Japan

Japan is what the world could be, if we all worked a lot harder.  For example, Tokyo is home to more than 30 million people, yet the streets are cleaner than restaurants in the USA.  The food chain is so trusted that meat, included beef and horse, is consumed raw.  Rush hour traffic is orderly, composed and quiet.  The grass is so green and pristine that it looks fake.  The trains run on the second, show up at 12:00:07 and you missed your train.  When you have a Japanese person explain why things are the way they are you can’t help but laugh and think, “Yeah, that makes so much sense…why is it done differently at home?”  While many things are lost in translation, understanding the order and practicality of Japan is a wonderful experience.

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DON’T MISS: Nara, imagine traditional Japan hundreds of years ago, what you are imagining is Nara.
MUST SEE: Raw meat restaurants in Tokyo; Harajuku and Yoyogi Park (Tokyo) on Sundays to see people wearing crazy clothes such as “cosplay” and the Dancing Elvises; Arashiyama  hill and forest temples (near Kyoto); Shinjuku (Tokyo) at Night.
MUST TASTE: Sushi at Tsukiji Fish Market…really sushi anywhere and everywhere in Japan.

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TRIP PLANNING A week is enough to see the major sights of Tokyo and Kyoto, but 10-14 days would make the trip much more enjoyable.
GETTING AROUND: Trains.  The train system, especially intra-city, is among the world’s best.  Avoid traveling during rush-hour.

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OUR COST PER DAY (2 ppl): $77.58 without accommodations (we Couchsurfed)
COST OF A BEER: $3 at 7-11.
KEY MONEY-SAVING TIP: Take the bus instead of the train from Tokyo to Kyoto.  We paid $36 each for the bus instead of over $160 for the bullet train.  This was only possible because we had a Japanese speaker arrange it for us, so find a friend.

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YOU NEED TO KNOW: Japan is expensive, think Switzerland expensive.  Public transit often costs $2-4 USD a ride, a short taxi fare is $20, a meal rarely costs less than $20.  That said, it’s all worth it, Japan is an amazing country.
IF WE KNEW WHAT WE KNOW NOW: We would buy a Japan Rail Pass and travel extensively through the country.  It would have cost a lot more than what we did, but allowed us to see a lot more than we did.
HELPFUL LINKS TO LEARN MORE: How to travel Japan inexpensivelyIs a Japan Rail Pass worth it? Free attractions in Kyoto.   Please send us any sites you found useful and we’ll add them!

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WE WERE THERE FOR: 3 weeks
OUR HIGHLIGHT: Couchsurfing with Takeshi in Tokyo and Masato in Arashiyama.
WHERE WE WENT: Tokyo, Arashiyama, Kyoto, Osaka, Kobe, Nara, Mt. Fuji
WE REGRET MISSING: Okinawa and Hiroshima

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Japan Highlights

Short on time? The highlight reel of our 3 week trip to Japan including Geisha, temples, mountains, enormous cities, funny glasses and more. Tour Japan in 21 photos!

21 Photos

Kyoto

Formerly the imperial capital of Japan, Kyoto is the cultural epicenter and a must-see for anyone visiting Japan. The beautiful Zen gardens, Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines will keep any tourist busy. Kyoto is also a great place to relax and just enjoy the scenery.

40 Photos

Nara and Kobe

Nara is famous for the eight stunning temples that make it a UNESCO World Heritage site. A perfect place to wander for a day and enjoy not only your surroundings, but the wildlife. Deer roam freely, protected as National Treasures and fed by visitors. Kobe is a port city and the sixth largest city by population in Japan. It was the epicenter of the 1995 Earthquake, which took it's toll on Japan. Both cities are an easy day trip from Kyoto.

25 Photos

Osaka

Historically the commercial capital of Japan, Osaka functions as one of the command centers for the Japanese economy. It is the seventh largest city in the world by GDP and houses over 18 million residents, proving that there are no small towns in Japan. The night lights and the historic temples of Osaka make it a common add-on to many tourist itineraries although because of it's sheer size you may not find it differs much from Tokyo.

22 Photos

Tokyo

Tokyo is one of the world's most populous metropolitan areas with upwards of 35 million people and the world's largest metropolitan economy with a GDP of US$1.479 trillion. Tokyo can be an assault on your senses, while other times the cleanliness and order is almost scary. It is a city that must be visited to be believed and even then can be difficult to get your head around.

32 Photos

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