Discover Tokyo’s Hidden Charms

Are you planning your trip to Tokyo? It is a city where every corner is alive with energy and excitement. But beyond the neon lights and bustling streets lies a realm of hidden gems waiting to be explored. Get ready to venture off the beaten path and discover five enchanting lesser-known treasures of this dynamic metropolis.

Sunamachi

Step into the traditional shitamachi atmosphere of Sunamachi and immerse yourself in the local culture. Explore the Sunamachi Ginza shopping street, a bustling market where you can sample delicious street food and indulge in authentic Japanese delicacies like Tempura and Yakitori.

Todoroki Valley

Find serenity amidst Tokyo’s urban hustle at Todoroki Valley, a tranquil oasis hidden away near Todoroki Station. Escape the city’s lively pace and discover a peaceful landscape of lush greenery and flowing streams — a perfect retreat for nature lovers.

Kitanomaru Park

Nestled in the heart of Tokyo, Kitanomaru Park offers a peaceful haven away from the bustling streets. With its vibrant cherry blossoms and tranquil ponds, this hidden gem is a favourite spot for locals seeking respite from the city’s frenzy. Guests staying at Ascott Marunouchi Tokyo, which is home to modern furnished apartments in Tokyo, can reach the park via a quick 3-minute drive.

Sangenjaya

Experience the vibrant energy of Sangenjaya, a trendy neighbourhood where tradition meets modernity. Explore the lively alleyways of Sankaku-chitai and uncover unique boutiques, stylish cafes, and traditional Izakayas buzzing with local flavour.

Kagurazaka

Kagurazaka
Image via Wikimedia Commons – Daderot, Evening view – Kagurazaka, Tokyo – DSC04483, CC0 1.0

Step back in time in Kagurazaka, a historic district steeped in tradition. Wander through narrow alleys lined with traditional houses and discover a blend of old-world charm and contemporary culture in this captivating neighbourhood, often referred to as Tokyo’s ‘Little Paris’.

Your Guide to Summer Fun in Kyoto

Kyoto, the ancient capital of Japan, shimmers with a captivating allure year-round. But there’s something undeniably special about experiencing this destination in summer (from June to August). While the city experiences warmer temperatures, it offers a unique blend of cultural delights, outdoor escapes, and refreshing experiences that will leave you spellbound.

Find Tranquillity at Gardens and Parks

Escape the summer sun and find serenity amidst stunning parks and gardens. Step back in time as you stroll through the Ninomaru Garden at Nijo Castle close to Park Hotel Kyoto, wander around the sprawling Kyoto Botanical Gardens or explore the Kyoto Imperial Palace Park. For a change of scenery, head to the ethereal Arashiyama Bamboo Grove, where towering stalks of bamboo offer a spellbinding backdrop and welcome respite from the heat.

Witness the Grandeur of the Gion Festival

No summer in Kyoto is complete without experiencing the historic Gion Festival (or Gion Matsuri). This iconic festival, held annually at Yasaka Shrine, is one of the largest in Japan. The highlight is the magnificent procession of floats (Yamaboko Junko) on 17th July and 24th July. These ornately decorated floats, some towering to heights of up to 25 metres, are meticulously crafted and pulled through the streets. To fully immerse yourself in the festive atmosphere, consider basing yourself at 4-star hotels in Kyoto along Oike Street, which offers prime viewing spots for the parade.

Explore Museums and Gain Key Insights

When the summer heat intensifies, the city’s numerous museums offer a cool and enriching escape. Delve into a rich history at the Museum of Kyoto, enjoy traditional crafts at the Kyoto Museum of Crafts and Design and take in artistic creations at the National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto. The Kyoto International Manga Museum is a haven for manga lovers, while the Samurai & Ninja Museum Kyoto even offers you an opportunity to dress up as a samurai warrior or learn the art of being a ninja!

Dine Beside the Kamogawa River

Kamogawa River – Image via Flickr

One of the most delightful summer experiences is dining along the banks of the Kamogawa River. Many restaurants here transform their outdoor spaces into “Kawayuka,” charming riverside terraces with a laidback ambience. Imagine sipping on refreshing beverages and indulging in delicious cuisine while enjoying the cool evening breeze and the gentle murmur of the flowing river. It’s the perfect way to unwind after a day of exploring and soak up the enchanting summer atmosphere of Kyoto.

All You Need to Know About Onsens in Japan

Offering a unique traditional experience that will benefit you as well, onsens in Japan are not just popular with locals but tourists as well. If you have not had the chance to enjoy an onsen before, these insights will help you to prepare for what will be a truly relaxing time!

What Exactly is an Onsen?

