Top Five Things I Want to Do Before I Leave Japan

Me, in front of Matsumoto Castle

Now that I have less than a month left on this island, I feel this constant, nagging urge to dig out my Lonely Planet guide book and get to work crossing off all of the touristy “must sees” of Japan.

Just yesterday I was actually contemplating if I should visit Tokyo Tower or Tsukiji Fish Market sometime next week. But then I was like, wait a mintue. Why would you want to visit a tackier, uglier version and blatent rip-off of the Eiffel Tower? And since when is waking up before dawn to watch some smelly fish being sold in front of a horde of snap-happy tourists an idea of a ‘good time’ to you? Luckily, I came to my senses. And here’s my Top Five list.

5. Attend a Traditional Japanese Tea Ceremony.

4. Enjoy a ridiculously over-priced 1,800 yen cocktail at the New York Bar in the Park Hyatt Hotel (where “Lost in Translation” was filmed, a favorite film of mine!).

3. Visit the Butler Cafe.

It’s a Maid Cafe for women! Good looking (?) foreign men in tuxes’s call you ‘madam’ and ‘princess’ and lavish you with attention. While ordering around my own ‘man-servant’ has never been a particular life goal of mine, I think the cafe sounds like fun! A real ‘only in Japan’ experience, no?

2. Go to the Kanamara Matsuri (Festival of the Steel Phallus, or “Penis Festival!”)

None of my Japanese friends believe me when I tell them, but the Penis Festival is actually a real, Japanese festival and not some gay porn convention. Like with any good festival, there’s going to be drinking and dancing in the streets and…giant penis shrines, seasaws and penis-shaped snacks and deserts.

1. Go to Kyoto!

I have a four day weekend coming up next week and I plan on couch-surfing in Kyoto. I’ve already arranged to meet up for dinner with a few people there as well. I’m super excited. I went there once in high school, but I’ve been wanting to visit again as an adult. Somehow I think I’ll appreciate all of those temples a little bit more now than I did at 15.

There are a few things that didn’t make it on my list because unfortunately I just don’t have the time or the money. Okinawa was one, the Yuki Matsuri was another. And I really wanted to take that overnight ferry ride to Miyakejima to swim with the dolphins. But I guess I’ll just have to come back to do those things, now won’t I?

Know of anything else that should be added to my list?

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17 thoughts on “Top Five Things I Want to Do Before I Leave Japan

  1. Hey Reannon,

    That is a supercute jacket! Is it from Uniqlo by any chance? I miss that store, I used to buy so many work clothes there for hardly anything.

    Lost in Translation is also one of my favorite movies! I would have loved to have gone to the “New York Bar” when I was in Tokyo.

    In terms of things to do before you leave Japan, I loved, loved, loved Koyasan! It’s a little village atop Mt.Koya. There’s a bunch of Buddhist Monasteries, a few of which you can actually stay in and pray with the monks and eat traditional Buddhist food (oh god I realize I sound like a japanese travel guide) haha. There’s also a cemetary that has graves of monks that are over 1,000 years old. It’s cool to go there early in the morning b/c the mist rises off of the graves and it’s really eerie. There’s also an amazing vegetarian restaurant run by a really cool couple (she’s from france, he’s japanese). I can’t give Koyasan enough props.

    In Kyoto there’s this really cool biking tour that explores the “darker” side of Kyoto. The tour takes you to a big mound filled with the ears and noses of koreans that were killed by the japanese in a war hundreds of years ago, as well as to all of these shrines filled with baby dolls that parents would bring there to protect the spirits of their dead children. It’s something fun to do in Tokyo that’s not part of the normal shrine/temple circuit. Anyways, hopefully you’ll get to do everything on your list before leaving Japan!

  2. Thank you so much for those suggestions, Sarah. Did you stay at one of the Temples or did you just visit for the day? Do you think it’d be worth spending 9,500 yen a night to stay there?

    Do you remember what that biking tour was called?

  3. Hi Sara,

    I think Japan is an excellent place to visit…just make sure you stay more than a week or two if you can. I hated Tokyo when I first got here. It sort of takes getting used to because it’s just so…much. Really overwhelming and overstimulating at first.

    Anyways, I’m def going to the Penis Festival…with about 30 or so friends. I can’t wait!

  4. Hey! I saw you on Sara’s blog! I live in Tokyo, too! that’s so sad that you are leaving in a month, it would have been nice to meet, lol.

  5. Hey Reannon,

    When I went w/my friends to Koyasan we did spend the night in a temple. We found it online but I don’t remember the name of it. We definitely didn’t spend that much money though, I would look around to see if you can find anything cheaper. Also, if you have any friends who want to go, if you guys share a room that’ll cut down on the cost because we payed by room not by person.

    As far as the Kyoto tour, I think it’s called “The Mysteries of Kyoto” or something along those lines. I found it in the Japan lonely planet guidebook.

