Big In Japan | September 10, 2008

So I’m very excited (and a little bit scared) to be speaking at Web Directions East in Tokyo this November. I’ve never been to Japan before, but it’s somewhere I’ve always dreamt of going. I’ve got around 10 days to explore, so would love to hear your thoughts, ideas and recommendations.

I obviously want to see Downtown Tokyo, including all the crazy Otaku haunts. I’m not one for Karaoke but definitely want to check out a cosplay bar or two! And before you ask, no I won’t be dressing up as my favourite manga character! I’m also keen to do a spot of “Lost in Translation” sightseeing as I kinda like the movie. Maybe just grabbing a drink at the hotel bar. Daft I know.

I’m equally keen to get out of Tokyo and explore the more traditional side of Japan. I’ve been a big fan of the rural, feudal face of Japan ever since seeing Shogun with Richard Chamberlain on TV in the 80s and then discovering the joy of Akira Kurosawa while at school. So any tips for traditional places to visit or stay would be most welcome. Oh, and I’m wondering if I’ll have time to see Mount Fuji and if in fact, it’s worth the trip.

So suggestions on a postcard please.

Posted at September 10, 2008 6:17 PM


Tom Hume said on September 10, 2008 7:37 PM

The shrines in Kamakura are worth a visit - amazing. The Sony building in the centre of town is top for an afternoon’s geekery. And Gas Panic Cafe is good for an interesting evening out (drinking policy: you stop drinking, they throw you out) ;)

Ethan said on September 10, 2008 8:05 PM

I was in Tokyo for ten days last October/November , and it wasn’t nearly enough time. A few suggestions:

I’m damned envious. Have an amazing trip, sir.

Bryan Rieger said on September 10, 2008 8:09 PM

If you get the chance to venture down to Hiroshima the Peace Memorial Museum is really something everyone should see. While you’re there you really should experience a Hiroshima Okonomiyaki (there’s literally hundreds of ‘restaurants that serve them to choose from).

Andy Budd said on September 10, 2008 8:50 PM

I absolutely love Okonomiyaki! Not sure I’m going to be able to make it over to Hiroshima, but thinking about Kyoto.

Jason Garber said on September 10, 2008 9:38 PM

As long as you’re listening to Jesus & Mary Chain while you visit that hotel bar, you’ll be in good shape.

Rob M said on September 10, 2008 10:33 PM

That will be great, look forward to the photos ;)

Tom Coady said on September 11, 2008 7:10 AM

If you only have a day Fuji is worth a trip, not to climb to the top but for the beauty of the surrounding lakes and woods.

If you have a bit longer you must visit Kyoto which was spared the bombs dropped everywhere else.

If you have even longer Hiroshima is also doable: all of these are reachable on the Shinkansen.

Elliot Jay Stocks said on September 11, 2008 12:51 PM

It’s the place I’m the most eager to visit, too. I’m jealous!

Although I’ve never been, some friends of mine have, and they recommended the purchase of the Japan Rail Pass before you get to Japan, as apparently that makes it a lot cheaper. Something to bear in mind if you’re planning on visiting areas outside Tokyo.

Ben said on September 11, 2008 1:52 PM

You absolutely have to visit the Tsujiki fish market in Tokyo, (its an early start mind). Finish the visit off with 6am sushi fresh off the boat.

Erik said on September 11, 2008 3:31 PM

Looking forward to the conference and your usability workshop!

Anyways, Mt Fuji will be off season, so most things will be closed unfortunately.

Nikko which is 1.5-2h by train from Tokyo is a great place to discover old temples. I’d say pick one place for doing that - it’s pretty much the same once you’ve done it once - but the temples in Nikko are quite amazing. And make sure to book a Ryokan (Japanese inn) in advance.

New York bar in Park Hyatt is of course a must for all Lost in translation fans, then not so far away you have the government office building where you can get a good view of Tokyo from the 45th floor for free.

Akihabara is for electronics, maid cafes and otaku spotting. Harajuku is for cosplay spotting and fashion shopping.

Daikanyama and Omotesando has some nice cafes and restaurants.

Make sure to get a Suica card (500 Yen deposit) if you plan to move around by train a lot (a recommendation in Tokyo)

Japan is very safe and people are very service-minded so you have absolutely nothing to worry about.

Justin Viger said on September 11, 2008 8:26 PM

Hopefully a different band is playing in the Hotel Bar. If not you will want to take Jason Garber’s suggestion and listen to The Jesus and Mary Chain over that crap. “Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme!”

Stuart Frisby said on September 11, 2008 9:58 PM

Hi Andy, best thing you could do - and I really do mean best - is to grab a 7 day JR rail pass, and whenever you ave the opportunity, usse it to board any train going anywhere in the country, including the shinkansen. I did this is 2002 when I visited, and I fell in love with Japan outside of Tokyo, I’ve spent the last six years of my life making waking up there every morning a reality.

Japan is a wonderful, amazing place, you’ll meet some great people, and the best advice I could give is to be approachable, wear a smile, and be prepared for some odd conversations in broken English!

Fuji is a few hours by varying speed trains from Tokyo, Fukuoka (from where I just returning after a year long stay) is the greatest city on earth, but unless you want a couple of nights out of Tokyo, it’s too far for a day trip.

Do the shrine stuff, sure, and the otaku stuff, but most of all, live and breath Japan for 10 days. It’s that which will stick with you the most, not the startling array of animated porn, or the Japanese penchant for post-work drinking.

If you have any specific questions, drop me an email, I’m sure I can help out.

Sebastian said on October 1, 2008 6:40 PM

Himeji castle is the best preserved samurai castle, and the one they showed when they filmed ‘Shogun’. It’s located somwhere in Kansai area, that is not too far from Kyoto which is also highly reccomanded. Nara is great for the biggest Buddha statue in Japan. Myajima (I saw this year), Unesco world heritage, and one of the top 3 most scenic spots (that’s close to Hiroshima in the more southern part). In terms of cities I liked the most Kobe and Yokohama. I think my advice comes a bit late. Sorry

MN Webguy said on October 8, 2008 1:03 AM

Your going to love it. Honestly one of the greatest and most gracious cultures on earth. They are really struggling there right now with their economy as well. So I am sure that you will hear all about that. Just tell them you don’t like George Bush

ilahi ve ilahiler said on October 11, 2008 3:43 PM

I absolutely love Okonomiyaki! Not sure Iím going to be able to make it over to Hiroshima, but thinking about Kyoto….

ed said on October 16, 2008 7:45 PM

don’t leave japan without a visit to kamakura. also, i always enjoyed visiting himeji castle when i lived in japan many, many years ago. it’s a complete castle and even has a haunted well. it’s a bit farther than kyoto from tokyo, but not as far as hiroshima.

enjoy your trip!!!

ChunLum said on October 22, 2008 11:08 PM

I’ve been to Japan 3 times now (twice in the fall and once in the spring) and I’m planning another fall visit for next year. My suggestions:
1) Get a 7-day JR Rail pass - most cost effective way to get around
2) Visit Kyoto - when I think of feudal Japan, the historical section of Kyoto is what I picture
3) Get up early to go to Tsukiji Fish Market/Auction (Tokyo) and have a sushi breakfast in that area
4) Go mingle with the tourists in Askakusa, shop on Kappabashidori, and, visit Senso-ji temple (it’s all in one area)
5) Bring your camera and wear good shoes

Whatever you end up doing, I’m sure you’ll have a great time.