Onsens are hot springs, revered for their therapeutic properties and natural allure. With temperatures typically exceeding 25°C and water containing a variety of mineral elements, they offer a blissful retreat for body and soul. A natural onsen is called a ‘tennen onsen’ since the waters are sourced from geothermal springs. One example of this is the Tenzan-no-yu Onsen which can be accessed by those staying at a Kyoto, Japan hotel in the city centre such as Park Hotel Kyoto. On the other hand, a jinko-onsen is artificially created to offer such conditions.

Day-use Onsens

Tamatsukuri Onsen
Image via Wikimedia Commons – 663highland, 140427 Chorakuen Tamatsukuri Onsen Matsue Shimane pref Japan15s3, CC BY-SA 3.0

For a taste of onsen bliss without the commitment of an overnight stay, day-use onsens are ideal. Simply make a reservation or arrive spontaneously to indulge in the therapeutic waters. Open to the public, they provide a range of amenities, while admission fees can vary depending on what’s on offer. For those who may feel too shy for a full body soak, there is an option referred to as ‘Ashiyu’; you will get to dip your feet in a pool with hot spring water, often found in charming towns known for their onsens.

Etiquette at an Onsen

It’s important to know some onsen etiquette. Begin your onsen journey by cleansing yourself thoroughly with a shower utilising the provided soap and shampoo, before entering the bath. Keep to a moderate time in the hot springs to avoid dehydration and while you may chat with others, observe a low noise level to preserve the tranquil ambiance. Additionally, refrain from diving, splashing, or photography, and remember to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water before and after your onsen soak.

Some Key Benefits

The ancient practice of onsen bathing also offers diverse health and wellness benefits which has made it popular in Japan for centuries. From improved blood circulation to stress relief and muscle relaxation, the mineral-rich waters of these hot springs provide a holistic approach to healing and rejuvenation. You can experience the therapeutic properties of onsens to ease aches and pains, enhance skin radiance, enjoy better sleep, and restore balance to body and mind as well.

Japan Travel: Best Time to Visit Niseko and Things to Do

Niseko, located on Hokkaido island, is a world-renowned ski destination. Here’s your guide to the best time to visit and what to do in this winter wonderland.

Best Time to Visit Niseko

Winter (December to February) is the peak season for skiing and snowboarding in Niseko, with powdery slopes that cater to all levels. For a less crowded experience, consider a visit in spring (March to May), which offers a mix of winter and spring activities, including “spring skiing” with excellent conditions for both on-piste and off-piste adventures.

Winter Activities in Niseko

Niseko skiing
Niseko skiing – Image via Flickr

Besides skiing and snowboarding, Niseko offers various winter activities. Try snowshoeing for peaceful forest walks, snowmobiling for panoramic views, snow tubing for all-age fun, and winter rafting through icy rapids. Don’t forget to relax in the onsens (hot springs) after an active day.

Culinary Delights and Relaxation

Indulge in Hokkaido specialities, including seafood, ramen, soup curry, Jingisukan (grilled mutton dish), and soft serve ice cream. Enjoy the serene ambience and cultural events in Niseko Village, offering a mix of shops, restaurants, and cafes.

Scenic Beauty of Niseko

Take time to appreciate Niseko’s natural beauty, whether it’s the views of Mount Yotei (Hokkaido’s Mount Fuji), serene forest hikes, or the picturesque Hangetsu Lake. For comfortable accommodations during your visit, check out hotels in Nagoya, Japan, the likes of Travelodge Nagoya Sakae as they provide a great base for your Niseko adventure. Enjoy your winter wonderland experience in Niseko, Japan!

Journeying Into Japanese Gardens

The country of Japan is more serene than most and can be seen in its beautiful, tranquil gardens. Shaped by principles of balance and harmony with nature, the Japanese garden isn’t merely a collection of shrubs and bushes, but an experience to engage with beauty beyond time and serenity beyond explanation. Dig deep and prepare yourself for insights into Asian culture and living.

Japanese_garden_view_3
Daniel X. O’Niel, Japanese garden view 3, CC BY 2.0

The Allure

With meticulous design and subtle elegance, the gardens of Japan are treated as an escape – a getaway from the bustle of daily life. Going beyond a simple arrangement of flowers and trees, the approach to gardening mirrors the philosophies of Japanese culture, embodying a profound respect for nature and representing inner tranquillity. As if stepping into a different world, away from the chaos of urbanism, it’s no wonder that it’s considered something close to purification in people’s hearts.

The Essence

Understanding the essence of a Japanese garden is quite simple – the space is designed for contemplation and meditation, encapsulating the spirits of nature and harmony. Different from the modern day, the Japanese people used to be one that lived in balance with nature, admiring the powers of Mother Earth, and worshipping the mountains, forests, and seas of the country. This reverence still remains to this day, as seen from the sights visible from hotels in Osaka, Japan.

