5 things you must see in Japan

There are soooo many things to see and do in Japan, and so this list cannot do this country justice. However, if you have just five things to aim for, put these in that list, and let everything else be added bonuses.

1. Kinkakuji Temple (aka ‘Golden Pavilion’)

Kinkakuji (and by extension, Kyoto) is the number one destination for Japanese tourists, school groups, traveling seniors, university clubs, and more. Many foreign tourists place Asakusa as #1 just because it’s in Tokyo and therefore closer to the airport than Kinkakuji, so Asakusa should be your bonus.

2. A temple & shrine

Any temple or shrine should do. The one pictured below is in some small neighbourhood in a no-where special part of Japan, and all that glitters is often old, and gold. The decorations, aesthetics, and mood, and feeling is quite different to a christian church. Christian churches are criticised for plundering the poor just to fill their own coffers, but reality is religious buildings in most countries are old, and through time gradually accumulate such pretty things. Admire the uniqueness of the Japanese temples and shrines.

The statue of Buddha in Jokoji Temple of the Jodo Shinshu sect of Buddhism.

A statue of Buddha leaning forward ready to help someone in need, inside the Jokoji Temple of the Jodo Shinshu sect of Japanese Buddhism.

3. A festival.

Any (traditional) Japanese festival. These are typically so different to what you are used to. The locals often dress up in true-Japanese dress, kimono in spring / autumn, yukata in summer, and happi (shirt / jackets) for most things else. As you would see in the Kuwana Ishidori these aren’t parades meant to be watched, but parades meant to be participated in. Also see the Tagata Fertility Festival, the Naked Man Festival, the Nagoya Dance Festival, and more.

4. Todai-ji (The Big Buddha temple, aka Daibutsu)

The Todai-ji is in Nara, the city regarded as the original and ancient capital of Japan. There are many things to see of historical Japan. To journey to Nara, is also to indulge in Japanese history… assuming you read the history section of your guide book on your way to experience Nara. Much of the foundation of Japanese history is acclaimed to begin here. However, you should also consider the Shinto religion’s equivalent to the Vatican: Ise Shrine.

5. Food

It is the signature of any country. The foods, restaurants, the servings, dishes, cutleries, garnishes, and condiments are mostly unique to each country. Mayonnaise and Thousand Islands dressings are internationally common, but the Japanese love to have mayonnaise with lots of things you haven’t dreamt of; similarly the Taiwanese love Thousand Islands dressing with lots of different foods. Have you ever tasted spicy spaghetti bolognese? Well, South Korea is the place for that. Don’t expect the ingredients to be the same as home. Also don’t expect the real Japanese foods to be like the “Japanese food” you apparently had served to you in ‘Japanese restaurants’ in your home country. And for that matter, don’t expect restaurants serving food from your country to really resemble your country’s food. That said, Japan is a very well-off country, and so there is a wide variety of restaurants for you to discover.

Below, a restaurant district in Kyoto, Japan

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.