Highlights of my 1st Japan trip

So I recently came back from my trip to Japan for the first time. We went to a lot of cities/towns including Tokyo, Kanazawa, Toyama, Takayama, Osaka and Kyoto within the 9 days we had. Here are my top highlights from the trip to get other fellow travelers inspired.

1. Seeing Mount Fuji right before my eyes.

Probably the best part of my trip! While we were in Tokyo, we took a 2 hour trip to Lake Kawaguchiko. It’s one of the closest places to see the majestic Mount Fuji. I’ve read that it was not easy to get a view of the mountain, to get there either early morning or late afternoon. We left Tokyo at about 7am and arrived about 9am. The weather was on our side that day as it was sunny and clear. No fogs, clouds etc that could dampen our hopes of seeing it. Getting to see the majestic mountain was definitely a surreal experience and I still couldn’t get my mind off of it. A ride up the Kachi Kachi Ropeway for the view costs about 720 yen but we got a combo ticket with the Pleasure Boat ride at the lake for 1240 yen.

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2. Experiencing Kanazawa on a bicycle.

So there was not really a plan initially to rent out bicycles on our trip but Kanazawa felt like the perfect city to experience it. Most of the main tourist attractions are not far from each other so instead of taking the loop bus, we decided to ride bicycles to go to our destinations. We went to the Kenroku-en garden, Kanazawa Castle, Higashi Chaaya District and 21st Century Museum. It’s been a while that I was on a bicycle but it wasn’t all that hard. It helps that there was a bicycle rental system in place with docking stations all around town called “Machi-nori”. An initial 200 yen is charged, then it’s free if you return the bikes to their docks within 30 minutes. Else, 200 yen is charged.

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3. Colors of autumn at Shirakawago.

Ever since I saw a picture of this place, I just had to figure out how to go there. Shirakawago is a traditional village within the Japanese Alps where the houses have these unique steeply slanted roofs. We took a half day tour that goes to the observation point and down to the traditional houses. The view in autumn is amazing but I think it will look just as amazing in the other seasons. It almost felt like you’re in a European village but once you step inside one of those houses, it’s definitely Japanese. A half day tour will cost you 4,400 yen per person via iSiteTakayama.

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4. Osaka the better city.

This is definitely a personal preference. Tokyo was too crowded and chaotic for me. Although Osaka is still a bustling city, it had a pace I could handle. I absolutely loved the vibrant colors of lights and people at Dotonbori. Osaka Castle was a breath of fresh air in the middle of the city. Universal Studios Osaka was a much better theme park than the Tokyo Disney Resorts. The Tempozan Ferris Wheel gave a beautiful view of the waterfront. And for the same rate, our apartment was more spacious than the one in Tokyo. One thing less pleasing though was how everything was more expensive in Osaka. The souvenirs, metros cost much more here.

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5. My deeper appreciation for Japanese food.

I have to admit I’m not a fan of Japanese food previously. Teppanyaki was the closest Japanese food I preferred. In Tokyo, I tried out fresh Sushi at Tsukiji market. We also had quite a number of Sushi from those sold at convenience stores around the country. I had a delicious Ramen in Kyoto at a place called Ayam-Ya. Being a muslim traveller, it’s quite hard to find halal food that serves the local food but this was a must try. Had the squid based Takoyaki from one of the stores at Dotonbori. I’m now craving these food lately. Funny how things work.

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At the end of the day, travelling to a new territory is always a great experience in itself. Definitely enjoyed Japan and its rich culture, history and technological advancements. Check out my instagram feed @travelwithwan for more pics!



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