Like Kyoto, Nara is known for the Tsukemono, pickled vegetables, they have wonderful traditional shops in the main street for this with all sorts of pickles and employees preparing them in the back of the shop, enjoy, there are worth the taste
Japan also produces Manju – biscuit filled with An, a red bean (asuki) paste, the shape varies with the season, it is always a delicious break
January is a fun moment in Japan as well. as of January 1st, shops displays Fukubukuro (lucky bags). For a cool price, the bag comes with all sorts of things. this creates massive queues depending on the shop.
My neighbor who sells carpets, even has these bags available for JPY 7000.- this year
but this is only available until January 3rd, after that, things go back to normal (and people to work)
Christmas is not a bank holiday here but still a nice opportunity to celebrate and shop. People shop and celebrate just about anything here!!
Takashimaya, large luxury shop, located in Nihombashi is a fabulous building in itself, great architecture to admire and the traditional window shopping
But of course the must is Ginza with the famous brands, and Mitsukoshi, this year the avenue has Christmas trees all along, impressive
During the whole month of December, Koen Dori is lightened in blue from 17h00 to 22h00. This is a project that started in 2014 in Meguro but moved last year to Yoyogi. The best location is to be at the entrance of Yoyogi park on the side of NHK building just before 17h00 and be surprised by the blue light going on suddenly, it is truly amazing!. then walk along this 250m totally covered with LED lights. the avenue takes you down to Shibuya in a lighter version
This concept also exists across Japan in Sapporo, Sendai, Nagoya, Fukuoka, Hiroshima and Osaka.
Japanese people are very close to nature and have a very tight relationship with their environment. Most of the bank holidays are related to nature (day of the mountain, day of the sea, day of the nature etc)
Among other items, they love gardens and there are the 3 most beautiful gardens of Japan to be visited once in a lifetime. I had this opportunity while in Kanazawa where is the Kenrokuen located.
I was not sure I would connect with this place as I was afraid of the crowd, potential queues, etc. I went there in the morning and really felt it was a beautiful place. Entrance fee is only Y100.- to help maintain the place. Although there were many people, it never felt crowded and, as always in Japan, people were so respectful that you could still enjoy the silence and peace of the place. a must if you are in the region!!
There was a photo shooting as we were wandering there, it was so cute,
One funny thing, Kanazawa is known to be the golden city, people like gold here and many things are made of gold (even ice creams). I was therefore amused to see that the mushrooms look golden over here!
Kanazawa is located 2h40 north west of Tokyo with the shinkansen. Many people call it the “small Kyoto” although locals would challenge this. they tell you that Kyoto is about Emperors while Kanazawa is about Samourai.
This city is not hitted as hard by earthquakes and has suffered as much from the wars therefore you can still find a lot of wooden houses and traditional constructions, along with shrines and monuments, plenty of tiny streets. It is very touristic. I found a lot of Europeans (French and Italian) and Americans (Canada and US) and hardly any Chinese or Koreans which is unusual these days in Japan.
The city is known for the glass, they cut glass in a beautiful way, it became also a trademark as some corporations produce glass for the industry with very tech-saavy methods and the city has become a hot spot for automotive and aviation industries who come here for some of their tools.
Kanazawa is also known as the city of gold. you can even buy golden ice creams!! as you can see below, ice cream with a thin golden sheet over it, very funny (but tasteless)
Shinkansen started operating to Kanazawa a couple of years ago, and, since, it made a huge difference, the number of visitors had a boom and hotels are popping up like mushrooms. It had a massive and positive economical impact although the city feels a bit packed at times because of this.
Japan has created a bottle for the summer – there is a spot for an ice cube, you open the bottle, insert the cube, close again and enjoy! the ice cube will remain stuck in that space while you enjoy a fresh drink