First Time in Japan: Where To Go And What To Do
However, before I get started, I think it is important to let you know a brief summary of my background and why I have recommended these places. I think I have a pretty good understanding about everywhere in Japan as I have literally been to all 47 prefectures in Japan via a project through Odigo called the odigo47. I have been to the islands of Okinawa to the main touristy areas like Kyoto and Tokyo, to the cold north, Hokkaido and even the smaller lesser known prefectures, such as Yamagata or Saga prefectures. So whatever your interest may be, I hope that all of you can find some useful points within this article and if you have any other areas not mentioned, please leave a comment and let me know where you would recommend.
Tokyo (4-5 days)
Probably the most notable name within the Tokyo Area, the famous Shibuya crossing has been showcased in many Hollywood movies and is definitely one of the most iconic spots here. Within this area, you can witness a younger local crowd, do tons of shopping at the Tokyu Department Store, the Shibuya Hikarie Department Store, or you can visit a bunch of the smaller shops within the area. There is also a good amount of nightlife and many people come here for a nice restaurant, bar or nightclub. It is also conveniently located having good access with many train lines.
Next to Shibuya, Harajuku is also a very popular spot for people of all ages. A lot of fashion seen in global fashion shows supposedly originate from this area, especially on the Takeshita Street. Whether you are into funky fashion or not, it is pretty interesting to see the different types of fashion trends worn by both Japanese women and men walking about. However, don’t think Harajuku is only about funky fashion trends, it is also a very popular spot for shopping, and is directly connected to the Omotesando area as well. Here you can find global brands, such as Hugo Boss, Coach, Prada, etc. If you like to venture off the beaten path, you can also find some very trendy cafes and restaurants within side streets in this area.
Shopping, late night dining, bars, funky shops, a huge Gozilla replica, these are just some of the things that Shinjuku has to offer. As the busiest station in all of Japan, Shinjuku is the most convenient for all people living within the Greater Tokyo area for work, hanging with friends or some nice nightlife. Just don’t get lost in the train station before you can experience everything this area has. I know I have gotten lost countless times. There is a huge Lumine Department Store as well as probably the biggest Yodobashi Camera Store with many different departments all to meet your electronic needs. There are also a bunch of crazy shops and bars that you can venture off to as well if you want something different from your usual scene. The infamous Kabukicho Street is a prefect way to end your night fulfilling all of your late night needs. Just be careful of scammers along the street!
For you high-class diners and shoppers, Ginza is the place for you. Hosting some of the most expensive and delicious delicacies, Ginza is the place to go to for some awesome sushi restaurants and other very popular Japanese dishes. Along the streets are also many famous global brands, including Channel, Prada, Harry Winston, Dior, Gucci, Wako and many more. However, for those of you who would rather shop at a more reasonable price range, there is also a huge GAP, Uniqlo, GU and many others as well.
Fitting all of your anime, manga and electronic needs, Akihabara, aka Akiba, is quite a different scene from most areas within Tokyo. It definitely stands out from the crowd with young girls wearing maid costumes lining the streets promoting their individual maid cafes. Yes, a café that reconstructs a theme where your waitresses are all wearing maid costumes and treat you like a king accompanied by a live music performance. This actually exists in Japan along with many other crazy themed cafe ideas. Once finished there, head over to some of the side streets and witness some of the most amazing electronic inventions sold at private vendors. If that doesn’t satisfy you, try out the shop called Super Potato for any old video game consoles that you wish you could play again and remember the good old days.
If you want to feel a little tradition in the Tokyo area, then Asakusa is the place to go. Lined with local street vendors and a gorgeous temple, Asakusa is one of the main tourist spots for people of all countries. Here you can rent kimonos at the many shops within the area and walk around dressed up as a Japanese beauty. Most of these shops rent them for quite cheap as well, for around 5,000 yen (~$50), you can take pictures for your Instagram or to keep as precious memories while feeling like you are back in ancient Japan. As you venture off towards the temple, you will be greeted by a street full of local vendors selling souvenirs and delicious Japanese food for you to nibble on.
For a more detailed look on guides about Tokyo, check out the article written by the team at Odigo here.
Kyoto: (3 days)
Heian Shrine (In Japanese: Heian Jingu)Golden Temple (In Japanese: Kinkaku-Ji)Kiyomizu Temple (In Japanese: Kiyomizu-Dera)Fushimini-Inari Shrine (In Japanese: Fushimi Inari-Taisha)Arashiyama Bamboo Grove For a more detailed look on guides about Kyoto, check out the article written by the team at Odigo here.
Osaka: (2 days)
Nara: (2 days)
Hirano Jinja Shrine
Located in northwest Kyoto, Hirano Shrine was established in the year 794 when the capital was transferred to Heian-kyo from Nagaoka-kyo. During the cherry blossom season, the shrine stays open until 8 pm.
Nakamura Tokichi (Honten)
If you are traveling to Kyoto, Nakamura Tokichi Honten should be on your list. Not only you can feast on delicious matcha treats, but also enjoy them in historical Kyoto settings.
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