Japan Diaries

Land of the rising sun

On 31 October 2018, I escaped to the country which has mastered the art of bouncing back.

Japan is truly timeless, a place where ancient traditions are fused with modern life. Changing cultures is not easy and is not for the faint-hearted. You have to personally adjust to the country, language, and culture in your own way and time.

People in Japan are exceptionally dedicated and hardworking, even though some Japanese people say they look like they’re working harder than they really are.

They say Wabi-Sabi is a way of life that appreciates and accepts complexity while at the same time values simplicity.

Wabi-Sabi is the art of imperfection

Bringing wabi-sabi into your life doesn’t require money, training, or special skills. Wabi-Sabi is a way of living the focuses on finding beauty within the imperfections of life and accepting peacefully the natural cycle of growth and cycle.

“Nothing lasts, nothing is finished, and nothing is perfect.”

For me, the Japan trip was unexpectedly an enlightening experience.

Pretravel

Tourist Visa — Required Documents
Refer:
Japan Embassy Site

TOURIST VISA — Required Documents for a Self-arranged visit
1. Application with Photo
2. Passport
3. Travel Booking (Travel itinerary and Hotel Booking);
4. Document to prove ability to pay for travel expenses
(a) Latest Income Tax Return;
(b) Bank Statements of the last 6 months

More Details
Valid passport. It should have over 2 blank pages. Submit old passports (if any).

◽ Copy of first and last pages of the passport.

◽ Visa application form. It must be fully filled and signed by the applicant.

◽ Cover letter that states the purpose of visit and day-wise details of the visit.

◽ 1 passport sized photograph. It should be 2x2 inches in size and should be clicked within the last 6 months. It should be a colored photograph with white background. The photo paper quality should be good.

◽ Travel tickets and itinerary (hotel booking, day-wise details).

◽ Last 6 months bank statement.

◽ Recent ITR (Income Tax Return).

◽ Employed applicants have to submit an employment certificate from his/her employer or NOC or proof of leave sanction. He/she also has to submit salary bank statement of last 6 months.

◽ Applicants who own a company have to submit ownership proof and bank statement of the company.

◽ Students or dependents have to submit consent of parents of spouse, original bank statement of last 6 months of spouse or parents and recent ITR of spouse or parents.

◽ If the applicant has a dependent accompanying him/her to Japan, then proof of relationship has to be provided. Copy of passport, birth certificate or marriage certificate can be submitted in this case.

◽ Apart from this, the Japanese Embassy may ask some applicants to appear for an interview and submit additional documents.

Visa Fee — For Indians
Indian nationals have to pay Rs.440 for a single entry or multiple entry visas. This fee may be changed at any time at the Japanese Immigration Department’s discretion. This fee will be refunded in case the visa application is rejected by the Embassy.

Things to remember

  1. Tokyo, Japan is 3 hours and 30 minutes ahead of India

2. Most metro stations in Tokyo have English signs, but the system can get confusing. Get a free map beforehand in order not to get lost. Also, remember that public transportation isn’t working 24/7 in Tokyo, so catch the last train before 11 pm.

3. As many streets have no name and not everyone speaks English consider renting a wireless router that will allow you to use google maps.

4. It can be surprisingly difficult to find an ATM that accepts foreign cards, even in Tokyo. The easiest place to get money is an ATM at 7-Eleven and Family Mart

5. There is no tipping when eating out in Japan.

6. If you enjoyed your dining experience and want to express your gratitude or compliment the chef/service staff, a friendly “Gochiso-sama-deshita” will do.

7. You can get around almost everywhere in Tokyo with JR trains and Tokyo metro subway lines.

8. If you need help with directions, you can probably find someone to assist you (in English) at a kōban police box, which you’ll find close to most train stations.

9. Getting around without speaking Japanese is not as scary as you may think. Most people are helpful, and little phrases like “sumimasen” (excuse me) and “arigato” (thank you) go a long way.

Japan in November

I’m mentioning just November because that’s the time I traveled to japan.

Climate
November is the perfect time to enjoy autumn leaves fall in Japan. It’s the time city’s parks exploding with color. The skies are typically brilliant blue, and the maple trees turn scarlet. It’s cooler and drier, with average high temperatures around 17°C and much less precipitation. The weather is chilly but not too cold that you have to wear multiple layers of clothes. Many feel that after April, this is the best month to be in Tokyo.

