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Big On Japan!

Big On Japan!

Recently back from a trip around Japan’s Eastern Coast, Emma Lynch tells us the most sees in this quickly emerging Irish tourist destination.


Osaka is the third biggest city in Japan. The people pride themselves on being warm, friendly and more outgoing compared to their Tokyo counterparts. Not only is Osaka a charming city it is also a food paradise.

Jap-2013-7-Dotonbori-StreetDotunburi street: Dotonburi is what Osaka is all about. Streets rammed with neon signs, bars, restaurants, street chefs and theatres. Taking a stroll down Dotunburi, is a feast for the eyes packed with amazing front restaurant displays and crowds of people queuing! You are spoiled for choice when it comes to Osaka’s street food from the massive bowls of ramen, giant crabs legs, sushi belts, takoyaki (octopus dumplings), and the famous Japanese pancakes known as okonomiyaki!

Osaka Castle: Amazing gold architecture, the inside turned into a museum, gave an insight into the rich history although hard to understand as most things were in Japanese. It has amazing golden architecture with crisp white brick work


The Beautiful Osaka Castle at night time

Space station: A video game bar quietly situated on a side street, a small entrance with flashing computer graphic stairs! The room is decked out with a bar and full of every make of Game console you can think of- Sega, Super Nintendo, Wii, xbox, playstation, the list goes on! The interior is just as memorable, the bar host Caoimhe, created pastel drawings of famous game characters,  which were displayed all around the bar. A paradise for any gamer!  The Young Japanese see such arcades as the same way young people here see pubs, these are places for social gatherings, were people head to at the weekend.

video game bar

 The Young Japanese are obsessed with Video Games!


Kyoto is one of the oldest cities in Japan with a rich and colourful history.

Fushimi Inari Shrine: Is probably the most famous shrine, situated in the south of Kyoto. If you are familiar with the movie/book Memoirs of a geisha, this is one of the most famous and visually stunning shrines in Japan. It is made up of thousands of vibrant orange torii gates and incredible fox statues.  The fox is considered a mischievous spirit in Japanese lore, always trying to trick the honourable Samurai. However, the Japanese fox god Inari is often preyed to as a god of fertility or business success, kind of makes sense, he is a fox!


Arashiyama Monkey Park: It is situated a bit further out from Kyoto. While climbing to the top of the mountain, you are greeted by dozens of monkeys roaming free! When you finally reach the top you can enter the hut and feed the monkeys apples and nuts! Once at the top, you are greeted with a spectacular view over Kyoto.


Gion: Gion is Kyoto’s famous Geisha District. Endless amounts of historical sights, restaurants and wooden teahouses. We wandered down the side streets, by the ochaya guest houses, hoping to catch a glimpse of a Geisha. Later in the evening I was luckily enough to spot a Maiko (a young girl in training to become a Geisha) dressed in the full traditional regalia.

Maiko-san (真子さん) at Nene street (ねねの道)

Geisha In Gion

Mount Koya

Taking a trip to Japan would be incomplete without spending a night in one of Japan’s most magical destinations…Mount Koya or Koyosan (Japanese). Mount Koya is home to over 100 Buddhist temples and monasteries. A spiritual retreat drawing millions of visitors from around the world.


I had the experience of spending a night in shojoshin-in.  In the evening one of the monks kindly prepared a Japanese traditional vegetarian meal. The presentation was beautiful, not to mention the surroundings I was surrounded in a traditional Japanese room with sliding shoji doors and tatami (Japanese straw) flooring 

Monks meal

The meal was beautiful!

We braved the cold weather and got up in the early hours the next morning to experience the monk’s meditation/praying ceremony, give you a fascinating insight into Buddhism.

mount koya

Mount Koya at Night is a sight to behold

Okunoin Cemetery

We took a trip to the graveyard at night in the freezing cold. Eerily quiet, every so often a monk would walk by to do night-time prayers. It has over 200,000 tombs of many ancient gods (the Shinto religion worships ancestors). The pathway was beautifully lit up by Japanese lanterns.mount koya grave yard

A tomb to a family ancestor

Wake up the next morning started to gently snow. We spent an hour wandering around admiring the beautiful statues, moss covered graves it was somehow peaceful and tranquil. The grave is hauntingly beautiful that oozes history, tradition and ancient stories.h


Robot Restaurant.

From the minute I stepped in to the lounge of the robot restaurant I felt like I was trapped in a video game. Everything from the stair cases, escalators to the toilets were decked out in tacky, shiny and sparkly Japanese décor!robot restaurant 1

The show itself can only be described as bizarre, crazy, random not to mention slightly uncomfortable viewing at times! Huge monsters, robots, bongo drum performances along with scantily clad Japanese women fighting on top of unicorns and singing and dancing to some good ole fashion Japanese pop. This is a show you would either love or hate.


Electric City Akihabara: If you are looking for wall to wall neon lights, electric gadgets, toys and 10+ storey arcade buildings, this is any anime/manga fans is a paradise for the tech-savvy. If you step foot into any of the Arcade buildings you will see many locals taking part in using the japanese pinball machines known as pachinko.


Shibuya crossing– If you are familiar with the film Lost in Translation. Famous crossing, buzzing, packed with photographers and thousands of people crossing.View photos from a height photographs busy buzzing, traffic chaos. Let photos speak for themselves


Harajuku–  The ultimate people watching experience. Jam- packed with quirky fashion boutiques, stores, cafes restaurants and French inspired crepe stands! It is crowded with Japanese youngsters inspired by many typical harajuku fashions like steam punk, Lolita, Gothic doll and Cosplay style.


Though admittedly not all fashion styles worked or where for the young!


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