What so intrigues you about Japan?
The mix of modern and traditional cultures, the delicious food, great customer
service, and the discovery potential. Japan has all of the modern
conveniences imaginable, but also ancient traditions and architecture.
When did you first go to Japan?
It was about 15 years ago when a friend was working there as an English teacher. He took me on a wonderful tour of Kyoto, which contains the flavor of old Japan. That first visit to Kyoto made a lasting impression.
Have you always set out solo or have you gone on trips to Japan with friends before? What's your preference?I've done both. The first time, I met some friends in Japan who had come from their home in Hong Kong. These days, I usually spend about half of my time traveling around on my own and the other half with Japanese friends I met here in the U.S. who have moved back to Japan.
What do you do when you go? How do you travel and where do you sleep?
I spend most of my time in Tokyo, where my friends live, but always take a trip
somewhere outside of Tokyo using the Japan Rail pass
This is a real Japanese experience. You
typically sleep on the floor on a futon and delicious meals are delivered to
your room. Many ryokan also have hot springs baths, such as those located near Mt. Fuji.
Japanese inns accept reservations for single guests, but you can find ones that do and make reservations in English. Many hot springs inns have what they call "family baths," which means
rather than soaking in the hot springs with others, which is the custom in
Japan, you can reserve a bath for your exclusive use.
On the zanier side, throughout Japan, you can find what are called "love hotels," where you can stay in a room by the hour (the "rest" rate) or by the night (the "stay" rate). Even if you don't stay there--and it's not recommended for singles--it can be fun to look at the photos of the creatively decorated rooms that are posted in the hotel lobbies.
How about eating?A relatively cheap way to eat in Japan is to buy bentos, which are boxed meals usually containing rice and fish meals, and are sold at most convenience stores and train stations.
You can also have quick and cheap bowls of soup at shops throughout Japan. In some shops, ordering soup is done by using a vending machine that displays pictures of different types of soup and dispenses a ticket, which you provide to the staff.
One of my favorite types of food is okonomiyaki, which is a Japanese pancake/omelet stuffed with cabbage and a variety of vegetable and meat ingredients, topped with a sweet sauce. You can find okonomiyaki shops everywhere in Japan, including some where you make your own at your hotplate table for less than $10.
When is the best time to visit Japan?
I think the spring and fall are the best times to go to Japan. Unless you have bad allergies, you can enjoy beautiful cherry blossoms in the spring, and in the fall, you can appreciate bright fall colors, especially in the Kyoto area. Summer is best avoided in my opinion unless you're going to the northern part of Japan, such as Sapporo. June is the rainy season and July and August are very hot and humid.
What would you recommend to someone who's never been to Japan and plans to go on his/her own?
The JR pass is highly recommended. The pass pays for itself with just one round trip between Tokyo to
When taking a taxi, it’s good to keep in mind that the back doors open automatically; they are controlled by the driver. Another great thing about Japan: no tipping! And don't forget to take off your shoes in traditional places like inns or temples.
Photos by Bob:
1. Room in a ryokan
2. "Love" hotel, boat motif.