Japan Endless Discovery

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Kiyomizu dera temple

Few words can describe the beauty, charm and energy Japan offers as soon as you set foot in the country. Japan had been on our bucket list of places to visit and when researching the country, we knew we wanted to experience Japan in the winter as it offers the most beautiful winter wonderland with breathtaking backdrops and fewer crowds. The fastest way to travel throughout Japan is on the Shinkansen bullet trains, the fastest trains in the world! Our train journey started in Tokyo.

 

Where To Go:

Tokyo – To explore Tokyo, you really need a few days as it is the world’s largest city and offers various neighborhoods. Each neighborhood offers its own charm, restaurants, sites, and shops. In Shibuya, there is a pedestrian crossing located in the very center of Tokyo, is perhaps the most iconic symbol of the city of Tokyo being known as the busiest pedestrian crossing in the world as 3,000 people cross every 2 minutes! Ginza is an upscale neighborhood known for its shopping, entertainment, and great restaurants. The district for all things electronic, fans of gaming, anime, and Japanese subculture in Akihabara. Located in central Tokyo it offers various stores specializing in anime, pachinko parlors, retro video games, and other collectibles in between the electronics retailers whose variety defies belief.

Osaka – Japan’s third largest city has at its center Osaka Castle. The original castle was completed in 1583 and was attacked and destroyed several times, most recently during air raids during WWII. It is also known for their covered shopping arcade Shinsaibashi-suji, one of Osaka’s oldest and busiest shopping destinations, which runs about 600 meters in length – food, clothing, vintage, cosmetics – you name it!

Kyoto – Less than one hour by train from Osaka is the old imperial capital, Kyoto. Temples and shrines such as Kiyomizu-dera Temple is one of the oldest schools within Japanese Buddhism. In 1994, the temple was added to the list of UNESCO world heritage sites. Fushimi Inari Shrine, famous for its thousands of orange-colored torii gates and shrines dedicated to Inari, the Shinto god of rice. As well as the Yasaka Pagoda popular as one of the most photogenic spots in Kyoto.

Kobe– Known for the world famous Kobe beef, and home to Sorakuen a traditional Japanese landscape garden in the center of Kobe.

Nara– Located less than one hour from Osaka, you will find Todaiji Temple which houses one of the world’s largest wooden buildings and houses the world’s largest bronze Buddha. Surrounding the temple are thousands of Nara Deer, once known as sacred messengers of the gods. These days the deer are no longer considered sacred, but to honor tradition they are considered national treasures, roaming in Nara Park and gently nudging you to be fed.

Gokoyama & Shirakawa-go– known for the traditional style, steeply-sloped thatched roofs for withstanding heavy snowfall, picturesque villages with beautiful mountain surroundings and homes exceeding 300 years in age.

Nagano– host of the 1998 Winter Olympics and home to the world-famous Jigokudani Monkey Park. This is the only place in the world where you will see these wild Japanese Macaques, also called snow monkeys, soaking in natural hot spring baths. In Iiyama in the Japanese Alps also stands a village with an igloo restaurant which offers a traditional hot pot meal in one of the most unique locations in the world.

 

What to Eat:
There is no shortage of delicious options of things to eat in Japan and we want to make sure you do not leave without trying the following:

Matcha Desserts– Matcha is a powdered green tea ground from the leaf and grown in the shade, resulting in a more bitter flavor which is added to baked goods and works well as a topping for fruits or in smoothie mixes.

Noodle dishes– Udon is a thick white noodle made of wheat flour and Soba is a noodle made of buckwheat flour and served either hot or cold dishes served with meats, vegetables or on their own.

Tempura– lightly battered and deep-fried vegetables and seafood dishes, the batter is unlike anything you will come across in the states.

Sushi- Kaitenzushi, also known as conveyor belt sushi, is a type of sushi restaurant characterized by the conveyor belt that winds through the restaurant. The conveyor belt carries plates of sushi to your table, or you can request custom orders by touchscreen immediately conveyed to you!

Mochi– a Japanese dessert crafted from sugary glutinous rice flour, flavored with a paste and have a dense chewy texture. Often with strawberries, bean paste or cream filling.

Cheesecake – This unexpected treat is a soufflé cake that is light and airy. Unlike the American version, this treat is based on whipped egg whites making a treat worth waiting in line for – because there will be one!

Kobe Beef – though we have all heard the term, this delicate meat when prepared by a knowledgeable chef, is a melt in your mouth experience.

 

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Kamran Saeed
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