My friend and I are heading to Japan for a few weeks next spring. What are some crazy things you’ve done or recommend for our time there?
Do not be surprised if you order breakfast at a small restaurant and you get a tossed salad on your plate with your eggs! The Nikko area of Japan is lovely if you like the mountains. Also try to go to the Sophia University area and look for tiny streets that have hundreds of restaurants with students and businessmen alike eating dinner. Dont expect to find much English spoken there either (they will give you menus to point at to choose your food). Have a Blast! Nanci J -Travel Companion
I have never been, and my chance of ever going is right up there with the proverbial flying pigs. But if I could, just once, go anywhere on Earth, I would visit Nara, the City of the Deer. Some 1200 sika deer roam all over town, though they have a large lovely park. Nara was the nation’s first capital, from 710 to 784. The legendary figure who established the capital, now regarded as a god, proclaimed them messengers of heaven. They are the city’s mascots. Their images are everywhere: on posters, storefronts, city buses, and even manhole covers. All over the park, sidewalk stands sell packages of “shika-sen-bei,” deer crackers or cookies, to feed them. A package of eight crackers, a little bigger around than the palm of a hand, costs 150 yen, about a dollar and a half. With true Japanese courtesy, some deer will bow in return for a treat. Kofuku-ji temple offers a shrine where one can thank the individual who established this delightful institution; his name is first on a list of four. Nearby Todaiji temple, until recently the largest wooden structure in the world, houses a bronze statute of Buddha fifty feet tall, second largest in Japan. One pillar in this building has an opening supposedly just the size of the Buddha’s nostril. Anyone who crawls through it is, according to local lore, guaranteed the “enlightenment” Buddha achieved. The deer are often found on the steps of Todaiji and the Nandaimon gate leading to the main entrance.
I love Buddha’s Nostril! We’ve got that in the Atlas:
One of the best days I’ve ever had on a vacation was going to Kamakura. We took the train down from Tokyo and there is a short walk through the town of Kamakura, stopping at a couple of gardens, before getting to the Great Buddha. It was an amazing vacation that I’m sure you’re going to love.
I lived in Japan for 11 years and had a car. Over time I drove from one end of Japan to the other. I lived in Kyushu (Sasebo) for 4 years and Honshu (Yokosuka) for 7. I liked Kyushu a lot more as it was easier to get out and about. One of my favorite things to do in the fall was drive along the coast in Kyushu and stop at an oyster farmers roadside shack. You could buy a bucket of fresh oysters and steam them yourself over an open firepit behind their shacks. We would steam them on the half shell and put butter and mayo on them while they cooked. A bucket of steamed oysters and ice cold Saporro beer, oishi! Also in Kyushu, near Kagoshima, I accidentally found a museum at an old airfield dedicated to kamikaze airmen. It was absolutely amazing. The amount of personal effects and relics from the war was astounding. It was a lot to take in. The volcano’s that dot Kyushu are interesting to visit and hike especially the Mt Unzen area and Mt. Aso. If you desire to take in one of the A-bomb visitors centers Nagasaki, also on Kyushu is by far less commercialized and more interesting than Hiroshima.
Thank you for the incredible recommendations, Sybaris!
Japanese etiquette public and private often requires you leave shoes at the threshold before entering so pay attention to shoes and socks; clean shoes and of course clean socks without wear or holes. This may sound petty or commonsensical but I’d traveled to Japan about twice a year or more for over twenty years and those sometimes travelling with me were often unaware of this precaution.