A Brief City Guide To Tokyo and Kyoto
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When it comes to travelling in Japan, it’s likely you will not want to miss the two most popular cities of Tokyo and Kyoto. It seems that even if people only go for two weeks, it’s Tokyo and Kyoto that they choose to head to, and for good reason! Not only are these two of the country’s biggest, most bustling and vibrant cities, but they have tons to see and do and offer travellers an excellent look into the world of Japan culture, cuisine and entertainment. Want to know more before you book a cheap flight to Japan? Heres’s a brief rundown of what you can expect in both Kyoto and Tokyo.
When you hear the word ‘Tokyo’, many people suddenly get those images of the bright neon lights of Shinjuku, Karaoke clubs or the weird and wonderful clothing the youngsters wear in Harajuku. You aren’t wrong with almost any imagery of Tokyo, and in fact, it’s got such a great bustling vibe to it that you could almost think of anything and it would somehow fit into Tokyo. Whether you’re an experienced traveller, thirsty for adventurous foods and activities or you like to take things a bit easier and explore the more cultural and traditional parts to a region or country, Tokyo and the surrounding area has a little something for everyone.
Regardless of where in the world you’re from, you’ve likely heard of the brightly lit, neon coloured and sometimes wild districts of Shinjuku and Harajuku. While somewhat boring and normal during the day, acting as more of a commercial centre, once the night hits, the place comes alive with a whole host of vibrant, crazy and odd attractions, events and activities. It’s here that you can find just about anything – from overworked salarymen cutting loose and singing their hearts out at karaoke, or robot, maid or cat restaurants offering strange but unique dining options for those ready to take the plunge.
Outside the city, the impressive and majestic Mount Fuji stands tall, watching over Japan. This mountain is easily climbable by most fitness levels, so if you have the time you should definitely give it a try. At least try to get some stunning photos of it. Not up for the climb? Why not visit the mountain anyway and explore the shrines and temples at the various gates that lead to the summit.
Kyoto is a city that is known for its traditional atmosphere, attracting tourists of all kinds from all over the world year round. Having been the capital of Japan for over a thousand years, Kyoto has retained much of its royal and imperial charms, tied in perfectly with both modern and cultural points. Having avoided much of the bombing in World War 2, Kyoto has managed to retain much of its pre-war buildings, such as its wooden townhouses and old shrines, temples and palaces that were used throughout its thousand year history as the capital city.
The Ninnaji Pagoda is probably one of the most iconic symbols of Japan. This multi-tiered pagoda is a common sight on postcards, stamps and more and is considered a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In fact, due to Kyoto keeping many of its old buildings, there are seventeen UNESCO sites dotted throughout the city, all given status in 1994. The Ninnaji Pagoda is a great place for photo opportunities in the spring when all the plants are coming back to life – particularly the cherry blossoms. With Kyoto being a popular but very traditional city in terms of parks and green spaces, the annual hanami activity (viewing cherry blossoms) is particularly enjoyable here.
Kyoto is one of the best places in Japan to take advantage of the traditional onsen. If you have the money, staying in a ryokan, a traditional guesthouse, is a great way to also experience a private onsen. Many onsens throughout Kyoto are public, with separate bathing facilities for men and women. It’s important to remember to cover your tattoos, and many onsens may give you special coverings to do so before you join the bath, as tattoos in Japan are normally seen as a mark of the Yakuza, and are therefore outlawed in public.
The city is also a haven for those looking to expand their mind in the form of meditation and Buddhist chanting or prayer. Zen meditation is particularly popular, and when done with proper Zen masters, as you can do in Kyoto, you learn about the specific subtle nuances of this particular form of meditation.
Whether you’re a first timer or a tenth timer to Japan, Kyoto and Tokyo will fill your days with fun and frivolity and a lot of crazy but interesting things to do. So what are you waiting for? Come check out these two unique Japanese cities for yourself!