It’s hard to believe it’s been almost four years since I was exploring the bustling and beautiful streets of Tokyo, wide eyed and curious. I loved everything about Japan; it’s culture, it’s people, it’s architecture, it’s history and its food. And most especially, I love how the Japanese people have beautifully fused its colourful history, steeped in tradition and technique, with its modern future.

It’s the one country I find myself constantly telling my family and friends I want to go back to see some of the things I was lucky to see, but also explore some of the places I didn’t have enough time to see. So, when the Japan National Tourism Organization recently asked me if I had the chance to go back, what would I see and do, I couldn’t help but smile because I knew exactly what I would do.





I loved Kyoto; known for its thousands of temples and otherworldly Geisha in Gion, I would walk the Philosopher’s Path to Higashiyama again and find the pottery studio where I made a beautiful clay mug. I would also go back to Arashiyama and ride a bicycle through the bamboo groves at dawn where the only noise to be heard are the bamboo leaves rustling against each other. I would then ride over Togetsukyo Bridge and explore Saga-Toriimoto again.



I would explore the back streets of Shibuya at sunset, where the last light of the day begins to fade and the neon lights come to life. Getting lost in the alleyways and busy streets in Shibuya was one of my favourite things to do.



When I was in Japan, the Cherry Blossom season was drawing to a close, so I would like to go back in the middle of the season to experience the sense of wonder of the trees in full bloom in and around Chidorigafuchi, the Imperial Palace and Ueno Koen Park. I’ve seen photos and it looks splendid!



I had the most incredible sashimi on my last night in Tokyo, in a small hole in the wall in Shinjuku. I have no idea what the name of the restaurant was called, but I spent three hours in there, enjoying Sake and sashimi. It was the meal dreams are made of! And I’d love to go back to try and find it, and thank the chef for his craft.



I could literally spend days exploring the streets of Harajuku; I went on a Sunday and this is the best day to go to see the Harajuku girls. Takeshita Dori is bursting with colour and energy, and I just love how modern and fun and bright and exciting it is. I remember the day I went, I had a whole itinerary planned and Harajuku was only meant to be a small portion of adventuring that day. But as soon as I got there, I threw my itinerary into my backpack and I just followed my curiosity, getting happily lost amongst the peopleand the atmosphere. I also happened to find the best vintage stores I’ve ever seen in my entire life. I happened to stumble across them when I got to the bottom of Takeshita Dori, crossed the street and meandered around the alleyways. Such a breathtaking find!



It’s no secret, I love trains, and planes, and boats, and anything that gets me from A to B when I travel. But there is just something utterly magical about the Shinkansen. It’s such a thrilling adventure, and is the perfect (not to mention the fastest) way to travel between prefectures.



When I was in Japan, the ski season was over but I have heard so many good things about skiing in Hakuba and Niseko; fresh powder every day, quaint sake bars, adventure filled runs and beautiful misty mountainous mornings. I would love, love, love to ski in Japan. Hopefully I will one day soon!



Everywhere I went, the bento boxes and sashimi was incredible. I just love variety when I eat and am often guilty of ordering two entrees instead of one main meal. As you can imagine my excitement was sky high when I was in Japan. Everywhere I ate was superb. In fact, it was so superb I dare you to find somewhere that serves bad food in Japan! Even the train stations have great bento, sashimi and sushi bars. And the furikake – YUM.



I am so devastated I didn’t get to visit the Tsukiji Fish Markets when I was in Tokyp – especially when I am an early morning person! Next time I’ll organise a booking because I am aware they only allow 120 visitors per day into the notoriously private fish markets. I would just love to see local fisherman auction their prized catches of tuna and salmon. It would be a dream come true!



Sadly, I didn’t get to experience a traditional Japanese onsen when I was in Japan. For those of you who don’t know, an onsen is a hot spring and often or not, a beautiful resort has been built around it so people can enjoy it. Because Japan is a volcanically active country, there are thousands of onsens scattered throughout all its major islands. Bathing in an onsen is healthful, rejuvenating and leaves you feeling refreshed, relaxed and clean – so I’ve been told!


This post is in collaboration with the Japan National Tourism Organization.



Jaharn GilesComment