The Land of The Rising Sun was closed off to the rest of the world until 1854. But now Japan warmly welcomes guests from all corners of the globe to enjoy its famous hospitality and delve deep into its captivating culture.
In the decades that followed World War II Japan transformed itself into a shining beacon on the world stage that epitomises innovation, ingenuity and imagination. No other country compares.
I spent 1 week in the eastern regions around Tokyo and Mount Fuji on an amazing road trip. One that covered many unique aspects of Japanese culture - Samurai, monks, manicured gardens, sushi, kimonos, futuristic toilets, origami, temples, robots, and more.
My hope is that this small taste of Japan inspires you to make your own epic journey.
Waking up to Mount Fuji from Yumura Tokiwa Hotel in Kofu. The best way to start the day.
The famous “Gate of Peace” in Hakone Shrine, Hakone.
Strolling through 2000 bamboo trees in Houkokuji temple, Kamakura.
The Great Buddha (Daibutsu) in Kamakura. Construction of this monumental outdoor bronze statue began in 1252 and took 10 years. Standing at 11.4m in height and weighing 121 tonnes this statue is one of Japan’s most famous icons.
Tired after a long day? How about a dip in your private onsen (bath)? Located in Yumura Tokiwa Hotel in Kofu.
Arakurayama Shrine and Chureito pagodas located in Yamanashi Prefecture. This view took 400 steps to reach, and on a clear day you can see Mount Fuji in the background. This is a local war memorial and was not setup for tourists, however after being featured on a TV show segment in Thailand about 10 years ago (with the view of Mt Fuji), it instantly gained popularity as a tourist destination.
BBQ. Japanese style. At Sanrokuen in Fujikawaguchiko Town.
Kinomiya Shrine in Atami at dusk.
The Sacred cyprus tree in Kinomiya Shrine in Atami. Standing 23 metres tall, and over 2100 years old, this tree has the largest circumference of any tree in mainland Japan. Walking around the base once gives you an extra year of life and whatever you wish in your heart will come true. Or so I’m told.
Mishima Skywalk located in Shizuoka Prefecture. Stretching 400 metres in length, and perched 70.6 metres above the valley floor, this is the longest pedestrian suspension bridge in Japan.
Magnificant sky garden also located in the Mishima Skywalk complex.
View of Numazu from Mishima Skywalk.
Chinatown at night in Yokohama. It’s around 150 years old, but today only very few Chinese people live here.
View of ferris wheel in Rinko Park from InterContinental Yokohama Grand in Yokohama.
Lunch at the famous Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo – one of the biggest and busiest fish markets in the world. Sashimoro-don (rice bowl with sashimi) included: tuna, white fish, salmon, squid, crab flake. The fish I ate for lunch was probably still in the ocean that very morning.
Giant rainbow cotton candy from Totti Candy Factory in Harajuku, Tokyo.
Takeshita-dori – one of the most popular pedestrian shopping streets in Harajuku, Tokyo.
Intersection outside Shibuya Station, Tokyo. Said to be the busiest intersection in the world, with over 1000 people cross the road at one time – somehow not bumping into each other. I don’t know which one of those facts is more impressive.
Traditional Japanese hotel suite - Yumura Tokiwa Hotel in Kofu.
Japanese hospitality is second to none.
Origami – it wouldn’t be Japan without it.
I’m pretty sure there are more buttons controlling this toilet than on my TV remote.
Sake flavoured Kit Kats? Yes please!
Green tea flavoured Kit Kats? I tried after a little hesitation and it was better than I expected.
Kawazu Seven Falls along the Hontani River.
Another waterfall at Kawazu Seven Falls.
You haven’t had ice cream until you’ve tried wasabi ice cream.
Traditional Japanese tea ceremony in Sankeien Garden, Naka Ward.
The beautiful Sankeien Garden is still beautiful on a rainy day.
Star Wars light saber chopsticks? I’ll take two!
Yep, that’s me rocking the kimono. It’s harder to get on than you might think, but the end result is worth it… wouldn’t you agree?
Cutting edge robotics is synonymous with Japan, and I stumbled across this display in Tokyo.
