Japan Trip sightseeing recommendations?

I'm taking a trip to Japan in October, visiting Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka.

It's my first trip to Japan. I have some stuff planned out but I was wondering if anyone has any suggestions of what I should do and see.

Any recommendations are appreciated.

Ueno koen. Ueno/Asakusa is basically the only place I'd live in Tokyo if I had to.

Also, if you do go to the Kiyomizu-dera in Kyoto, just before the stairs there is a quiet little forested bit to the left of it as you face the steps. It is rife with these little stone carved, moss-covered statues on this unkept path that leads into the back of the temple complex and is the most direct way to get to the waterfall at the mountain trail without fighting the crowds.

I am unfamiliar whether it was private property or not, but you know ... it's kind of lovely. Plus nobody else was walking that way... which was weird because it's such a quiet place filled by these pathside carvings. It didn't look as neat or well-kept as the rest of the complex grounds.

But hey, if you don't put up fences and walls people shouldn't complain when people walk through it...

Of course that was ten years ago, so things might have changed.

Oh, and if you ever find youself in Sunshine City, see if there is a underground club called the 'King George Pub' still exists ... go just before after hours and see if there is a expat African American there. He was former Airborne, and it seems to be a cosy little place where Americans for whatever reason are stationed there.

Introduce yourself and ask whether he'd like a game of chess if he isn't busy. Bring your A-game, however.

I was incredibly intoxicated by midday as we kept drinking past dawn, plus it's been almost over a decade. But I'm fairly certain it's the second street of the block as you enter it closest to the Yamanote JR station, and to your right. It seemed like a nice, quiet place where stationed American soldiers hanged out.

If you can manage, I'd recommend stopping in Nara. It's fairly close to Osaka and moderately close to Kyoto, and it's kind of like the latter but (in my opinion) a much nicer experience. Several of the major historical sites are now amalgamated into one giant park, which makes walking between them really nice. Also, there are really cute deer everywhere (the deer used to be considered sacred, and are protected by law) and people feed them, so they're pretty docile (from a Western perspective it can be weird to see wild animals treated this way, but it's kind of normal in Japan).

For Tokyo, the metropolitan government building has two viewing observatories with a really great view of the whole city, and one stays open late. It's also pretty central and easy to get to. Other than that my advice is to explore. Probably my favourite experience in Japan was getting lost in east Shinjuku in the middle of a massive rainstorm, and that's not a testament to the low quality of Japanese tourist activities, it really was beautiful.

evilthecat:
If you can manage, I'd recommend stopping in Nara. It's fairly close to Osaka and moderately close to Kyoto, and it's kind of like the latter but (in my opinion) a much nicer experience. Several of the major historical sites are now amalgamated into one giant park, which makes walking between them really nice. Also, there are really cute deer everywhere (the deer used to be considered sacred, and are protected by law) and people feed them, so they're pretty docile (from a Western perspective it can be weird to see wild animals treated this way, but it's kind of normal in Japan).

For Tokyo, the metropolitan government building has two viewing observatories with a really great view of the whole city, and one stays open late. It's also pretty central and easy to get to. Other than that my advice is to explore. Probably my favourite experience in Japan was getting lost in east Shinjuku in the middle of a massive rainstorm, and that's not a testament to the low quality of Japanese tourist activities, it really was beautiful.

Yeah we're planning on stopping in Nara for a day trip on our way to Kyoto (or was it on the way from Kyoto to Osaka, can't remember exactly).

evilthecat:
If you can manage, I'd recommend stopping in Nara. It's fairly close to Osaka and moderately close to Kyoto, and it's kind of like the latter but (in my opinion) a much nicer experience. Several of the major historical sites are now amalgamated into one giant park, which makes walking between them really nice. Also, there are really cute deer everywhere (the deer used to be considered sacred, and are protected by law) and people feed them, so they're pretty docile (from a Western perspective it can be weird to see wild animals treated this way, but it's kind of normal in Japan).

For Tokyo, the metropolitan government building has two viewing observatories with a really great view of the whole city, and one stays open late. It's also pretty central and easy to get to. Other than that my advice is to explore. Probably my favourite experience in Japan was getting lost in east Shinjuku in the middle of a massive rainstorm, and that's not a testament to the low quality of Japanese tourist activities, it really was beautiful.

