By Shahirah Rahim
This was one of my most memorable trips not only because Japan is an excellent place to visit, it is also my first overseas trip with the people I love, my and closest friends from high school.
Before you head down to Japan, it is always good to map out where you’ll be going to to ensure that the place you are at has no shortage of halal food. After all, what’s a holiday without good food right? If you are in a situation of an emergency and you have to settle for instant food from the convenience stores, just avoid anything that’s soupy even though it is just a cup of seafood flavored instant noodles. Trust me, there’s going to be stuff in there you won’t want to consume! Second and most important, if you’re travelling free and easy, it’ll be good to have someone in the group who can converse and read in Japanese or Mandarin. Why? Because most or almost all signboards are in Japanese, and even if you do not read Japanese, some of its characters resemble Chinese characters. Last but not least, get your Japan Rail Passes before you fly off from Singapore! These passes will entitle you to unlimited rides on most subways. Please also bear in mind that the Japanese railway has the most extensive and complicated lines. Taking the wrong line could land you some place faraway!
During this trip, we covered Osaka, a short stop at Hiroshima, Kyoto and lastly Tokyo. The entire trip took approximately two weeks.
In December 2012, we landed in Narita Airport, Japan. We took the NEX bullet train down to the Tokyo and switched to another train and headed straight down to Osaka. We stayed at Rihga Royal Hotel Osaka for the first night. Our main itinerary was to head down to Universal Studios Japan (USJ), Osaka, the following day. For those of you with kids, USJ is something you don’t want to miss. Even if you’re an adult, you’ll enjoy it thoroughly! Do note that because everything is in Japanese, you may not be able to understand much, but the rides were insanely awesome! You definitely need to take a trip here if you’re ever in Japan.
Hiroshima Peace Memorial, World Heritage Site
I have to admit that Hiroshima was not part of the itinerary we had but, I’m really glad we made that stop on our way before we headed down to Kyoto that evening. We’ve all had history lessons on how Hiroshima was bombed in the year 1945. What better way to be at the exact spot where it happened to better appreciate what we learnt through the school textbooks years ago.
Staying in a Ryokan – Japanese Guest House
Kyoto was once the capital of Japan. Today, it is a refined city which houses classical Buddhist temples, as well as gardens, imperial palaces, Shinto shrines and traditional wooden houses. To truly experience the Japanese culture, try spending the night in a Japanese guest house, also known as a Ryokan, cause that’s what we did, and it was definitely an experience. Ryokans are a part of Japanese culture for centuries to house r Samurais and traders alike in busy streets. Ryokans welcomed these weary travelers who needed to rest before continuing on their long journey. Sitting on a tatami, low wooden tables and sitting cushions, sleeping in a sleeping quilt on the wooden floors, bathrooms down the hall, and with no central heaters, you’ll be in for a truly authentic Japanese experience. I would highly encourage you to stay in one of these!
Arashiyama has one of the most beautiful mountainous region scenic sights you can find in Kyoto. It took us approximately 40 minutes to get there by public transportation from our Ryokan. Enter into a different world when you step into the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove with tall bamboo stalks surrounding you. Walk along the river streams and soak in the serenity amidst the fresh cold air.
For historical buffs, there are also plenty of temples for you to visit, each with its own significance.
For those of you who would like to explore a variety of culinary delight specialties of Kyoto, do head down to the Nishiki Market for some light shopping for souvenirs and the likes. For you adventurous folks, you may be able to find some edible delicacies, which may or may not tickle those taste buds! Regardless, it was a pretty interesting experience for us, observing the locals prepare their delicacies.
To get a great view of the mountain, take the Mount Kachi Kachi Ropeway cable car to a high point to get one of the best views. Being the highest mountain in Japan, Mount Fuji is a place you have to visit while you’re there. The view of the mountain, although from afar, is spectacular. What else is there to say? You have to be there to experience these astounding views!
So we had to choose between Disney Land and Disney Sea, and we went with Disney Sea! I have to admit, because we were all, (ehem), adults, minus the awesome one or two rides that we had, Disney Sea is definitely a place you cannot miss, only if you have kids. Otherwise take a trip down if you would like to realize your childhood dreams of being in a magical fantasyland with amazing shows and spectacular fireworks. The whole place transforms after the sun sets in the evening. We spent the whole day at Walt Disney’s domain.
Shopping in Tokyo
Japan is probably not the cheapest place to go shopping. However, with every place you visit, the trip does not feel complete without doing a little shopping! So, these are the places to go.
Being one of the busiest districts in Tokyo, Shinjuku also houses Tokyo’s tallest buildings. Take a day to head down to Shinjuku, walk around, have lunch and just enjoy the bustling atmosphere of this cultured city.
Best visited at night, Shibuya is a must visit for its youthful atmosphere, complete with neon lights along its streets. Here, you’ll be able to find the statue of the loyal dog, Hachiko, near the Shibuya station. This is also where you get to experience the famous Shibuya crossing intersection We took the time to head to the Starbucks nearby on the second floor to people watch through the glass panels, while sipping hot chocolate. Totally happening for the young, and the young at heart!
Akihabara is possibly the biggest electronic town in Japan. Boys being boys and their love for electronics, we spent a day and a half in this town. So, if you’re looking for any electronic items, cameras etc, and need plenty of options which are reasonably priced (some items may be considerably cheaper than what you can find in Singapore), then you have to pop by! Just name what you’re looking for and they’ll have it!
That sums up my trip to Japan. Till next time ladies!