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Travel in Japan: A Land of Contrasts

Updated: Oct 24, 2023

Japan, a country of incredible contrast, marries ancient heritage and modern traditions seamlessly. It boasts the largest mega city in the world, the most Michelin-star restaurants of any country, beautiful wildlife, and serene shrines and temples. Japan truly has something to offer every traveler. In this article, we will take you on a journey through the first part of our trip to Japan, exploring the bustling streets of Tokyo and experiencing the wonders of Osaka.

Arrival in Tokyo

Our adventure began with a flight from San Diego International Airport to Tokyo, and we had the privilege of flying business class on Japan Airlines, a treat that set the tone for our trip. After landing, we hopped on the Chiba Chan train, making our way to Ikebukuro station, where we met an old friend for dinner. Our choice was Tibetan, known for its delicious karage chicken boat. It did not disappoint, and for approximately $10, we got enough chicken to last a week.

Embracing the Early Sunrise

Japan experiences early sunrises, and we recommend embracing your jet lag by going to bed early on your first night. This allows you to explore some of the sites early in the morning without the crowds.

A Day in Harajuku

Our first full day in Tokyo led us to the vibrant neighborhood of Harajuku, known for its bold fashion and enticing food. A stop at Soup for lunch introduced us to deep-fried beef cutlets, a delightful dish we'd never tried before.

Meiji Shrine

Post-lunch, we took a 20-minute walk to the Meiji Shrine, a beautiful symbol of Japan's modernization and a peaceful escape from the city's hustle and bustle.

Exploring Tokyo Tower

Next, we headed to the iconic Tokyo Tower for a taste of one of Tokyo's newest attractions. Red Tokyo Tower, finished in 2022, is a digital amusement park with retro video games, innovative virtual reality games, and more. It was a blast!

Ginza Steak – A5 Wagyu Delight

In Shibuya, we experienced what might have been our favorite meal on the trip – Ginza Steak, an all-you-can-eat A5 Wagyu restaurant. A5 Wagyu is the highest quality beef, and the experience of its rich, buttery taste melting in our mouths was exquisite.

Shibuya Crossing and Beyond

We burned off those calories with a walk around Shibuya, where we visited the famous Hachiko statue and crossed the iconic Shibuya Crossing, one of the world's busiest. Our journey took us to Shibuya Parko to explore the Nintendo store and Pokémon Center, a delight for fans.

Back at the Sky Lookout

We attempted to visit the Shibuya Sky Lookout, but it was sold out when we arrived. Nevertheless, we had a wonderful time taking in the sights. If you plan to visit, be sure to reserve your spot in advance.

Back to the Hotel

Our action-packed first day in Tokyo left us exhausted, and we headed back to our hotel to rest and prepare for the next day's adventures.

Shopping in Ginza

The next morning, we indulged in shopping in Ginza, starting with souffle pancakes at Happy Pancake. These fluffy delights offered a unique pancake experience.

Tokyo Art Aquarium and Michelin-Star Dining

A visit to the Tokyo Art Aquarium introduced us to a blend of meticulously designed fish tanks, vibrant colors, and intricate patterns that brought the underwater world to life. We had never seen anything like it before.

Afterward, we enjoyed lunch at Tim Ho Wan, the world's cheapest Michelin-star restaurant. The baked barbecue pork buns were a highlight, with a perfect balance of sweet and savory.

Uniqlo Shopping and Custom Souvenirs

Our shopping adventures led us to the Uniqlo flagship store in Ginza, featuring ten different floors of clothing. We even had matching custom sweatshirts made, adding a special touch to our trip.

A5 Wagyu and Shibuya Scramble

Back on the food journey, we dined at Ginza Steak, indulging in A5 Wagyu, an unforgettable culinary experience. We highly recommend trying Japanese A5 Wagyu if you ever visit Japan. After filling ourselves, we explored Shibuya, visiting the Hachiko statue and experiencing the energetic Shibuya Crossing.

Exploring Tokyo Skytree

Our day continued with a visit to the Tokyo Skytree, providing breathtaking views of Tokyo, before we concluded our first three days in Tokyo with a sense of gratitude and excitement for what lay ahead.

Planning with Magic – The AI Travel Assistant

Japan is known for its rich culture and history, but fitting everything into a limited time can be challenging. That's why we turned to Magic, an AI travel assistant. Magic helps plan itineraries, recommend accommodations based on activities and budget, and simplify the travel planning process.

Nara: A Glimpse into Japan's Past

Our journey continued as we ventured to Nara, known for its well-preserved temples, shrines, and friendly deer. Nara served as the original capital of Japan and is a place where ancient culture and history come to life. Nara Park, home to over 1,000 domesticated deer, offered a heartwarming experience. These sacred animals even bow for food, allowing you to partake in a centuries-old tradition.

Visiting Todaiji Temple

Our Nara exploration led us to Todaiji, one of the world's largest Buddhist temples, standing as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The sheer size and intricate details of the temple left us in awe.

A Panoramic View

A hike to the lower viewpoint near Todaiji offered a panoramic view of Nara and the surrounding region, a beautiful place to capture photos.

Enjoying the Arcade and Okonomiyaki

Our journey took an entertaining turn as we stopped at an arcade, embracing the playful yet competitive side of Japanese culture. For dinner, we savored Osaka's classic dish, Okonomiyaki, a savory Japanese pancake.

Super Nintendo World at Universal Studios Japan

Our trip continued with a visit to Universal Studios Japan to explore Super Nintendo World. This was a dream come true for Mario fans like us. We entered a vibrant Mushroom Kingdom filled with interactive elements and immersive experiences. The Mario Kart ride was a highlight, with augmented reality technology offering a unique racing experience.

Dotonbori Street in Osaka

After our Super Nintendo World adventure, we explored Dotonbori Street in Osaka, known for its dazzling neon lights and delectable street food. The vibrant district along the canal offered a lively atmosphere and some of the best street food in Japan.

More to Come

Our journey was just halfway through, and we had already created unforgettable memories in Japan. In part two of our trip, we would continue to explore the less-traveled places of this incredible country. Stay tuned for more adventures in the Land of the Rising Sun.

Travel in Japan: A Land of Contrasts




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