My top 10 Japan highlights

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

So sadly our time in Japan is coming to an end. These last two months have really flown by - I know it's cliche but it's true. When we started planning our trip to Japan I had a clear vision in my mind of 'what to expect'. I imagined gaming mad streets filled with anime and hello kitty with bright flashing skyscrapers - or traditional shrines and temples set within rolling mountains or prestine kept gardens with koi carp ponds. Although these visions did come true, Japan is so much more! Before we move onto our next destination (Hong Kong) I wanted to take some time to list my top 10 highlights!

10. The drip coffee
Okay so this may seem a bit random and not very 'Japanese' but the love for coffee in Japan is huge! Although I do enjoy coffee at home, I am more of a tea drinker - that was until I tried Japanese drip coffee. In Japan you can literally buy a standard hot coffee on any street corner. They come in hot vending machines - we tried a couple and loved them - however they are nothing compared to drip coffee you can find in most good Japanese cafes (we found tones in Omotesando - see number 1)! Drip coffee is almost like an art form here - it takes a little longer to prepare but taste amazing. They come in many different flavoured beans and you can have them with or without milk. My two favourites were from Shozo at Commune 246 (see picture below) and Blue Bottle in Shinjuku (a recommendation from Yoshi - the guy who cut my hair).

9. Kiyosumi Gardens
By far one of the most beautiful gardens I have ever had the pleasure of visiting. If you're after traditional Japanese 'back of a postcard' kind of scenery this is for you. At only 150 yen to enter its so cheap and so worth it. Lovely place to chill, relax, read a book, eat some sushi and just take some lovely pictures.

8. Fushimi Inari Shrine Hike
A typical tourist must see, but still on my highlights this hike really is like nothing you will ever see anywhere else. Thousands of bright orange tori gates, amazing views over Kyoto and a bloody good work out!

7. The Great Buddha at Kamakura
This was defiantly one of my first 'wow this is incredible' moments of the trip. Kamakura itself is a pretty little town with lots to see and do but my favourite was by far The Great Buddha. The second largest in Japan - I actually much preferred it to the largest at Nara. When you stand and look up at the Buddha within the trees it's one of the most tranquil breathtaking feelings - highly recommend!

6. The Nara deer
Being a huge animal lover this had to feature on this list! The Nara deer are a famous Japanese must see for a reason - super funny and cute these little deer literally chase you can bow their heads for these special cookies you can buy to feed them with. I was amazed at the sheer number of deer in the park and just how friendly they are.

5. Watching the sunset over Osaka
Another 'wow' moment - so far one of the best sunsets I've ever witnessed. We watched the sunset at the top of The Umeda Sky Building, a must see if you visit Osaka. With panoramic views of the city it was a fantastic way to end our trip. Deep inky blues and firey oranges - it was mesmerising!

4. Disney Land and Universal Studios
So I couldn't write this post with out including these two! I decided to double them up into one as they could be seen as quite similar attractions and therefore some people wouldn't want to do both. All I would say is if you have a bit of spare cash or it's a special occasion defiantly go! So much fun - the Japanese really do go all out at amusement parks!

3. Lake Biwa Waterfall Hike
I had to put this in my top three! Although it was very scary it was so much fun and so rewarding. Being afraid of falling this was a big achievement for me and to see the spectacular waterfall at the end defiantly made it all worth it. Would highly recommend for thrill seekers, outdoorsy peeps and those who just like chasing waterfalls.

2. Japanese people
My first impression of Japanese people wasn't great. We unfortunately got sat next to a very rude man on our flight to Tokyo who simply wouldn't let us pass him to get up and walk about/go to the toilet. I sat panicking throughout the duration of the flight thinking 'omg are they all going to be this rude and grumpy' - but I needn't of worried. I CANT STRESS ENOUGH HOW KIND AND SWEET JAPANESE PEOPLE ARE! From the lovely gentleman who stopped us in the street to give us some beautiful origami he had made as a present and have a chat with us about our trip to the lady who spent 30 minutes of her time helping us buy our bullet train tickets to Kyoto, she even took us to the station. Not to forget the guy last night who gave us two free beers with our meal as a New Year gift! Everyone has been so accommodating and eager to help - so refreshing when you're used to Londoners!

1. Omotesando and Harajuku in general
This was a stand out number one for me and Craig - we adored our time living in Omotesando! In just the first two days we already had a list as long as your arm with places we wanted to check out - from quirky little coffee shops to some of the best vintage clothes shops I have ever been in. The area itself is so pretty and has something for everyone! I especially recommend it for around Christmas time - the lights are stunning and it's a great place to shop (I'd go as far to say as better than New York)!

So there you have it, my top 10! If you've been to Japan comment below some of your highlights - and if you're planning on visiting I hope this post has given you a bit of inspiration!

See you in Hong Kong
Elly x

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