Rain
You will find 84mm of rainfall across 12 days, which is significantly less than previous months, but still more rain than parts of the UK like London. The chance of rain will be less likely, but still is a risk so wise to dress appropriately.

Dress Code
You may need a light jacket or sweater after dark, which is after 4:30 pm at the end of the month. Wearing layers is a good idea this time of year, as it may be cool outside and hot inside in many places.

Japan — Handpicked Bucket List.

I couldn’t finish most of them, left few places intentionally.
Pro Tip: Don’t try to complete all your goals in one single trip.
Reason:
In your lifetime you will get a chance to visit the same place again, leave something for your next trip.

Tsukiji Market

An essential stop if you love markets and are eager to learn about Japanese food, check out our guide to visiting Tokyo’s Tsukiji Market.

The art island Naoshima

For art lovers, Naoshima is a must-visit, with museums designed by Tadao Ando and works by world-class artists from around the world. Stay at the museum-hotel Benesse House, and also make sure to visit the tiny nearby art islands of Teshima and Inujima.

Kyoto’s bamboo forest
The perfect half-day trip while in Kyoto, on the city’s western outskirts you’ll find the scenic Arashiyama district, home to Zen temples and the iconic bamboo forest.

Eat Ramen

Wherever you go in Japan — from Fukuoka (aka Hakata) in the far west, to Sapporo in the far north — you’ll find incredibly good ramen shops with passionately devoted followers.

Ride the Bullet Train
A ride on the shinkansen (bullet train) is on nearly everyone’s must-do list, and fortunately, it’s almost always the best way to travel around Japan. Before hopping on the train pick up a delicious seasonal bento and a bottle of sake (eating and drinking on the train is a national tradition), and enjoy the landscape as it zips by.

Sushi & Sashimi

From Tokyo’s refined sushi temples (think Jiro Dreams of Sushi), to humble kaiten-zushi (conveyor belt sushi) shops, no trip to Japan is complete without trying sushi and sashimi.

Japanese Nightlife

Whether you’re enjoying craft cocktails at a tiny bar, drinking with locals at a casual tachinomiya (stand bar), singing all-night karaoke, catching the show at Robot Restaurant, or dancing the night away, Japan has some of the most varied and entertaining nightlife in the world.

Sumo & baseball

Attending an athletic event provides great insight into Japanese culture, and two of the most worthwhile are tradition-filled sumo, and baseball, with its uniquely Japanese spin. It is also the time when the final sumo tournament takes place, another reason to come to Japan during November.

Japanese matsuri (festivals)

Japan has too many matsuri (festivals) to name, but some of the most remarkable include Hokkaido’s Yuki Matsuri (Snow Festival), Shikoku’s boisterous Awa Odori dance festival, and the beautiful Gion Matsuri of Kyoto.

Fushimi Inari Shrine
Just a few minutes south of Kyoto is the beautiful Fushimi Inari Taisha shrine, where you can walk through seemingly-endless tunnels of vibrant vermillion torii gates as you ascend Mount Inari.

Dining & drinking at Izakaya
For a quintessential night of Japanese food, drink and revelry, head to a neighborhood izakaya (Japanese-style gastropub). In addition to being the perfect place to sample a wide variety of Japanese dishes — from seafood to fried foods, tofu to vegetables — eating and drinking at an izakaya is also a great way to mingle with locals.

Stroll in a Japanese Garden
Kyoto is most famous for its wealth of gardens, but lovely gardens abound in Japan, from renowned stroll gardens like Kenroku-en in Kanazawa, to the gorgeous gardens of the Adachi Museum of Art.

Skiing and Snowboarding
From the Japanese Alps of Nagano, to the legendary powder of Niseko in Hokkaido, Japan has some of the best skiing and snowboarding in the world. After a day on the slopes, rejuvenate with cozy izakaya food and healing onsen (just another reason to visit Japan in winter).

Take a walk in the woods
Japan is a hiker’s paradise, with wonderful day hikes and multi-day walks throughout the country. Two of the best are the charming Nakasendo Trail and the spiritual Kumano Kodo pilgrimage route.

Stay at a Buddhist Temple
For a taste of Buddhist life, spend a night at a shukubo (temple lodging) on sacred Mount Koya or at Nagano’s Zenko-ji Temple. Enjoy delicious vegetarian shojin ryori meals and rise early to attend morning prayers.

