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Japan travel advice, please


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I'm going to Japan for the first time in September. I'll have one week to travel around, and one week in Tokyo. Im still ironing out my itinerary, but my (tentative) plan is to train from Tokyo hitting Mt. Fuji, Kyoto, and Osaka, seeing, eating, and soaking as I go.

I think there are some members here that know a lot about Japan, so I wanted to solicit any Japan travel advice you'd be willing to share. It can be specific places to go (or not bother with), or general travel tips.

As for my Japanese level, I've been studying hard for 6 months and I would say I'm conversational/intermediate (I also took a year of community college classes a few years back). As a side note, sometimes I feel like I'm cheating knowing both Chinese and English - vocabulary acquisition is quite pain-free.

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I have not been to Japan for years. But if I were you I would take a couple of days from Tokyo and spend them in Kyoto instead. For me, 4-5 days in Tokyo and 4-5 days in Kyoto+Nara sound about right.

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As to general travel tips, take lots of money. If you've been living in China, especially in a smaller city, you will most likely have a bit of sticker shock.

Of course it will help that you can speak some of the language. When I went, I couldn't, and that always increases the "foreigner tax."

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I don't know, I spent 3 days in Kyoto in April, and it just about did me in. There's only so many temples and cherry blossom trees one can take, however beautiful they are. But I spent a week in Tokyo last December and wished I could stay longer. Don't get me wrong, I loved Kyoto/Osaka/Nara when I went, but Tokyo was much more fun for me. Then again, Kyoto in the fall is supposed to be unreal.

The Tsukiji fish market (築地市場) is a must-see. I didn't see the tuna auction, but I got there around 9:30am and just wandered around and took it all in. Then I picked a random sushi joint and took off straight to heaven.

The Sensō-ji temple (金龍山浅草寺) in Asakusa is well worth a visit. Actually, the hostel I stayed in was in Asakusa, very close to this temple, and I'd recommend it as well.

The Meiji Shrine is another must-see.

Go to Ebisu and pick any random yakitori 焼き鳥 restaurant. Preferably one that's filled with smoke from the grill and everyone is standing at the bar. Order hearts (はつ). They're awesome.

In Kyoto, see all the famous temples. Kinkakuji 金閣寺, Kiyomizu-dera 清水寺, Ginkakuji 銀閣寺, etc. The Arashiyama 嵐山 bamboo forest is very cool. Spend some time in Gion. But for me, Fushimi Inari Taisha 伏見稲荷大社 stole the show in Kyoto. I went around dusk, which was cool, but then I left a lot of the place unexplored (it's huge) because it was late.

I can recommend that you pick up the Lonely Planet guide for Tokyo. It didn't steer me wrong once, and it even has a suggested schedule depending on how long you're there, which I found really useful even though I didn't stick to it. I can't recommend the Kyoto version, but that's because I accidentally left it at home and had to the internet to plan instead. I'm sure it's great.

One refreshing thing I noticed in Japan is that when you speak to people in Japanese, they don't tend to say "Wow, your Japanese is SO good!" the way Taiwanese people do when foreigners speak Chinese (no matter if it's only one syllable, and pronounced badly at that). It's really nice that people just respond like it's no big deal.

Enjoy your trip!

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  • 3 months later...

If you go to Kyoto, I really recommend seeing the Ginkaku-ji. Yeah, I know, just another temple, right? Well, in my opinion it's the most beautiful of them all in it's very simple style. The garden is amazing as well. Go there early in the morning before it gets crowded! :)

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