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10 reasons why you MUST add Japan to your travel plans

We visited Japan for 2 weeks in May 2017 and fell in love with this amazing country. So much so that, if an opportunity arose, we would seriously consider moving there. We decided to deviate from our slow travel mantra, splurge a little and make it all happen within a shorter duration. I am so glad we did! Japan is a mesmerizing country rich in culture and history with loads of things to see and do. From gaining new experiences, traveling through stunning landscapes dribbled with shrines and temples to relaxing in an onsen or relishing delicious desserts and coffee in an animal cafe, Japan keeps you wanting for more.

Fushimi Inari Shrine

In no particular order, here are 10 reasons why I think every one must make Japan part of their travel plans:

  1. Perfect blend of East and West

    Land of the rising sun, Japan, is a country filled with many contradictions. In an uber modern city like Tokyo, the concrete and glass will have you reaching for the sky and at the same time, turn a corner, and the red tiled roofs will be bringing you back to earth. You will see kimono clad women in their getas strolling alongside suited men and women. The colorful lanterns adorning entrances, impeccably manicured gardens, striking red torii gates, and plethora of temples and shrines are all in place in this 21st century city, to make a curious traveler like me long for a glimpse of the ancient world. Maybe a samurai will walk out the door or a ninja will jump in front from the roof. You never know which Japan awaits you around the corner.

    View from the Imperial Palace gate
    The stunning landscapes – Jojakko-ji Temple
    Sensoji Temple in Asakusa
    Japanese Garden
    Five Pillar Pagoda

    Pretty kimono clad women

  2. It is so clean that you could eat off the road

    Even a city like Tokyo, that is crowded and bustling with activity is spotless. I couldn’t help but constantly compare it to NYC and be amazed at how clean the roads and walkways are. And wait, there are hardly any trash cans around! This goes for the subways as well. Super clean and no obnoxious smells.

    Walking in the shopping district, Ginza on a Sunday afternoon when no vehicles are allowed. Quite a treat!

  3. Public transportation is very organized and easy to navigate

    Once you understand the signs and color systems in place, getting around Japan is easy, comfortable and convenient. Just make sure you get to the station on time, as the trains and buses are very punctual. The Shinkansen has an average delay of a whopping 6 seconds!

    Inside the local train in Tokyo

    Buying train tickets at a station in Tokyo

  4. The Shinkansen!

    Riding the bullet trains is an event in itself. This is what futuristic travel looks like. Very exciting! The fastest we travelled was at 284 km/hr (used an app to measure the speed) and it can go as fast as 320 km/hr. WOW!

    Tanuj was like a kid in a candy store, admiring every aspect of the train. Here he can’t believe we are traveling this fast.

    THE bullet train!

  5. Ryokans and Onsens

    Thanks to the volcanically active country, Japan has many onsens scattered throughout the island. The hot water is believed to have many healing properties since its rich in minerals. Many inns, or ryokans, are located by these onsens and staying in one takes the experience to another level. We stayed in a Ryokan with an outdoor and indoor pool. The view was divine and the experience was definitely one of my highlights. My skin was gleeful too! Read more about it in our Hakone post!

    Inside our living room in a traditional japanese ryokan
    A specially prepared traditional vegetarian dinner at our Ryokan after a relaxing dip in the Onsen!

    The balcony from our room at the Ryokan

  6. Give me more DESSERT!!

    The desserts are to die for… the custard filled buns, green tea or cherry blossom ice cream, mochi/rice cakes, cheesecakes, daifuku (mochi filled with sweet fillings), dango (sauce dipped chewy Japanese rice dumpling served on a stick), crepes, honey toast, castella with many fillings (banana was my favorite)… the list goes on. It’s not too sweet and the portion sizes won’t hurt your waist line. If you see a long line outside a desert shop or bakery, get in line first and ask questions later! It will most likely be worth it.

    Dango – Chewy Japanese Rice Balls in a Skewer
    Absolutely delicious and creamy Matcha Tea ice cream
    Azuki and Common Bean “Anko”

    Famous “Pablo Mini” cheese tarts in Akihabara. We got a box of 6 in 3 flavors. Our favorite was the chocolate.