Modern Architecture
In Tokyo and beyond you’ll find world-class architecture from Japanese and non-Japanese architects, including stunning works by Tadao Ando, Kenzo Tange, Kengo Kuma, and Fumihiko Maki.

Go sake tasting
Unless you’ve had sake in Japan, chances are high you’ve never tried truly good sake. Treat your palate to a sake tasting at a sake shop, bar or restaurant specializing in high-quality premium sake.

Japanese Castles
Most of the castles you’ll see in Japan (such as Osaka Castle) are reconstructions and look beautiful primarily from the outside. But a handful — including the famous Himeji Castle, along with others such as Matsumoto Castle — have been lovingly preserved and maintain the atmosphere of days long past.

Drink Matcha Green Tea

Whether as part of a tea ceremony or in a charming teahouse along with seasonal wagashi (Japanese sweets), there is nothing more heartwarming than a freshly-prepared cup of matcha green tea.

Climb Mount Fuji

The old saying goes that there are two types of fools in the world: those who never climb Fuji-san, and those who climb it more than once. On the way up you’ll see children and grandparents, and while not the most scenic trek, it is all worthwhile when you reach the summit in time for sunrise.

The Islands of Okinawa

The islands of Okinawa are home to stunning beaches, world-class scuba diving, and fascinating culture and history. In particular, the remote islands of Okinawa — such as the pristine Yaeyama Islands — feel worlds apart from mainland Japan.

Kabuki theater
Traditional Japanese theater sounds like a great cultural activity.

Geisha and Maiko

Talking about Japan, one should not miss the beautifully dressed geisha and maiko. The geisha world is mysterious, which has resulted in more and more people trying to get closer to them.

The Atomic Bomb memorial site in Hiroshima
Japan is the only country who has suffered from the Atomic Bomb. The memorial site and Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum in Hiroshima are definitely one of the main reasons why you should visit Japan. The museum takes you back to World War II and reminds visitors that peace is what we need in this world.

Kabuki
One of the three major classical theaters in Japan, Kabuki has earned the UNESCO Intangible Culture Heritage title in 2005.

National Parks 
Japan has 31 protected national parks which include forests, beaches, marches as well as volcanoes. The national parks scattered across the country offering visitors a wide selection of activities including fishing, hiking, hot springs, diving, and boating.

Japan — Tokyo > Kyoto > Osaka

Tokyo

Tokyo offers a seemingly unlimited choice of shopping, entertainment, culture and dining to its visitors. The city’s history can be appreciated in districts such as Asakusa and in many excellent museums, historic temples and gardens. Contrary to common perception, Tokyo also offers a number of attractive green spaces in the city center and within relatively short train rides at its outskirts.

Getting to know Tokyo Asakusa and Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building

  • Start off your day by visiting the ancient Buddhist Sensoji Temple, in Asakusa. It is Tokyo’s oldest temple, and also it's most significant.
  • The Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building in Shinjuku is often visited by tourists for its free observation decks which provide good panoramic views of Tokyo and beyond. On a good day, you will even get a glimpse of the majestic Mt Fuji. The 243-meter tall building has two towers, and each houses an observatory at a height of 202 meters. It had been the tallest building in Tokyo until it was overtaken by the Midtown Tower in 2007.
  • Stay> Tokyo Hostel Fuji: It was a lovely place to stay! 
    Yes, it’s close to Shinjuku, but not only that. They are perfectly located if you would like to hang out in the popular local area, such as Nakano or Koenji. Have you heard about these places? They have a good source of local information, most of their staffs live in the area! For backpackers from all over the world, they offer original Japanese style bunk beds at a reasonable price. Helpful and friendly staffs are there for you.

Harajuku and Shibuya Crossing

  • Then travel to Harajuku where you can check out Meiji-Jingu Shrine, Omotesando, and the Nezu Museum. Harajuku is the most diverse neighborhood in Tokyo, where you get to experience both traditional Japanese culture, and the craziest off the charts fashion district where young people parade in the most fashion-forward outfits you will ever see.
  • To finish off your day head on over to the number one most famous place in all of Tokyo — the Shibuya Crossing. Located in the heart of the city (JR Yamanote line), Shibuya is the perfect place to experience what being a part of Tokyo really means. Shibuya is known for having the best shops, favored by young people, and also has an incredible nightlife. So stay for dinner and have a drink just like a native!

