I think it is a well acknowledged fact that the Japanese have embraced “selfies” as much, if not more, than everyone else around the world. So I knew that I had to bring my selfie A-game on my recent trip to Japan. What I didn’t know is that the practice of taking a selfie (especially when wielding a selfie-stick) is practically an adventure sport in Japan! There are signs all over the place warning of the dangers of selfie-taking.
Even so, I managed to squeeze in a stack of selfies during my whirlwind trip through Tokyo, Kyoto and Hiroshima.
In Tokyo, I caught up with my old school buddy Ayumi and her husband Eric, and although the weather was terrible initially, I checked out plenty of sights. In between visiting a few temples and shopping, I crossed the crossing with the masses at Shibuya, and caught a few early cherry tree bloomers in Ueno park.
Then it was onto the Shinkansen (bullet train) to Kyoto. It was a really fine day so the en-route views of Mt Fuji were fantastic.
Kyoto has over 2000 temples and shrines, and in my 24 hours in the city, I visited quite a few. My favourite was Fushimi Inari with its orange Torii walkway all the way up the side of a hill; followed closely by a small one off the beaten track north of Arashima that has hundreds of stone-carved statues. There was a spring lantern festival the night I was there which was an added bonus, and although I didn’t spy any traditional geisha, there were lots of women dressed up in fantastic kimino.
Next destination was Hiroshima after another shinkansen and I immediately visited the A-bomb dome (the only building to survive the nuclear bomb in 1945) and the adjacent peace park and museum. In addition to this grim past, Hiroshima is also famous for its local version of okonomiyaki, a Japanese pancake dish, and it is the gateway to the nearby Inland Sea and the island of Miyojima, a short ferry ride away. I caught the dawn ferry and watched the sunrise light up the famous floating Torii that welcomes you as you come into the harbour. The island is also known for its tame deer and oysters!
Then I legged it back to Tokyo. The finale was a trip to the eye-opening Tsukiji fish markets to watch the sale of all sorts of weird and wonderful seafood, followed by a fantastic plateful of freshly made sushi.
For anyone planning to visit Japan, here’s a few general travel tips:
- Rail travel. It really is the best way to travel around Japan, and the JR pass for tourists is a really good deal, but you have to arrange it before you travel. I often felt bewildered in the ridiculously large train stations, but there was always a friendly staff member able to point me in the right direction.
- Food. Who’d have thunk it? Japanese food is even better in Japan! Sushi of course, but also yummy noodles. Kyoto train station has a whole floor dedicated to ramen noodles. And the previously mentioned okonomiyaki. Yum yum yum.
- Other miscellaneous. It was surprisingly hard to find ATMs that would take foreign cards (and practically nowhere accepts cards directly for payment), but 7-11 shop ATMs do. As a solo female traveller, I felt really safe in all of the places I visited.
Arigatou Japan, see you again soon!