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Is Japan worth it?

Honey79
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Is Japan worth it?

Hi,

My husband and I are thinking of planning a trip to Japan in the next few months...I have received mixed reviews from friends/colleagues as to whether we should go. Some say it is great, others say that it was "ok" but the food is awful and too expensive...? I am torn, should we go or not?

In terms of me, I am 30 and my husband 33, we are quite keen to do a 'tour', last year we travelled South Africa and loved every minute of it. I am quite keen to do something similar this year. I am not an adventourous eater and generally stick to chicken or veggies when I am on holiday. I guess this will be a problem?

If we do go then does anybody have any tips as to what we must see? I am thinking 4 days in Tokyo and then onward to Hakone, Kyoto, Hiroshima and Osaka. How does that sound?

Any help will be much appreciated.

Illinois
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for Chicago, Illinois
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1. Re: Is Japan worth it?

http://www.japan-guide.com/ is a good site to do some research. "Must sees" are different for everyone. The site has some suggested itineraries. In addition, please use the search function in this forum for Itinerary. Others have posted similar questions.

An escorted tour is not necessary. Touring Japan on your own is quite easy. Don't worry about the language.

Dining is Japan can be simple or adventurous. It's up to you. You can eat inexpensively or not. I've never had a bad meal in Japan. You can read about restaurants here - http://www.bento.com/tokyofood.html

Consider flying on an open-jaw ticket. Fly in to Tokyo and out of Osaka or vice versa. This will eliminate a return train trip to your arrival city and save time.

Kyoto, Japan
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for Kobe, Kyoto
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2. Re: Is Japan worth it?

That's a tough question to answer when asking complete strangers to help make up your mind for your destination. And you had an amazing trip last year so the next one has to live up to that as well.

Your food concerns could pose a problem here. You will end up searching for places to eat and that gets annoying when traveling. I am pretty picky too but like Japanese food. And is fatty chicken gross to you? Can you eat chicken that has veins and tendons still attached to it? I can't eat chicken in most restaurants in Japan because it is almost always chewy and nasty. I ONLY order "sasami" when eating chicken here. That means it is boneless and skinless and has had all of the veins and tendons torn from it. Otherwise, you will be spitting those things into your napkins and most restaurants don't even have napkins here.

With that said, I think Japan is "worth it" if you want to experience a different culture. It's a great place to visit and most of my guests who have been here during my 12 years here have all said that it has been one of their all-time favorite vacations. But then they are with me and I take them to all of the places I know already and have tested so they don't have to think about much. They just have to sit back and enjoy.

Over the years, I have met many tourists in train stations and on the wrong trains and they have expressed how difficult it was for them to get around on their own so those people may not agree that it is "worth it."

I have also met friends and friends of friends who went to Tokyo alone before meeting me in Kyoto and they had the same opinion that "the food is awful" but then I took them to places to eat Japanese food and they loved it. You need to know where to go and what to order. Most tourists end up in restaurants with pictures of food in the menus or plastic food models in glass cases near the entrance. Or they go the totally cheap route and eat ramen and rice balls every day which is a waste because there are so many great dishes to try that are not expensive.

I hope this has been a little helpful. Good luck...

Japan
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3. Re: Is Japan worth it?

I have never had anyone tell me that they didn't like traveling in Japan. I think one of the most important things to do (as mentioned earlier) is to research before you go. Since you are questioning the decision, you need to know what you want to see and where you want to go before you just take a leap and go. Otherwise you will not know what you are looking for and/or hoping to find.

As mentioned before, there are a lot of online sites to explore. Japan Guide was already mentioned. Here are a couple more:

http://www.jnto.go.jp/eng/

http://web-japan.org/index.html

Get a good guide book. I like Lonely Planet Japan for travel info, but I like the DK Japan travel book for background information (history and culture)

So if what you read sounds interesting, you've made up your mind. Go. If not, then go somewhere else! Food is not an issue, you just need to know where to go and what to order, and that's easy.

tokyo
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4. Re: Is Japan worth it?

I'm just curious what food these people you talked to ate?

Food like in all countries can be inexpensive to super expensive depending on the type of establishment you eat ate. Obviously if someone is going to spend their time eating inside hotels and fancy restaurants, yes the price does add up.

I don't think anyone can answer your "is it worth it" question, it just depends on the traveler. My friend went to Poland, they love Poland, and went to study there, I have absolutely no interest in Poland, though I'm sure it is a nice place.

Depends on what you want to do and see. Though I have never met a person who has been to Japan who didn't like it much. If you are into culture, history and seeing it blend in with high tech modern technologies like the Bullet Train (Shinkansen) then Japan's the place. Probably the only place in the world where you will see a robot security guard at the shopping center, or traditional Geisha talking on cellphones and riding the bullet train, or a shrine surrounded by a large skyscraper.

But again everyone is different.

Nashville, TN
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for Himeji, Kobe, Osaka
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5. Re: Is Japan worth it?

Personally I think Japan is worth it. First, I think it depends on what you're comparing to. Regarding expensive, I don't think it's necessarily more costly than travel in Europe. In fact, dollar for dollar the places I've stayed in Japan are better than equivalent places in Europe with better service (I'm a budget traveler). Second, food is less of an issue in Japan than a lot of places. The diet is very basic (no heavy spices) and is generally of high quality, even in low-cost noodle shops. Sure you can get bad food, but that's true everywhere. Go prepared and you'll do fine; many restaurants have pictures and displays of the food they serve, and if you absolutely can't find anything there are fast food restaurants in every city.

