ever. they give the cows very lavish lifestyle, massages, fancy drinks, quality food. so the meat is really good.
In osaka, there is a restaurant with a big mechanical crab on it. if you like crab, go there many courses of crab cooked in different ways. Lunch time is cheaper.
If you're in the Osaka area, you can check out the Osaka Art Museum around the Yodoyabashi area I believe. There's also Tennoji art museum in Tennoji that has a lot of Japanese art. Also, I second the opinion on the Osaka aquarium (usually called kaiyukan). I heard the whale shark is back! There's also an open air museum of old Japanese buildings in the northern part of Osaka that's pretty awesome. If you can swing it, there's also Yakushima Island south of Kyushuu. It's famed to be the spot where Miyazaki was greatly inspired for some of the things in Princess Mononoke. I haven't been there yet but it 's supposed to be pretty cool.