Touring through the streets of Tokyo in a rickshaw, near Asakusa temple. That’s how I roll.
Pagoda in the Asakusa temple in Tokyo.
Row of shops in front of Asakusa temple, Tokyo.
I don’t know who had the idea of combining ice cream and a sweet roll, but these guys are geniuses!
Sunset over Cape Aiai in Yusuge Park in Shizuoka Prefecture.
Wind-swept tree on Cape Irozaki, where a nearby shrine has been located for over 200 years.
Volcanic steam rising from Owakudani Hot Spring on Soun Mountain…
…and in this volcanic steam, they cook eggs until they turn black. A special delicacy!
Ship sailing past “Gate of Peace” in Hakone.
Harbour in Hakone.
Misawa Winery in Yamanashi prefecture. Founded in 1923, this family owned winery grows their own grapes. A unique indigenous species of grape called “Koshu” are grown here with a lighter flavour and lower alcohol content which is best suited to Japanese food. The winery is located at 700m elevation, and surrounded by mountains in a region that receives the most sunshine in all of Japan.
Who would have thought about doing a wine tour in Japan?
Ohtaki waterfall. Beautiful!
Lunch at Baikokuya, Mitake town, Kofu City.
Erin-ji Zen temple in Koshu City. Built about 1330AD, the template complex includes a beautiful Zen Garden. Did you know: the temple also features a nightingale floor whose wooden boards squeak, when a person (or ninja) tries to sneak up to the building.
Japanese woman in traditional Kimono in Erin-ji Zen temple.
Monk reflecting over the tranquil Zen garden in Erin-ji temple.
Lake Kawaguchi at sunset with the unmissable Mount Fuji in the background shrouded in clouds.
Traditional garments worn before attempting to ascend Mount Fuji. Togawa's Oshi House Pilgrim's Inn was once used by climbers for spiritual cleaning and practical preparation before climbing. In 1814 there were 86 Oshi houses in the Kamiyoshida area and now only 12 remain. Of these only a few are available for accommodation to the public.
Itchiku Kubota Art Museum in Yamanashi Prefecture. Open since 1994, this museum displays kimonos by talented Japanese artists. 7 or 8 artists work on each garment, taking 1 year to complete. And although these aren’t for sale, each garment could possibly be worth millions of dollars.
Kiunkaku mansion in Atami. When it was constructed in 1919 it was considered one of the 3 great mansions of the city. In recent years, the city of Atami has purchased the estate and it’s now available for visitors to explore. The western-style building was designed by same architect who designed Japan's parliament building, with glass imported from UK and intricate attention to detail. The beauty isn’t restricted to the indoors - the gardens are exquisite too.
Amagi Misujiyama Trail on Mt Misuji. Opened about 6 years ago, the 0.5km hike to the summit (from top carpark) reaches 821m above sea level and offers beautiful views of the surrounding countryside.
Hina no Tsurushi Kazari in Izu Inatori is a craft-lover’s dream. These cute little charms are created using pieces of silk kimonos, usually made by mothers for their daughters for good luck and protection. I tried making my own and it’s a little harder than it looks. A single charm typically takes 1 hour to make. This is a fun craft for all ages and anyone can come into the shop to make their own or take them home.
My finished charm on the left at Hina no Tsurushi Kazari along with one of the more intricate charms on the right. You can either purchase a kit and make it yourself or buy a pre-made one.
The famous red eye snapper at Tokuzoumaru in Inatori.
Yes, that’s me wielding a real samurai sword. Kids, don’t try this at home.
For a little touch of western familiarity, I stayed at the Imaihama Tokyu Hotel in Kawazu for 1 night.
Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gū Shrine in Kamakura. Founded in 1063, the shrine is the most important in the city of Kamakura.
Tasty soba noodles at Raitei in Kamakura. This restaurant has been open since 1969, and the building is about 250 years old, having been transferred to the current location in 1929 and rebuilt.
Tokyo Skytree from below. It’s the tallest “tower” in the world standing at 634 metres (2,080 ft) and second tallest structure.
Colourful row boats sitting on the shore of Lake Kawaguchi with the majestic Mount Fuji in the background.
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