Important Question

Actually, two important questions. Full disclosure: this doesn’t have anything to do with a blogging project (although I may blog about it at some point way in the future), but I figure if anyone would want to try and answer this, it’d be you awesome readers.

So, first question: When I say Kyoto, you say _____? I’m ideally looking for one-word cultural answers – stereotypes, if you will, about Kyoto, whether or not these things are actually accurate. For example, “shrines,” “temples,” “geisha,” etc.

And the second question, whether you’ve visited these places personally or simply heard about them before and are dying to visit yourself someday, is this: Not including the ‘golden route’ of really major sight-seeing cities such as Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, and Hiroshima, what are some of the most underrated places you know of in Japan? I’m not looking for cities or towns here so much as specific tourism spots – places that are just a bit more off the beaten path.

Thank you in advance for any thoughts you may have! I look forward to reading them. ❤

13 thoughts on “Important Question

  1. If you’d asked me a decade ago, I’d have said Protocol, or Nintendo. Nowadays… Besides the ones you’ve listed, maybe Palace / Courtesan?

    As for your second question… Naoshima for its trove of contemporary art. Tottori for a taste of Tatooine in Japan. Oh, Ibaraki has gotten a lot of shit for ranking dead last for so many years, on a survey of “most attractive prefecture”. And no wonder, natto disgusts me. But I’ve seen some stunning pictures of Hitachi Seaside Park.

    Now let me ask you a question! What are the best places you’ve eaten at in Japan?

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    1. Ooh, “courtesan.” I hadn’t thought of that one, good answer!

      Yeah, I’ve never learned to like natto either – although in all fairness, it smells way worse than it tastes. In fact, it didn’t have an especially strong taste to me at all, especially when mixed with rice and egg. Hitachi Seaside Park is /gorgeous, I’d definitely go there again someday. And the Tottori sand dunes are also lovely. I never got to make it to Naoshima, unfortunately – which is downright bizarre when you think about it because geographically, it was relatively close to home for 4 years.

      I never really developed a taste (pun not intended) for fancy restaurants, so all my favorite places were ones I accidentally stumbled across, often while guiding visitors around Japan. Small mom-and-pop type places, local hole-in-the-wall stuff that often never even had proper names.

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  2. There’s a line a David Bowie song from the album Lodger (“Move on”, I think, but I’m unsure) that goes “Spent some nights in old Kyoto/Sleeping on the matted ground”). I remember being a curious teen and looking up why it’s “old Kyoto”, and since then I know it as the “old imperial capital”. Also definitely shrines. And greenery. Not sure if Kyoto has more trees/bushes than other cities of its size, but it certainly seems that way when I see pictures.

    As for the second question: I’m an abysmal tourist and have nothing to offer. I tend to go along with other people’s plans, or strike out on my own to whatever seems interesting at the time (depending on where I am, and what I’ve seen).

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    1. It might have more greenery than many other large cities, true. I think you can find greenery almost anywhere in Japan, even in the middle of concrete jungles, if you know where to look, but perhaps Kyoto puts more of an emphasis on this.

      Fair enough, and nothing wrong with that!

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  3. One word for Kyoto = Old. It’s an ancient capital and it’s tradition is steeped in it’s ancient culture. As for things to do in Japan, have you tried climbing Mount Fuji? There’s a rather shallow trail that leads right to the top, even school kids and little old ladies can make the climb, so it’s really not that hard!

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    1. True that.

      Yup, I did once climb Fuji. I started at 9pm and got down the other side a couple of hours after sunrise. I’m pretty physically fit but I will say this, it was a lot more fun (not to mention prettier) on the descent!

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  4. I’m definitely gonna say geisha/Maiko. I have a friend in Kyoto who used to send me touristy Maiko postcards, so now I have collected almost hundred of them 🙂 Love their colourful costumes so much!!
    For the second part of the question, this may sound stereotypical but I follow someone in YouTube, a western guy who travels around trying all sorts of unique vending machines starting from hot meals like soups and rice to a full large cake etc. For me it’s unfathomable seeing anything out of a vending machine which isn’t dried snacks or at most an old sandwich… I know it’s sounds very stereotypical but I do wanna try them!!!

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    1. That sounds like a lovely collection!

      Oh man, I dearly miss those vending machines! I miss convenience stores more but not gonna lie, the vending machines were pretty great. I think one of my favorite finds was the hotcakes with maple syrup canned drink.

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  5. Kyoto = Chinese tourist groups. It’s not a knock on Kyoto at all – lovely area, great history, a ton of amazing spots to visit near and far. But it’s the tourism at my last trip that killed a lot of that off for me. It was more then annoying trying to embrace a quiet moment at a shrine, only to be interrupted more then once by a megaphone trying to round up a group of tourists.

    For Tokyo/Kyoto/Osaka spots – honestly Aomori is full of them. I might be biased since I’m still living here currently. Honestly Higashidori Village has (semi)wild horses, which I think are the only ones around in Japan. They are magnificent creatures. The Hakkoda Mountains in southern Aomori are gorgeous in all seasons. Especially in fall of course. Aoike in Fukaura-machi is my all time favorite though. All natural and a great hiking course for beginners.

    Outside of Aomori – I really loved Hakodate in Hokkaido. Nothing beats taking a ferry for a bit and pretending your arriving on a big adventure. Mt. Hakodate is worth taking up the ropeway to drink in the night view. Goryokaku is a great historical spot with a lot of options for exploring and experiences. Also it has a great mish-mash of Japanese and western architecture so just strolling through a neighborhood or two is worth it.

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    1. Yup, no argument here. The selfie sticks also annoy me (that goes with any individuals as well as tourist groups though – and those people seem completely immune to the signs in various languages asking visitors to please NOT use selfie sticks).

      I confess, although I’ve been to Aomori, it was only once and only for a couple of days, so I didn’t get to explore as much as I would have liked. It struck me as an extremely charming prefecture though, and I’ll hopefully get the chance to visit again someday.

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  6. Kyoto = communist stronghold. I know it’s not really that anymore since the voting system was changed in the city but it’s a factoid I specifically tucked away for whenever weebs get too deep into the ancient Oriental history thing. One of these days I should write a list of which anime waifus from Kyoto are possible commies.

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