6 Reasons To Visit Japan
The land of the rising sun. It’s a beautiful place filled with contrasts. Parts of the country are so incredibly busy that you barely have room to breathe. And then there are parts where you are the only person around for miles. This is Japan. A place that’s crazy, weird and extreme while still managing to be peaceful and calm.
It’s always held quite a soft spot in our hearts so our entire Paste crew recently went back to Japan. We spent a few weeks exploring, eating, drinking, taking tonnes of photos and soaking up the culture. Here are just some of the reasons we love this place and why we think everyone needs to visit Japan.
1. Boutique Coffee Roasters & Cafes
A lot of people often mention that they found it really difficult to find decent coffee in Japan. But there is actually an emerging coffee scene in the country that’s very impressive. We’ve always believed that Japanese people are masters of their craft, focusing on one thing and perfecting it completely. That’s exactly how they treat coffee. We hit up a few local friends for some recommendations and were blown away. Here are our favourite coffee shops that you should definitely try.
On the Corner No.8 by Bearpond, Tokyo
Bearpond is probably one of the famous cafes in Japan at the moment and always has mixed reviews. Be warned that the service is a little bit up and down and the staff will not make any special coffee orders. The have what they have and you just need to choose off the menu. Luckily, we went here on a good day and were greeted warmly. You’ll find No.8 by Bearpond on the corner of a quiet part in Shibuya, about a 5 minute walk from the station. Their milk coffee is delicious and they have a great diner-style menu as well. We had an epic teriyaki burger here which went down a treat.
On the Corner No.8 by Bearpond
http://www.bear-pond.com/1-17-1 Shibuya, Tokyo JAPAN
Little Court Coffee, Matsue
This traditionally styled coffee shop is run by a young husband and wife duo who roast their delicious coffee beans in house. They do a mean ice liquid coffee that you can actually buy by in a carton and also sell a bunch of beautiful artisanal coffee wares. The downstairs section is a little bit cramped but if you climb up the narrow staircase you will find a beautiful room filled with Japanese tatami mats where you can relax with your caffeine hit. Little Court Coffee can be found along the riverbank in Matsue, a country town at the very top of Honshu in Shimane Prefecture (about 12 hours from Tokyo or 3.5 hours from Hiroshima by bus).
Little Court Coffee
Katabara-cho 104 Matsue, JAPAN
Giracha is the venture of an Australian expat and can be found in the trendy Amerika-mura / Minamihorie area of Osaka. The shop is also known as Track Supermarket and is a bicycle shop as well as a cafe. Keirin enthusiasts will love all the track bikes scattered around which Giracha sell, custom build and also repair. There’s not much seating room inside so this is more of a takeaway place. It’s a big call but this is one of the best coffees we’ve ever had, let alone in Japan.
1 Chome-21-9 Minamihorie, Nishi Ward, Osaka JAPAN
2. Batting Cages
When you visit Japan, one of the best ways to spend a night is to let off some steam at the batting cages. Baseball is considered to be Japan’s national sport, so batting cages are relatively easy to find in major cities. You stand in front of a machine that automatically pitches baseballs towards you. You can choose your speed and have a bunch of different bat options to make this easier for you! Go as a group, take a 6 pack of beers and play a couple of rounds (only a couple of dollars for about 25 balls). Trust us, it’s great fun!
3. Interesting Museums
Spending a day in a museum is always a great thing to do while travelling. It’s a nice way to have a bit of a rest day but you also get to discover interesting local artists and photographers. We visited the Shoji Ueda Museum of Photography in Hoki-cho, Tottori. It’s a beautifully minimalist building in the middle of nowhere and houses the collection of famous local photographer Shoji Ueda. All the images inside are playful and a bit surreal, think Salvador Dalí vibes. The concrete musuem lies in between empty fields and has a wonderful view of Mount Daisen.
Shoji Ueda Museum of Photography
353-3 Sumura, Saihaku-gun, Hoki-cho JAPAN
4. Escape into Nature
When you’ve had enough of busy city life, head into nature to relax and unwind. We did like most tourists do when they visit Japan, and spent a couple days around Mt. Fuji and it was one of our favourite parts of the trip. We stayed off the beaten track slightly and rented a log cabin and a yurt at the base of Lake Saiko. PICA Fujisaiko is a campground that’s about a 15 minute drive away from the main town of Fujikawaguchiko. We rented a car and drove here, glamped for the night and cooked up a BBQ’d feast by the lake. It’s a great spot for keen fisherman and is a great way to meet some locals. You won’t see many foreign tourists here.
401-0332 Yamanashi-ken, Minamitsuru-gun, Fujikawaguchiko-machi, Saiko JAPAN
Wherever you are in Japan, you’re never far away from a traditional temple. A great way to escape the city and find out more about traditional Japanese culture is to spend a day getting in touch with your spiritual side. Buddhist temples and Shinto Shrines are in abundance and considered to be some of the most important buildings in the country. They’re well worth checking out. No matter which temple you’re visiting, our biggest recommendation would be to arrive as early in the morning as possible because more famous temples do get quite busy.
6. Japanese traditions – Ukiyo-e Printing
Learn a bit more about traditional Japanese art and pay a visit to an Ukiyo-e museum. This is a very old form of woodblock printing that is slowly fading away in modern Japan. We visited this one in Kyoto a few years back and just had to go again. The museum is owned by Ichimura Mamoru who is one of the very few surviving Ukiyoe artists remaining in the country. If the door is open on the day you decide to go, just walk in and enter the house. The front room is scattered with amazing, colourful woodblock prints that have been painstakingly made by hand.
Ukiyoe Small Museum
Yasaka Dori, Gion, Kyoto (across the road from Kennin-ji Temple)
Thanks for the awesome times and see you again soon Japan! We can’t wait to come visit again and spend more time in this fantastic country!