Our Travels: Tokyo and Honshu, Japan

As you’ve probably realised, the team at World Words likes to travel. It is rare a week goes by without one of our writers or editors jetting off for an adventure. And it’s not just that we like to travel; we also like to share our travel experiences with anybody who might care to read them. It’s the reason we began this Our Travels blog series, in which our team members recount their tales of mini-breaks, short vacations and vast road trips, both near and far.

Since we began the series last year, we’ve recounted trips to such varied destinations as Dubai, Girona, Iceland and the Isle of Harris. Now, it’s the turn of our senior content editor Mandy, who recalls a two-week trip to Japan.

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Mandy with tanuki, the good luck raccoon-dog statues, ubiquitous at Japan’s shop and bar entrances.

Why I went to Japan
My partner and I were looking for a long-distance holiday destination that I could tour for two weeks, rather than staying put in the one spot. Japan has always been on my ‘want to visit’ list thanks to its fascinatingly complex culture. Truth be told, though, my motivations for choosing Japan over another destination were also somewhat financial in nature; flights to Tokyo were remarkably cheap, so I booked them immediately. Our idea? To use the capital as a jumping off point to explore the rest of Honshu island, including the cities of Kyoto and Hiroshima.

My highlight of the trip
My highlight of the trip was Kurama, a rural hamlet in the northern mountains of Kyoto. We went on 22nd October, the day of the Kurama Fire Festival (Kurama-no-Hi Matsuri), arriving early enough to squeeze in a short but steep forest hike from the neighbouring town of Kibune up to the Kurama-dera mountaintop temple, as well as a blissful soak in a forest-encircled onsen and a steaming bowl of soba, before the festival got underway. The festival sees locals take to the street armed with blazing pine torches, re-enacting the scene of receiving a deity in Kurama.

What else I love about Japan
Perhaps more than any of the sights we saw, the most memorable aspects of Japan for me were the people and the food. Whether we were being shown the way to wherever we were going – the Japanese seemed to realise we were lost before we even knew it ourselves – or merely crossing paths with other hikers on mountain trails who unfailingly offered a greeting, the spirit of omotenashi (the art of hospitality) seemed very much alive.

Then, of course, there is the food. From my experience, it seems hard to get a bad meal here. Though we forked out for a few splash-out dinners, including a couple of sushi sessions and perhaps most memorably some top-grade Wagyu beef at Momonoki in Hiroshima, some of the budget dining options were equally pleasing, whether vending-machine ramen joints or even an on-the-go onigiri (rice wrapped in nori) from a corner store.

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Participants preparing for the Kurama Fire Festival, held at Yuki-jinja Shrine near Kyoto.

Why you should go
There are a gazillion reason to come to Japan. If you like things shiny and new, then Tokyo may well be your dream city. If you’ve got more old-school tastes, consider temple-packed Kyoto instead. Crazy about food? Opt for Osaka. Snowboarding or skiing? Head for Hokkaido. Diving holiday or beach bliss? Try the tropical Miyako island in the Okinawa Prefecture. Prefer a back-to-nature escape? The Oki Islands, part of Unesco Global Geoparks Network, will be hard to top. And we’ve barely even scratched the surface…

How you can visit
The good news is, flights to Japan are plentiful, which means if you dig around and are willing to be flexible with your dates, you can find a reasonable fare. Narita handles most of Tokyo’s incoming and outgoing international flights, while Haneda serves the vast majority of the country’s domestic routes. Other common arrival airports for international travellers include Osaka’s Kansai Airport, Nagoya’s Central Japan Airport and Fukuoka Airport.

The World Worlds team often find themselves writing travel content about Japan – you can read some of our articles and guides on the country here. Keep up with our most recent adventures by following us on Twitter.

2 thoughts on “Our Travels: Tokyo and Honshu, Japan

  1. Pingback: Our Travels: Guatemala - World Words

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