Taketomi is a picturesque island that is frequented by international and domestic tourists to Okinawa.
Once you are in Ishigaki your can decide to take a trip to Taketomi the morning of no problem. No need to plan especially far in advance.
If you wake up in the morning and decide you want to go, pack your bag with some extra water, pack a good hat and some sunglasses and head to Ishigaki Port. the trip is less than 20 minutes by ferry. The ferry times at time of posting are in the image below.
If you want to get into the water at Kondoi Beach pack a swimsuit and towel. Note, my family did not bring a swimsuit and we did not regret it, but we are old and were traveling with young children. The beach was just too hot to bear (30C!) and sunbathing isn’t our thing. The water was beautiful though and we did wade in. There were lots of younger people swimming and enjoying the water in their swimsuits and bikinis. Do bring a change of clothes, the locals do not want to see people in swimsuits walking around town.
As soon as you arrive on the island you will see signs for bicycle rental shops. You need one.
The bicycle rental thing is sort of advertised as a nice fun thing to do on Taketomi, but actually it is absolutely necessary. I guess you could walk the island, or some how taxi… but to be honest I don’t think the taxi option is even practical or possible.
Get a bicycle.
Most shops have a few bicycles that are kid sized, and a few that have back or front seats to carry a toddler.
One of the much advertised things to do on Taketomi is to take a ride on a wagon pulled by a water buffalo. We didn’t do this and didn’t regret it, but it’s near seeing them in the village.
There are several places to eat in Taketomi. Google Maps will serve you well. We happened to go to a place and were surprised to learn the 70+ owners were originally from Osaka, having moved to Taketomi about 20 years ago. Like us, they complains about the heat!
If you visit Ishigaki you’ll want to visit one of the other islands, and Taketomi is the closest, but most touristy. It’s still fun, check it out!
The Gundam statue in Odaiba, Tokyo, was first built in 2009 to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the Gundam anime series. The original statue was 18 meters tall and stood in Odaiba’s Shiokaze Park for a limited time before being taken down.
Since then, the statue has been replaced with newer versions several times, with the most recent iteration, the RX-0 Unicorn Gundam, being unveiled in 2017. The Unicorn Gundam statue stands at 19.7 meters tall and features a more advanced design with moving parts and special lighting effects. Check it out in DiverCity Tokyo Plaza.
The lighting effects and moving parts are, well not the most impressive thing ever, but it’s still pretty cool and crowds will wait around for it. If you’re there, you have no reason to skip it, so stick around.
If you like what you see you can visit a hobby shop, or big box electronics store like Bic Camera to shop for a plastic Gundam model to take home as a souvenir. You should be able to find the same RX-0 Gundam that you see here in Odaiba.
What? You’ve never heard of Gundam?
Even though it’s 40 years old, every anime fan should know about Gundam. Gundam is significant as a robot anime for several reasons:
It introduced the concept of realistic mecha: Before Gundam, mecha in anime were typically portrayed as fantastical, larger-than-life robots. Gundam introduced the concept of mecha as realistic military machines, with an emphasis on their engineering and design.
Gundam explored mature themes: Gundam was one of the first mecha anime to explore mature themes such as war, politics, and the human cost of conflict.
Many anime, manga, and video games draw their inspiration from Gundam.
Gundam spawned a successful franchise: Gundam is not just a single anime series, but a franchise that includes multiple anime, manga, video games, and other media.
There are a few other giant robot statues in Japan as well.
Tetsujin 28-go (Gigantor) is in Kobe Wakamatsu Park. The statue is 18 meters tall and was erected in 2009 to commemorate the 80th anniversary of Kobe city.
EVA-01 Test Type in Hakone. It’s located in the Hakone area near Mount Fuji, and is a replica of the EVA-01 Test Type from the anime series Neon Genesis Evangelion. It’s 15.8 meters tall.
There may be more, but that’s all I’m tracking at the moment.
If you’re in Tokyo and want to see a giant robot… Odaiba is the place to go!
We tried the Tokyo Nakameguro Cherry Blossom Promenade (Nakameguro Sakura Tsutsumi) on a Japanese holiday morning that fell in middle of the week. Crowds weren’t that bad, but, we also arrived toke army in the season. Read on for more!
