Top 5 Things To Do in Japan –

[Editor note: My good friend Scott has just returned from a trip to Japan. So I thought that since it’s a place I’ve never been to, it would be good to get our heads together and produce a blog post on the ‘TOP 5 things to do in Japan’ – written by Scott Murphy, edited by Kallum Love)
 
Japan is such a unique and beautiful country. People usually have their ultimate destination and for me, Japan has always been that.

 

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Setting high expectations is usually a recipe for disaster, however it is safe to say that all my expectations have been exceeded. This made choosing a top 5 extremely difficult as everything was so incredible. Never-the-less, here are my TOP 5 things to do in JAPAN.
 

5. Nijō Castle

This castle embodies both splendour and beauty. It is the location in which the power of the Shogun [Editor: the Shōgun was the military dictator of Japan] both started and ended.

 

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The castle was built in 1603 as a residence for the first Shogun, which is demonstrated through the craft of the palace, most notably, the use of gold. It was the small details however, that left me in awe. From rooms decorated to the theme of changing seasons, to hidden doors which allowed for bodyguards to protect or store weapons. The palace design would impress any visitor. Add to this the vast and stunning garden, and you’ve got yourself a decent summer house. Just don’t try sneaking around at night, the nightingale floors are a dead give away [Editor: nightingale floors were designed to make a chirping sound when walked upon – maybe that’s common knowledge but I had no idea ¯_(ツ)_/¯ ].
 

4. Monkey Sanctuary: Iwatayama Monkey Park

Still in Kyoto, but this time we’re over in Arashiyama. The bamboo forest is a sight indeed, but the sanctuary tops it all. You start by trekking up the mountain side (around a 20 minute walk) whilst learning all about the monkeys and the strict rules regarding monkey interaction.

 

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Once you arrive at the top you’re met with a gorgeous view over the city, as well as a swarm of monkeys.
 
Inhabited by the Macaque monkeys (also known as Snow monkeys), this area hosts 170 who are free to roam around freely. Strict rules state not to touch the monkeys, but some people didn’t heed the warnings, always wanting an epic picture for the gram #doitforthegram. Fortunately there’s a few staff members on hand to step in, which I liked because although they are doing it for your protection, it was also for the monkeys’ and to ensure they got to carry on their day as carefree and undisturbed as possible.
 
My highlights were watching one monkey pee on another’s head and then run away when it was chased. I also had a baby monkey stroll over and sit next to my leg. I had to stay still until it walked away so as to not frighten the little guy.
 

3. Samurai Museum Shinjuku

Samurai were of the first glimpses of Japanese culture I can remember seeing as a child. These warriors always fascinated me and so 10 year old me would definitely be buzzing about this one.

 

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As you enter there is a grand suit of armour. First thoughts: off to a good start. We arrived just in time for a guided tour and this added so much to the experience. Shout out to our tour guide, Katsu! Katsu was funny from start to finish and clued me up on one or two (to say the least) facts about the samurai culture. The museum is completely filled with majestic armour, weaponry, tools and key figures. All of which allow you to understand more about the time period and way of life.
 
My favourite part of this tour was the performance. You enter a room where armour and weaponry adorn the walls. Suddenly, the door slides open and a man walks through. He takes his sword and begins to perform an array of key samurai sword techniques such as Yoko Giri, Kesi Giri and Nukitsuke.
 

 

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A member of the audience was also asked to participate and instead of picking me, they chose a puny child (if you’re reading this you’re not puny, you were great! Please don’t hurt me). Following the display, we were given time to ask questions and even try on a few pieces of armour. A fine way to top off a brilliant tour.
 

2. Robot Restaurant

Where to begin with this choice? It was our final night and a visit to the Robot Restaurant had been suggested. Despite it not being on our list we decided to go with an open mind, although I was admittedly hesitant as the trip had been incredible thus far.
 

 

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Upon arrival there were two massive statues with chairs in front. After finding our seats it all began…4 mind blowing shows!
 
Each entire show is non-stop. Lights flashing, actors running and fighting, enormous robots parading around. The whole thing was insane! The best way to describe it would be ‘a snippet of Japanese culture/heritage, but on drugs’.
 
The first show began with two samurai fighting against one another, both sides with a back-up team banging on drums. The following shows had different themes, but all packed a massive punch of excitement and entertainment. I had the biggest smile across my face as we left. This was like no other show I have ever seen before.
 

1. Fushimi Inari Taisha

Back to Kyoto with this pick and another early start.
 
I know of the Fushimi Inari shrine because of the iconic Torii gates. The area is home to the ‘1000 Torii Gates’ (Senbon Torii), as well as many others alongside Mt. Inari.

 

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This shrine made such a big impression for a number of reasons. Aside from the fact that climbing to the top of a mountain is always fun, as you ascend you’re encompassed by beauty. The Torii gates are a marvel in themselves, spread through-out the area, all in varying sizes. You also get a gorgeous view of Kyoto which makes the climb worthwhile in itself.
 
An active day, filled with beauty and a sense of spirituality. From trails, to shrines it had everything, making for a very memorable trip.
 
Thank you for stopping by. They’ll be more from my Japan trip to come so make sure you follow Travel Videographer on Facebook and Instagram to stay up to date.
 
You can also keep reading for some of my special mentions.
 
Until next time, stay classy.
 
Scott Man Murphy


Special Mentions

I’d like to give special mentions to a few other places I visited:

 

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Ueno Park – a massive park located in Tokyo. Home to the national museum as well as ample amounts of space for picnics, so this is a great stop for all providing the weather is nice. The beautiful part for me was the amount of cherry blossom trees on display. Unfortunately, they had barely started to blossom, but from the few I saw, the park would be a gorgeous sight to behold during full blossom.
 
Mt. Fuji – I couldn’t visit Tokyo and not pay a visit to Mt. Fuji, one of the most well-known landmarks through-out the world. Unfortunately, due to weather conditions, we could only go as far as the 4th station. Everyone was strongly advised not to attempt to go any further on foot (and with good reasoning). In the half an hour we spent there the weather erratically switched between clear and cloudy but the view we did get was breath taking. It’s definitely on my list to visit (and climb further) next time.
 
Goshuin – There are countless shrines through-out Japan, and some of them offer stamps (goshuin) to each worshipper/visitor. You can buy stamp collection books (goshuincho) in which to collect them and it leaves you with a collection of stamps from all the different temples you’ve visited. I was introduced to this mid-way through my trip but I thought it was an awesome souvenir. The wandering suitcase has a great article all about collecting goshuin if you’d like to learn more.