The Design Principles

Any Japanese garden is designed with four major principles in mind – Water, Stones, Plantings, and Scenic Objects. These elements work together to create a balanced and harmonious atmosphere – from the water’s position as a source of life to the background scenery of the objects placed.

The Examples

There are what’s known as the Three Great Gardens of Japan – easily reachable from accommodations like the Travelodge Honmachi Osaka. Consider visiting Kenroku-En, Kairaku-En, and Koraku-En, each with its own distinct character and design, for insights into the principles mentioned earlier being put into practice. The allure of these places is easily perceived through aesthetics and tranquil atmospheres, a testament to the profoundly deep culture of Japan.

Experiencing Japanese Festivals

Fancy delving into the heart of Japan that will take you across the entirety of the nation? Then check out these fascinating festivals & celebrations that are considered hallmarks of Japanese culture.

1024px-Interior_-_Takayama_Festival_Float_Exhibition_Hall_-_Takayama,_Gifu,_Japan_-_DSC06591 (1)
Daderot, Interior – Takayama Festival Float Exhibition Hall – Takayama, Gifu, Japan – DSC06591, CC0 1.0

Nebuta Festival

Regarded as one of the more important festivals when summer dawns in Tohoku, Nebuta Festival is associated with the building of warlord-shaped lantern floats or ‘nebutas’ which are used to parade through the streets. Held annually from the 2nd – 7th of August, the visitor will be greeted by scenes of smiling locals clad in Haneto costumes and floral straw hats that make for the perfect capture on your camera.

Michinoku Yosakoi Festival

Though, held across Japan, Sendai’s Michinoku Yosakoi Festival sees the gathering of over 5,000 dancers and 150 teams in mid-October for one jaw-dropping display. An event which dates back to 1998, the Festival is synonymous with flag twirls, spins and a wide array of dance moves that complement the elaborate costumes worn which mirror the traditional kimono.

Sapporo Snow Festival

Associated with slips, slides and many a snow game, the Sapporo Snow Festival is celebrated in February and is your ‘go-to’ event if you happen to be staying in Japan during winter. Held in Sapporo, Hokkaido, this enthralling spectacle takes on varying levels of fun and engagement with ice sculptures, snow slides, curling and even snowball fights among its main highlights.

Takayama Festival

Divided into 2 distinct festivals, Takayama Festival comprises the Sanno Festival (spring) and the Hachimangu Festival (autumn). With the former, you will be rewarded with cherry blossom sightings and locals offering prayers at the Hie Shrine in the hope of a bountiful harvest. In light of the latter, patrons will catch a glimpse of gigantic, illuminated yatai floats being paraded through the Edo-era streets of Gifu. For those staying at Travelodge Honmachi Osaka which is one of the hotels in Osaka Japan, visiting Gifu in April and October will be worthy investments of one’s time.

Popular Places to Visit in Sapporo for Tourists

A city chock-full of historical attractions, parks and food – that’s what Sapporo is. Based on the island of Hokkaido, there’s plenty for the casual adventurer to take in be it natural or man-made, as the culture of Japan lives strong in its 5th largest city.

Hokkaido, Japan
Hokkaido, Japan | Image by Magic Mary on Unsplash

Jozankei Onsen (Hot Spring)

Japan is a country well-known for its hot springs, so it’s almost necessary to include it in this list! In this case, there is history as well – the mineral-rich water has attracted visitors since 1866, many of them seeking the prized healing waters of the spring.

Hokkaido Jingu (Shrine)

For those more willing to take in the local culture, there exists the famous Hokkaido Shrine, one of the most important religious sites in the entirety of Japan. Constructed in 1857, it is one of the attractions that remain close to hotels near Sapporo Station, merely 20-30 minutes away by train or less if by car.

Sapporo Beer Museum

A little-known fact is that Hokkaido, the island on which Sapporo lies, is the birthplace of beer in Japan! Considering that fact, the Sapporo Beer Museum depicts the long history of beer-brewing in Japan, and its tour ends on a high note – drinking freshly brewed beer straight from the brewery. The museum itself is a short drive from accommodation properties for tourists to stay in, such as the Travelodge Sapporo Susukino.

Odori Park

Sitting in stark contrast to the high-rise buildings around it, the Odori Koen is a sweeping green vista that stretches for around 1.5 kilometres, which also serves to connect some of Sapporo’s attractions, making it a great place to visit for any tourist to have an organic walk-through of the city and its highlights.

Sapporo TV Tower

This 147-meter-tall marvel of human construction is considered one of Sapporo’s most famous attractions – and for good reason, as the view from the top is spectacular and the perfect place to have a meal, night or day. You can reach this spot from the earlier-mentioned Odori Park, making it a good spot to visit after an evening stroll for a night-time meal.