“Loud, colourful, shrill, romantic and exciting, with something new and more astonishing to offer on the corner of every street you walk down.” In Part 1 of her travel report, Austrian Airlines fan Judith told the story of the huge impact the mega-city of Tokyo made on her. Today, in Part 2, she makes her way out of the capital and heads south, where she meets living (!) national treasures, and doesn’t just do sushi for dinner.
Off south …
Which means to Kyoto. Visitors to Japan with a love of culture will probably be the biggest fans of this city – of the entire region of Kansai , in fact. On the way down to Kyoto, a day-trip to Nagoya and Nara is well worth a detour. Nagoya is the more modern of the two destinations, while Nara is impressive for its more historic perspective. Despite being highly manageable in size, Nara – Japan’s original capital, long before Tokyo – boasts no fewer than eight UNESCO World Cultural Heritage sites, more than any other city in the country other than Kyoto.
You’ll bump into tourists pottering amongst the city’s many beautiful temples wherever you go – and quite possibly encounter one of the 1,200 deer living in the city behind your car. The cheeky beasts are considered living national treasures and messengers of the gods . Such cheekiness wins out in these parts, and you can buy tasty treats to feed the naughty deer wherever you go.
Kyoto: traditional Japan
Although the locals know very well how to throw a raucous party, Kyoto comes across as being far more relaxed than the capital . Despite being so calm, it’s almost impossible to decide how to divide up your time between the countless tourist attractions – sightseeing stress is more or less guaranteed. On almost every street corner you’ll find another shrine, temple, a wonderful park, impressive architecture, historic (geisha) districts and (oh yes!) even a monkey park.
Sturdy shoes, a fan, and ideally a sun shade, are all must-haves here. Because with all there is to see in Kyoto, you can be absolutely sure you’ll be covering kilometres on foot every day you spend here, even though the bus services are great. You can also sleep in traditional – and highly affordable – Japanese rooms in Kyoto, complete with tatami mats. You shouldn’t have a problem with small animals, though, because they just love the mats, especially when they’re freshly laid-out. But it’s certainly an experience.
Osaka: modern and colorful
Osaka can be reached quickly and easily from Kyoto, and from there you can spend the rest of your time enjoying day-trips to destinations including Himeji and Kobe – or even a short train ride to Hiroshima . Osaka itself is a major economic centre, with a host of modern attractions guaranteed to make tourists’ hearts miss a beat. These include the enormous Osaka Aquarium , the architecturally interesting Umeda Sky Building , with its beautiful views over the city (especially good at night), the Transport Museum , and the colourful entertainment areas and shopping streets. Himeji, on the other hand, boasts Japan’s most impressive castle.
Hiroshima is more about reflection upon the past, not just at the memorials, but also in the mood of the whole city. It’s definitely worth making a detour here, if you’ve got the time, before getting on the train back to Tokyo to catch your flight with Austrian Airlines.
And finally: think more than just sushi!
You can eat excellently wherever you are in Japan – and it’s not just about sushi. In principle, the same applies as in other countries – you can usually eat best where there are fewer tourists, and best if there are none at all. A small restaurant or bar full of locals is almost always a good choice, even if it does sometimes mean experimenting and ordering by sign language. Clear pictures on the menus and even plastic models of dishes in the windows of larger restaurants can often make things easier, even if they do occasionally make you smile. Either way, there’s a huge amount to discover if you’re a fan of great cuisine. Sushi is of course very popular in these parts, but it’s far from all there is to discover.
You can fly Austrian Airlines non-stop from Vienna to Tokyo, capital of Japan. Click here to search low-cost flights – because Japan really is too beautiful to only visit once… 😉