The favorite alcoholic beverage in Japan is most definitely the iconic drink known as sake. Fermented rice in pristine mountain water make up this drink of choice which can range in price of up to $100+ per bottle for the finest choices. The city of Saijo, 35 minutes by JR outside of Hiroshima, is said to produce the finest sake in all of Japan and boasts an impressive 10 breweries! Even more stunning is the fact that 8 of them are within a 45 minute walking path of each other starting and ending at the railway station and offer free tastings for visitors. So in an effort to find my favorite sake and put my liver to the test, I visited Saijo for a mass sake consumption marathon.
If you would drop me there without telling me where I was and no local signs or people walking around I would guess that I was in a place like London or Chicago – most definitely not Japan.
Hello Kitty and Cartoon figures are all but missing and replaced with upscale dining (mostly French and Italian), expensive stores (Dior, DG, etc), and English is almost always in a larger font than the comparable Kanji text for most big businesses.
It is so eerie and cosmopolitan that I caught myself on multiple occasions wondering if I was even in Japan anymore.
There are really only three things that I could see coming to Kobe for.
The first is the most obvious, to live there. Kobe constantly ranks the top city in Japan for expat living and there is no doubt of that after seeing the city. For me, all the french restaurants and pastry shops (mostly the latter) have me wanting to move there already as well.
The second is as an entry and exit point into Japan via the nearby port of Kobe which has weekly ferries to and from Shanghai and Busan (I later took the ferry from Osaka to Shanghai, instead).
Since I am not able to be classified in the previous two, the reason I went to Kobe falls into category number 3: Kobe Beef.
Kyoto is an amazing city, quite possibly my favorite in Japan. It is one of those places you can picture yourself living if you had to move abroad. There is little else that can be said to generalize the place better than that.
Although Kyoto has well over a million residents, it is hard to tell except for the southern end of town near JR's Kyoto terminal which has a constant exchange of both locals and tourists alike.
Unlike smaller towns in Japan, such as Nagano and Nagoya, the city of Kyoto has the benefit of having large town attractions as well, making it rather unique in the tightly packed country of Japan. However, like all big cities, some of the tourist attractions fall short, especially when compared to other, more unique options that are available.
The following is my take on some of the attractions in Kyoto that I have visited in the previous 48 hours.
I must stress that this is my views after two weeks of travel in the country. If Kyoto was the first stop on a trip, the sites may have been perceived differently.
My favorite spot in all of Tokyo is not one that you would normally think of. No, it is not a large shrine like at the Nikko Temple or one of the dozen of multistory electronic shopping centers; although the Sony store is quite amazing in its own right. While it is considered a tourist attraction, the place is also practical for tens of thousands of people every day. That is the world famous Shibuya scramble crossing, one of the world's largest cross walks.
The district of Shibuya is one of Tokyo's more famous regions, with the popular Meiji Shrine nearby as well as neon signs in just about every place imaginable. With one of the busiest subway lines in Japan, the mass entrance and exit of people produce the biggest crossing I have ever, and probably will ever see. Estimates for how many people cross during each exchange is disputed, but I would not be surprised if it broke 1,000 every crossing (~500/minute average).