December 21, 2007

Japan.


It was in January 2005 when I visited four cities in Japan — Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, and Kobe. Japan is a country of contrasts — the old and the new breathing and living effortlessly beside each other.

I love Tokyo for its many modern surprises. And despite how busy the city is, one could still get good service anywhere. And of course, Disneyland stands charmingly in Tokyo.

I went to all the gadget stores, bookstores, and department stores and got so fascinated at how modern and beautiful they all were. It snowed on the day I arrived and that made me very happy. :D

I love Osaka for its charming streets and corner cafes and little boutiques. It reminded me so much of Cebu — small, busy, but absolutely interesting.

Spent time walking in charming streets with small boutiques, shopped a little, and ate a lot. Haha.

I love Kyoto for its old-world charm, with its historical temples and gardens well taken cared of. If and when I go back to Japan, I will certainly visit Kyoto again and linger there. There are still so many places to see in Kyoto.

We barely had a day in Kyoto. So we only went to one temple and spent a lot of time in the stores and cafes lined in the street going up to Kiyumizu. We also checked out old cobblestone streets and quaint little corners. I fell in love with Kyoto.


Buying chocolates with Mary. Oh, how I miss her!
Kobe is known for their chocolates and pastries.

And then there’s Kobe. This city has an incredible spirit, its people built the city after a strong earthquake devastated everything they had some twelve years ago. Kobe is a shopper’s paradise. My friend Mary (who was then taking her master’s degree in International Relations at Kobe University; she recently finished her Doctor's degree) and I spent wonderful time there.

I really loved this trip to Kobe because I spent it with Mary -- eating, shopping, talking, laughing, and doing all the touristy things. We went to the Kobe Earthquake Memorial Museum, did a little shopping at Sannomiya shopping district, went to chocolate stores, and tried many cafes and restos that day.

Five days in this country of lights and fashion and food and culture is not enough.


At the Kiyumizu temple in Kyoto.

How to get there: From the Philippines, there are three airlines that fly to Japan — Philippine Airlines, Japan Air, and Northwest.

The flight to Japan is about three and a half hours from the Philippines and I was quite lucky to travel business class. That certainly made the trip very comfortable, especially because there were so many people traveling at that time.

Visa requirements: The Japanese Embassy is quite strict with visa requirements. Make sure you go to the embassy early and your requirements complete. Visit the Japanese Embassy website for more information.

Accomodations in Japan: There are so many hotels in Japan. You can make reservations online. They are usually quick to reply. To experience real Japanese atmosphere, try staying in a Ryokan, japanese style inns. You get to sleep in a futon and experience japanese-style baths. Sometimes, a yukata is provided during your stay to be worn inside the ryokan and also serves as your pajamas.

Minshuku is also a good option. It is bed and breakfast run by a family. You also get to experience japanese-style living.

If you are on a budget, you can stay in youth hostels. They usually cost only about 3,500 yen per night.

Transportation: The transport system in Japan is very efficient. They have cabs (but quite expensive), they have buses, ferries, car rentals, trains, and the famous Shinkansen.

I studied the subway maps of my routes (from my hotel to my destinations) while still in the Philippines just so I won't get lost. There were no english translations in train stations then, that's why.

You can buy your Japan Rail Pass for about P14,000 which you can use for a week. This is available in Dusit Thani in Makati.


Things to do: There are a lot of things to do in Japan. No, make that a million things to do! If you are in Tokyo, satisfy the child in you. Visit Tokyo Disneyland. Do visit temples, gardens, famous tourist places. You may want to join a tour group (like I did when I was in Tokyo. I met new friends from other countries). Travel agencies that organize these tours usually have english-speaking tour guides. They could even customize your tour schedule for you.

Experience hot baths, try their local cuisines, and shop! Try the bento from the convenient stores. Buy just about anything from the vendo machines! I used to get my milk from the vendo. Haha. Never miss Akihabara for those electronic gadgets you’ve been lusting forever.

One more thing: Learn about their culture before going there. Be respectful. Enjoy every moment. And as I always say, take lots of pictures!

For more information about traveling to Japan, visit Japan Guide dot com.

2 comments:

  1. My friend at work recommended your site and I just love it.

    It's informational and your posts are cleverly written.

    Started reading the Japan post because this is the country I want to visit most in the world.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thank you, Dionne! And thank your friend at work for pointing you to my blog! :)
    Oh, I hope you could visit Japan one day soon! :)

    ReplyDelete

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