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Two Weeks in Japan

Two weeks in Japan is not enough time to explore the whole country. If you are planning a trip this Asia island and you want to see more than just Tokyo, stay longer than two weeks. I cannot stress this enough. Japan is larger than you think, and you will want to see more than just the cities.

Fushimi Inari Shrine torii gates. Photographer: Jessie Glander

The country of Japan is one of many popular travel destinations around the world. Located off the east coast of Asia, unique cultures boom amongst the 126.5 million residents. Its rich tourism history took off after the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, when all eyes were on the first Asia country to host the Olympics, according to the official Olympics website.

The 1964 Summer Olympics propelled Japan into modern day and opened the countries doors to tourism interest from around the world. With something for everyone, from the buzzing nightlife in big cities to the serenity of ancient temples and historic locations, Japan soon grew into one of the most popular travel destinations in Asia.

Olivia in Ikebukuro. Photographer: Jessie Glander

In May of 2018 I traveled to Japan with my best friend Olivia Panagos for a spontaneous international gallivant. Olivia recalled her reason for traveling there was because of her love for anime and video games, like Persona 5. For me, it came down to the culture and famous locations as well as my blossoming interest in anime and manga.

“I think my favorite moments were the ones that were least expected, like when we ventured into Asakusa on the way back from the Skytree,” Olivia said as we reminisced about our vacation, “And when we went to see the bamboo forest and then walked into the town (Arashiyama district of Kyoto), it was super beautiful and perfect."

With only two weeks to see an entire country we had to narrow down where we wanted to go and what we wanted to see. To appease both our interests we spent half our trip exploring the neighborhoods in the Tokyo area and the other half in central Japan visiting shrines and temples.

Tokyo has around 14 urban neighborhoods, which are like small cities, that have their own unique draw for travelers. In our short visit we only saw six of 14 different neighborhoods in Tokyo, spending about a day in each. First, we spent time sightseeing around Asakusa and did some light shopping at the Skytree mall.

We saw Akihabara, which is known as geek central or the pop-culture hub of Tokyo, along with Shibuya, Shinjuku, Tokyo, and Harajuku which is the best shopping district in all of Tokyo. When we weren’t traversing city streets, we were taking leisurely strolls through Kyoto, Osaka, and Nara.

Some of the most remarkable locations we visited were the Fushimi Inari Shrine, which has one thousand torii gates, the largest Don Quijote discount store in Japan, the Studio Ghibli stores and Nara Park with its famous bowing deer. Every day was packed with excitement as we navigated the Japanese transit system across the country.

Although each day was filled with activities, we barely scratched the surface of what Japan has to offer. Two weeks in the country gave us only a sample of its culture and accommodations. One thing this trip taught me was that Japan cannot be seen in a few weeks.

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