10 Unique Adventures in Japan
1. Ride the Bullet Train
A great way to get from Tokyo to Kyoto is on Japan's high speed trains, called Shinkansen.
The train takes 140 minutes to reach Kyoto from Tokyo. By bus the same journey takes about 7 to 8 hours.
The trains are smooth running about 198 miles an hour. The seats are spacious, clean and face forward. The toilets in each car have heated seats.
When the train arrives in the station, the process is very efficient. People line up in an orderly manner to enter and exit the train so the trains can depart and arrive promptly on time.
2. See Castles in Japan
Originally called Ozakajo, it is one of Japan's most famous castles
Odawara was a stronghold of the Doi clan
One of the seventeen assets of Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto which have been designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.
This castle played a major role in the unification of Japan during the sixteenth century of the Azuchi-Momoyama period.
In 1938, the castle site was proclaimed a national historic monument.
In 1939, the palace was donated to the city of Kyoto and opened to the public the following year.
Walk up the steps or take an elevator to the top floor for great views of Osaka.
Odawara Castle was listed as one of the 100 Fine Castles of Japan by the Japan Castle Foundation in 2006.
Kyoto Imperial Palace is located north-east of Nijo Castle.
3. Eat Traditional Japanese Cuisine
Take a bite of every item presented to you. You may not love all of the cuisine, however you will agree that Japanese cuisine is presented in a beautiful way and is differernt in flavors and texture than food at home.
In Tokyo we had Shabu-Shabu. In Kobe, we dined at Steak Land and enjoyed tender Kobe beef steaks. Be sure to visit the basement of shopping centers in Tokyo and Osaka. They offer the most beautiful food courts and shops.
We ate sashimi, sushi, miso soup, pickled vegetables, rice, quail eggs, tempura, Udon and soba noodles, red bean paste, tofu, sardines, dumplings and buns.
Japan is interesting, because they want people to purchase their items and take them home or back to the office. There aren’t a lot of tables for locals or tourists to sit and enjoy a snack. Food stands many times don’t have tables or trash cans. The Japanese want their patrons to take their trash home.
Unique Food Items in Japan
Views from the Tokyo Bay Aqua-Line
4. Visit the Man-made Island
Visit Tokyo Bay Aqualine and Umihotaru Island. It’s a man-made island with bridges and sea tunnels that cost 1.4 trillion yen. They built this to create a short cut route along Tokyo Bay and to reduce traffic moving into Tokyo. It connects the city of Kawasaki with the city of Kisarazu and is the fourth-longest underwater tunnel in the world.
The one of a kind five story building looks a little like a freighter ship that cars drive onto and park to sightsee before driving into tunnels under the water.
On a clear day you can see Mt. Fuji. There is a game arcade where kids will want to drop some coins to try to win a stuffed animal. There are also multiple dining venues with bay views. Visit the museum to see how they engineered this island.
5. Feed Deer in Nara
Why Deer are in Nara
Our guide told us a story about a mythological god that arrived to Nara on a deer to the Kasuga Shrine. The deer guarded the newly built capital in Japan. Afterwards the people of Nara believed that the deer was a heavenly animal that protected the city and shrines.
Walking towards the magnificent Todaiji "Great Eastern Temple" we noticed hundreds of Sika Deer. They are free to roam through Nara Park. There are hundreds of them clustered together searching for a deer biscuit that guests can purchase from snack vendors. When the deer see that you have made a purchase, they will bow to you to get a wafer.
You may have ten vying for your attention and your packet of wafers will be gobbled up in minutes. Small children might be scared, because the deer get brazen in order to get a biscuit and might nudge your leg if you ignored their bow.
J-san told us, Nara was the first capital of Japan. The temple was constructed in 752 and is a landmark of Nara. The Buddha was built by the first Emperor of Nara when he lost his son at the age of one. He had this Buddha made to encourage and inspire the people in Nara. It became such a powerful Buddhist temple that when the Emperor died, the capital was moved from Nara to Nagaoka in 784 in order to lower the temple's influence on government affairs.
