As a couple that is always up for exploring a new destination, Simren Saxena and her husband Abhay were delighted to take on Japan this year. From feeding deer to checking out a volcano and some fascinating imperial sights, this week we learn about the wonders of Japan.
Looking at the current changes, the location of Japan, and the potential environmental threats, we decided to visit the country before things worsened. We set out on our nine-day trip in April, so we didn’t miss out on the cherry blossoms either. We landed in Tokyo and then went on to explore the small town of Koyasan, where Buddhism started in Japan. We stayed at a ryokan, a traditional Japanese inn that is run by Buddhist monks; it was the most beautiful and serene experience of our trip.
The next stop was the tombstone of Kōbō-Daishi – founder of the Shingon School of Buddhism in Japan. During our two-day stay to Kyoto we visited the Inari Shrine, Bamboo Garden, Nishiki Market and the Gion District. Our day trip to Nara was splendid; we even got to feed deer there! It was amazing to see how these calm animals would bow to you before you fed them. We also saw the Todai-ji temple here, and spent the rest of the day exploring a few Japanese gardens.
We then went to Fujiyoshida – the town with the best view of Mt. Fuji. We stayed at a resort with a view of the snowy peaks. However, the Chureito Pagoda offered the best visuals; it was simply a pagoda with a view of Mt. Fuji behind it. We spent about four hours thereto get a clear view of the volcano.
In Tokyo we spent a day visiting Nakiryu – a Michelin Star ramen restaurant. It was the best bowl of food we’ve ever tried. We then explored the Shibuya region, walked around the area, visited a cat café, as well as a hedgehog and bunny café. Most of our second day in Tokyo was spent viewing the cherry blossoms.
The best part about Japanese cuisine is that they have a variety of interesting food, each presented differently way. It was fascinating to see how their vending machines – which were present almost everywhere – offered both hot and cold drinks. Tokyo also had the best ramen shops, which were mostly tiny. They would have a ticket vending machine at the entrance, where one could order a meal, sit and eat. Once you were done you could just get up and leave. And the more noise one made while eating, the better!
The street food trend was big in Japan and there were vendors outside every big temple, tourist spot and market. The octopus dumplings were very popular and we also found a lot of food with green tea flavouring. Their mochi, sushi, and tempura were great as well, and we even saw that almost anything could be fried in tempura batter.
As for the people, they were always so nice and willing to help. One time we were at a train station looking a bit lost, and a young man walked up to us and asked if he could help. We also met a man at the ryokan who talked to us for 10 minutes. The next day he gave us a bag of Japanese cakes for our trip ahead!
In addition to these pleasant experiences we were glad to have caught a view of Mt. Fuji; it was certainly worth the wait. Furthermore, the many bowls of ramen, rows of cherry blossoms, and the joy of plunging into hot baths were just a few highlights from our trip.
We also loved how everything was so clean. Despite being such a busy tourist destination, with so many street food vendors, there still wasn’t a single piece of trash that could be found. There were very few trash cans around, so if you buy or eat anything on the way, you must carry your trash back to your home/hotel to discard it.
On a scale of one to 10, Japan, in our opinion is an eight. While the island nation’s hotels and transportation are pretty expensive, the food is thankfully reasonable. There might have been a lot of walking and travelling involved, but the experience was memorable nonetheless. This time around we only got to explore Tokyo, Kyoto, Koyasan and a few towns in between. On our next trip to Japan, which we are hoping to take soon, we’d love to visit the southern part for its beautiful beaches. – Simren Saxena