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Population (2016): 126,702,133 inhab.
Density: 349 inhabitants / km2
Capital: Tokyo (the most populated urban area in the world, with more than 37 million inhabitants, including the whole agglomeration).
Currency: Yen (JPY)
Political Regime: Parliamentary Democracy - Constitutional Monarchy
Main religions: Shinto (107 million people), Buddhism (94 million), Christianity (2.16 million), Others (1 million).
Our 'Wish List'
- sing the Totoro song IN Japan
- see people dressed in manga-clothes on the street
- visit Japanese temples
- visit the Ghibli museum
- see Shinjuku and THE pedestrian crossing
- see Mount Fuji
- take the Shinkansen train
- visit old Kyoto
- go to Mount Koya
- go to Okinawa la Belle
- think about Totoro every day
- fight with chopsticks to eat pasta!
During our 3 weeks stay in Japan, we stayed 10 days in Tokyo, 7 days in Kyoto and Osaka and 4 days in Hiroshima.
We really recommend staying in Tokyo for a long time. 10 days were a minimum for us. We would have stayed longer ... Tokyo is huge with many neighbourhoods to visit, each with its own identity. There are also many parks where it is good and pleasant to take your time. In addition, it is possible to visit a lot of things from Tokyo (we went to Nikko and Yokohama - but we can also do Hakone for example, and many other things!): The train network is very well done and allows to travel easily and quickly from one point to another.
Kyoto and its region also deserve at least a week in our opinion. Kyoto has many temples and gardens that are worth visiting. And from Kyoto we can go to Nara and Osaka.
For Hiroshima, we only stayed a few days and we focused on Miyajima and the Mount Misen trek which absolutely charmed us and we highly recommend it.
Good to know :
- There are 2 airports in Tokyo: make sure you know where you arrive to plan your transportation to the city!
- there are many train companies in Japan, and often several stations in the same place: when you plan a trip, check which train company you want to take & go to the corresponding train station (not the one of the other company !)
- there are hundreds of trains in Tokyo: if your train is announced at 13:57 at platform 4, it will be at 13:57 at platform 4: do not do like us! do not get on a train that stops at 13:53 at platform 4: it's not good !!! 😉 Everything is extremely punctual and accurate in Japan ...
- to plan your trips: use the site HYPERDIA: it is essential to find oneself in the labyrinth of transports !!! http://www.hyperdia.com/en/
What to do in JAPaN ?
- Tokyo is a city ... amazing! We wanted to visit it in order to be confronted with a culture very different from ours, and at the same time we were a bit apprehensive because Tokyo is a megalopolis of 36 million inhabitants and, living in a small village deep in Norway, we do not really like big cities ... but we were motivated - well, this city has charmed us all! we loved it ! It's a subtle blend of hyper-modernism and tradition. It's surprisingly calm, clean, efficient. People are extremely polite and respectful (the gap between the Paris metro and the Tokyo subway is just ... unbelievable ...). The combination of ultra-modern skyscraper streets, state-of-the-art shops, robots, people dressed in manga-clothes... and parks, temples, monekos and people in kimonos is unique. We felt very well in Tokyo. All over. All the neighbourhoods we visited charmed us one way or another. They all have something special and are worth a visit!
- Transport is extremely efficient, punctual, precise, well done. On the other hand, on the side of the user, it is necessary to be able to understand the maps of the networks and the principle of the different companies / different stations / rails ... not obvious at the beginning but it is done quickly.
TO DO :
- take height ! climb up a tower (for example, the Sky Tower, Fuji TV Tower) to get an overview of the megalopolis: it's amazing!
- do not hesitate to enter the game rooms: it's typically Japanese!
- taste all the dishes: there are hundreds of small restaurants / small stalls that sell hundreds of different small dishes all more attractive than the other - we loved everything we tasted, especially okonomiyakis.
- take the Yurikamome airline to go to Odaiba: we discovered a whole part of modern Tokyo from this mind-boggling train line!
- take a transport card (PASMO-SUICA type): it is a prepaid card with a sum of money on it that you can fill as needed at automatic terminals. This is essential !! In Tokyo, the prices of the journeys are different from one station to another, from one company to another, and one pays according to the distance. You will spend a lot of time paying the right rate every time, queuing at the ticket counter. With the Suica card, you pass the card on the terminal at the entrance and the exit and everything is automatic! it's perfect ! ATTENTION, however: the card can be returned (against his deposit of 500 yen) ONLY on Tokyo! not Kyoto or other example ... so remember to bring it back before leaving Tokyo!
- Japan Rail Pass or not? THE big question of a traveling trip to Japan ... well there is no obvious answer: it all depends on what you want to do: the best is to make a budget: you can calculate the cost of your transport through the Hyperdia website and compare with a Japan Rail Pass. In our case for example, it was not advantageous to take it. But it depends on what you do ...
- bank withdrawals: we had read a lot about the fact that bank withdrawals can be difficult in Japan ... we did not notice anything special: all ATM we tested worked properly. Be careful however: everything is paid in CASH in Japan! So think about making big withdrawals and having enough cash permanently with you.
- buy food at the supermarket: even if you do not have a kitchen in your home: they have plenty of 'bentos' meals ready! It's awesome ! there are dozens of dishes to discover, and it's really cheap! especially if you come in the evening: the prices fall because they have to sell the stocks before the next day 😉
- go to the museum GHIBLI: if you are fans of cartoons of the famous studio (Mononoke, Totoro & co.), it is essential not to miss this opportunity to discover the world of its creator Miyazaki !!! ATTENTION: Tickets can only be bought on the internet (or you will pay an arm with dealers, while the tickets are really cheap) on the 10th of each month for the following month: connect to the site (http://www.ghibli-museum.jp/en/), At 10:00 am Japanese time and try to book your tickets by choosing a day and a time: it crashes often, but persists! we managed to pass at a given moment. Attention 2: places are usually sold in a few hours: try to be in front of your computer at the opening so you can choose (for us it was 3am ...!).
THE DIFFERENT QUARTERS:
- Asakusa district: This is the traditional Tokyo district with the very impressive Buddhist temple of Senso Ji, and its typical shopping streets Nakamise Dori & Kaminarimon Dori. Start at the tourist office just opposite the Kaminarimon (the famous gate with its giant red lantern): go upstairs - you will have a view (free!) of the site!
- Ueno park with its zoo. A beautiful park, very big. We were very lucky when we went there: there was plenty of street entertainment and a culinary festival - we had a blast! The zoo was nice, but crowded.