I was lucky enough to experience the most celebrated western holiday, Christmas, in Japan. I heard that the festive season was popular here, however, Christmas day was kind of a ‘couples thing,’ and my friends from the U.K. who had already experienced a Christmas here said it was weird and lonely and just didn’t feel the same. My reaction: DAMN what do I do!?
I thought about spending a sunny Christmas down in Australia, so I wouldn’t be a complete loner in Japan and I could party on the beach and be understood by locals…but then again…what if everyone was with their families and I was drinking on the beach alone!? This would be too sad!
So after a bit of organising, *Bells jingling* the best presents flew over – my family! Unfortunately they didn’t arrive by sleigh, but they did come, which was amazing! I hadn’t seen them since March, so by December I was totally craving a hug from my Mum and Dad…and some gluten-free bread and cheese lol. It was so great to see them and show them around Japan, so this post is like an e-scrapbook (did I just make up a buzzword?) so I don’t forget these memories.
This was my family’s first time in Japan, so of course it was up to me to take them to the best places. I really can’t remember EVERY place name we went to, there was so many, but I’ll start with the main ones. I live near Tokyo, so that was the first place we went to. Of course we ticked off the main places, Shibuya crossing, Yoyogi Meiji shrine, Harajuku, Shinjuku, etc…but I’ve already written about these places so every thing you see below is new.
I feel like every big city hosts a skyscraper with a view now, but it is pretty impressive. If it’s not a cloudy day (unfortunately for us it was) you can even see Mount Fuji (a beautiful nemesis of mine). There are two main towers in Tokyo; Tokyo Tower, which looks like the Eiffel tower but red and Skytree. The Skytree is taller, so you can probably get a better view from there but I’m happy with this one!
Christmas Eve at Disney Land!
Just because…I don’t really need to explain this one, I’m sure the love for DisneyLand is universal. But what I find endearing is how Japanese people of all ages are happy to get into Disney mode like big kids. It’s quite cute, but then again, in Japan, what isn’t cute? Plus, they have some great rides here for all ages. I think if you want to please an older audience, go to Tokyo DisneySea.
This little town known for its onsen and views of Fuji, and is situated relatively close to Tokyo, so if tourists want to experience something more closely associated with areas like Kyoto but don’t have time, this could be a substitute. Although small, there was a lot to see! The Hakone Jinja was grand, we saw postcard views on a cable car down to the lake, and even experienced fireworks on the lake at dusk.
Of course we had to go to the old capital of Japan, Kyoto, which boasts an abundance of cultural heritage sites that take you back to the Edo period. The list of gardens, temples and shrines to see in Kyoto is immense, so I’ll just take you through the highlights.
Arashiyama – also known as the Bamboo Forest. It makes you feel like you’re Alice in Wonderland. It’s near Tenryuji Temple too, which is also gorgeous with its deep green lake filled with koi karp, and an old school temple. Kyoto isn’t as new as Tokyo, so I would advise to travel round by bus rather than train to get right outside the destination.
Also, we stayed in a hotel that had an onsen on the rooftop, so that was an incredible experience – It’s rare you get to sit on a rock in hot water, naked, on a hotel rooftop.
A small town about an hour from Kyoto, this is home to one of the largest Buddhas in Japan – the pictures don’t do its magnitude justice. The walk that leads to the big temple housing the Daibutsu is great, with deer roaming freely and without fear among the crowds. It’s just one of those places that leaves you in awe.
The last destination on our little trip to the Honshu region was Hiroshima, and it was a favourite for all of us. Not only does the city have a sad history regarding the atomic bomb that hit Japan in 1945, it’s actually beautiful too. We visited the peace memorial park, which was a chilling reminder of how brutal World war II was. On a lighter note, the city had a fun energy and character about it, with locals being friendly and chatty, and the city was more like a town in comparison to the cities in Tokyo.
We visited Hiroshima Castle just as the sun was setting too, where we captured some stunning views. Also, you can take a short ferry ride to Miyajima Island to see the ‘floating shrine’. The shrine, which is located in the sea gives the illusion that it’s floating when the tide comes in. It’s just magical.
I’ve probably missed out so many details, but we did so much I couldn’t cram it all into this post. We had an awesome time and I was so glad I got to show my family where I had been living, and a culture I had adapted to. On the first day they arrived, I had the pleasure of taking my parents to a local sushi restaurant up my road, nothing fancy, just a 100 yen rotating restaurant, and they loved it! Just thinking about how fresh the salmon nigiri is makes my mouth water. It was also really fun for me to watch my family’s reactions to the weird and wonderful things within Japan, and for them to also appreciate just how beautiful the country is.