What's new

Travel First Trip to Japan, HELP!!

RicePharmer

Registered
Joined
Apr 7, 2016
Messages
1
Reaction score
0
My wife and I are a pair of 20-somethings going on a 2 week vacation to Japan in June. We need help, and a lot of it, making an itinerary. The only thing we know so far is that we will arrive and depart at Narita Airport. We have absolutely no idea where to go or what to do, and we would love your help in making this a fun and memorable trip!

We are primarily on a culinary experience, not just for tourist-trappy fine dining exactly, but more for boisterous, authentic street-food and common cuisine. Of course, we would also love recommendations for unique experiential dining like the ryokan/kaiseki style meals we saw on a documentary. We would love to learn more about unique dining experiences of any level!

As for the rest of the trip, we prefer to spend minimal time with historical museums, cultural arts, or typical sight-seeing locations. Most of what we want to do is experience things that are goofy, fun, weird, eclectic, sexy, to really see a strange side of Japan that even some Japanese may not see. Peeking at the red-light districts and nightlife are definitely a curiosity for us, and we would also love to experience manga/anime related experiences like themed cafes, trendy shops, arcades, etc.

I think we'll be spending most of our time in Tokyo where the hustle and the bustle is, but is Osaka also a good city filled with activity suitable for our tastes? And where else should we consider traveling in Japan for unique regional cuisine, like Hokkaido? We were thinking of getting 14-day rail passes but aren't sure if it's worth it. We don't know what we don't know and would hate to miss out!

Please give us advice, tips, recommendations, etc. Love you all, and thanks in advance!
 

Glenski

Just me
Joined
Aug 20, 2003
Messages
4,781
Reaction score
397
I live in Hokkaido. Every region of the country has something unique to it, including Hokkaido, and it might even vary depending on the time of year. You seem to want 2 things out of your trip: food and weird stereotypically "Japanese" experiences. But if you don't even know what you want to see or do beyond that, it's hard to give advice. Look at the time frame in which you are going to be here, do a Google search for festivals then, and start there. Trust me, Hokkaido will NOT give you anything like the weird stereotypically "Japanese" experiences in any amount like the rest of the country. June weather is nice, but I'd say avoid the time lost in getting here if you only have 2 weeks to look around the whole country. And, my advice is NOT to stay in Tokyo most of that time. Spread yourself around to 5 or 6 cities. Many of us who live in Japan find Tokyo to be highly overrated and Osaka to be fairly dull.

Want the strange? Google "Japan off the beaten path" or something like that.
 

mdchachi

Moderator
Staff member
Moderator
Joined
Mar 6, 2003
Messages
2,611
Reaction score
478
It would be better if you could do a little homework and ask us specific questions but I'll give you a few random things to consider.
  • definitely you should check out harajuku on a Sunday
  • definitely you should take a walk through kabukicho (shinjuku) in the evening
  • I think there are themed (maid) cafes all around but maybe more around Akihbara area.
  • probably 7-day rail pass would be enough if you want to save some money; just make sure to concentrate your long distance travel in 7 days. If money isn't a concern, 14 days would give you more flexibility. I doubt if you'd get your moneys worth for a 14-day pass though.
  • be aware that the rail pass covers JR only (not the various subways and private lines like Odakyu etc.)
  • there are all kinds of theme restaurants in Tokyo from prison hospital to robots to ninja.
  • for street food beyond the ramen truck you'll typically need to find a festival or some event.
  • But there are plenty of nooks & crannies to explore for example the yakitori places under the yamanote train tracks near Yurakucho;
  • there's a restaurant in Shibuya where you can eat whale in various forms from sashimi to yakiniku style
  • while you're at it, there are various fugu restaurants serving various dishes based on the poisonous puffer fish.
  • I noticed there's a Hooters in Shibuya now; I've never been there but it could be interesting to compare/contrast to U.S. Hooters.
  • for a lot of dining experiences from monjya to okonomiyaki to even just an eating at a nice izakaya, it will go much better if you have a local there to guide you.
  • there are (free) local guides available in some places if you arrange for them in advance (search for tokyo volunteer tour guides or something like that).
  • I really wouldn't travel all around Japan just for cuisine -- there's a huge variety in Tokyo alone including places that represent the various regions -- but that's just me.
  • In any case I recommend you check out the "usual" places even though they are the usual places -- Tokyo, Kyoto, Nara & Hiroshima at least. Maybe Osaka too.
  • Watch Lost in Translation before you go, then take a moment to have a drink in the same Shinjuku high rise.
  • take a look at some of the recent threads in the forum where people are uploading video tours of various places and events to get some more ideas.
 