The Big Buddha Hall has Japan's largest bronze statues of Buddha with two followers. Buddha's open hand is as tall as a human being. Behind the statue is a tall wooden post with a hole notched out in the bottom. People wait in line to crawl through the post. The hole is the same size as Buddha's nostril. It is said that those who can squeeze through this opening will be granted enlightenment in their next life.
Outside is Pindola, a wooden statue from the Edo period, 18th century. Pindola was one of the disciples of Buddha. He excelled in the mastery of occult powers and was known to have healing powers. In Nara, the Pindola has been rubbed often, When a person seeks comfort from an ailment, they come to Pindola and rub a part of the Pindola's body, then rub the corresponding part of their own body in hopes that the ailment will disappear.
These historic monuments of Nara have become UNESCO World Heritage sites.
6. Toilets in Japan
The toilets fascinated us everyday. Many were heated, some were squat toilets and many women’s rooms had urinals for little boys. All were very clean. Many had seat sanitizers next to the toilet paper. A few squirts on a square or two, swipe the seat and you are good to go. They don’t use toilet seat covers here.
Sitting on the heated seats, there are buttons to push for warm water to cleanse you, buttons to dry you, and buttons that make bird sounds to disguise other sounds. Kids get a kick out of it.
Also in Ryokans, there are slippers to wear when you are using the toilet. They are to stay in the bathroom. Outside of the bathroom are slippers to wear with your kimono in the common areas of the Ryokan.
7. Walk Through the Enchanting Bamboo Forest
We took the Sagano Romantic Train to the Bamboo Forest in Arashiyama. The Sagano Scenic Railway is a sightseeing train line that runs along the Hozugawa River between Arshiyama and Kameoka. It's a charming, old fashioned train that winds its way through the mountains at a relatively slow pace.
Arshiyama is a pleasant, touristy district in the western outskirts of Kyoto. The area has been a popular destination since the Heian Period from 794 to 1185 when nobles would come here to enjoy the beauty of the setting.
The walking paths cut through a dense bamboo forest. It's quite a sight when the light peeks through. The bamboo is manufactured to make various products, such as baskets, cups, boxes and mats at local workshops for centuries.
There are artisans selling crafts along the walk. Arashiyama is a Nationally-designated Historic site and place of scenic beauty.
8. Geisha in Kyoto
See Geisha in Kyoto
- Geishas in Kyoto, Japan
After reading the best selling book historical novel Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden, I put visiting Kyoto, Japan on my bucket list. In June 2014, I traveled to Kyoto and saw my first Geisha.
9. Stay at the Tokyo Imperial Hotel
- Frank Lloyd Wright Designs the Imperial Hotel in Japan
The view from the 29th floor of the Imperial offers spectacular views of Tokyo and beyond.
10. Getting Naked in Hot Baths
The Japanese are very fond of bathing in the nude. No bathing suits are allowed. The baths are partitioned into two sections – one for women and one for men.
We took two hot baths at Ryokans. The first was the older resort Atami Hot Spring Hotel and the second was a newer and nicer Biwa Lake Hot Springs hotel.
Ryokans are a traditional Japanese Inn. They originated in the Edo period around 1603 to 1868 to serve travelers along Japan's highways. They have tatami-matted floors, kimonos and slippers for their guests and communal baths.
When I took my daughters, we dressed in our kimono robes and entered the locker rooms. We removed our robe and had a tiny white towel to place in front or behind our naked body to the shower area. Sitting on stools, we soaped up, washed our hair and rinsed next to other naked women, before getting into the hot mineral water.
Our little white towel was to be balled up and placed on our head while submerging ourselves in the bath. Cleanliness is upmost at these baths and the towels are not to be laid on the deck and should not touch the bath water.
The bath at the Atami had views of the sea and a wooden tub filled with rose petals. At the Biwa Lake Hot Springs, the baths were open and we saw a full moon while wading into a lagoon style bath with a cave and little private coves.
It's a social event for Japanese women, sitting naked and enjoying the steam rise up. After the hot bath, we sat back on a stool and washed all over again, put on kimonos and slippers back on and got ready for a Japanese dinner.
Super Value Tours
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