We came about a week too early so the Sakura were not in full bloom. ZANNEN, but that’s fine. You have to miss the timing a few times to fully appreciate the blossoms.
The Nakameguro Cherry Blossom Promenade is famous for its picturesque cherry blossom trees that line the Meguro River. During the cherry blossom season in Japan, which usually takes place in late March to early April (global warming has entered the chat!), the trees along the promenade bloom in beautiful shades of pink and white.
Once you’re done with the Meguro River area you can wander around Nakameguro. It’s known for its trendy cafes, boutiques, and restaurants, making it a popular destination for both locals and tourists year-round.
If you’re in Japan during cherry blossom season be sure to stop by Nakameguro! Might be fun!
Sensouji 浅草寺 is the oldest temple in Tokyo, and it is believed to have been built in the year 628 making it more than 1,300 years old. However, the current structure is not the original. Sensouji has been destroyed and rebuilt several times over the centuries. The temple complex as it stands today was largely rebuilt in the 1950s and 1960s after being damaged during World War II.
When you visit your senses will be stimulated by the hustle and bustle of tourists and shopkeepers as the crowd slowly moves down the main strip towards the temple. When you get closer you’ll smell burning incense and see the smoke, and you’ll notice many Japanese paying to get their fortunes (mikuji みくじ) from the temple shop. It really is an exciting and unforgettable scene.
Sensouji remains an important spiritual and cultural center and is estimated to receive around 30 million visitors annually. When local Japanese friends from Osaka came to visit in Tokyo, Asakusa was one of the places that we visited. It’s popular with Japanese tourists and foreign tourists alike.
Today, Sensō-ji continues to be an important place of worship for Buddhists and is also a major tourist destination, attracting millions of visitors each year.
There is a pretty decent free observation deck at Asakusa Culture Tourist Information Center across the street from Sensouji that doesn’t get much traffic. It’s open from 9:00 to 22:00 as of writing. Here is the view from the top.
The viewing deck is on the 8th floor, offering panoramic views of the city. From the deck you can see the city skyline and landmarks such as Tokyo Skytree and the Asahi Beer building. You can also get food there, but to be honest, I wouldn’t recommended it as there are much more delicious options down on street level.
To access Asakusa and Sensouji Temple, you can take the Ginza Subway line and get off at Asakusa station.
The journey takes about 15 minutes from Tokyo Station and costs around 170 yen. From Asakusa Station, Sensouji Temple is a 10-minute walk and is extremely easy to spot due to the flow of the tourist traffic and signage. If you can just get to Asakusa Station you can’t miss it.
Don’t forget to also check out Hoppy Street if you get hungry after visiting the temple! It’s a short 10-15 minute walk away, and is lined with Japanese izakaya’s with seating spilling out into the street. It’s a fun environment and somewhat kid friendly. Kid friendly as in, some shops won’t care if you bring kids — that’s about as far as it goes.
Don’t miss a visit to Asakusa Sensouji Temple if you’re in Tokyo! Might be fun!
Another item for your Tokyo visit bucket list, the Ghibli Museum in Mitaka! Might be fun? I’m sure this will be fun. Ghibli! You know. Totoro, Nausica, Howl’s Moving Castle, Ponyo. Need I go on?
There are no photos allowed inside of the building, but it is OK to take photos of the building from the outside. So, those are the photos you will see in this post.
The most obvious and largest attraction at the museum is this giant replica of one of the robots from Castle in the Sky Laputa. It really is huge, impressive, and all-around great. I want one in my backyard. There was an orderly line to get photos with the robot, with guests helping each other hit the shutter so folks could get their photos together. It’s too big for a selfie stick.
The robot is on the roof, and you can just barely see him peeking his head out from the outside of the building.
See if you can find the giant robot in the photo below!
Aside from the main event the museum has little Ghibli easter eggs everywhere. From tiny details in the stained glass windows, to more obvious characters in unlikely places, like in the image below.
