TOKYO – Guide to 10 Extraordinary Neighborhoods

Tokyo – my first encounter with Japanese everyday life and culture – left a good impression and prepared me for more to come – hence, let me guide you to ten of its most extraordinary neighborhoods.

School kids in Tokyo, Japan
A warm and fun welcome to Tokyo by these sweet ambassadors.

Tokyo – the first cut is the deepest. However, this one didn’t hurt at all.

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JAPAN. An Adjustable Guide for First-Timers

Are you planning on going to Japan for the first time?
Being all excited?
Wondering what to expect?
Having a million questions?
Well, I recently came back from my first big Japan adventure, and let me tell you: It was just overwhelming; in a good way! I had the chance to travel for three weeks. However, I know that not everybody has the opportunity to leave for so long. Therefore, based on my itinerary, I put together a travel guide – not only – for other first-timers to Japan. You can adjust it individually to your personal trip – for one, two, or three weeks in the Land of the Rising Sun.

日本へようこそ – Nihon e yōkoso – Welcome to Japan!

Geisha taking picture with a cellphone
Beautifully dressed for Japan.
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A Visit to the HAKONE OPEN AIR MUSEUM – at the height of beauty

Although on clear days, you can be lucky to spot Mount Fuji all the way from Tokyo, most people take a day trip either to the Fujigoko Fuji Five Lake region at the northern foot of the famous mountain. Others try their luck and visit Hakone, a hot spring region with many grand places to experience – like the Hakone Open Air Museum, an outdoor gallery at the height of beauty.

Renata Green on a sculpture at the Open Air Museum In Hakone, Japan
Sunnyside up: At Hakone’s outdoor gallery, visitors are invited to become one with the art – literally.

World-famous Mount Fuji, probably Japan’s most iconic landmark, is a still active volcano, albeit, it erupted for the last time in 1707, so no worries.

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KAWAGUCHIKO – Taking a Shot at Mount Fuji

I’ve heard that there are people travelling periodically to the Lakeland of Kawaguchiko west of Tokyo just to take a good shot of Mount Fuji.

Mount Fuji seen from Kawaguchiko
This is the picture I intended to shoot.

This majestic, perfectly shaped volcano – that erupted lastly in 1707 – seems to be hiding behind clouds most of the time. Therefore, it can be a challenge – or a hobby – hunting the best view. Or at least a glimpse.

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Guide to NAGOYA – enjoy the ordinary

This is a guide to Nagoya, the perfect place to enjoy an ordinary day in an ordinary city in Japan.

Renata Green at the Nagoya Castle on a guide to Nagoya, an ordinary Japanese city
Shogun for a day.

Brands like Mitsubishi, Toyota, and even Shinkansen are settled in Nagoya. I assume they sound more familiar than the city’s own name.

This might be the reason why most foreign visitors just skip Japan’s fourth-largest city located on the Pacific coast in favor of the more glamorous metropoles.

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TAKAYAMA – travel back in time; and a side trip to SHIRAKAWAGO

Takayama and Shirakawago are the perfect places if you are ready for a trip back in time. Nestled between the mountains of the Gifu prefecture, they invite you to walk narrow alleys lined with old wooden merchants’ houses dating from the Edo Period. You can visit a dozen of fascinating museums. And last not least, you absolutely need to sample Hida Beef that just melts in your mouth.

Renata Green in TAKAYAMA on a travel back in time and a side trip to SHIRAKAWAGO
Once in Shirakawago, you absolutely have to walk up to the Ogimachi observation deck. There is already a photographer with a couple of props waiting for you – say cheese!

It might be already challenging enough to fit all the landmarks in downtown Takayama into your itinerary. Nevertheless, you should by no means miss a little side trip to Shirakawago. This hamlet made it to the World Heritage Site list in 1995, after all.

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4 Days in KYOTO: A Guide to Japan’s Treasure Box and a Side Trip to NARA

4 Days in Kyoto should actually be the minimum to explore Japan’s Treasure Box – plus, you absolutely need to add a Side Trip to Nara.

Two Geishas at 4 Days Kyoto Treasure Box of Japan
Yes, this is such a stunning sight. However, according to my experience, every Geisha under the age of 55 is prone to be a Chinese tourist in disguise. Sometimes stunning just the same.
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HIROSHIMA – risen up from the ashes; and a side trip to MIYAJIMA

Hiroshima is one of the names inextricably connected to the first atomic attack in human history and therefore a must when visiting Japan. However, Hiroshima is also a great gateway for a trip to idyllic Miyajima.

Atomic Dome in Hiroshima, a city HIROSHIMA - risen up from the ashes; and a side trip to MIYAJIMA
A Dove of Peace spreading its wings in front of the Atom Bomb Dome.

Before visiting Hiroshima, I wasn’t able to imagine a place with a little over a million inhabitants plying their trades as if their city never had been practically erased and went down in history as one of the biggest humanitarian disasters.

What I found was a charming city – risen up from the atomic ashes of 1945.

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A night at the KAGURA

I spent a night to remember – a night at the Kagura.

When travelling, I love to attend folkloristic spectacles. Due to the language barrier, I prefer dance shows. In Kandy on the island of Sri Lanka, I saw a dance show, in Chiang Mai in Thailand it even came with a traditional dinner. On the island of Bali, I witnessed Kecak in Uluwatu and went to see a performance every single night during my stay in Ubud.

Kagura Performance in Hiroshima
Good against evil – a classic in performing arts.

You can imagine my excitement when I found out that on Saturdays, there is a Kagura performance at the Hiroshima Prefectural Art Museum. Saturday – perfect, I’ll be in Hiroshima on Saturday, so nothing will hold me back from spending a night at the Kagura.

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