Things to do and where to eat: Japan
The restaurants are very budget-friendly because of the yen to dollar difference. However, the flight and hotels can be expensive depending on where you stay.
What to bring
Yens already on hand and credit card
Comfortable shoes and clothing
Carry on and backpack
Buy ahead of time at least 6 months to avoid getting flights with multiple stops
Invest in first class for the longest portion of the trip
Eat when food is offered even if you’re not hungry; it will help with jet lag
The food in Japan is superb! It’s a culinary masterpiece of simplicity, flavor, history and local products. Their candies, pastries and ice creams are very innovative and delicious. The tea is a ceremony in itself that you should try. I had no allergy incidents during the trip, however, I did have an IBS incident with the orange juice. It was too acid for me.
Look for buffets that have English translation and have labels of allergens
If you’re going to a restaurant on your own check to see if there’s someone how knows English or use a translator to make sure they understand your dietary restrictions
Buy a tour that includes food and specify your dietary restrictions
Do research! With these helpful articles!
What to Avoid-Not Gluten Free
What you can eat because it’s gluten-free!
Almost all snacks like bubble tea, Yakiimo, Soyjoy, Mochi (daifuku), caution with Onigiri
Try the pod hotels: limited to 8-9 hours and book in advance. Just $35-40 a night.
Try the onset: it’s a hot spring spa pool where you have to get in naked, it’s separated for men and women. Please follow instructions of onsen.
They are usually located inside a shopping mall or have stores
I prefer the ones with breakfast included because they label all the food and have the allergen information on the label
Many of them have a robot for a guest to leave feedback. It’s an actual literal robot.
Hotels I stayed:
Hotel Granvia Kyoto: a humongous hotel with a train station and mall. Its is very futuristic and has a central location.
Righa Royal Osaka: a medium-sized hotel with its own mini-mall mostly with restaurants. has a more European design.
Grand Nikko Tokyo: a bit away from the hustle and bustle of central Tokyo but still has a great view and location
Takayama Green Hotel: has an onsen, buffet and excellent service. simple design with a traditional Japanese feel
Yomoto Fujiya Hotel: designed with a traditional Japanese style and you can choose to sleep in the tatami. I highly recommend that you sleep in the tatami because it’s extremely comfortable.
Things to see by city
Note: many of the buildings were struck by lightning or caught fire so there are parts are not original but restored to look like it. Also, most of the toilets are those futuristic ones that are automated and therefore extremely clean.
Harajuku: a small street famous for “weird” fashion like Lolita, Decora, Gyaru, Ganguro, Kogal, and others.
Akihabara: a large avenue filled with neon lights, anime, manga, pod hotels, and maid/owl/cat/ robot restaurants. These restaurants are usually overpriced but they are fun. You get to hang out with maids, owls, cats or robots during your dining experience.
Shibuya Crossing: the most famous crossing in all of Tokyo with 5 sides to cross from. Please cross and take photos when you have the right of way.
“Mario Kart”: You have to buy tickets ahead of time to choose a racing route. You will also need your passport and an internationally valid drivers license. Before you get on you’ll choose what character you want to be.
Tokyo Tower: The famous emblem of 80’s-00’s manga and anime. It serves as a radio antenna, observatory, and museum.
Tokyo sky tree: the modern emblem built in 2010, it is also a radio antenna, museum, and observatory.
Mount Fuji: We went to the Hakone National Park to see Fuji. Here you’ll find many things to do like right a regular boat or a pirate ship, play golf, stay at a nice hotel, go hiking and most importantly see Mount Fuji. Please check the weather before because there might be fog. We were extremely lucky to see it. You can also hike Mount Fiji but you need to be an expert and have a permit for that.
Geisha Performance: They are hard to get reservations for one on your own but if you buy a tour make sure they have it available. They will dance for you and answer questions with a translator.
Kabuki performance: They require tickets in advance and usually performed in Japanese. Still, it is a nice experience to see Japanese Theater.
Nikko: a small town famous for its natural beauty like the Kegon Falls, Lake Chuzenji, and the Onsen. Check the weather before going, we could not see much because of the fog.
Castle: the most famous landmark of the area built in 1583 and destroyed and restored later. Its an architectural marvel with gold leaf on the rims and metal, marvelous wooden designs
Nara Todaji Temple and sacred deer: the great Buddhist temple of Nara is characteristic of its huge magnificent Buddha and statutes of guardians of east and west (life and death). The temple is surrounded by deer and that’s why they are considered sacred. Please do not leave plastic nor any trash on the floor because they will eat it and that is harmful to them.
Fushimi Inari Sanctuary: famous for its 2,000 tori (doors). The most visited part is the first 1,000 and the other ones are frequented by hikers and worshipers.
Nijo Castle: built in 1679 with various rooms decorated in gold leaf each one with different designs for specific purposes like tigers to intimidate, cheery blossoms to make the room calm, and tea rooms. The most prominent feature is the nightingale floors which are corridors that make the sound when stepped on.
Kinkakuji Temple (Golden Temple): finished around 1408 as a Zen temple and burned down by a fanatic monk. Today no one can enter the temple except really important people. However, they have a spectacular lake and gardens.
Shintoist Temple of Heian: build in 1895 and one of the most requested wedding locations in Japan. It has a giant Torri at the entrance and multiple cherry blossoms in its garden.
Nagoya, Magome, Tsumago: located in the Kiso valley its nice quiet towns famous for its wood-style houses, red bridges, and simple life.
Shirakawago: houses made of wood and hay rooftops, it’s straight out of a fairytale story.
Museum and park: the park is peaceful and beautiful with its memorial to the fallen in the war and victims of the bombing. The Japanese have no problem in speaking about the subject because they want to prevent it from happening again. The museum is a shocking experience and it does have a trigger warning before entering.
Itsukushima Sanctuary of Mijayima: it is an island with a floating temple and torri. Also very requested for weddings.
Google translate: a simple app but it helps a lot
Japan national tourism organization: if your traveling on your own or have free time after the tour it helps you out determine what to do and see.
Google map: essential for not getting lost
Uber: the majority of the Ubers and taxis are black Toyota crowns so please read the care plate before getting on.
Japan has a lot of souvenir shops with a lot of key chains, charms, fans, and toys. I recommend buying the ones that the guide tells you that are specific to the area where you can’t get anywhere else; charms or key chains that look sturdy; and fans are a good gift. T-shirts are very common and easy to find. The toys are cool if you like them and are a fan of manga and anime.
Hit play to see photos!