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Visiting Japan for a month...

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Visiting Japan for a month...

Postby Azure » Mon 12.29.2008 4:24 pm

Will be going in August 09 for the first time.

What tips or tricks do you have for the first timer? I can obviously research things like accommodation and Rail passes etc and "top 100 wow things to do in japan", but was more interested in the maybe more subtle things that you enjoyed whilst you were there? Maybe a particular venue or event that was slightly off the radar perhaps.

Feel free of course to add to it under the "I didn't know then but I wish I had done" general banner. It's a shame i'll be going during peak season but it is realistically the only time off I could get, unless I go possibly a month earlier.

Thanks for any input.
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Re: Visiting Japan for a month...

Postby two_heads_talking » Mon 12.29.2008 5:38 pm

August is the time of Obon, the festival of the dead. I just don't rightly remember what day it occurs.. AT the end of the festival (IIRC) there is a Bon dance which is very nice to watch..

ah here we go.. http://gojapan.about.com/cs/japanesefes ... stival.htm

anyone can join in the dance too.
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Re: Visiting Japan for a month...

Postby Victory Manual » Tue 12.30.2008 11:59 pm

Maybe a particular venue or event that was slightly off the radar perhaps.


I used to enjoy just intentionally getting lost somewhere for a while and seeing "real Japan"; pick a neighborhood and wander around for an hour or two with a camera. Best thing - It's free, and your experience will be unique.

I recommend picking several diverse environments and just wandering around, watching what the locals do, and trying things out for yourself. Hit the late-summer beach scene and try buying some yaki-soba and kaki-goori. Wander around a huge expanse of rice paddies. Check out some old neighborhoods and try stopping in a local bakery.
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Re: Visiting Japan for a month...

Postby becki_kanou » Wed 12.31.2008 12:55 am

You didn't specify, where in Japan you're going to go, but if you go to Osaka, I highly recommend the Osaka Aquarium, Kaiyuukan (海遊館). They have 2 whale sharks, some freaky spider-crabs and an award-winning jellyfish exhibit. There's also a big ferris wheel nearby, you can take a cruise around the harbor, and the Suntory Museum next door has a huge 3-D Imax theater.

There's also a little shopping center that has a replica of "Old Time Down-town Osaka" and if you're lucky there's sometimes a candy artist working there who can make whatever animal or character you like out of melted sugar, it's great fun to watch him work.
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Re: Visiting Japan for a month...

Postby Azure » Wed 12.31.2008 5:32 am

Thanks Becki, I haven't actually pinned down where exactly I want to go just yet - I will be going with a friend so we're just collating information on what sort of things we would like to see and what sort of things you can afford to go see. For example I was really into the idea of climbing Mt. Fuji, but it's looking like it takes at least a couple of days out of your budget and just a weighing up exercise really.

Jelly fish aquarium sounds incredible and whale sharks? I love aquatics, thank's so much *scribbles down notes.

EDIT:> Missed your response there VM, many thanks for that as well - a fair amount of wandering off and getting lost should be important imo, if a regime is too rigid it starts to feel less of a holiday.
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Re: Visiting Japan for a month...

Postby spin13 » Thu 01.01.2009 7:47 am

While visiting in August has a few drawbacks (the heat, Obon week), there are a few cool August only things. If you can make it to the Tohoku / Hokkaido region in early August, I recommend making it to a few festivals. I recommend these because I prefer to be out of Tokyo for as much of August as possible except Obon, when Tokyo empties out and it's just generally terrible to travel.

Must see:
Aomori Nebuta Matsuri (Aomori City) - You can and should participate. This is the best festival in Japan. The name "Nebuta" is used for a number of festivals, but this is the largest.
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Fun:
Minato Matsuri (Hakodate) - Worth taking a detour before or during Nebuta to see. Best if you can get yourself invited to join the Ika-Odori. Hakodate and the area is also great, with Hakodate Yama, Goryokaku, and Onuma Park (and Onuma Beer!).
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Kanto Matsuri (Akita City) - I haven't been, but it came highly recommended and the pictures look fantastic.

So-so:
Tanabata Matsuri (Sendai) - The streamers are cool but the parade is boring unless you're into samba and cheerleading.
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Zuiganji Matsuri(?) (Matsushima) - Very quaint, very traditional. If you're into shakuhachi, lantern dances, and biwa check it out. I recommend seeing Matsushima and at least a walk through the Zuiganji grounds while you are there; if you can catch the festival, it's pleasant and relaxing, but it won't make or break your trip. In 2008 the festival was Aug. 7, so right in the middle of Tanabata.
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Here is a list of festivals and events for all over Japan, by date: 祭・イベント情報
Keep in mind these are the only the 2008 dates. Future dates may vary.
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Re: Visiting Japan for a month...

Postby Azure » Thu 01.01.2009 11:48 am

A most awesome post Spin :shock: , really, thanks for the time you took - i've never come across these festivals yet on the net just looking as a "tourist". Brilliant stuff!
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Re: Visiting Japan for a month...

Postby two_heads_talking » Fri 01.02.2009 10:40 am

Aomori Nebuta Matsuri (Aomori City) - You can and should participate. This is the best festival in Japan. The name "Nebuta" is used for a number of festivals, but this is the largest.

I agree with spin's assesment, I've been to that festival 5 times..
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Re: Visiting Japan for a month...

Postby tōkai devotee » Tue 01.06.2009 8:37 pm

Travel on trains during Obon is well, in a word, crowded! So be prepared for lots of people, lots of queues and be patient! If you have the chance to prebook seats, I'd suggest you do so. Once I caught the Shinkansen from Nagoya to Tokyo during Obon and I had to stand almost all the way! It wasn't much fun!!

There are so many great festivals and events happening throughout Japan in August. Some of the best have already been mentioned, but some others are...

In Aichi Prefecture, there is a Giant Lantern Festival August 26-27 at Suwa Shrine in Isshiki. It's colourful and spectacular!

August 16th there's the Daimonji Bonfire at Mt. Nyoigadake, Kyoto. A giant bonfire is lit near the top of the mountain in the shape of the Kanji "dai" meaning big. Other Kanji bonfires are also lit on surrounding mountains.

There are fireworks displays all over Japan. One spectacular one is held in Nagano Prefecture on the banks of the Lake Suwa, aptly named Lake Suwa Fireworks Festival! It is held on 15 August. 35,000 shot display with a 2km 'Niagara Falls'firework. 8-minute walk from JR Kamisuwa Station.
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