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Japan is a phenomenal country. I could spend a whole post listing the various things I love about it. Its flame-coloured torii gates, roaming deer and abundance of yuru-chara mascot characters. The sounds of birdsong on the Tokyo metro, the most exquisite pagodas and pavilions…I could go on and on.
I’m by no means an expert, but I’ve drawn on my own research and experiences to provide some ideas and advice to help plan your own Japan trip! Along with a 14 day Japan itinerary, I’ve included pre-planning tips, a breakdown of our expenses and even some lovely alternative itineraries from other sources. Enjoy!
Our 5 days in and around Tokyo were the first stop on our 16 day Japan trip. We absolutely loved it there! Even in the chilly February weather, I had so much fun I could have easily stayed the whole fortnight there. Lately I’ve been trying to make my posts as useful as possible to other travellers, focussing more on practical tips and highlighting my absolute favourite places. Since my last post on Tokyo was a bit vague, I’ve decided to go into more detail about things we got up to and enjoyed. So here’s a day-by-day breakdown/itinerary of things to do in Tokyo!
As you may have gathered, I often seek out cultural and historic locations when travelling. Nara was no exception. When I read that it was established in 710 as the first permanent capital of Japan, I was sold. (The fact that its historic monuments are also UNESCO listed didn’t hurt either!) Continue reading →
Our trip to Kyoto somehow ended up being consumed by temples and shrines. In large part this is because there’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site listing for Kyoto that includes 17 different historic monuments, most of which are religious buildings. As you may know, Ben and I are fond of ticking World Heritage Sites off around the world (cf. Singapore Botanic Gardens, Ainokura, the Hiroshima Peace Memorial and Himeji Castle. Japan in particular has lots to see according to UNESCO). Temples also happen to be recommended highly on places like TripAdvisor, which I find an excellent guide for figuring out what might be worthwhile to visit.
At any rate: several of them were truly extraordinary and I would recommend them to others in a heartbeat. But I also learned a valuable lesson: too many leads to “temple fatigue”: an increasingly apathetic response to beautiful pagodas, torii, statues, bridges, zen gardens etc. in direct proportion to increased exposure to said features, particularly over a short period of time. (Not strictly a real condition, but felt very strongly by Ben and me nevertheless!).
So how many is too many? I guess that’s different for each individual. I’ve decided that in writing this post I’m going to be more discerning than I was in our itinerary and only focus on my top three temples/shrines. Supplemented with my favourite non-religious sights from Kyoto too…
Himeji Castle is many things. It’s famous. It’s a UNESCO world heritage site. It’s beautiful and full of historical and architectural interest (to quote UNESCO, it’s considered “the finest surviving example of early 17th-century Japanese castle architecture”). Add to these its easy accessibility by train and it seemed like a no brainer to call in en route from Hiroshima to Kyoto. Especially for someone who loves history (and castles) as much as I do.
Here’s a little recount of our day trip to Himeji Castle…