Otaru is about a 30 minute train ride from Sapporo and for this simple reason, a lot of people make the trip to Otaru; however, I am not going to lie to you, there are very few reasons to go to Otaru. Seriously, unless one of the reasons I am about to give you applies to you, do not go to Otaru. You would be much better off doing almost anything (Asahiyama Zoo, Furano or Biei to give a few examples). That being said, there might be a reason to check out Otaru. You should go to Otaru only if: See more photos and read the rest of this entry »
Kobe is a really nice city between mountains and the ocean, about 40 minutes to an hour by train from Kyoto or Osaka. In 1995 there was the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake which left about 1 out of every 5 people homeless and killed over 5000 people. Because of the earthquake, a lot of Kobe has been rebuilt to make a fairly modern city. Even though the two days I was there it was raining, I still got a really good feeling from Kobe. Since it was raining I didn’t do much photography and cannot recommend much from a photographer’s view but as a tourist it was great! Since I wasn’t taking that many photographs I did the next best thing: eat! Kobe has some great food, both international like Brazilian, Mexican, Chinese and of course Japanese food. Maybe you have heard, but Kobe beef is fairly famous and really delicious. To be honest though, if you are coming from America, it tastes as good as any real good steakhouse such as Morton’s of Chicago or Ruth’s Chris. I went to a place called A-1 and for paid about $65 for a course meal including, a glass of wine, rice, soup, salad, vegetables french fries and of course a fillet of Kobe beef. All in all it was delicious, but coming from America I can’t honestly tell you that the price is worth it.
Most of the happening places in Kobe are fairly close together, either in Sannomiya or Harborland (above photo) . Sannomiya is perhaps the busiest part of Kobe with many restaurants, bars, shops, and 3 different train stations! Harborland is a few minute walk from Kobe Station, think of it as a huge (seriously I mean huge) shopping mail with more shops and restaurants than you can care to choose from. Also there is a ferris wheel which offers a nice view of Kobe.
For more information about the city of Kobe, check out The Kobe City Info page which has a lot of useful information about Kobe.
Odaiba is yet another shopping, eating and entertainment district in Tokyo. Odaiba has much to offer a photographer or visitor in Japan and is well known for the Rainbow Bridge, Fuji TV Building (below), a replica of the Statue of Liberty, shopping and crowds of people.
Odaiba actually has a lot of attractions but they are mainly geared more towards tourists (local or foreign in somecases) such as:
- Toyota Showroom (called Mega Web for some reason)
- Ferris Wheel (where on a weekend the line gets as long as a two hour wait)
- National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation (bilingual)
- National Museum of Maritime Science
- Oedo Onsen Monogatari (the largest hot spring theme park in Japan, designed after the old Edo period)
I recommend getting there by taking the Yurikamome Line which is a fairly new (and slightly expensive) private train line that rides fairly high off the ground, over the Rainbow Bridge and between some really interesting and cool buildings. When the weather is nice, the train ride itself offers some great and unique views of Tokyo. You can transfer to the Yurikamome Line from Shimbashi. Below are photos of the Rainbow Bridge. The one taken during the day was taken while on the Yurikamome Line.
Naruko is most famous for it’s onsens (hot spring baths) but almost as famous for it’s fall leaves or koyo in Japanese. Naruko is one of the most famous places to see the fall leaves in the Tohoku area is the most famous in Miyagi Prefecture. I went there October 21st, 2006 and it was just a little bit too early. If you live in the Tohoku or Miyagi area, by next weekend (28th) it should be really nice! By local train, Naruko is about 2 hours from Sendai and 40 minutes to Naruko from Furukawa (depending on where you are coming from, you should change at Furukawa or Kogata to get to Naruko). The station you want to get off at is called Naruko Onsen.