    Good Luck!!

  6. Hi Miyaunna,

    You look really familiar. Did I meet you last weekend? Were you at Heavens Door in Shimokitazawa on Saturday night?

    Well, I have no idea what I’m doing at the moment…I might just be staying in Tokyo. Not really sure. It said on your blog that you’re moving to Chile? When?

  7. The Japanese pretty much hate you.

    So hurry up and get the fuck out!

    All kidding aside, it’s really too bad that you’re bailing. I’m curious what fantasy brought you to Japan which was unfulfilled? It’s a love-hate situation for most, if not all who come to this forsaken passive-aggressive weak-deodorant island of image clubs, pink salons and soaplands.

    If I had to choose a few things for you not to miss before you depart, I’d say:

    #1 Dress like a Disney Princess* go to Akihabara
    * might I suggest Cinderella
    #2 Steal ten bicycles and see how far you can ride.
    #3 Go to the monkeys in Kyoto, bring treats.
    #4 Try saying “hello” to every Gaijin you meet!*
    * Get over yo bad self!
    #5 Change your mind, and stick it out in J-land.
    #6 You’ve always got Korea *vomit* “Yum Kimchi!”

  8. Thanks Sarah for that! I actually think I’m going to go try to stay overnight at Koyosan, if I can find somewhere decently priced and at the last minute. Thanks so much for all of your advice. I’ll try to bike tour as well.

    Hi “The Ghost”,

    That’s quite an intense comment you left there.

    The reasons why I’m moving back to the States have nothing to do with an unfulfilled fantasy I had about Japan. It really has very little to do with Japan at all.

    Tokyo just isn’t a good match for me…at least not at the moment. There’s a lot of things I want to do with my life (go back to grad school, spend time with my family, for starters) that I can’t do in Japan.

  9. Hiya Anonymous,

    I find it perplexing how people can mistake my unhappiness in Tokyo for an outright rejection of Japan and all things Japanese. If I was writing a travelogue about my time in New York and mentioned that I wasn’t sure I liked living there and wanted to move to LA, would people react as defensively?

    That said, I tend to write sarcastically and I think that can be misinterpreted by people who don’t know me. And so if something I wrote offended you, please tell me what it was (in specifics) instead of cursing me out in the comments section.


  10. When you’re in Kyoto, if I’m there at the same time you’re welcome to leave all your stuff at my place!! Or go out for a drink with me and I’ll show you around a bit. Let me know! When will you go?

  11. Julie…I’m going this weekend! Will you be around???? I have no plan whatsoever. I’ve been so busy, I haven’t even reserved the bus ticket yet and I’m planning on leaving on Friday!

    But if you’re around, let’s meet up! Email me you’re contact info. Do you have a keitai email address?

  12. Hey, do You think You could post any of those famous cherry blossoms? It kinda fits in the “things to do in Japan before leaving” theme.

  13. Sorry can’t help you on the things to do in Kyoto, but I would try staying at a temple if I was going there. I work at a temple but it’s not the average Buddhist type, so staying in a “real” temple would be pretty cool. As long as it’s not super expensive. I just can’t see paying a ton of money to eat crap food, pray to kamisama and get hit when I fall asleep in shodo lessons.

    Hey, but that’s me.

    As for my school, yes it’s quite “Japanese”. I have come to realize that it’s not really them but more of me. I’ve become a lame ass bitch since living here. Scared to offend people, so I try not to make waves.

    I will grow some balls ASAP.

    Anyways I’m not sure if I got locked in the school on purpose or moreover as they simply just forgot about me. I’m loud, fat, and black so one would think that I would stick out a bit but hey…who knows.

    Anyways I will be at Kanamara so we should def. meet up!

  14. Hi Reannon,

    This is my first visit thanks to Golden Prague and the World Blog Surf Day. I’m so glad I foudn your blog as it is fascinating stuff. So different of course and you blog your experiecnes so well. I have added yo to my blogslist as a resutl of my finding and look forward to more of the same, but different if you know what I mean.

    nb A Penis festival – surely not!

  15. Kelsey,

    Aw, I hate to see you putting yourself down like that. I can definitely understand the whole compulsion “to not make waves”. I’ve definitely felt that pressure to conform and go along with the group and not express my opinion. It’s so tough knowing when to honor your own feelings in a situation or when to respect the host culture’s values and keep silent. I’ve struggled with that so much!

    Definitely look for me at the festival! I’m going to get there in the morning and probably stay for a few hours.

    Golden Prague – Ugh, I’m sorry I wasn’t able to participate! I thought it was such a good idea and really wanted to but I ended up being on the road all that day. Next time, though!

    Martin – Thank you! I’m glad you find my blog interesting even though it may not directly relate to your experiences in Bulgaria. This blog was never meant to be a blog solely about Japan, but more of a general blog about travel, life abroad and teaching English. I hope you continue reading!

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