  7. Best poop experience ever. Really!!!

    Seat cleaner

    I can’t understand why the rest of the world has not caught on to this wonderful bit of gadgetry. Toilets, even public ones, have a  console of buttons for a clean and luxurious experience. Seat warmers, adjustable water temperature, adjustable water pressure, front or rear wash, deodorizer, sterilizer, auto lid and seat, auto flush, an etiquette bell (usually a flushing or water noise to enhance privacy) are just some of the features that made our “poop-pee” experience unforgettable. A no brainer!

    A console such as this, is pretty common in public restrooms

    This was the console in our hotel room.

  8. Uber cool… it’s the small things

    • The taxi doors are automatic, one doesn’t have to open or close the door as you enter/exit the cab. How cool! We found it odd to simply walk out and away as in other parts of the world it can be considered rude and inconsiderate. It took us no more than couple taxi rides to enjoy the convenience.
    • You can always be online with a personal wifi unit. It’s small and indiscreet allowing you to connect all your devices while on the go.

      Wifi unit in Japan

    • The smart phones have a camera facing the street so you can see the road in front of you while walking and texting (agreed, we don’t want to encourage people using the phone while on the road but if you must then better to be safe than sorry!).
    • An automatic umbrella plastic cover sheathing machine, also known as a “Kasapon”, located outside most hotels is the coolest and most useful gadgetry I’ve seen in rainy Tokyo. I wish I took a video of it as it’s so cool. All you need to do is insert your wet umbrella into the machine and swipe it out. Easy Peesy! Here is a video of this cool machine on youtube.
    • Heated “anti fog” mirrors in Japan are commonplace. You can step out of a steamy shower and be sure to see your squeaky clean face.
    • Fake food displayed outside restaurants and cafes to give you an idea of what your food will look like.
      Can you believe that all these desserts are in plastic and only for display? It’s a thing in Japan to display food and dessert served at the restaurant this way.
      That egg sandwich looks so real!
      French fries anyone?
      Hmm, what shall I eat today?

      Fake! Fake! Fake! Say it again if you can’t believe it.

  9. Kinky, Quirky, Weird and Fun

    Let’s talk Anime, Manga, Maid Cafes, Robots, Animal Cafes, vending machines serving hot coffee and underwear (yup!), and multi-level “adult” shops. They maybe weird when looked from a western perspective but are a lot of fun to experience for the first time.

    Hello Kitty staircase
    Bear hug anyone? It’s only $14 for 15 mins!
    A Pachinko Parlor with a shower room! The rage in Japan – we walked in but it was so confusing and smoky that we decided to leave.
    We went to an Owl Forest and it was quite the experience… not sure if it rates high in the humane category but animal cafes (cat, rabbit) are all over Tokyo.
    Robot Restaurant – We would have loved to go but since it was during the Golden Week we did not get tickets.
    Wee! So Happppiiee at the Toei Kyoto Studio Park

    Hmm…. okay!

  10. Shibuya Crossing

    Have you heard of a scramble crossing? It’s a traffic signal that stops all traffic to allow pedestrians to walk in any direction they like. There are several smaller versions implemented in various parts of the world but the mother, father, grandmother and grandfather of them all is in Shibuya, Tokyo. There are thousands of people spilling out of the intersection every minute. We spent over an hour just walking back and forth this crossing, taking pictures and videos. A highlight for sure!

    Scrambling away at the Shibuya Crossing!

These 10 reasons for visiting Japan are just the tip of the iceberg. There is so much more to truly experiencing Japan like drinking sake, the pulsating nightlife, seeing how the war torn city of Hiroshima has sprung back to life, eating wasabi flavored snacks, watching a western or anime movie in a theater, shopping at Daiso, walking through Takeshita dori, the swarm of uniformed school kids eager to speak to you in English while on their field trips across the country. The list goes on and on.

My heart fills with excitement thinking about the amazing time we spent in Japan. We would go back in a heartbeat. We hope you would too!

A reflective moment at the Happo-en Garden

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