16 Things I would do differently from my 2016 trip to Japan.
There isn’t a lot I regret about my trip to Japan in 2016.
Would I absolutely go again?
Absolutely, without a doubt.
Japan was just as amazing as I expected to be in every way and more. I loved every minute of it and was heart broken the day I had to go home.
But while I loved my trip, there are some things I regret that I will be doing differently next time I go. Mostly they are experiences that I never got to do, and I would love to do next time. Otherwise, there are a lot of things I would repeat and be happy to do again.
Have a travel buddy.
When I went in July of 2016, I went for three weeks with a study abroad class. I loved the class and the opportunities we got to have. But I also spent a week by myself in Tokyo. And while I loved traveling more or less on my own, next time, I want to have some friends or family to go on the whole trip with me.
I would especially love to take someone who isn’t as familiar with everything as I am or hasn’t experienced as much so that I can return to some places I’ve already been to and enjoy it with them.
There are especially some really awesome temples around Kyoto I would love to see again.
2. Tour one of the imperial palaces if possible.
Last time I went, the only big thing on my list I had planned was a tour of either the Imperial Palaces in Tokyo or Kyoto. Unfortunately I didn’t get tour either (I think I might also need someone who can read Japanese to set up the tour for me). So next time, that’s high on my bucket list if it’s still a thing next time I go.
3. Stay in a Ryokan or better hostel.
Last time I went, I got a cheap hostel in Tokyo for 6 nights and one night in a Ryokan. While I loved both places, I would like to stay in a different hostel or ryokan to get different experiences. For example, there is a hostel based around sleeping in bookcases and I really want to book several nights there.
I also want to stay in different Ryokans to try and as authentic experiences as possible. I have a deep seated respect for Japanese culture and I would love to learn as much as possible.
4. See a Noh play or kabuki theater
We happened to be close to a playhouse while in Kyoto, but never went and saw any shows. Next time I go, I would love to see traditional theater.
I’ve seen them on Youtube but I bet it can’t compare to the real deal. I would especially love to go when I know more Japanese so that I can better understand what is going on. I’ve heard that they now offer English translations, but it would be cool to hear in the original language.
5. Visit Nagasaki or Hiroshima
I didn’t get to travel that much outside of Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, and Nara so next time, I would love to travel to Nagasaki and Hiroshima. I think these are important spots for Americans to see.
Seeing as we did so much damage to the Japanese that’s lasted for generations, I would like to visit the memorials in person and better understand everything that went with it.
6. Visit Rural Japan
I didn’t travel much outside cities and I would love to see what Japanese life is like outside of the major cities. I’ve heard you have to get an extra shot if you travel outside of the cities but it would be worth it.
Trying to learn as much as I can about Japanese culture is important to me and I want to try and understand it from different views. So seeing how people live in rural areas vs the city would be fun. Plus exciting to see more of the natural landscape.
7. Be entertained by geisha
Geisha are masters at Japanese art and really expensive to rent. Not only that, but I’ve heard it’s easier to get an appointment if you have a Japanese person with you. Either way, I would love to spend a night with a Geisha host, but probably not the most realistic.
8. Eat more food
While I was there, I certainly tried a lot of unique and different food. But there was also a lot of other food that I didn’t try simply because I didn’t know what they were or I wanted something I had already tried and liked.
I don’t have any food allergies that I’m aware of, so I can casually try food as I like. So it makes more sense that I should be more adventurous.
9. Complete my collection of traditional Japanese clothing
Currently I have a pink nanajuban, a purple silk kimono, a orange yukata, a wide pink obi, a wide yellow obi (I think they’re specific ones, but not sure which), a smaller green obi, and a reversible pink and blue obi. Along with a cat purse and the kimono ties. Plus two haori, a pink and blue one, and a purple one. Oh and I have a pair of tabi.
I would love to get more items to do different things with the obi, including a premade bow for fun. I also want to get a different kind of coat I’ve seen and some traditional geta and zori.
I know I can’t really wear these out around in America, but I still love having them and I think traditional Japanese clothing is so beautiful.
Next time I go, I also wish to bring some of the clothing I have so that I can wear them out in public. I was told it was okay for Americans to wear traditional clothing, especially yukata by multiple native Japanese.
10. Complete my temple stamp book
If you get nothing else while in Japan, get a temple stamp book. These are accordion style blank books found at almost any temple and shrine. They range from being very decorative to very plain and from around 8,000 yen to 32,000 yen (when I went around $8 and $32 respectively).
Once you get a book, you bring them to a station at the temple and a monk will “stamp” your book writing the temple name, date, Shinto shrine name or Buddhist temple name (or both), and something else about the temple in handwritten calligraphy. For about 3,000 yen or $3 each.
I didn’t get my book finished when we went, so next time, I have a mission.
11. Collect more omamori
Omamori are traditional Japanese amulets that are blessed for protection or other blessings. I got several at different shrines. One I got for good luck in school (I did my best yet the following year), one for happiness, and another for many blessings. I also gave my brother a cool gold dragon holding a clear sphere that was meant for good wealth and success.
I would like to bring my omamori back and have them respectfully disposed of properly. I heard there is a specific way to do it, burning I think, to be respectful of the deity who is looking out for you.
I would also like to get new ones because they are also beautiful and a little extra good luck never hurt.
12. Take more pictures
One of my biggest regrets is not taking enough pictures. I got really wrapped up in the experiences I had, and while that isn’t a bad thing, I also wish I would have taken more pictures as well.
I took a lot while I was in Kyoto, but when I got to Tokyo, I did not take as many. I for some reason never took any photos of the Ryokan I stayed in, and I will always be baffled by it. Or of the Japanese family I spent a day with.
So I wish to take more pictures while still enjoying the trip. Although I don’t regret focusing on the experiences themselves, I have trouble remembering the details as time goes on.
13. Get a Pasmo card
I did actually get a Suica card, which I used more often and seemed a little more widely accepted around Tokyo. But I didn’t get a Pasmo and I would like to get one.
Suica and Pasmo cards work virtually the same and are accepted at about the same rate. Think of them like a prepaid debit card. Suica you get at the Tokyo train stations, and Pasmo you get at the subway stations.
You can also not only use them on transportation and fill them up at any station, but you can use them around town. This I think is the Suica and Pasmo biggest strength because they’re easy to use and convenient. Plus you don’t have to carry around wads of cash or be a Japanese citizen to get one.
14. Visit Mount Fuji
Out of all the things to do in Japan the first time you visit, I did not go see Mount Fuji. I could have made a day trip and gone see it. But I had a limited amount of time and money in Tokyo, and had to pick other things to see and do.
One of my classmates went and he said it was really awesome. At least when I go again, I can experience it for the first time with someone else. I really want to see and hear the singing speed bumps they apparently have up the bus tour route.
15. Visit more historical sites
I went and saw a LOT of historical sites while I was in Japan. Especially in Kyoto. But I know I could have seen more historical sites. There is a lot of temples and shrines I’d love to see.
16. Visit more hot springs and other similar attractions
I went to a lot of hot springs and Onsens in Kyoto and I loved all of them. I would really love to go back to them and visit other onsens. I would also like to visit some amusement parks, animal cafes, and other cool attractions that we don’t always have here in America.