On the drive from Narita airport to Tokyo, I was pleasantly surprised by all the greenery. The trees were in lovely shades of green and had unusual roundish shapes that were almost bonsai-like. Coming from the equatorial region of Malaysia, it was so pleasingly different.
You will also encounter quite a lot of parklands in Tokyo itself, especially around the Imperial Palace and Yoyogi park areas.
On my drive back from Hakone to Tokyo city, I came across this ricefield and I couldn't resist but to take a picture of it (from the moving coach!).
This is only an hour of driving distance from Tokyo, seem to be a very popular spot for young family outing in weekend. The main attraction is the performance of the whale, dancing penguin etc. A shouldn't miss outing spot from Tokyo.
Kawagoe, also known as Little Edo, has a very different picture from the modern Tokyo, illustrating traditional and cozy Japan.
Ways to get there:
31 minutes from Ikebukuro. Tobu Tojo line express, exit at "Kawagoe-shi" or
47 minutes from Shinjuku, Seibu Shinjuku line Rapid Express, exit at "Hon-Kawagoe"
Enjoy the atmosphere there by walking down the shopping promenade.
Hakuba near Nagano is a great sking place during the winter months and it is only 4 hrs or 1 anf half hours by bullet train from tokyo. In the summer months they do water sports and different activites
I found this more by accident than anything else. I got turned around by many local Japanease in the Kamakura area, and was told to take these background paths to find the Great Buddha, but it did give me a lot of exercise. Many other people were in this area as well also lost but you got to see many gardens and grave markings of monks while along the path and many local neighbourhoods outside the city. Good for a hike and a bit of wilderness if the big city is not your thing.
Take the train to just before the Kamakura station and get off, or at Kamakura itsself, there are plenty of paths to try!
O.k., so Kamakura isn't so off the beaten path, but it's a lovely little city outside Tokyo that's only about a 45 minute (690 yen) train ride. If you get off at the stop before the main Kamakura stop and walk through the city, there is a nice shrine and masoluem (I've masacred that spelling) right off to the left when you walk in the direction the train goes. When we were there, this old guy invited us to watch a group of people practicing some form of archery (I've no idea what it's called, but it was amazing)/meditation. I didn't spend the whole day there, but you could, easily. If you go check out the Great Buddha, walk back where the store is and get a bag of chips or something animal friendly. If you open them under the trees, a dozen or so squirrels will come down and eat out of your hand. The area is very tourist friendly with several maps in English and Japanese with pictures, and there are many signs on the street pointing you in the right direction. The area is definately nice if you aren't exactly the big city kind of person, but you end up in Tokyo anyway. (Sorry the picture is crap, but I'm very low tech and am taking pictures of photos with my web cam. I'm so lame. Anyway, that's this guy Doug feeding the squirrels.)
As I walked deep into one of the lanes, I came across this Japanese gentleman beheading some eels...actually a huge bucket of live eels when I looked closely.
His technique was pretty simple, pull an eel from the bucket, pin it on the head, slit it in the abdomen and clear it's contents, remove the pin and finally into another bucket. Now, the yucky part is that during this entire 30 second process, the eel is still slithering around in the new bucket....
A sight to be seen, well worth it.
The dusty town of Narita.
I took a 2 day stop over once on my way to L.A and really enjoyed the less noisy part of Japan. Everything was pretty laid back with small streets (like the picture) and lots of old folks. The center of Narita was slightly bigger, with a Jusco shopping mall, restaurants and tons of Pachinko outlets. Move in deeper into the town and you will come across lovely temples,houses and lots of greenary.
If you're travelling in Japan during Winter (Nov - Feb), be sure to travel up north for the hot springs.
The 5hr train ride fr Tokyo was very beautiful - mountains & sea. Rural snowscapes is a beauty beyond itself. I was in Niigata at a hot spring-hotel. You first soak your body in the indoor-heated pool. It was so so hot that it was a welcome to escape nude to the outdoor spring.
It's definitely an interesting oxymoron to be walking sans clothes, sitting warm in a pool with snow gently falling on your shoulders.
Go very early or late to avoid the swarms of local Japanese doing their bathing too. Then again, it was an experience in itself to be surrounded by these many naked chattering women. Pools are separated by sex. If you're going on a group tour, make sure that there is an OUTDOOR natural spring. Some of my friends ended up soaking in indoor, albeit spring water, pools.
A Camel ride in Japan? That too on the sand dunes??? What rubbish!!!
But to tell you, it is a fact...only allow me to make slight modification that the camels and the sand dunes are artificial!!!
The Onjuku beach is 1hr train journey from Tokyo, in Chiba prefecture, area called as Boso peninsula in Pacific Ocean. Get on to Sobo line from Tokyo station. Its JR line
As you enter this small town, you will find the entire town is decorated to give it a look of any Arab towns....date trees by the road side, small Arabian style statues, and the camels and the sand dunes created on the beach.....
Don't miss out this beach...excellent place for surfing and sun bathing.....
The Hakone National Park is a beautiful area with shrines, mountains, forests and a lake at its center. Hakone Shrine, founded in 757, lies at the wooded shores of Lake Ashi. One of its torii (entrance gate) stands in the lake. The area is famous for its many hot springs (onsen); the bath tubs of most ryokans (traditional Japanese inns) are directly connected to hot springs (see my Japan page for more information on onsens and ryokans).
About 45 mins north of Shinjuku is a sort of city outside of the city, so to speak: Keyaki Hiroba in Saitama-Shintoshin, an area that until recently was covered with sweet potato fields but now boasts a handful of 40-storey buildings and a “super arena.” This is where we go. Keyaki Hiroba and the adjacent buldings, parks and promenades are representative of 21st-century Japan. Everything is neat, clean, orderly, well laid-out; in a word: perfect. We come here when we crave a big city feel, outside of the chaos of central Tokyo. Apart from coffee shops, restaurants of every kind, a splendid tree grove, and a twenty billion square-foot Gold’s Gym, you'll find open air markets, festivals and 'flea markets' on the weekends. This is definitely off the beaten path...but I think it's a trip well worth the effort. Also, you can grab dinner or lunch at Pertutto Cafe, a splendid Italian restuarant situated right smack in the middle of Keyaki Hiroba, on the third floor of a small building. The staff are super friendly and the food is exceptional.
Mt Fuji is a must see. Here is how you do it. Take the shinkansen to the city of Fuji or Shin-Fuji is the station name. Get out of the fastest train in the world, and you will be in awe.....................BEAUTIFUL MT FUJI RIGHT IN FRON OF YOU
Also, in Saitama Super Arena, go to the John Lennon Museum, its not big, and the intro film is in japanese, but the museaum takes you through his history until his death. This museum however controversial is good and only 30 mins from Tokyo Station on the cheap JR lines
Kamakura - This is where I went on New Years Day 1999. If I did not learn about this in Japanese class I never would have thought to go. It is a small coastla town an hour and some from Tokyo by train, famous for their Big Buddha (Dai Butsu). If I remember correctly, it is the second biggest in Japan. Aside from the Buddha and a big temple, it is also a very pleasant little town to visit.
Just a couple of hours from Tokyo from the Tobu-Nikko line in the basement of Asakusa Tobu Department store. Ask for info (maps, train timetables, pamphlets..) at the train or at the Nikko Tobu Station.
Come here to run away of the rush of Tokyo. Great sceneries, temples, shrines... peace! In some of the temples you'll have to pay for entrance (there's a Combinated Ticket). Here you will see everywhere (in souvenirs shops too) the famous three monkeys (see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil) carved in wood.