Kimono Experience 👘

When it’s the summer we can not only rent a kimono, but we can also rent a yukata (an informal and light cotton kimono) as well. It goes without saying, but a yukata is perfect when viewing a fireworks festival, viewing the Gion Festival, watching the ceremonial fires of the large Japanese kanji characters on the mountains in Kyoto, and a number of other summer festivals. But it’s not just festivals, when visiting somewhere specializing in sweet foods and eating a matcha (powdered green tea) based parfait or shaved ice, wearing a kimono is part of the fun of doing so in Kyoto.

Sakura 🌸

In Japan, the appearance of cherry blossoms, known as sakura, signals the beginning of spring. The arrival of these flowers is an annual event so significant, that there are forecasts pinpointing exactly when and where the flowers are expected to bloom. From an outsider’s perspective, this may seem excessive.

However, when taking into account the fact that sakura are only in bloom for a maximum of about two weeks, it’s understandable that people would want to find out both the ‘kaika’ (blooming) and ‘mankai’ (full bloom) predictions in order to make the most out of the ‘hanami’ (flower viewing) season.

Mount Fuji 🗻

Mount Fuji is 3,776 meters high and the tallest mountain in Japan. It has been an object of faith and worship since ancient times for the Japanese people and has inspired countless paintings and poems – in short, it is dear to an entire nation. With this background, it has been registered as a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site in 2013. Mount Fuji isn’t always visible from Tokyo and even if you stay for a week, weather and season might have it hide behind clouds the entire time. But for us, seeing Japan’s most famous mountain is at the top of our bucket list. 

Nara Park 🦌

According to Shinto tradition and lore, Nara deer were the sacred messengers of the gods, such that, in ancient times, killing a deer in Nara was a crime punishable by death. These days the deer are no longer considered sacred, but to honor tradition they’re considered national treasures, which is why we can see them roaming in Nara Park.

In fact, that’s why the park is sometimes called Nara deer park or Japan’s deer forest; it’s easily the area’s most defining feature. Today, there are over 1,200 deer in Nara Park, which is located in Nara, in Japan’s Kansai region. These deer are called sika, which is derived from the Japanese word for deer: shika

Senbon Torii Path ⛩️

The walkway of reddish-orange torii (traditional Japanese Shinto gates) is one of the features that makes this shrine so special. Two rows made up of hundreds of vermillion torii gates (known as Senbon Torii) are located behind Fushimi Inari Shrine and line a path that winds up the mountain. All of Fushimi Inari Shrine’s Senbon Torii were donated by Japanese businesses, as a way to honor the kami, ask for a wish, or say thanks for a wish that was granted. Each gate is printed with the business name and the date that it was donated. While the Senbon Torii are the most famous attractions at Fushimi Inari Shrine, the grounds actually contain more than 10,000 (and some say up to 32,000!) torii gates of different shapes and sizes.

Itsukushima Shrine ⛩️

Itsukushima Shrine is a Shinto shrine on the island of the same name, also known as Miyajima, located in Hatsukaichi, Hiroshima Prefecture, Japan. Traditionally founded in the 6th century CE, the present layout of buildings dates to the 12th century CE. With its iconic torii gate, buildings on stilts standing over the sea, and soaring five-story pagoda, the shrine is one of the most easily recognisable of Japan’s many ancient shrines. Itsukushima Shrine is an official National Treasure of Japan and has been listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site since 1996 CE.

Tokyo Disneyland 🏰

Tokyo Disneyland is a 115-acre theme park at the Tokyo Disney Resort in Urayasu, Chiba Prefecture, Japan, near Tokyo. Its main gate is directly adjacent to both Maihama Station and Tokyo Disneyland Station. 

Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, and many more of your Disney Friends appear in Mickey’s PhilharMagic magical concert that’s as fun to watch as to listen to!

Jungle Cruise where you can board the boat with a brave, light-hearted skipper who loves the jungle. You’ll see elephants, crocodiles, lions, and other wildlife on this adventure tour where surprises and mysteries await you.

Puffer Fish Sashimi Fugu 🐡

The Japanese delicacy fugu, or blowfish, is so poisonous that the smallest mistake in its preparation could be fatal. The tetrodotoxin found in fugu is more toxic than cyanide, and each year about 20 people are poisoned from badly prepared fish. It takes a lot of skill and training to prepare the fish safely and know which parts are poisonous. 

The Japanese government tightly control who can prepare fugu, and chefs need to take an extensive exam before they’re legally allowed to serve the fish. This rigorous regulation means that while the fish can be lethal, far more people die from eating oysters than fugu each year. 

All of the skill and training that goes into preparing this fish increases the price. The fish is killed seconds before preparation. And while the process looks gruesome as the muscles continue to spasm, the fish is dead. 

Fugu has a very mild whitefish-like flavor with a pure and clean quality to it. Its taste is subtle which is fairly unique for seafood, and is part of why the dish is sought after. Its texture will vary significantly depending on how it is cooked.

Osaka Tempozan Anipa 🦉

Tempozan Anipa is an animal cafe where you get to pet lots of animals. There are many animals in this small place, alpacas, capybaras, kangaroos, tortoises, dogs, cats, birds and many small animals.

It was our first time seeing capybaras and getting to touch them. The kangaroos were slightly scary but they weren’t the adult size. The alpaca was super cute.

Tokyo Tower 🗼

Standing 333 meters high in the center of Tokyo, Tokyo Tower (東京タワー) is the world’s tallest, self-supported steel tower and 3 meters taller than its model, the Eiffel Tower. A symbol of Japan’s post-war rebirth as a major economic power, Tokyo Tower was the country’s tallest structure from its completion in 1958 until 2012 when it was surpassed by the Tokyo Skytree. In addition to being a popular tourist spot, Tokyo Tower serves as a broadcast antenna.

The tower’s main deck at 150 meters is reached via elevator or a 600-step staircase (both paid). Thanks to the tower’s central location, the observatory offers an interesting view of the city despite being only at a relatively moderate height. There are also some “lookdown windows” in the floor to stand on, a souvenir shop and a cafe.

Hanamikoji Street

The historic architecture of Hanamikoji Street is one of its highlights, particularly the prevalence of its machiya, or wooden merchant homes, which feature narrow facades. Many now house restaurants where you can sample delectable local cuisine prepared in the distinct Kyoto style. Tucked in between these machiya are also ochaya, or teahouses, where you can learn more about Japanese heritage during a tea ceremony with a geisha. The most famous teahouse is Ichiriki Chaya, instantly recognizable for its imposing red walls. Ichiriki has hosted samurai warriors and some of the world’s most powerful politicians over its 300-year-old history.