Discussion in 'travel and world' started by mwgdrwg, Apr 9, 2018.
Sure thing. I'm still learning and exploring but glad to give suggestions!
There's a great view in the government building, especially at night, and it's free. But I'd recomment the Mori Tower Sky Deck as the best daytime view, costs about a tenner but is well worth it.
Kyoto is the most prominent exception of a major city to avoid bombing in WWII (it was initially one of the targets for the atomic bombs). Relatively little of 'old Kyoto' exists (though far more than in nearly every Japanese city), which is largely due to slowly changing attitudes towards heritage in Japan (Japanese people prefer to live in new apartments as a rule, so 'old' stuff is pulled down). A good example of this can be seen in the re-fashioning of traditional machiya houses into restaurants, cafes and shops.
I agree that Kanazawa is nice, slightly off the beaten path, while still accessible by the shinkansen. One of the great gardens there, a pretty decent modern art museum, and a fantastic fish market. The samurai district is a bit meh, especially if you've been to Kyoto or even the somewhat dull Nara.
Just as a bit of background, I've recently returned from living between Kyoto and Osaka for five years, so I know both pretty well. Kyoto is now rather sadly overwhelmed by tourists all year 'round, though it is still (sort of) possible to avoid the crowds. One of those places like Barcelona or Venice where the locals are getting tired of it all. Osaka is a fine city, nothing remotely aesthetically pleasing about it, the people are notoriously gregarious (for Japan), and the food is the best in the country. Used to have a crazy nightlife, but now has the most right wing mayor who introduced a series of bizarre rules to squeeze the joy out of life (tables on dancefloors by 1am, for example). If you like noise, spacerock, drone, Osaka is the place (home of the Boredoms). Excellent record shops, some good bars (lots of microbreweries in Kansai, so some very good craft beer around). I was always rather fond of Kobe, though that was more to do with a former girlfriend than anything else.
My favourite places ended up being more countryside, which given my city head surprised me. There is a lot of truth in that much of Japan is desperately drab and samey, a boxy hinterland of browns and greys, and a restrictive social stratification that you either accept unquestioningly or rub up against. I did the latter
Without going any further into my eventual dissatisfaction, I can recommend if time permits heading out to the wonders of Tottori (forget the dunes, head for Misasa, Kurayoshi, Yurihama, Daisen, mountains, old towns, countryside, onsen); Kyushu (too many places to mention, but avoid Beppu if planning to go to onsen, it's horribly touristy); Hokkaido - in general - my enduring regret is that I only went twice, love Sapporo, probably my favourite Japanese city, great festivals in both summer and winter, very nearly moved there ...
For me the thing with Kyoto is there was just so much heritage that you could find less busy places... Even stuff that would be a major attraction elsewhere could be fairly quiet. But for me a large reason for going to Japan was design and architecture, so obviously it was always going to make me happy.
I also liked Kumamoto, my friend was living there at the time (2015), which was the only reason I went. But nice place... Good food. I think the key historic places there were badly affected by the 2016 earthquake and remain closed though (castle and that samurai residence).
This is certainly true up to a point, but if it's your first time visiting, there are certain 'classics' that are now extremely overcrowded such as Kinkaku-ji, Fushimi-Inari-Taisha, and Ginkaku-ji. Most of the Zen gardens are very un-Zen like, and places like Nishiki Market and most of Gion, where locals live, work and shop, are heaving. Living nearby as I did, the increases in tourists numbers were very visible in the last three years. It's certainly causing problems. That said, leaving Kyoto off your first trip to Japan would be silly, particularly given the huge differences between it and Tokyo. A great contrast which can be similarly achieved (though perhaps not so dramatically), by going to Osaka, which is only half an hour away by train.
I like Kumamoto, easy to incorporate with a trip to Fukuoka (one of my favourite cities in Japan, though perhaps not so amazing for the tourist, but a nice vibe for the foreign resident).
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