My journey in Japan took me through the main island of Honshu from Tokyo to Nagano (home to snow monkeys), before making my way to Kanazawa, famous for its incredible gardens.
Takayama was a great place to explore charming narrow streets before heading onto Kyoto, which is a great mix of old meets new with fabulous shopping.
Hiroshima was a sobering experience but at the same time I was amazed at how the city has grown with the river running through it and dotted by many pretty gardens – a must visit and well worth taking the trip down there.
Experiencing Japan in winter time for me was a real highlight as many places were still covered in snow making some areas incredibly pretty, especially the village of Shirakawa-go – one of my favourite places as it looked like a village full of gingerbread houses!
For those travelling in spring, this is the time Japan really comes alive with gorgeous cherry blossoms stunning the country with its colour – we were lucky enough to see the start of the blossoms in some areas and it really is as pretty as you think! Traveling in the autumn months offers great value along with avoiding the summer heat, plus the colours are spectacular.
Travelling around Japan is a delight with its clean, efficient and on time high speed trains offering great facilities including automated toilets with heated seats! They always depart on time (to the minute) and signs are in both English and Japanese to avoid any confusion. One thing travellers will love about Japan is how orderly it is – no pushing, no shoving and no spitting makes it a very peaceful and stress free country to travel through.
The food in Japan was one of the biggest highlights for me, with incredibly fresh seafood, tasty broth soups with wagyu beef (a must try) and, of course, ice cream shops on every corner.
One of my favourite highlights was the curious little snow monkeys which reside up in the mountains enjoying a dip in the local hot springs during the day. The half hour walk through the mountains was a highlight in itself with thick snow lining the footpath and sprinkled through the trees. The first sighting of the monkeys saw a baby cuddled up to its mother for warmth and another soaking itself in the hot spring – very entertaining to watch!
For a city fix Kyoto was the place to hit up for a spot of shopping! While there was plenty of variety it is worth noting that the sizing was also suited to us ‘normal sized’ people and I found clothing easy to buy. The shopping in Kyoto was so much more than clothing with pretty arcades and markets selling beautiful hand-crafted kitchen knives and copper pans.
I would really encourage travellers to visit Hiroshima, once destroyed by a horrific bomb the city has emerged into a place of serenity with pretty gardens and peace memorial. While the museum is a harsh reality of what happened it is also an eye opening look at what the people have been through and how they survived.
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