Japan is on a lot of people’s bucket lists. Most people put it off because they have been told how expensive it is (false). Japan is one of the most breathtaking countries; this has a lot to do with the preservation of its national heritage. Ancient Japan is still alive in many of the cities. If you’re looking to take part in the heritage of an ancient kingdom, marvel at the care that goes into every detail of Japanese culture, or taste the succulent dishes of an island nation born to innovate, then you should most definitely visit these places in ancient Japan:
Kyoto (ancient capital of Japan)
The culture of Kyoto has been preserved for hundreds of years. Despite globalization and the rise of technology, the people of Kyoto are dedicated to exhibiting the dances, theatre, and other performing arts.
“The period from April 1 to the end of the month every year is set as the period for Miyakoodori, and events to show the skills of maiko and geisha are held during the period.” —JNTO
Kyoto is also home many temples, one look at Tenryuji Temple and you will know why it is a World Cultural Heritage Site. Make sure you stop at the Fushimi Inari-Taisha (a shrine made up of hundreds of orange gateways), although there are 40,000 spread across Japan the most impressive ones are in Kyoto. This city is remarkable in every season thanks to its communion with nature. Make it a point to take a stroll across the Togetsu-kyo Bridge. This bridge is a marvel in every season, whether it is covered in snow, or dusted by cherry blossoms.
This is a city of gold. The dazzling shrines and temples include some of the most intricate wood relief carvings in Japan. Nikko Tōshō-gū Shrine is a World Heritage Site and a must-see shrine. There are currently repairs being made to the structure but it does not take away from the experience. Its carvings depict many types of animals, all representative of different aspects of Japanese tradition.
“The carved monkeys covering their eyes, ears and mouth, respectively, were inspired by the Buddhist teaching that if we do not hear, see or speak evil, we ourselves shall be spared from evil…” —JNTO
These designs are all painted with the richest colors, and let’s not forget, gold. If you’re looking for a serene experience, wander through Kanmangafuchi to glimpse the abyss created by a volcanic eruption. Along the paths there are jizō statues (the small stone effigies of the Buddhist protector of travelers and children). Try to count them on the way there and back and see if you count the same number. They are tricky!
Yamaguchi (Kyoto of the West)
This prefecture dates back to the 14th century, and was designed to look like “The Kyoto of the West.” It’s home to the the five story pagoda (Ruriko Temple) which was created in the 15th century. It was build to reflect the culture found within Kyoto, but for a warlord. This temple sits within Kōzan-kōen. This park holds a museum and the graves of the Mōri lords, (Tōshun-ji).
Bonus: If you happen to be in the Southern part of Japan, the Usuki Sekibutsu is a collection of Buddha statues carved into a cliff preserved since the 12th century. They are a sight to behold. If you’re looking for a slightly bigger Buddha then make sure to stop by the shrine in Kamakura.
It’s said that Funazushi, a dish native to a specific lake in Shiga is the closest you will get to the origin of sushi. Funazushi consists of salted seafood caught in Lake Biwa, and allowed to ferment for up to three years. Kitashina is the best restaurant to taste this dish (featured on the Travel Channel) but it can be pricey. If you’re looking for more recognizable looking sushi dishes, definitely check out Sushi Dai, in Tokyo. Since the market is only open in the morning, you’ll have to get up pretty early, but it’s so worth it.
If you’re looking for a little background about this beloved noodle soup, check out the Shinyokoham Raumen Museum in Yokohama. The most authentic, and theatrical experience in ramen can be had at Mengekijo Genei, in Fukuoka. Fukuoka is a city full of food experiences, so make sure you give yourself enough time to try it all.
The vitality of Japanese culture and society comes from their dedication to their heritage. So much is sacred to the Japanese people it is difficult to travel within Japan without feeling a sense of awe. The Japanese people have spent hundreds of years in time, money, and effort to preserve ancient Japan. We can get you there on a budget, and make sure you have a place to rest up for your next adventure. There is so much to see, experience, and learn from this country. What are you waiting for? Start your journey.