How can you have possibly liked Tokyo in the rain? Monsoon period made me feel depressed. Tokyo is depressing in the rain. And no ... it's not just the rain. I visited the UK as a kid, the rain is annoying but not so bad ... it's just that everything and everyone disappears in the rain. So many of the outdoor fixtures aren't put out, etc.

Plus if you're like me and 5'10"+, you have to wear sunglasses in the rain ... Unless you normally haveto wear glasses, regardless. Then you'll be safe.

Plus the trains are awful when you get so many wet people at rush hours. So either you get crushed packs of wet strangers in trains, or you walk and end up with facial scratches because apparently no one believes in awnings or underground walkways.

Tokyo in the rain is awful. This is like a travel fact.

You know what is amazing in the rain, however? India. Seeing water run down intricately positioned steps and fill the many niches of the stepwells in places like Rajasthan is amazing. There's some places that are beautiful or awe-inspiring when it's wet ... Tokyo is not. I suppose it depends on how much you value your hypothetical sunny disposition... only if you feed on misery and depression, then yeah--I guess Tokyo in the rain might do it for you.

If you're a gamer, a trip to any arcade is sure to be a lot of fun. Mad jealous of their arcades. Also, Super Potato, obviously. Stuff tends to be a bit pricey but if you're into retro gaming at all, their stores are heaven. You can find anything there.

Last time I was in Osaka it was a public holiday so Dotonburi was super crowded but you can do some really cool shopping in the markets there. I'm a big fan of umeshu and Japanese whiskey in general and got me some good deals at Don Quijote. Also, Osaka Castle Park is kind of cool, if you've never been to any temples in Asia but when I went last time it was idiotically busy. You'll probably be OK, going this time of year though. Nishiki Market in Kyoto is a really cool food market too.

Otherwise, I agree with Evil. Asia is the kind of place you can just go to a subway stop in any major city, get off and explore. I'm not even one to really make big plans or a schedule or whatever. I was in Kyoto back in 2012 with some friends and fucked if I could even tell you where we went because I don't really pay much attention to the names of places, I just like to take it all in. I mostly go on holiday for the food, drinking and shopping tbh (first time I did Osaka and Kyoto with a bunch of good friends and we were ripped on good beer and whiskey for a lot of it). I might visit a few historic sites here and there but, and this is probably ignorant of me, if you've seen one temple, you've kind of seen them all IMHO. If those kinds of places aren't busy, they're worth a look but an absolute nightmare when everyone else is on holiday too.

Dirty Hipsters:
I'm taking a trip to Japan in October, visiting Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka.

It's my first trip to Japan. I have some stuff planned out but I was wondering if anyone has any suggestions of what I should do and see.

Any recommendations are appreciated.

Depends what you're into.

General Japanese culture, you're already seeing the right sorts of places. If you castles and temples and stuff, Nara, Himeji near Kyoto. There's a place not far north from Tokyo, but I forget the name. For natural scenery, could try the "Japanese Alps" (e.g. around Takayama) or Hokkaido is often recommended, although didn't go there myself. If you love art, consider popping out to Naoshima for a day or two (fairly easy from Osaka). I've heard visiting Kyushu is well worth it, although probably more as a niche thing if you've got a lot of time or a second holiday afer you've already done the main Tokyo-Kyoto area.

One major piece of advice I'd have for tourist sites. A lot of the best temples with their bamboo groves and zen gardens and stuff are best experienced when it's quiet. And the only way you're going to experience that is to go first thing in the morning, and preferably also at the worst times of the year for tourism. There are few things less zen than the loud blabbering of ten package tour coaches worth of philistine gawkers with no real interest in what they're looking at other than they think they're supposed to see it. Or the overprivileged rich arsehole who wants to be chauffeur-driven into the idyllic surroundings in his massive 4x4 just to take a few hasty pics with his family before he dashes off to put a few thousand employees out of work so he can justify his annual bonus.

