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Japan Diaries

Evade's own travel writer, Nicole Schembri, takes us back to Tokyo.

2014 was a busy year of travel, going on three separate trips. Indonesia. South America, and then Japan. Its THE place to be for art, fashion and food!

A few days before departing for Japan there was a volcanic eruption on Mount Ontake so there was a good chance that my flight was going to be cancelled. It got to the day of departure and luckily, it wasn’t cancelled, though when we got closer to Tokyo, there was an ash cloud and the best solution was to land in Osaka. I’m very glad that this didn’t happen to my friend’s flight, who were arriving a couple days after me, as they would have had a meltdown, considering for one of them it was their first time travelling overseas.

There was a little bit of chaos at the airport, trying to figure out if I was going to Tokyo later that night, but luckily my airline gave us some money to book accommodation for the night and then a one-way train ticket to Tokyo the next day. I remember once I arrived at my hotel I dropped my bags, got changed and started roaming the city at night, in disbelief that I was in Japan. The following day, before jumping on a train to Tokyo, I went to one of the markets and couldn’t believe the size of the oysters I found. They were the size of my hand, and there was no chance I was leaving the market without trying one. It was a little bit of a struggle to eat it all in one go, but it was delicious.

I arrived in Tokyo later that evening and did the same as I did in Osaka - just roam around the city of Shinjuku. The following day, my friends arrived and the first thing they wanted to do was find the closest Pokémon store. Don’t worry - we did see more than just Pokémon stores.

Throughout the time we were there, we based ourselves in Tokyo and if I had my time again, I would have booked a few days in different cities rather than doing day trips. The day we went to Hiroshima was a long day of travelling, especially because we had to get back early because a typhoon was going to hit Japan later that evening. We got to see the Atomic Bomb Dome building and Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, but we missed out on going Miyajima which is an island off the coast of Hiroshima, which has deer just wandering freely through the parkland.

Another day trip we had was down to Kyoto, the former capital of Japan. For my two friends, their first priority was to find the Nintendo building, which was a grey rectangular building with the logo, but let me tell you there is more to Kyoto then just the Nintendo headquarters. It’s renowned for its Buddhist temples and gardens, imperial palaces, traditional wooden houses and Geisha’s roaming the streets. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw a couple of Geisha’s jumping into a horse and cart. Would highly recommend spending more than one day in Kyoto.

One thing we wanted to do but we missed out on, was to properly see Mount Fuji. We may have seen whilst travelling on the bullet train, but that was as good as it got. When I got back to Australia, a friend told me about this day trip tour there was to Mt. Fuji. You got to see it Mt. Fuji from one of the lookouts and then later that day, you got to relax in some hot springs. Just words of advice - Japan’s views on tattoos are somewhat controversial so if you have tattoos apparently you are not allowed to go or show your tattoo at the hot springs.

When you’re in Tokyo you must check out Akihabara, which is the electric city and my mates, being massive gamers and into comics, they went insane on the number of figurines they bought. On my last day in Japan, we went back to Akihabara and we had dinner at a maid café which it was an experience in itself. There are plenty of quirky cafés to check out, such as Ninja café, Alice in Wonderland Café, Robot restaurant and many more. We went to Tsukija Market in Tokyo during the day, but if you like to get up early you can go to the market at 3am to check out the famous Tuna Auction and once it finished around 6.00am you can get yourself some breakfast at the market.

If you’re into street art and fashion, you have to check out Takeshita street in Harijuku, where you will find quirky vintage clothing and Cosplay stores, as well as small bars and trendy cafes. There are plenty of opportunities to be a big kid in Japan, so we went to Disneyland Tokyo. What was really cool was that they had a Halloween theme on at the time, with Halloween only around the corner. One theme park I wouldn’t really recommend was going to Universal Studios. Maybe I’m being bias because I have been to the original Universal Studios in America.

Japan is definitely not like any other Asian country that you will visit. It has a great mix of traditional, as well as out-of-this-world experiences. I would love to go back either during cherry blossom season (late March/early April) or in their wintertime. Japan, I would have to say, has endless things to see and do. So why not be spontaneous and book a trip to Japan because you won’t regret it.

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