Japan’s trains are a cut above anywhere else in the world. No one in Japan has ever been reduced to tears by the words ‘rail replacement bus service.’ Because of this, they’ve become quite a cult thing to obsess over and Japan is an absolute goldmine of brilliant and hilarious train-based stuff. We knew we’d have to write up our top five things to do in Japan for railfans, and we’ve not even scratched the surface yet.
Watching sumo in Tokyo was not on our ‘must-do’ list of things for our first trip to Japan back in 2015. We didn’t really know anything about it and it seemed a bit weird and didn’t interest us. But we did it anyway and LOVED it. For our second trip, in January this year, we knew we wanted to go again. And after that, we seem to have become actual sumo fans. Who’d have thought it?
So we thought we’d share what it’s like going to watch it for the day and some useful things you need to know before you go.
Tokyo is vast and ever-changing. It has been done to death on travel blogs and in guidebooks but you can never quite capture it. For that reason, we didn’t want to write down what we think you ‘shouldn’t miss’ or ‘must see’ places. But here are 20 things we really enjoyed on our last two visits – ranging from cuddly capybaras to lacy taxis to extreme karaoke.
We’re lucky enough to have friends in Tokyo, so we try to stay near where they live in Ogikubo. This gives us a unique insight into local life there every time we visit. Here’s a brief summary of things we love about Tokyo off the beaten track. It covers: Kōenji, Asagaya, Ogikubo, and Kichijōji. This area is basically a western section of the Chūō-Sōbu line: one of the most crowded commuter train lines in Japan (which is really saying something).
If you want to visit somewhere in Tokyo without the tourists, where normal people live, and where the huge 20-storey buildings give way to low-rise winding streets, this area is perfect.
We gorged on udon noodles until we could hardly walk round the gardens in Takamatsu, Japan. This is obviously an excellent way to spend an afternoon.
Takamatsu isn’t somewhere we’d ever heard of. We’ve actually never heard of anyone going there. But it was on our way back from an incredible long weekend on the art island of Naoshima and our friend Tom was in charge of our lives and knew we would like it so off we went.
We had a day trip to Himeji Castle, Japan as part of our two-week trip in January. It’s considered Japan’s most beautiful castle, towering over the city with its pure white facade and silvery grey tiles. Its exterior has a real castle-based wow factor. Like lots of this sort of thing in Japan, it’s an UNESCO World Heritage Site and official National Treasure.
We also saw loads of cats.