Agema:
One major piece of advice I'd have for tourist sites. A lot of the best temples with their bamboo groves and zen gardens and stuff are best experienced when it's quiet. And the only way you're going to experience that is to go first thing in the morning, and preferably also at the worst times of the year for tourism. There are few things less zen than the loud blabbering of ten package tour coaches worth of philistine gawkers with no real interest in what they're looking at other than they think they're supposed to see it. Or the overprivileged rich arsehole who wants to be chauffeur-driven into the idyllic surroundings in his massive 4x4 just to take a few hasty pics with his family before he dashes off to put a few thousand employees out of work so he can justify his annual bonus.

So true... my then-gf (now wife for those who care) planned a stay in Kyoto (smack in the middle of winter, so logic would state that it should be relatively quiet)... no such luck. I (and a whole load of others) had to tolerate a bunch of twats at Ryoanji making a fuss about instagram pics and sitting in some hash-up of seiza/quarter lotus or whatever all while wildly yelling 'I can see all of them!' Also, no-one seemed to care about the tsukubai... I wonder why... -_-

OT: If you can score tickets (got to apply quite a long time in advance, though) and you're into it, the Ghibli Museum is worth a visit.

The Osaka aquarium 'Kaiyukan' is well worth a visit. Its a massive aquarium with a central tank that multiple stories high and as you walk down from the top you see the tank from multiple different angles and you can see fish that live in the various layer. There are also other tanks around as you're making your way down with all sorts of cool things to see.

After you've seen all you can see in the aquarium there is also other things around just outside like a giant ferris wheel and a ship that will sail around the Osaka harbour where you'll be able to see some pretty cool things, I especially liked seeing the bridges in the area (and Japan's biggest IKEA).

I'm planning on going back to Japan next July and I'm hoping to have time to visit it again.

SckizoBoy:

So true... my then-gf (now wife for those who care) planned a stay in Kyoto (smack in the middle of winter, so logic would state that it should be relatively quiet)... no such luck. I (and a whole load of others) had to tolerate a bunch of twats at Ryoanji making a fuss about instagram pics and sitting in some hash-up of seiza/quarter lotus or whatever all while wildly yelling 'I can see all of them!' Also, no-one seemed to care about the tsukubai... I wonder why... -_-

OT: If you can score tickets (got to apply quite a long time in advance, though) and you're into it, the Ghibli Museum is worth a visit.

Yes, Ryoanji was definitely what I was thinking of. I had about four or five instances of extremely annoying, selfish or thoughtless tourists in Japan. So it was at Ryoanji we got about 5-10 mins before a load of them piled in, marched straight to the front blocking the view of the dozen or so people already there, all the while blabbering loudly, oh so loudly, at each other.

And yeah, selfies. I can't help but feel a lot more people spend so much time trying to take perfect shots of themselves and put them online they forget to enjoy they're actually there. Bunch of sodding narcissists.

Agema:
And yeah, selfies. I can't help but feel a lot more people spend so much time trying to take perfect shots of themselves and put them online they forget to enjoy they're actually there. Bunch of sodding narcissists.

I'm typically OK with selfie-takers and people being, if not necessarily rowdy then, gregarious in places that merit it (like public monuments, anything related to pop culture etc.). However, the lack of attention to the tsukubai and not getting why there's more to the garden than running around trying to see all the stones (and I'll take a lot of flak for saying this, but w/e) just smacks of disrespect and willful cultural ignorance (you're in a place that is trying to teach you that you don't need to engage in the BS that you're engaging in). It is literally impossible to go there to do the one thing the place was built for. I'll admit I took a few photos (doing my best to make sure there was nothing living in them), but at least I made the effort to find some form of contemplative stillness. I did not succeed.

To that end, I understand why some of the zen gardens (like Saiho-ji) have specific (and many tourists would consider 'strict', even if they really aren't when you really think about the purpose of these gardens) requirements before you can visit. Not the expense, but the application period and process beforehand, a modest fee, writing out/chanting certain sutras, meditating and the monks choose the time of day when you can visit... Can you imagine the lawsuits that some prats would file for grazing a knee after slipping on the moss?!

/rant

Why are Japanese websites so fucking awful? Their web design seems to be stuck 15 years behind.

Makes it really annoying to buy tickets to things.

 

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