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Where to Go in Japan

By Edited Dec 4, 2014 1 0

A week in Japan is not enough to see all the beautiful places in the country. Every city has something in store for everyone. Whether you love to see the breathtaking views of nature or the amazing skyline of urban areas - Japan has it. The things you can do here are endless. You can shop for the latest fashion items or gadgets, visit theme parks, go on food trips, or just walk around Tokyo.
 
I fell in love with the Japanese culture since I started watching anime and Japanese dramas in my teens. That is why I feel very fortunate to be able to take a vacation in Japan for eight days. I have been to Osaka, Kyoto, and Tokyo. Most of the time, I traveled around by tour bus, except for the time when we took a bullet train from Kyoto to Tokyo. I've been to several tourist attractions but that is just the tip of the iceberg. There is so much more to see and I can't wait to explore other places!
 
In this page, I have listed 9 places you should visit in Japan. I might add some more if I have a chance to revisit the country.

Todaiji

Great Buddha Hall

the Great Buddha Hall
Photo: cheerfulnuts
Todaiji Deer

a deer in Todaiji
Photo: cheerfulnuts

The complex was built after a series of disasters had hit Nara, Japan. It was believed that by building a temple, Buddha would be pleased and would prevent misfortunes from happening to people. The centuries-old Great Buddha Hall, or Daibutsuden, was constructed within the complex and is the largest wooden structure in the world. Completed in 751, the Great Buddha Hall houses a 14.98-meter tall Buddha. Inside the temple is a pillar with a hole as large as those of the Buddha's nostrils. It is said that a person who can manage to pass through the hole will have his wish come true. During my visit there, I didn't know yet the purpose of the pillar and thought some Japanese toddlers I saw passing through it were merely playing.

What's amazing about this temple is that it has tamed deer roaming around the place! Visitors can freely pet the animals. The moment I stepped into the complex, we were quickly surrounded by some deer. I realized that they were expecting food from us, as there were stores in the complex selling deer food to tourists who want to feed the deer. I didn't buy deer food though. I bought my own snack instead, and a couple of deer tried to lick the sauce from my hands.
 
There are some souvenir shops in the area. Thinking about the adorable deer, I bought a couple of deer key chains from the store.
 
Todaiji has several beautiful cherry blossom trees, which make this picturesque place a perfect destination to photographers, nature-lovers, temple-lovers, devout Buddhists, and animal-lovers!

Universal Studios Japan

Universal Studios Japan

at the entrance of Universal Studios Japan
Photo: Rainy Kua
USJ Shrek

the adorable Shrek at USJ
Photo: Rainy Kua

People who find Disneyland too childish can visit this theme park instead. The park offers diverse attractions that would cater to visitors of all ages. However, be warned that the queues are extremely long. If possible, do not visit the park on peak days. We went to USJ during Japan's spring break so we got caught up in a crowd of students who had flocked to the park to enjoy their vacation. We waited for three hours in the freezing weather just to take a 5-minute long ride. If you hated waiting in long queues, I advise you to purchase a Universal Express Pass.

I was delighted when I saw Shrek and Princess Fiona roaming around the park. That was amazing. I was planning to watch Shrek's 4-D Adventure and to get on tons of park rides, but due to time constraints and the never-ending queues (and without the Universal Express Pass), I was only able to take the The Amazing Adventure of Spiderman - The Ride. Nevertheless, that was a thrilling and one-of-a-kind ride!

 

Tokyo Tower

Tokyo Tower

Tokyo Tower
Photo: Rainy Kua

You have probably seen the famous Tokyo Tower on TV or on books. This 333-meter tower is the icon of Japan. After the World War II, Japan built this communications tower to represent the country's rapid economic growth. It also serves as an observation tower and is a popular destination to tourists. Visitors can get inside the tower by purchasing tickets at the foot of the tower. Elevators would carry them to the two-storey Main Observatory, which is halfway to the top. From the Main Observatory, which is 150 meters high, tourists will have a panoramic view of the entire Kanto region. There is also a souvenir shop, a coffee shop, and a Shinto shrine. On the first floor of the Main Observatory, there are some transparent Lookdown windows on the floor where people can look down and view the ground beneath them. Being scared of heights, I was hesitant to step on the glass windows. But I managed to stand over it and let Lyra (my sister) take my picture. It was a pretty cool experience.

From the Main Observatory, visitors can proceed to the Special Observatory, which is 250 meters high. The tickets cost higher than the Main Observatory's. From the Special Observatory, you can view the famous Mt. Fuji, given that the weather is good.
 
At night, the Tokyo Tower is brightly lit. The color of the lighting changes depending on the season. There is a popular belief among the young Japanese that if a couple watched the tower's lights went out, the couple will be together forever. Ah... No wonder Tokyo Tower is always depicted in anime and manga!
 
A new tower, Tokyo Sky Tree, was being built in Tokyo during my trip in 2010. With 634 meters height, the Tokyo Sky Tree is currently the tallest artificial structure in Japan. However, I have a feeling that Tokyo Tower will still hold a special place in the hearts of the Japanese people (and in mine as well).

Osaka Castle

Osaka Castle

the majestic Osaka Castle
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

On our way to Universal Studios, we made a quick tour outside the Osaka Castle. Its exterior is very different from the typical western castles we always see on TV. The structure is built on higher ground, and there were tall walls enclosing the building. Although it doesn't look like a castle a princess or a prince would want to live in, the cherry blossoms and waterways surrounding the area are enough to give the place a magical and romantic feel.

