Deb Schimmel takes Japan!

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Editor Deb Schimmel takes us across Japan on a 14 day trek through Tokyo, Hakone, Kyoto, Koyasan, and Hiroshima. When asked why she selected Japan, Deb said, “Japan had been on my bucket list for years, so when my sister suggested a trip I jumped at the chance!”

Deb highlights the most important moments of her trip, from the beautiful & tranquil shrines to the endless & staggering shopping opportunities. And the food. And the drinks. Keep reading to learn more!

The Fun Stuff

Where to eat

The food in Japan is spectacular! From the fanciest spot to the simplest street-food stand, I never had a bad meal. Most places specialize in a particular dish, so when I saw a big crowd waiting I would often get in line and I was never disappointed.  

Ramen at Sora no Iro (Ramen Street, Tokyo Station)
Ice cream shop, Shinjuku

Where to drink

Gen Yamamoto in Tokyo offers an amazing cocktail omakase, featuring unique Japanese spirits and fresh produce. 

Or for a different drinking experience, spend an evening in the Golden Gai area, visiting several of the themed, shoebox-sized bars.

What to see

There are beautiful shrines and temples all across Japan, many of which you can visit for free.

My favorite was probably Fushimi Inari, a Shinto Shrine in southern Kyoto which is famous for its red torii gates and beautiful (and challenging) hiking trail.

Torii gates, Fushimi Inari Taisha 

Where to stay

We alternated between big cities and smaller experiences, which I highly recommend. Tokyo and Kyoto were fantastic, but it was nice to get a more well-rounded picture of life in Japan.

Where to shop

Everywhere! Japanese shopping is phenomenal, from the stylish boutiques to the mind-boggling department store food halls to the crazy dollar-store finds. There are unique items around every corner.

What to experience

In every place we visited, it was always worth it to get off the main drags and into the smaller neighborhoods. We found some great little shops and restaurants this way.

The outdoor spaces are wonderful  – we loved the Arashiyama Bamboo Forest and hiking Mt. Takao.

I would also recommend taking a local class if you have time – we took a Ramen cooking class and it was one of the highlights of our trip.

Arashiyama Bamboo Forest
Arashiyama Monkey Park

The Extra Stuff

Do you recommend any day trips?

We spent a day in Nara, the “magical deer city of Japan” (a must for any animal lover) 

And Koyasan was amazing – a lovely secluded mountaintop town filled with Shingon Buddhist temples, many of which offer overnight stays. I would recommend 2 days to visit though, because it is not an easy place to get to 🙂

Tips & Tricks

Get a Suica card (a payment card you top off with cash) – you can use them for trains, vending machines, convenience stores and lots of other places.

Don’t eat or talk on the phone on the train – it’s “just not done.” And wait in the queue when the train arrives.

Ship your bag between cities! It’s amazingly cheap and convenient in Japan. It was great to visit the small towns with just a backpack.

Buy one of the ubiquitous little hand towels when you arrive; most public restrooms have no towels or air dryers, so you will be using it a lot!

Traditional Kaiseki dinner, Hakone

Give us your #1 travel hack

Rolling, not folding.