Shinjuku district

  • Then it’s time to discover the incredible Shinjuku district which houses the Metropolitan Government Building, the administration center for the government of Tokyo. Shinjuku is also famous for its nightlife as well as for being one of the best shopping districts in all of Tokyo. Fun fact: Shinjuku Station is the world’s busiest railway station, handling more than two million passengers every day.

Kamakura, Nikko, or Hakone

Taiizan Kotokuin Shojosenji, or Kōtoku-in is a Jōdo-shū Buddhist temple in the city of Kamakura in Kanagawa Prefecture, Japan. The temple is renowned for its “Great Buddha”, a monumental outdoor bronze statue of Amida Buddha, which is one of the most famous icons of Japan.

A day-trip outside of Tokyo is the ideal way to escape the bustle of the city and explore the picturesque sites close-by. Choose a one-day excursion outside of Tokyo, to either Nikko, Kamakura, or Hakone and the Mount Fuji area. Because each one offers such different options, we have rounded them up in a nifty blog post: Best day trips from Tokyo by train, where you are sure to find the perfect way to spend your day.

Travel far enough, you meet yourself.

Tokyo > Kyoto

The Tokaido Shinkansen is a high-speed “bullet train” rail line operated by JR Central between Shin-Osaka Station and Tokyo Station. This is the fastest and most comfortable route to take if you are traveling between Osaka and other major cities in Japan such as Kyoto, Nagoya and Tokyo.

Travel brings power and love back into your life.

After St. Petersburg Russia, Kyoto is my second favourite city. Kyoto is a wonderful, magical city brimming with culture and ancestral traditions. Kyoto has many historical sites and attractions.

Love makes you see a place differently, just as you hold differently an object that belongs to someone you love. If you know one landscape well, you will look at all other landscapes differently. And if you learn to love one place, sometimes you can also learn to love another.

The Golden Pavilion Temple

It is also called Kinkakuji in Japanese, was built in 1397 and it is located in Kyoto, Japan. It was initially made to serve as a villa for retirement for Shogun Ashikaga. It was quite later that his son converted the building into a Zen temple. The Golden Pavilion burned down in 1950 when a monk set fire to the temple.

The entire temple is surrounded by a beautiful garden with a pond in the front called the Mirror Pond.

Yasaka Shrine
It was once called Gion Shrine, is a Shinto shrine in the Gion District of Kyoto, Japan. Situated at the east end of Shijō-dōri, the shrine includes several buildings, including gates, the main hall and a stage.

Fushimi Inari Taisha 
It is the head shrine of the god Inari, located in Fushimi Ward in Kyoto, Japan. The shrine sits at the base of a mountain also named Inari which is 233 meters above sea level.

Inari is the god of rice, but merchants and manufacturers have traditionally worshiped Inari as the patron of business.

Each of the torii at Fushimi Inari Taisha has been donated by a Japanese business.

Foxes are said to be the messengers of Inari, and stern bronze foxes (kitsune) can be seen throughout the shrine. Inari’s foxes are generally considered helpful, but they have also been said to bewitch people. The keys that some of them hold in their mouths are for the rice granaries.

Some beautiful paths can’t be discovered without getting lost.

Stay > Len Kyoto Kawaramachi: 
This is one of the best hostels I've ever been to. The place, food, and people were amazing. 
The hotel is conveniently located, about a ten min walk to the subway and then one stop to Kyoto main station. Value for money overall is good, for us personally it’s debatable as to whether it would have been worth the extra to stay at more of a traditional hotel. The staff and the bar were the best part of this hostel.

Osaka

If you are departing from Kansai International Airport or Osaka Airport you can enjoy a fun-filled day exploring Osaka. I would suggest adding the Osaka Aquarium (Kaiyukan), the Tempozan Marketplace, and the Osaka Castle to your to-do list!

One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.

Osaka Castle is a Japanese castle in Chūō-ku, Osaka, Japan. The castle is one of Japan’s most famous landmarks and it played a major role in the unification of Japan during the sixteenth century of the Azuchi-Momoyama period.

Hōkoku Shrine is a Shinto shrine located in Osaka, Japan. It is one of several Toyokuni shrines built in honor of Toyotomi Hideyoshi. It is part of the Osaka Castle Park.


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About Author:
Hello! I’m Aditya Krishna a.k.a Aditya Dhotre, I have worked with a number of clients, both independently and through corporates. Sometimes, I’m fortunate to teach and give lectures. I’m fuelled by true passion, with an excellent eye for detail & craftsmanship. Currently Crafting Experiences at Freshworks.

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