These little guys are the soot creatures from the 1988 film “My Neighbor Totoro.” In Japanese they are called makkuro kurosuke and are are small, black, furry creatures that live in the attic of the house where Satsuki and Mei, live with their father. They are a central part of the movie’s atmosphere — a really great minor major bunch of critters. I don’t even remember seeing them named in the museum, but here they are! They also appear in another area inside of the building that your kids will love if you’re traveling with them.
There is also a mini theater inside of the museum that runs a short exclusive Ghibli film throughout the day. We saw one about a lump of bread dough that comes to life, obviously, and it really was a treat watching it with all the other fans.
The entire complex is not that large, in a three-story building that covers an area of approximately 3,300 square meters / 35,520 sq. ft., but since the inside is so packed with goodness you can easily spend three hours on site. There are also a couple of places to get food and eat outdoors.
If you you are visiting with small children, there is a park just a short distance from the museum, so you can go there to relax while your kids get dangerous on the park equipment. Perfect!
Exit Through the Gift Shop
The museum’s gift shop, called the MAMMA AIUTO! shop, offers a variety of merch. Some of the items that are typically available for sale at the gift shop include:
Toys and figurines of Ghibli characters
Posters, prints, and other wall art featuring Ghibli characters and artwork
Clothing and accessories featuring Ghibli characters and designs
Books and comics
Home goods, such as cups, mugs, and other kitchen items
They even had high-quality figures that cost more than $150 USD when we were there. They even had a replica of the blue pendant that appears in the movie Castle in the Sky that was made by Swarovski. I didn’t buy it.
The selection of merchandise at the gift shop may change depending on timing. They do have a web shop. You can be pretty sure that they’ll have some amazing stuff, so I wouldn’t worry too much about inventory.
Take the JR Yamanote Line from Shibuya Station to Mitaka Station [20 min].
From Mitaka Station, you can walk to the museum. [15 min], or you can take a bus [10 min].
Alternatively, you can take the Keio Inokashira Line from Shibuya Station to Kichijoji Station, which is also located near the museum. From Kichijoji Station, you can walk to the museum [15 min], or you can take a bus.
Get your tickets early
The Ghibli Museum is popular, and not very large. You must purchase tickets in advance. In December 2022, tickets went on sale monthly, and the month completely sold out in one to two days. Tickets can be purchased online or at select locations in Japan, including the Studio Ghibli store in Shibuya.
It is OK and a good idea to bring kids, even if they are under 4. They’ll have a great time.
Try to leave large backpacks in your hotel as it can get crowded, and there are even some pathways designed so that adults have to hunch over to get through. There is a locker cluster on site.
You can have lunch on site, feel free to plan your visit to span lunch hour.
The gift shop is modern and accepts most credit cards.
There is no “route” laid out, so feel free to backtrack and visit sites more than once. You’ll discover something new each time you run through.
Watch as many Ghibli movies as you can before your visit! It will help you recognize things and have more fun.
Check it out! Let me know if there are any questions you have about the museum that I haven’t answered here!
Ginza doesn’t have to be expensive. In addition to some reasonably priced eateries, and shopping staples like Uniqlo, you can also visit this nice area on top of Ginza Six called Ginza Six Garden.
To get to Ginza Six Garden, just go to Ginza Six and head to the rooftop floor. You’ll need to find the elevator bank that goes up to 13F.
Tokyo is a busy bustling place that can really wear you out. This rooftop garden on Ginza Six is a great place to relax and cool down. As you can see from the photos, when I was there on a weekend there was hardly anyone around. Of course, this is just before Japan will fully reopen to tourism on October 11, but I have a hunch that even after the tourists come back this place won’t be packed.
There are benches to sit on, and the view is pretty good. There are so many buildings around it’s definitely not the best view, but hey, it’s free. You can see Tokyo Tower, Tokyo Sky Tree, the Mitsukoshi building, and other sites. I give the view a 7 out of 10.
If you’re in Ginza and are looking for a place to chill out and avoid the crowds, head to the top of Ginza Six and check out this garden. Inside of Ginza Six you’ll find lots of tourist-appropriate shopping, and some very classy restaurants.
Go check out the Rooftop Garden at Ginza Six! Might be fun!
Another quality YouTuber that produces content about Japan, in Japan, and with Japanese subtitles.
