Have you always dreamed of traveling to Japan but were afraid it would be too expensive and too intimidating? You’ve come to the right place.
I will be sharing here all of my insight on Japanese culture, food, language, and travel gained from 13 years of living, working, and traveling in Tokyo and around Japan. Having been born and raised in this magnificent country that still remains enigmatic to most, you will get a glimpse of Japan through the eyes of a true local – I even get accused of being more Japanese than the Japanese.
Japan, and especially Tokyo, has been long categorized as an expensive travel destination and place to live in. Count on me to tell you where, when and how to go for a genuinely Japanese adventure. No need for shoestrings or volunteering on farms as part of silly budget travel schemes out there! The point is to get what you should get out of Japan, but get it cheaply. Your vacation is not another season of Survivor.
Apart from the information available on this blog, I have also written a book that guides you through the smart way to experience Japan, while saving hundreds of dollars. My goal is for you to find the right things to do in Japan, and make them affordable for those of you who are on a budget or just want a wallet-friendly vacation. The secret to a successful trip to Japan is not how much money you spend and how much you tighten your budget, but how you maximize the return on your investment. You need to travel SMART, not CHEAP, though they do often coincide. With today’s unfavorable exchange rate, now is the time to plan your trip wisely!
In my book, “All-You-Can Japan: Getting the Most Bang For Your Yen” that is now out and can be purchased through my website, www.allyoucanjapan.com or directly from the eStore (Amazon), I provide you with a SMART Japan travel strategy (including many useful Japanese phrases).
Let a veteran who has lived, worked, and traveled in Japan for over a decade combined show you how to make the SMART choices and achieve the complete Japanese experience within your set budget, and even save hundreds of dollars while you are at it. Download the first chapter for free from www.allyoucanjapan.com to get a sneak preview!
Sumo is one of Japan’s most popular and long-running spectator sports with a 2,000 year legacy. Performed in the past to entertain the Shinto gods, sumo still holds much weight (literally) in the modern era. In sumo, two rikishi or wrestlers enter the ring wearing a silk sash. After throwing salt and performing rituals and rites of Shinto purification, the rikishi take opposite places in the ring. The sumo ring called the dohyo is packed with clay and dusted with sand.
They slap, stomp and glare to build anticipation for the showdown. Then when the moment is right, the sumo wrestlers dart with sheer force to get the upper hand and push the other out of the ring. The first one to step outside the ring or touch the ground loses, and the sumo match is over within seconds.
The demanding life of a sumo career can start as early as age fifteen. On average, a sumo wrestler stands about six foot tall and weighs somewhere around 325 pounds. The ultimate victory of a sumo wrestler is to secure the title of yokuzuna or grand champion. There are no limits that separate weight classes. Sumo is practiced with traditional authenticity, and the ritual of this highly ceremonial sport only increases the spectacle.
The honbasho or sumo tournament is held for 15 days in Tokyo in January, May and September, and you can watch a match at Ryogoku Kokugikan, Tokyo’s National Sumo Hall. Honbasho can also be observed in Osaka in March, Nagoya in July and Fukouka in November. During the tournament season, you can also observe training session in the beya or sumo stable. Each morning the sumo wrestlers train from 6am to around 9am. It is best to call ahead before sitting in on training. When at the stable, always be respectful and quiet while watching the action.
The best seats can cost a fortune, but many general seating areas can go for as little as $35 dollars a match. Tickets for sumo matches are easier to snag for morning or afternoon matches, since early matches see fewer crowds. Sumo is one of the best ways to explore one of the most beloved traditions of Japan. It is difficult to secure tickets by phone without knowledge of the Japanese language. Fortunately, great websites like buysumotickets.com do all the work for you! Sometimes Sumo Tournament tickets can also be purchased online at the official Sumo homepage.Share
One of the most intriguing aspects of Japan is its feudal past characterized by warlords and the honorable samurai class. Many are inspired by the tales of the samurai who were of high class ranking in the caste system during the Edo period. The samurai were the only Japanese permitted to carry a katana, thus the sword became their life. In the days of the shogun or general warlords, the samurai fought to protect the people and villages from bandits and enemies.
The legends and practices of the samurai can still be tracked down to this day. Castles of traditional design can be found in Tokyo, Nagoya and Osaka. These same castles were once guarded by the samurai and are flanked by the noble houses and elegant architecture of the samurai districts. The vastest samurai mansions mark the homes of some of the most prominent families of Edo Japan.
