I learned about these places from Ivan, who visited in 2011. I knew as soon as I saw his pictures that it should be added to my Japan itinerary.
Fast forward to 2012, after a long time in transit (16 hours, 5 trains), I found myself in Takayama. It’s a small city, very walkable. Just the way I like it. Ten minutes from the hostel are heritage houses, museums, shrines and temples.
Fifty minutes by bus sits Shirakawa-go, a Unesco World Heritage Site in the mountains of Gifu. Here, you’ll see gassho-zukuri farmhouses, some more than 250 years old.
Like in Takayama, it’s a pleasure to stroll through the small streets of Shirakawa-go, taking in the sights and savoring the peace and quiet. That is, until the next noisy pack of tourists pass by.
Tags: Unesco site
I left Tokyo early yesterday morning to embark on what became a 12-hour journey to Japan’s northern island of Hokkaido.
Just as I was getting used to the cool climes of the Kanto region, I braced myself for even colder weather. While the southern half of Japan is already welcoming Spring, northern region seems to be still stuck on Winter.
Halfway through the 3-hour shinkansen ride to Aomori, the snow-capped mountains were replaced by snow-covered plains. The snow was blindingly white, and it thrilled me to see such a stunning view — it is the first time I’ve seen snow.
Snow, of course, mean cold weather. Very cold. I was wearing a tank top, a thermal long sleeved shirt, a hoodie and a thick coat and I was still shivering in my boots.
Luckily, I had the foresight to book a room at the Toyoko Inn that’s just down the road from the JR Sapporo train station. It’s a lot more expensive than the hostel I was eyeing, but the location proved invaluable as it can be really tough to walk outside when it’s snowing.
Then again, after reading my friend’s complaints about the sweltering heat of Manila, I suppose I shouldn’t be whining about the cold.
Everyone has their must-do list in any place they visit. Those who have seen the movie would probably want to head to the Hachiko statue in Shibuya, while those into Japanese Fashion might head to Harakuju. My list only has one item: visit a cat cafe.
Actually, I ended up in a "cat’s house," basically a place where you can feed and pet cats (in cat cafes, you order food in a restaurant where there are cats). Since apartment spaces are often small and do not allow pets, places like these lets people interact with cats when they feel the urge to… pet.
For ¥600, you can stay as long as you like. Be sure to void your bladder before entering, because once you exit, you would have to pay for admission again.
Nekobukuro is on the 8th floor of the Tokyu Hands Building in Ikebukuro.
We arrive in Tokyo today via the shinkansen (bullet train). Getting off at Tokyo Station, I immediately get a feel of just how fast everybody (and I guess everything) move in this city.
It’s rather overwhelming if you’re a first time visitor, and I am just grateful that my friends already know their way around so I just trot after them.
Exploring Tokyo means lots of walking and maybe a couple of pricey train, subway or bus ride. It also means practicing a lot of self-control because there are just too many things you’d be tempted to buy. Tokyo, have mercy on my wallet.
Kyoto, Japan’s old capital, is a Unesco World Heritage city. All the guidebooks and travelers recommend stopping by the city when they’re in Japan.
Just three hours out of Tokyo via shinkansen (bullet train), the major sites can be seen in a day, but if you want to see more and spend more time in each, it’s best that you stay for a night or two.
If you love taking pictures, Kyoto will not disappoint. The temples, shrines and palaces are well preserved and a marvel to explore.