Skip to content

My Japan top 10 things

Even if I write everything while I travel, and then (minimally) edit it and publish it, well.... I find that the "best" memories are always the ones that fade least in my memory and with which I smile the most. So as we came back a couple of months ago, I think it's time to share my Japan favorites!

10. TeamLab Borderless

The insta-place par excellence in Tokyo would be at the top of my list, if it weren't for the huge crowd there (even with the ticket sales limit). I found it difficoult, if not impossible, to see how the artworks interacted with the people, the thing that most caught my attention when I first heard about the place and wanted to check for myself. Anyway, I'm an absolute fan of colored lights, so this place drove me crazy anyway.

Playing with the lights at TeamLab Borderless
Playing with the lights at TeamLab Borderless

9. Purikura

Sure, we can make selfies with our mobiles and they may look better. But if I already use semi-regularly the photo booths where I live, how could I not love these giant Japanese machines in which you end up looking like an anime charachter and everything is very kawaii? Extra points for Japanese teenagers helping us use the machines. Less points because once I had been given the Super Mario slutty suit, they told us that my boyfriend wasn't allowed to dress as Yoshi (men can't get costumes, in fact, men are not allowed at all in Purikura areas without at least one woman).

Purikura machines print very cute pictures.
Purikura machines print very cute pictures.

8. Making a fool of myself trying to speak Japanese

I'm a very motivated person, you can't deny it. At least not once you know that I bought plane tickets to Japan three months before our trip, and then I decided to start studying Japanese a couple of hours a day. Asking if a train was going where I wanted and not understanding the answer? Done. Say the food is delicious and ask for the bill? Perfect. Stare at a Japanese menu trying to figure out if they have matcha beer and order the one I was 90% sure was that? Yes, and with satisfactory results! Ask for a recommendation to a sushi chef, who answered something I didn't understand, and get something delicious that I'll never know what it was? No problem! 日本語は楽しいです。

The first time I tried to read a menu in Japanese I was very discouraged.
The first time I tried to read a menu in Japanese I was very discouraged.

7. Nishiki Market

Kyoto is magical. Its temples, streets, the bamboo forest, the geisha district... everything is as fantastic as you can imagine, or more. But if you like food as much as I do, you can understand that the Nishiki market is what I liked best. Trying things that you don't know exactly what they are? That is my style!

Small octopuses stuffed with quail eggs looking like lollipops. Ofc.
Small octopuses stuffed with quail eggs looking like lollipops. Ofc.

6. Our very own house in the mountains

Sometimes the way is better than the destination. And on some rare occasion, the best part of that way is... the place where you just wanted to spend the night. In the middle of the Nakasendo road, in a small village that didn't even appear on my maps, we found a traditional Japanese house. What we didn't know was that we would have the whole house to ourselves! We felt as if we were sleeping in a museum and had the time of our lives snooping around.

All that building was our place for the night.
All that building was our place for the night.

5. Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building

Tokyo is giant. This city offers you anything you can think of, including this building with free observation terraces, which will make you wonder where the city ends. We visited it on a clear night, and the views were amazing.

Views from the top. Excuse my phone picture quality.
Views from the top. Excuse my phone picture quality.

4. Tsutenkaku Tower

I think Osaka is underrated. We loved it. The Castle is spectacular and Dotonbori looks straight out of Blade Runner. But my favourite? This retro-style metal tower in the middle of a colourful neighbourhood. With colored lights at night. And in one of its observation terraces they had music and disco lights. The only pity was that they closed at nine o'clock, otherwise I would have stayed much, much longer.

Shinsekai district at night, with the Tsutenkaku tower.
Shinsekai district at night, with the Tsutenkaku tower.

3. Mount Koya

This place stole my heart even before arriving. The long way by train, cable car and bus ended in a small settlement with breathtaking sacred spots to get lost and an immense cemetery to walk in the dark. We spent the night in a temple lodge, ate delicious vegetarian menus and attended the monks' ceremonies and fire ritual the next morning. It was great food for both our bellies and our souls! The only downside was how impolite some guests were during the ceremonies, so I would repeat the experience in a smaller or less known temple.

The fire ceremony in the morning was like nothing I had seen before.
The fire ceremony in the morning was like nothing I had seen before.

2. Food!!

Well, if it wasn't obvious enough that I loved the food in Japan, being my favourite place in Kyoto about food, let me tell you about some of the things I loved eating (without any specific order):

  • Sushi: the obvious thing to try in Japan. We went to some mid-range restaurants, and it was really worth it!
  • Japanese barbecue: really meaty and unexpectedly delicious.
  • Steamed pork buns: hearty snack on the go.
  • Yakitori: meat on a stick! Usually accompanied by beer and good mood.
  • Takoyaki: octopus balls, or, in my opinion, tiny bites of heaven.
  • Kobe beef: so expensive, we just shared a small piece in a market. And it was as good as we imagined.
  • Tofu: if you think it tastes boring, try it in Japan, and you wil find out maybe it was just not well prepared.
  • Matcha all: the tea is delicious, as are the matcha chocolates, sweets and even beer!
  • Cheese tarts: they don't look as good as they taste.
  • Fluffy pancakes: wobbly, souffle-ish pancakes!
  • Stuffed crepes: in Takeshita street you can have a pancake filled with cake. Because why not.
  • Okonomiyaki: savory pancake with different ingredients.
  • Gyozas: pan-fried dumplings.
  • Ramen and Udon: soups, soups, soups.
Everything I ate in Japan was delicious!
Everything I ate in Japan was delicious!

1. Nara

The secret that I liked this place so much is probably the low expectations I was going with. I knew beforehand that it was incredibly touristy, so I thought it would be hard to enjoy, specially after experiencing the Bamboo forest and the Fushimi Inari Taisha in Kyoto, where we could barely walk. But Tōdai-ji was impressive even after all the temples we had already seen. And the deer? Oh. So much fun! Feeding them and playing a bit with them was something I would have never get tired of!

Nara is impressive and worth a day trip!
Nara is impressive and worth a day trip!
Published: 16 October 2019, by susana

Do you want to leave a comment?