From the station you can walk to some places of interest but also there are a few buses and taxis if you don’t want to walk the whole time. One of the more popular places to go is Naruko Gorge. It is about a 30 minute walk from Naruko Onsen Station and it takes about 1 hour to walk through the gorge. At the end their is a really famous bridge, that you can see in the photos here, and a really nice view of the gorge. I recommend taking the bus to the end of the gorge where the bridge is and then walking back towards the station through Naruko Gorge. The gorge, while being slightly commercialized, is actually quite a nice and easy walk with a few waterfalls, bridges and interesting rocks and cliffs. As you can imagine, being as it is a gorge, sometime the lighting can be somewhat tricky with places completely in shadow and completely in direct sunlight.
Other places of interest include, Naruko Tropical Botanical Gardens, Katanuma Lake (although it is a lot smaller than I thought it would be), Naruko Damn and a nature trail at Jigokudani (which passes by a famous geyser). See more photos and read the rest of this entry »
Ueno Park (Ueno Koen), along with Yoyogi Park, are the two most famous parks in Tokyo. Yoyogi and Ueno Park are on opposite sides of the Yamanote Line and kind of have opposite personalities, for example Yoyogi is most famous for it’s ginko trees which turn golden in the fall and Ueno for it’s cherry blossom (sakura) which turn pearly white in the spring. Ueno Park right next to Ueno Station and close to Asasuka, Nippori and Akihabara. The photo below was taken at sunrise.
Both parks are very nice and each has it’s advantages. Ueno has a huge lake in the middle, a zoo (including the ever popular Giant Pandas), homeless people (but not a whole city like in Yoyogi Park), morning joggers, temples and shrines, crows and everything else you would expect from a park in Tokyo. There is no question that the best time to go there is in the spring when the cherry blossom are blooming. I actually went to Ueno park a couple days too early as you can see, only some of the blossoms are in bloom, but you can imagine if all of them were in bloom!
The Itchiku Kubota Kimono Museum is within walking distance of Kawaguchiko of Fuji Five Lakes (fujigoko) and is really a can’t miss place if you are in the area. Itchiku Kubota devoted almost his entire life to developing his own style of making beautiful kimonos and his hard work and devotion can be seen in his works of art. Besides the beautiful kimonos, some of which have designs that carry over between 4 or 5 different kimonos, the museum itself and landscape on the museum grounds are really a site to see.
Hiroshima City is the largest city in the Chugoku Region of Japan. After the war, it was rebuilt as a “peace memorial city.” Hiroshima is a nice city and fairly easy to navigate. Among other things, the Peace Park–which includes and the A-Bomb Dome (below), Peace Memorial Museum and more–is good place to take some photographs but also to learn about the history of Hiroshima and the after effects of the bomb.
Also Miyajima, one of Japan’s 3 most scenic views, is just a short ferry ride away. If you plan on visiting Miyajima, a lot of people stay in Hiroshima for the night and visit Miyajima the next day because Hiroshima has much more of a nightlife, restaurants, cheaper places to stay and more things to do; however if you are a photographer I recommend staying the night in Miyajima. While it is a little more expensive and there is no nightlife, you will find it really nice before and after all the tourists leave the island.
The Fuji Five Lakes are located at the base of Mount Fuji and weather permitting, offer fabulous views of Mount Fuji. When I went it was really cloudy and I could not see Mount Fuji from the lakes, the area is still nice enough to find other things to take photos of. The photo below is taken from Itchiku Kubota’s Kimono Museum which is close to Kawaguchiko (the biggest of the lakes). Besides having beautiful kimonos the landscape and design of the museum is just amazingly beautiful, especially in the fall.
If you want to climb Mount Fuji, it is not a bad idea to stay here the day before as Fuji Five Lakes (Fujigoko) is a good place to start the climb. Also camping, hiking and fishing are other popular outdoor activities here. If you can, fall or cherry blossom season is the best time to visit the five lakes, but if you want to climb Mount fuji, the climbing season is from June-August.
For more information, please see the Japan-Guide.com.