Top 6 Experiences In Japan
MY TOP 6 EXPERIENCES IN JAPAN
Even as someone who is less than confident on a bicycle - I may have run into the wall a couple times to start off with-; riding around the island of Naoshima (as well as other parts of Japan) on rented bi-cycles was one of my favourite experiences. Naoshima is home to the Benesse Art Site: a collection of stunning contemporary art and architecture based around nature and the environment. There are both still and submersive art exhibitions to experience. Bicycle is by far the easiest way to get around within areas of Japan, it's cheap (around $10-$15 AUD for a day), much quicker than walking and there are safe places to park your bike all over the place as well as a place to rent around most corners.
You can get to Naoshima by Ferry from Tamano, Japan. It's a 20 minute journey and costs ¥280 which is around $3.
There are many Onsen (hot springs) around Japan and we managed to find a magical "theme park" in Odaiba called the Ooedo-Onsen, Monogatari. When you enter you are assigned a locker to leave your personal items in & receive a bracelet to use as your wallet throughout the experience. You take off everything but your underwear and don a Yukata (light and casual style Kimono) which for me means immediate relaxation. Unfortunately most Onsen including this one will not allow visitors who have tattoos. Not only are there open air hot springs for your feet or your body (some require you to be fully naked and are divided by gender but you can avoid these if it makes you uncomfortable), you could also get a massage, experience the fish therapy, eat from a variety of stalls and in traditional japanese style: sitting on the floor, and if you still don't want to leave, there's a room full of large reclining chairs where you can relax.
FUJI Q HIGHLAND
If you're a roller-coaster person like me, Fuji-Q Highland is the place to be. Not only is it home to 2 Guinness World Record Breaking roller coasters, you can also get a pretty spectacular view of Mt. Fuji. You can make it a double whammy by staying at the Fuji Q resort and spa which has it's own onsen! We didn't stay but we did have a little poke around the resort before leaving the park and it looked lovely. You'll also have the opportunity to try Moss Burger! (If it's still there) which is a great little Japanese burger joint. Entry costs ¥1500 (around $18),
TEMPLES & SHRINES
The best way to submerge yourself in nature and culture in Kyoto is to visit some of the temples and shrines. We visited the Fushimi Inari Shrine (the one with thousands of orange torrii gates) in the afternoon and stayed til sunset. There are no artificial lights at this Shrine so by the time the sun set it was fun to explore with torches in the dark. Fushimi Inari is free to visit.
We also visited Ginkakuji, which has beautiful gardens and buildings. From here you can follow the 'Philosopher's Path', which we did by bicycle, which takes you to other stunning temples and shrines all the way to Kiyumizo-dera where you'll get a beautiful view of the tree tops. Ginkakuji & Kiyumizo-dera are both around the $5-10 range to enter.
As a creative, obviously some of my favourite experiences in Japan were the workshops I was lucky enough to participate in. Perks of having half your itinerary planned by your uni tutor. In Kyoto I was able to tour Kuriyama
Kobo; a Kimono factory in Kyoto, and participate in a dyeing workshop. This was an amazing, inspiring and unique experience and I strongly recommend it if you're able to organise something like it.
We also had the honor of attending a demonstration of Woodblock printing at Takezasa Do in Kyoto and had the opportunity to give it a go. This cost around $40AUD each in a group setting of approx. 20 people. We were able to keep our print to take home too, which is awesome.
NARA DEER PARK
I'm a sucker for cute things, so I had to leave this for last and it could possibly be my top favourite experience in Japan. The Nara Deer Park was filled with adorable deer to feed, pat and admire. I honestly did not want to leave this place. I couldn't recommend it more if you want to get up close and personal with these gorgeous creatures.
To top it all off there was a cat cafe near by that we spent some time in also. Cat cafes are magical places where you can go and have a cup of tea or coffee while being surrounded by a tonne of cats. They were so adorable. There are also such things as owl cafes which I'd like to experience on my next visit.
I hope this post helps anyone looking to visit Japan in the near future. If you have any questions leave me a comment. Another one of my favourite experiences was the shopping but I feel like that needs its own post all on its own.