Step into the a Edo period town in Toei Uzumasa Eigamura or Toei Kyoto Studio Park. This film set and theme park is entertaining for young adults and makes for a fantastic place to bring the kids. The traditionally designed mini Japanese town is often used to film movies and television shows. The men and women in it are all dressed up in traditional attire which adds to the historical atmosphere. Eigamura is the place to witness samurai performances that reenact the past or to relax to an elaborate show inside a 360 degree 3D theater. Both you and your kids can also get a kick out of dressing up like samurai!
Did you know that ninjas dressed in dark blue to create a distinct silhouette even at night? The Ninja Museum of Igaryu is a unique experience complete with interesting facts that makes for a great excursion into Japan’s feudal past. Enjoy the architectural beauty of Ueno Castle, let the eyes wander across old Shinobi weapons and tools inside the Ninja Yashiki Museum and catch the Ninja Show that runs for half an hour at a time from 11am to 3pm. You can also take a tour inside an old samurai mansion and learn about trick doors and the knotted Japanese alphabet.Share
When asked to recommend one city to visit in Japan, most Japanese and ex-tourists alike will tell you not to skip Kyoto. Understandably so — this historic capital is rich with pure aesthetic beauty, culture, and tradition. The best times to visit are in the spring, when cherry blossoms grace the temple gardens, or the fall, when the foliage offers a gorgeous backdrop for the many shrines and make for a great hike in the surrounding nature. Here are some essential aspects of the city, but it’s only the tip of the iceberg:
Temples and Shrines
It is impressive how many historically important temples and shrines have their home in Kyoto. Each one is beautiful in its own right, but even for the most fanatic tourist, visiting temple after temple could easily get tiring (and time-consuming). Some of the most famous ones are: Kingakuji, a gold-leafed building that used to be a residence and is now a temple; Kiyomizudera, the temple hovering above the Higashiyama district overlooking all of Kyoto; and Chionin, a large temple with an impressively large gate called San-mon. These are only a few out of dozens. Make sure you decide on several specific ones to visit to avoid an exhausting tourism frenzy.
This river that runs through Kyoto is a picturesque harmony between nature and man. Many restaurants are built along the water and it is popular to eat out on the deck on a warm summer evenings in a tradition called noryo-yuka. Good weather brings families and picnickers to the banks during the day and groups of teens and romantic couples by night.
This historic district is a maze of narrow, cobblestone streets lined with intriguing restaurants, tea houses and a host of vendors selling street food or souveniers. This area is one place in Kyoto where a tourist is almost assured the site of a maiko – a geisha-in-training – gracing the streets with her ornate presence.Share
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The Peace Museum in Hiroshima, dedicated to the promise of peace that Japan made after the devastation of World War II, is a beautiful park and museum that serves as a reminder of the horrible deaths that Hiroshima residents experienced in the nuclear bombings. The Peace Museum is also a reminder of the beautiful war-free history that Japan has preserved since that terrible experience.
There are two main areas of the museum. The East building contains information about Hiroshima before the attack, the attack and atom bomb itself, and the strive toward peace after the nuclear demolition. The main building is dedicated to what survived the attack — both artifacts and people. Survivors of the Hiroshima bombing drew and painted numerous pieces depicting their experiences on August 6, 1945 that are now displayed with captions telling their memories of that day. Special exhibits also alternate throughout the year.
The museum is open from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. during the winter and 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. during the rest of the year (except August when it closes at 7 p.m.). Admission ends half an hour before closing time. Check the website (http://www.pcf.city.hiroshima.jp/top_e.html) for holiday hours.
At one end of the long park are the very tall “Gates of Peace” that contain the word “peace” in a myriad of languages. Continue from there to the large “Fountain of Prayer” that is constantly shifting and stands in front of the museum. Beyond the museum are several rectangular pools and a monument with an eternal flame dedicated to the victims. The magnificent Ota River marks the outer boundary of these pools. Across the Ota River stands the one building that survived the bombing, now known as the A-Bomb Dome. Every year on August 6, a ceremony is held at the A-bomb Dome to commemorate those who suffered. Throughout the park there are many memorials and monuments to individuals and groups affected by the bombing.
In the spring, the park in Hiroshima comes alive with cherry blossoms, and the A-Bomb Dome is surrounded by cherry trees, their blossom reflecting on the Ota River, giving visitors a bitter-sweet and serene atmosphere for some reflection of their own. It is a beautiful park that has sprung from the ashes of a now buoyant city, and a beautiful endeavor for peace that has sprung from the ashes of a shattering war.Share