Category Archives: TRAVEL

The Kyoto checklist: 15 things you absolutely must do in Kyoto

View of a Kyoto temple in autumn

Kyoto is easily one of the most FOMO-inducing cities in the world. Packed with so much to see/do/taste/try/fall in love with, you might be unsure of what should be on your Kyoto-do list. That’s why we’ve done it for you! Here are the 15 things you absolutely must do in Kyoto in order to get the ‘full experience’ and keep those nasty feelings of missing out safely at bay.

1. Explore a world of temples

There are more than 1600 temples in Kyoto.
Sixteen. Hundred.
That means if you visited a different temple every day of the year for four years, you still wouldn’t have seen every temple in Kyoto.

For the time poor, there are a handful of famous Kyoto temples that you need to visit (particularly first-timers), with each one bringing something entirely unique to the table. We suggest ticking off one or two of these:

  • Daigoji: The temple’s five-storey pagoda is the oldest surviving structure in Kyoto.
  • Kiyomizudera: One of the most iconic temples with a beautiful panoramic view of Kyoto (note: the main hall is undergoing renovations until March 2020, but visitors can still enter)
  • Kinkakuji (‘Golden Pavilion’): A Zen Buddhist temple covered in gold leaf
  • Tofukuji: See the oldest Zen gate in the country
  • Ryoanji: Draw inspiration from the world-famous rock gardens
  • Tenryuji: The temple boasts one of the finest examples of traditional Japanese garden design
  • Honen-in: A tranquil temple covered in moss and mystery

Photo of a Shinto Shrine

2. Stroll through Shinto shrines

Meaning “the way of the gods”, Shinto is Japan’s oldest religion and lives on in over …continue reading


Kumano Kodo Guidebook Review

It’s the winter of 2007, and I’m hiking along an isolated track called the Kogumotori-goe in southern Wakayama Prefecture with my newlywed wife Kanako. The faint, poorly-marked trail leads up to a viewpoint flanked by a large weather-beaten jizō statue. Armed with a Japanese magazine about the Kumano Kodō, we scan the kanji text and barebones descriptions to find that we’ve reached the Hyakken-gura tenbōdai. We pause here, admiring the splendid views while poring over the limited knowledge in our less-than-ideal information source.

Had we been armed with Cicerone’s latest guide to the Kumano Kodo, Kanako and I would have been in much better hands and definitely would have taken a bus to Yunomine Onsen instead of opting for the extra 6km uphill walk on a paved roadway at dusk.

The Kumano Kodō has come a long way since our fateful walk a dozen years ago. Since becoming a World Heritage site in 2004, Wakayama Prefecture has invested an immense amount of money into both promoting and maintaining the Nakahechi route, adopting the ‘if you build it he will come‘ philosophy that would make Kevin Costner proud. Indeed, the Field of Kumano Dreams has not only brought in the tourists, but has put the Kumano Kodō on the world stage by teaming up with the Camino de Santaigo to form a dual pilgrim program and creating an English-language support network connecting visitors to the many inns and facilities along the way. This has resulted in a 40-fold increase in overseas visitors compared to just a decade ago.

But I really don’t need to tell you all that. One quick net search will reveal a wealth of information about the riches of Wakayama Prefecture, and it’s one reason why I haven’t devoted much of my server space to the Kumano Kodō …continue reading


Saidaiji Kannon-in

Saidaiji Kannon-in is a large historic temple to the East of Okayama City. It is the first temple on the Chugoku 33 Kannon Pilgrimage, though I visited it on the second day of my walk along that pilgrimage as temple 2 is further East and it made logical sense.

When I visited it was very quiet, which it is for most of the year, but in late February it is filled with thousands and

…continue reading


Hells of Beppu – Japan’s Incredible Hot-Spring Experience

The 8 Hells of Beppu, Japan's incredible hot-spring experience

Visiting the 8 Hells of Beppu – An Introduction

Visit Beppu - home to hot-springs and the 8 hells, a unique tourist attraction only found in Japan!

No visit to Kyushu would be complete without a stop in the famous spa city of Beppu. Beppu is a place that appears as if it’s about ready to blow at any moment, as steam rises from the ground throughout the city. A steady stream of tourists arrive throughout the year to visit the famous hot springs. There are many public bathhouses you can go to, in addition to hotel hot springs known as onsens. Aside from the type of onsen you bathe in, one of Beppu’s biggest attractions is the “Jigoku Meguri”, otherwise known as the “Hell Tour.”

The eight hells of Beppu are natural hot spring sites, and each one has been converted into a stand-alone attraction. Six of the hells are situated on the same site, so can be reached easily on foot. The other two are next door to each other, a few minutes’ drive away. If you’re not driving there are also regular sightseeing buses you can ride which travel between the two sites. Although the tours are conducted in Japanese, there is good English signage throughout along with English language printed guides.

The entrance fee to visit all eight hells is 2100 yen per person. I think it’s quite fun to visit them all and collect the souvenir stamps from each of them. Below is some more information about what you can expect to see at each spot!

…continue reading


Tokyo Events This Week: Brazil Day, Fireworks and Handmade in Japan Festival

Source: Tokyo Cheapo

Tokyo events for Monday, July 15 to Sunday, July 21, 2019
This week in Tokyo brings many activities—from lantern festivals, cultural events, fireworks, a handmade market, comedy nights and more.
Marine Day Lantern Festival in Odaiba
Over 50,000 candles will be lit and placed in paper lanterns in honor of Marine Day, a Japanese national holiday.

Marine Day Lantern Festival in OdaibaDates:15th Jul, 2019
Read more

Kawasaki Daishi Fuurin-Ichi
For a bit of culture and tradition, trek out to this festival of wind chimes in Kawasaki. The pretty little chimes are prized in Japan—and are said to provide a soothing, cool sort of feeling in the stifling heat of summer. We’re not su

The post Tokyo Events This Week: Brazil Day, Fireworks and Handmade in Japan Festival appeared first on Tokyo Cheapo.

…continue reading