I am travelling to Japan from New Zealand as part of my gap year. I am looking for some help from fellow travellers.
Any must sees and do's in Tokyo, Kyoto? Also can anyone recommend anywhere off the beaten track to get a real taste of Japan???
I am wanting to get some snowboarding in up in the North island, has anyone been to any of the resorts, which is the best value for money, cheapest accomodation etc?? Also did you arrange this indepently or through travel agents??
As for Kyoto, I would love to stay in traditional ryokan, can anyone recommend a good ryokan?
If your only purpose in going to the North Island, by which I'm assuming you mean Hokkaido, is to go snowboarding, then maybe you could consider heading to the Alps in the Nagano area instead. If you are going between Tokyo and Kyoto, then you will find it more on the way.
Kind of a small side thing.. but one of my more memorable experiences in Japan was Karaoke.
It was wildly popular when I was there in 2001 but almost all the venues were private booths like the one they used in the movie "Lost in Translation". We really wanted a public Karaoke bar and finally found one in a more bohemian part of Tokyo and had a real blast. Here are our somewhat embarrassing pictures. And here's a map of roughly where I think we found the place.. sorry I can't remember (or pronounce) the name.
Karaoke...ah how I miss it! You should make sure also to visit as many onsen (natural hot springs) as possible. especially nice to relax in a hot bath with your towel on your head while the snow falls gently around you...!
off the beaten path...if you have time, head to kyushu island, amazing scenery, ryokan, hot springs etc. Or if you go to Hiroshima, hop on the ferry over to Miyajima island, quite touristy but if you hike to the top (watch out for monkeys) or go round to the beach on the far side it is much more 'traditional'/ Lots of inquisitive deer too. I lived in a rural village in hiroshima for 3 years. Pretty much anywhere you go out of the main cities will have its own distinct 'culture', e.g. festivals, food, dancing etc. Ask around and see if any festivals are going on in nearby towns whilst you're there. No doubt you'll be warmly greeted by locals, particularly if you're 'off the beaten path'. Another thing - if you stop for a drink/food in remote izakaya (bar) and smile a lot you may well find yourself the centre of an impromptu karaoke party with all manner of drink and snacks provided for you...a smile and a bit of patience go a long long way in rural japan! Enjoy, and ki o tsukete!
oh, and by the way, for something a tad 'unusual' in tokyo, there's a small restaurant called 'kagaya', I think it's in the lonely planet. run by a random japanese guy who cooks in what appears to be a room attached to his house, only for small, pre-booked parties (we were a group of 3) and it is guaranteed to be one of the most engaging dining experiences ever - if you're open minded and appreciate silly humour. he's bonkers! say no more...
People settle in Japan with great difficulty, people blame it on culture shock. I'd recommend you book a place to stay in Japan BEFORE you book a flight there.