Finally last post with recommendations for Japan! Thanks for sticking with me. If you’re planning a trip to Japan, I hope I’ve offered something useful. If you’re a Japan expert, I hope you’ll give me recommendations for my next trip that will definitely happen someday! Click here for my recommendations for Tokyo, Hakone, Nara, and Kobe, and Osaka, or read on about my favourite city of all:
I wasn’t sure what to make of Kyoto at first. As it was our last stop, I went in thinking I had seen all the temples I could handle, walked into all the little shops I could possibly walk into, eaten all the delicious things I could possibly eat. And then Kyoto proved me so very wrong. It became my favourite city we went to in Japan, and the number one I would recommend for anyone planning a trip. It has everything from the modern to the traditional, from the serious to the playful, and some of the best of every possible type of cultural aspect of the country.
Osaka is such an interesting city. Significantly smaller than Tokyo (2.7m people compared to the bulging population of Tokyo’s 9.3m) but double the size of cities like Kobe and Kyoto, it doesn’t feature the high-tech, futuristic style of Tokyo or the classic look of Kyoto, with their modern and traditional areas separated carefully, but instead mashes up new and old into one. Although it got just edged out by Kyoto as my favourite city we went to in Japan, it was probably the one I was most excited to visit (and if you have any wonder why, just read my “What we ate” section below).
If you missed my posts on Tokyo and Hakone/Nara/Kobe, check them out! Otherwise continue on for my recommendations on Osaka:
Here’s part two of my recommendations for Japan! I’m going to include three sections in this one: Hakone, Kobe, and Nara, as we only spent a short time in each. To read about what we did/what I’d recommend in Tokyo, click here. And check back on Monday for recommendations on Osaka and Kyoto!
Let me start by saying that this is not a definitive guide to Japan, or of the cities I visited there. It is not a guide to secret, off-the-beaten-path, locals only spots, or anything you probably can’t find in another blog post or pinterest page. Obviously this is true of pretty much every travel post I write, but for some reason people seem *really* obsessed with finding the “hidden” Japan in so many travel articles I read, the restaurants that would never deign to have an English menu or the shops whose doors have never been darkened by tourists, so I’m just going to make it clear that this is not that. This is just the places Steve and I went that we really enjoyed, because I have a bunch of friends planning trips to Japan who asked me for recommendations. So here they are. I’ve split the posts up because they’re super long, so today’s post focuses on Tokyo. Check back for my recommendations for Hakone, Osaka, Nara, Kobe, and Kyoto! I’ve bolded my best recommendations for easy reading. And I’m already daydreaming about another trip someday, so please do tell me your favourite things that I missed!
Let me preface this by saying that I am not by any means a carnivore. I was a vegetarian for many years, although these days I eat fish once or twice a week. I do love eggs and cheese (cheese!!!) but overall I didn’t think it would be difficult to go vegan for a month as part of Veganuary, a January-long challenge to encourage people to try out a plant-based diet for the good of their health, the environment, and animals everywhere.
And it wasn’t—this isn’t going to be a post about how it was actually sooooo difficult to give up milk in my morning coffee (I prefer almond milk anyway) or cheese on my quesadilla (soy cheese isn’t great but it’s not terrible, and there are nicer options out there than what I bought if I’d bothered to go hunting for them). I would encourage anyone who is interested in reducing the number of animal products in their diets to do so; unless you’re one of those folks who thinks a balanced diet means a steak at every meal, I think you’ll find that you don’t miss meat, eggs, or dairy as much as you might think.
I mostly try to avoid calling a celebrity a hero of mine. Being someone whose work I enjoy does not a hero make, and especially in recent years I am wary of heaping too much praise on (particularly a male) celebrity when I don’t know what they could have been doing behind the scenes on set or in the recording studio. But I have no hesitation in saying that Anthony Bourdain, who was found dead today of apparent suicide, is one of my heroes.
My three favourite things are travel, food, and writing, and Bourdain was an inspiration to me in all three. I’ve read several of his books, seen all of his shows (most episodes of No Reservations more than once), and any time I am going somewhere new one of the first things I do is check if Bourdain had done a segment there and what he had to say about it. He travelled the way I want to travel, and he ate the way I want to eat—not because of the variety and amount that he got to experience, but because of the way he honoured each place he went and each meal he ate.