cocoichi

Sempai
Joined
Jul 28, 2015
Messages
375
Reaction score
106
I live in Hokkaido. Every region of the country has something unique to it, including Hokkaido, and it might even vary depending on the time of year. You seem to want 2 things out of your trip: food and weird stereotypically "Japanese" experiences. But if you don't even know what you want to see or do beyond that, it's hard to give advice. Look at the time frame in which you are going to be here, do a Google search for festivals then, and start there. Trust me, Hokkaido will NOT give you anything like the weird stereotypically "Japanese" experiences in any amount like the rest of the country. June weather is nice, but I'd say avoid the time lost in getting here if you only have 2 weeks to look around the whole country. And, my advice is NOT to stay in Tokyo most of that time. Spread yourself around to 5 or 6 cities. Many of us who live in Japan find Tokyo to be highly overrated and Osaka to be fairly dull.

Want the strange? Google "Japan off the beaten path" or something like that.
I don't necessarily agree with Glenski on his Tokyo/Osaka stance, but I can see why people think that way.

I personally like Tokyo for short stays, but after a few days I need to decompress. As for Osaka, it would be my favourite big city in Japan. It has everything a metropolis has to offer, but still has is calm areas. More importantly: Kansai area is the ultimate example of a synergy effect. It's not each individual city that is so amazing, it is the combination the invidual things in the area. Osaka, Kyoto, Kobe, Nara. You find a lot of different things to do and see without having to travel very far. Osaka is also famous for its food culture by the way.
 

madphysicist

先輩
Joined
Aug 20, 2015
Messages
341
Reaction score
131
If you want a "goofy, fun" and cheap souvenir that screams Japan, the purikura machines are a good bet. IDK how easy they are to operate if you can't read Japanese though.
The Amazing "Purikura" Machines - Tokyo - Japan Travel - Tourism Guide, Japan Map and Trip Planner
Or go to a maid cafe and get a picture with one of the maids. (IMO the maid cafe is not worth the money but it certainly fits your criteria. The food was the opposite of good on my visit though.)

Generally I think Tokyo is the best place for tourists who want the "eccentric" side of Japan. Osaka has excellent and varied cuisine and Kyoto has the high-end dining experience. Other areas have a lot to offer in other ways but I think they're not what you're after. If you only have 2 weeks available my suggestion would be to get the 7-day pass and explore Kansai - one round trip from Tokyo-Kyoto pays off the 7-day pass already.

Of course please stay safe and make sure if you do go to Kabukicho or other red-light districts at night to keep your wits about you.
 

Kinchan

Kouhai
Joined
Apr 14, 2016
Messages
6
Reaction score
2
If you would like to have some nice ryokan experience near Tokyo I recommend going to Nikko for a night or two! It's UNESCO complex is outlandish and the ryokan have private onsens - only for the hotel guests. The ryokan I went to 2 years ago was not pricey, had both indoor and outdoor onsen, and was right on the other side of the road from the Unesco national park. I booked it via booking com but now it is only possible to book via their own site Nikko Tokanso
Have a great stay in Japan!
 

Mika S

Kouhai
Joined
Apr 22, 2016
Messages
7
Reaction score
3
June is the start of summer so be prepared for loads of events going on! A lot of the summer festivities in Tokyo start then! Always check out Yoyogi Park for fun festivals and music!
 
Top