An ideal trip, in my opinion, would start in Tokyo and end in Osaka (or vice versa). Check the prices; often there isn't any difference doing the trip this way and it allows you slightly more time for actual sightseeing (and every hour counts when I am on vacation). In between the two cities try to stop at Hakone, Shirakawa, Matsumoto, or some other popular smaller destination. From the Kyoto/Osaka area you can day trip to Nara as well as seeing Kyoto and Osaka sights. Also try to get to Himeji, perhaps on your way to Hiroshima where you can stay a night or two in Miyajima. I strongly suggest not skimping on Himeji; most people only do the castle, but there is a nice garden next to the castle and a wonderful mountain temple/shrine complex called Mt. Shosha about a half hour away by bus/cable car.

I don't think tour groups in Japan are always a great deal because by their nature they are on a tight schedule. In Tokyo it's fine; do a day tour and budget at least one more day to see things the tour didn't cover (plus the tour will help you 'acclimate' on your first days). But to me the great thing about temples and shrines is finding a bench and breathing, soaking in the atmosphere. Some people don't like that sort of thing, but I like to take my camera and find the little shrines off to the side or up a path that goes away from the main entrance.

Good luck!

John W.

Aoyama Dori and San...
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6. Re: Is Japan worth it?

If you are not "adventurous" regarding food then I recommend you don't go. Japan is not a place for people who do not like Japanese food.

Henderson, NV
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7. Re: Is Japan worth it?

I'm inclined to agree with 'Route' and feel that perhaps you should pass on Japan focus on another destination.

That said, there are some who are satisfied with 'seeing' things and don't miss out on 'experiencing' another culture. I'm sure there are packaged tours that could take you to the destinations that you mention, which are all recommended, and you'll see a lot of wonderful sites. If you select the major hotels you'll find wide a selection of Western European restaurants.

Tokyo is said to have 165,000 restaurants and now has more Michelin rated restaurants than Paris. The aroma of freshly baked breads now permeates the incredible Japanese department store food courts.

There is no shortage of Western food.

However, if chicken and veggies is really the only thing you eat when out of country, then you'll miss the experience of a magnificent kaiseki meal in a beautiful Japanese ryokan or perhaps even spending a night at a temple and sampling the monks Shojin Ryori or eating a great sushi meal in Tsukiji. Shojin Ryori is all veggies, but nothing perhaps like you encountered before.

My only regret in visiting Japan for the 37th time this coming March is that I know when I step off the plane that I'll only have 42 opportunities to eat a Japanese meal.

I've never had a bad Japanese meal in Japan.

If you decide to go, send a trip report and let us know how you make out.

Henderson, NV
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8. Re: Is Japan worth it?

I'm inclined to agree with 'Route' and feel that perhaps you should pass on Japan focus on another destination.

That said, there are some who are satisfied with 'seeing' things and don't miss out on 'experiencing' another culture. I'm sure there are packaged tours that could take you to the destinations that you mention, which are all recommended, and you'll see a lot of wonderful sites. If you select the major hotels you'll find wide a selection of Western European restaurants.

Tokyo is said to have 165,000 restaurants and now has more Michelin rated restaurants than Paris. The aroma of freshly baked breads now permeates the incredible Japanese department store food courts.

There is no shortage of Western food.

However, if chicken and veggies is really the only thing you eat when out of country, then you'll miss the experience of a magnificent kaiseki meal in a beautiful Japanese ryokan or perhaps even spending a night at a temple and sampling the monks Shojin Ryori or eating a great sushi meal in Tsukiji. Shojin Ryori is all veggies, but nothing perhaps like you encountered before.

My only regret in visiting Japan for the 37th time this coming March is that I know when I step off the plane that I'll only have 42 opportunities to eat a Japanese meal.

I've never had a bad Japanese meal in Japan.

If you decide to go, send a trip report and let us know how you make out.

Edited: 26 January 2010, 18:36
Avoca, Australia
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9. Re: Is Japan worth it?

If you don't go you will never know.

I "avoid" fish, sushi, eel, seaweed, pork (it's quite a long list) but never have a problem in finding something apetising. You will be surprised what you try and it all looks amazing.

San Francisco...
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10. Re: Is Japan worth it?

In the last three years, I've made three month-long trips to Japan. I eat very simply. I stay at "business hotels" (Comfort Hotel or Toyoko Inn, mostly) where they give you a free breakfast. Toyoko Inns typically serve rice balls and miso soup. Comfort Hotels typically serve rice balls, salad, cereal, and a very small amount of fruit.

I generally got lunch at convenience stores--sometimes a sandwich.

For dinner, I generally bought items off the shelves of convenience stores--typically a main dish and a little salad, The main dish I liked the best was pasta with a little bit of ham. I also found a fried chicken dish, after getting many meals of fried pork which I had thought might be chicken! Since nothing was labelled in English, I ended up eating a lot more pork than I intended! Once I found things I liked, I would look for the same item every night. I ate a lot of things I could not identify. I did like the quality of the food, although in the low-priced places, you won't get much fruit or vegetables.

At home, I eat frozen chicken nuggets 5 night a week, and teriyaki chicken bowls 2 nights a week. Lunch is a turkey sandwich 5 days a week. So I think I would qualify as unadventurous and chicken & turkey-based. Sushi gives me the creeps, so I avoid it. But I did fine in Japan! I'm sure I missed highlights of Japanese cuisine, but I was so enthralled with sightseeing that I didn't want to spend much time on meals.

If you live near any Japanese restaurants, you could try out some of the typical Japanese dishes before you commit to a trip.