Japan Tour: Beautiful Cities of Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka
Japan Tour: Traditionally, riders would take the ‘Golden Route’, connecting the cities with Japan’s Pacific coast. However, an even better way to experience the best of the country is the New Golden Route’, connecting Tokyo with Kyoto and Osaka via Hokuriku. Moreover, this collection of railways covers more than just those three major cities of the original Golden Route. It also connects the traditional arts and crafts of Toyama, Ishikawa, and Fukui.
The natural and culinary experiences of Niigata, Shiga, and Saitama, and the historical excursions of Gunma, Nagano, and Gifu. The New Golden Route truly has something for everyone and all destinations can also be accessed using the Hokuriku Arch Pass. When it comes to the city experiences, however, no places better represent the gamut of Japanese culture than Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka.
UNESCO recognized shrines and temples to their neon cityscapes and Micheline-starred cuisine. On the other hand, you might still want to avoid crowds and closed indoor spaces. When visiting Japan, book a ticket on the Shinkansen and read on for the best of Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka in the age of social distancing.
Tokyo: Japan Tour
Approximately 37 million people live in the capital area of Japan. Tokyo is, however, both expansive and highly organized. Moreover, the best plan of action for the socially distanced adventurer is to explore the city’s green spaces, head to the mountainous outskirts, and favor locations where hard COVID-19 prevention measures have been put in place.
Start your first day in Shibuya famous for having the world’s busiest intersection, Hachiko Crossing, it’s also home to one of Tokyo’s prettiest parks, Yoyogi-Koen, straddling the heart of the city.
Regard Yoyogi’s seasonal flowers – cherry blossoms in spring or autumnal foliage. Before a picnic by the lake and a stroll towards Meiji-Jingu, Tokyo’s foremost Shinto shrine. On the other hand, it built shortly after the culmination of the Meiji era (1868-1912), it honors the deified spirits of Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken.
The shrine complex is marked by a brooding forest of 1,00,000 trees and huge wooden torii gates, operating as barriers between the bustle of the city and the natural world of Meiji-Jingu.
Koishikawa Korakuen Gardens, constructed in the early 17th century, should be your next port of call. Built-in the style of traditional landscape gardens, Koishikawa Korakuen functions like a 3D poem with each individual feature expressing subtle ideas or capturing the essence of Japan’s ancient belief systems.
Take a hike in Tokyo’s mountainous western outskirts. The many walking trails of Mt. Takao in Hachioji City are busy on weekends and public holidays. However, on typical weekdays you can ascend one of the trails in comparative solitude. At 1965 feet, it’s a fairly manageable hike irrespective of season or previous hiking experience.
There are also intermittent rest stops where you can enjoy a bring-your-own lunch box. If that still sounds a little too blood-rushing, there’s a cable car that approaches the summit with little-to-no cardio required.
At the top, several viewpoints look eastward towards the capital. Moreover, on clear days you can make out major landmarks such as Tokyo Skytree, Tokyo Tower, and even Mt. Fuji.
There is also a large Buddhist temple on the way up to the summit of Mt. Takao, Yakuou-in, built by Emperor Shoumu in the 8th century. For dinner, there are take-out restaurants and food stalls at Takao’s base and near its top.
Mesmerizing Cities of Japan Tour: Kyoto
Less than three hours from Tokyo on the Shinkansen is Kyoto. The former imperial capital and a melting pot of traditional Japanese culture including 17 UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Though this has made it a popular haunt for travelers. By sticking to the outdoors, Kyoto tourist places can still charm in the age of social distancing.
“THE MOST BEAUTIFUL IN THE WORLD IS, OF COURSE, THE WORLD ITSELF.”
Properly compact and designed in a navigable grid-system format Kyoto is a great city to explore by bicycle. Gion, Kyoto’s geisha district, and the world brought vividly to life in Arthur Golden’s adapted for cinema novel, Memoirs of a Geisha, is a great place to start.
Built on the banks of the Kamo River, Gion is defined by flagstone streets, wooden machines, and the occasional kimono-dappled geisha clip-clopping along its alleyways.
Head to Pontocho in the evening, an atmospheric alley flanked by the lantern-lit doorways of small izakaya, cocktails bars, and whisky caverns. The narrow confines can make it harder to adequately swerve fellow pedestrians, but from May through September many restaurants erect temporary dining terraces, which overlook the river.
In the hills east of Kyoto you’ll find Mt. Hiei, a 2,780-foot peak on which sits the World Heritage temple, Enryaku-Ji. The temple monastery is one of the most important religious sites in Japan, home to the warrior monks of the Tendai sect of Buddhism.
Alternatively, if you’d like a more leisurely stroll, make tracks for the Ishidera Tea Plantation in Wazuka Town. A rolling landscape of tea fields accounting for 45 percent of Japan Uji tea production – one of the three major brands of tea.
Osaka: Japan Tour
Finish off the trip with a day in Osaka, Kyoto’s chaotic and increasingly multicultural neighbour. Osaka is known for its street and soul food scene, thriving nightlife, the eponymous feudal castle, and Japan’s only Universal Studios theme park. Local trains operate between Kyoto and Osaka, but you can get there in a mere 15 minutes via the Shinkansen.
Theme parks are an inextricable facet of modern Japanese culture – Osaka’s USJ is a prime example. In June 2020, USJ implemented rigorous coronavirus-prevention protocols to ensure continued visitor safety.
The new safety measures – increased sanitization, enforced mask-wearing, and social-distancing practices. Work in coordination with the QR code-based OSAKA COVID-19 Tracing System.
The Universal Studious canon, from Jurassic Park to Jaws, and the highly anticipated Super Nintendo World, open on February 4th, 2021.
On your final day, go for a self-guided walking tour of central Osaka. Start at Osaka Castle. A towering remnant of the feudal era played a major role in the 16th-century unification of Japan’s pugilistic warring states.
When in Dotonbori, sample some on-the-go street food. Through it can get busy, you’ll find chefs grilling Wagyu beef, takoyaki. And an assortment of skewers at takeout locations running alongside the colorful neon-lighted canal.
You can also take to the canal on an open-air boat tour. or if you’re feeling adventurous, on a stand-up paddleboard.