If you’re wondering what life is like in Japan, or if you’re already in Japan and are looking for things to do, you’re sure to find something on Miki’s channel. I certainly didn’t know about that meat sandwich place in Shimokitazawa. Going to have to check it out!
Looking for more Japanese YouTubers? Check out our other post, “Japanese YouTubers to boost your Listening Comprehension.”
This channel features a couple of maiko in Nara. They frequently do live events and react to view comments. They have videos where they introduce some culturally interesting aspect of maiko-life or Japanese traditional arts, and a few where they walk around famous locations in Nara. The production quality is very basic, but they are very good about regularly getting in front of the camera. They realize that they have an international audience and sometimes do videos, or portions of videos, in English.
Ryoya Takashima is a really professional Japanese YouTuber. He uses high-quality equipment, adds English subtitles to his Japanese-language audio, and gets cooperation from the people to say a few words to the camera at the places that he visits. If you want to get a look at Japan I think you’ll find some enjoyable videos on this channel. He also travels internationally a lot so you can see his takes on countries around the world as well.
On Nakata University, Mr. Atsuhiko Nakata enthusiastically explains a variety of subjects in a lecture format. If you are looking to deepen your Japanese vocabulary in some specific subjects, this could be a good channel to watch as in many videos he speaks for more than 20 minutes on the same topic.
Finally, if you’re looking for more, change your YouTube settings and change your location to Japan. Now, your recommendations will be based on things that are popular in Japan. This should help you stumble upon some new content.
In 2013 I went to the Earth Celebration festival on Sado Island. It was a wonderful experience and I hope I have a chance to do it again.
Attending the the Earth Celebration is a real adventure. It’s a getaway from the hustle and bustle of the city, a musical treat, and a cultural experience.
The main event at Earth Celebration is always a Taiko Drum performance by Kodo, who always deliver an absolutely earth-shaking show. They perform throughout the year in other locations and I would strongly recommend you catch them if you can. I don’t have photos from Kodo’s performance from Earth Celebration 2013 as they asked for no photography during the show… Plus it was dark and we were far from the stage and I didn’t have a zoom lens…
Before Kodo performs you can enjoy other music performances and a variety of food stalls of the usual Japanese festival fare.
Even though Sado Island is off the beaten path, it’s not difficult to get to as Japan has public transport sorted out. The town itself is quaint, but during the Earth Festival there are plenty fo tourists, so many shops and restaurants are open. The town is small so you can walk around the main drag in a single day no problem.
This is a report from a visit in 2013, I’m sure the festival has changed in some way since then, but I’m sure it’s still great. Has anyone been recently? If so do share your experience!
Looking for something different to do in Japan? Try Tottori Sand Dunes! Might be fun. This isn’t a location I would recommend to someone who is headed to Japan for the first time ever, but if you are already living in Japan and looking for something new to do, check it out.
The Tottori Sand Dunes (鳥取砂丘 tottori sakyuu) are the only place in Japan where you can see sand dunes. They are indeed natural, and have existed for 100,000 years.
The Tottori Sand Dunes are really the main tourist attraction in Tottori prefecture. Other than the dunes, you can find hot springs and ryokan as you can at most other tourist destinations in Japan.
At the time I went, which was 2006… there were several activities you could do. They had rental boards so you could try sand surfing. You could do paragliding, or ride a camel. There is also a sand museum.
Getting to Tottori Sand Dunes:
Once you’re in Tottori it’s easy to get to the dunes. They are such a major tourist attraction all the signs and anyone you ask will point you there.
From Tokyo: If you’re coming from Tokyo by train, it’s about 5 hours and 10 minutes. The trip will take you to Himeji on the Nozomi bullet train, and then from Himeji to Tottori station on the Super Hakuto train. From Tottori station you can get to the dunes by taxi or bus.
From Osaka: Coming from Osaka the trip is about two hours and 40 minutes on the Super Hakuto train. It’s a straight shot from Osaka to Tottori with no train exchanges. Easy! Then once you’re at Tottori you can get to the dunes by taxi or bus.
There is even a classic song about Tottori Sakyuu that many Japanese know and love. It’s more popular with the older generation, but still a lot of people know it!
For best results, sing in a karaoke shop in Tottori.