Formerly known as Ozakajo, the Osaka Castle was built in the 16th century and now serves as a museum. It displays war-related items and equipments used in the olden days. Other edifices located in its premises are the Osaka Municipal Museum, the Toyokuni-jinja Shrine, and the Osaka-jo Hall.
 
 
 

Shinsaibashi

Shinsaibashi

Shinsaibashi, a very popular shopping
district in Osaka
Photo: Rainy Kua

A roofed street extending almost up to 600 meters long, Shinsaibashi is a popular shopping district located in Minami, Osaka. It has over 160 stores and restaurants that offer diverse products ranging from clothes, socks, shoes, bags, chips, CD's, toys and teas. I was overwhelmed when I saw the many shops and attractive signboards as soon as we arrived in Shinsaibashi. It is heaven to shopaholics. But not to me. I ended up buying much less than I had expected - a few bags of snacks and raincoats. The clothes I saw were very pretty, but I couldn't imagine myself in them. I'd look weird wearing those trendy clothes while walking in the streets of Manila. Plus, their prices exceed my budget. On a lighter note, I was pretty happy strolling around the area while feeling the spirit of the city. It was a wonderful experience.

 

Asakusa

Asakusa

the famous Kaminari-mon Gate at Senso-ji
temple in Asakusa
Photo: twicepix | Flickr
Asakusa Shops

the shops along Nakamise-dori
Photo: rachel in wonderland | Flickr

Senso-ji is the oldest temple in Asakusa, Tokyo. It houses the statue of Kannon, or Guan Yin, which was believed to be found by two fishermen in the river back in 628. The temple is distinct for its famous entrance gate known as the Kaminari-mon Gate and its huge red lantern. Shops that sell mostly traditional items are lined up along the Nakamise-dori, a path that stretches about 250 meters from the gate to the temple. Within the premises stands a five-storey pagoda that houses Kannon Bokatsu.

I had bought a bag from Nakamise-dori which I bring to work everyday. My netbook was inside it. It had been with me through thick and thin, and I could say that it still looks as good as new!
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Tokyo Imperial Palace

Nijubashi Bridge

the Nijubashi Bridge
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

At the heart of Tokyo lies the magnificent Tokyo Imperial Palace where Japan's royal family currently resides. The East Gardens of the palace is open to public and is frequented by tourists. The palace itself, however, only opens twice a year: on New Year's Day (January 2) and on the Emperor's birthday (December 23). The castle is surrounded by waterways. A bridge, known as the Nijubashi Bridge, connects the garden to the castle's entrance. It is said that the Nijubashi Bridge is the most photographed location in Japan.

 

Kiyomizudera

Kiyomizudera Sacred Water

the sacred water in Kiyomizudera
Photo: cheerfulnuts
Kiyomizudera Kimono

women in kimono at Kiyomizudera
Photo: WordRidden | Flickr

Built on top of Otowa Mountain in the eastern Kyoto, Kiyomizudera, or "Pure Water Temple," is a Buddhist temple famous for its Otowa Waterfall where visitors can drink from by using a wooden handle bucket. The water is believed to be sacred and has the power to grant one's wish and to bring good fortune. The temple is a famous tourist destination. Several shops that sell diverse Japanese products are lined up along the Matsubara Street near the temple. I saw a lot of Japanese warrior dolls and swords. I was so tempted to buy one! They were expensive though, and I had no place for them in my small apartment. I bought a box of mochi, a round Japanese rice cake with sweet filling. It was very delicious! Unfortunately, I had no idea what the filling was since the saleslady could not speak English. There were dozens of sightseers (mostly Japanese) wearing beautiful kimonos and had their hair and make-up done. I even saw a woman who looked like a geisha (but she's not a real one). I felt like I was in a Japanese movie! Of course, the temple wouldn't be complete without the lovely cherry blossoms. I couldn't stop myself from taking photos and filming the place as much as I can.

 

Tokyo DisneySea

DisneySea

Photo: Rainy Kua

Tokyo DisneySea is one of the two theme parks in Tokyo Disney Resort (the other one is Tokyo Disneyland). Opened on September 4, 2001, the park has several attractions that both children and adults will enjoy. There are seven themed areas in the park: Mediterranean Harbor, Mysterious Island, Mermaid Lagoon, Lost River Delta, Port Discovery, and American Waterfront.

This time, our group was able to purchase the Disney FassPass tickets! We rode on Sinbad, Indiana Jones, watched the Aladdin (a 3D show), the Mermaid (a live show), and Mickey and friends' show. Sinbad was similar to It's a Small World, but only with a different song and storyline. The language spoken (or sung) in the attractions was all in Japanese, except for a few that offer English support. I enjoyed Indiana Jones the most! I regret not riding the Journey to the Center of the Earth after getting some feedback from my companions that it was really fun and not that scary.

I'm a huge fan of Disney, and Tokyo DisneySea is definitely one of the places I'd love to visit again and again. The park brought out the child in me. It felt so magical and surreal. Going to a place "where dreams come true" has been in my to-do-list since childhood. I'm glad that my childhood dream has finally been realized.

 
Sakura
Credit: Rainy Kua
© Rainy Kua 2014. All Rights Reserved.
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