1.Climbing Fushimi Inari (Kyoto)
Fushimi Inari is known for its 10,000 torii gates and 12,000 steps. One cannot help but be in awe with the wonders of its beauty. Climbing can be a challenge but the feeling of being wrapped in an embrace of Japan will ease all of your weary bones. I almost reached the summit but unfortunately had to heading back down early because my friend and I needed to return the yukata that we had rented. I highly recommend renting a kimono or yukata to have a more complete experience (and to get those gorgeous pictures). There are plenty of rental shops to choose from at the base of Fushimi Inari.
2. Conquering the Shimanami Kaido cycling course (Hiroshima)
I must admit, I was not expecting this to be as difficult as it was. It felt like my legs were trying to die on their own. The course covers 6 islands that connect Onomichi, Hiroshima and Imabari, Ehime. The course offers a standard route for people like myself who are just cycling for leisure and an intermediate route for more extreme cyclists who dare a challenge.
You have to pass by so many steep roads so proper exercise and conditioning weeks before you ride is a must. This is one requisite step I forgot to do so I ended up with sore legs and arms that night. Nevertheless, the experience was absolutely worth it. The views were breathtakingly captivating.
3. Wearing kimono in Asakusa (Tokyo)
Asakusa is the home of Sensoji Temple and Nakamise Dori. If you visit Tokyo, chances are you will end up visiting these sites because of its popularity. Asakusa is where I wore a kimono for the very first time. I was so happy about the service and the quality I got from the rental shop. Even now, it was the prettiest kimono I have worn. I loved its color and how it resonated with the cherry blossoms of spring in Japan. I highly recommend experiencing it. Don't worry about feeling out of place because there are many people who rent kimono and walk around this area.
4. Visiting the Big 3: Disneyland, Disney Sea, and Universal Studios (Chiba & Osaka)
I can’t decide which I love the most among the three famous theme parks in Japan so I ended up choosing all of them. Contrary to popular belief that Tokyo Disney Resort is located in Tokyo, it is actually located in Urayasu, a city in Chiba Prefecture just at the border of Tokyo. Its strategic location makes it far from central Tokyo but near enough to visit it from there. It will take you less than an hour by train.
Comparing the two Disney resorts, I enjoyed the parades in Disneyland more but I found the rides in Disney Sea more enjoyable. As for Universal Studios, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter was my ultimate favorite because I am a Potterhead.
Just a word of advice, the lines in all three theme parks are insanely long so try to research on how you can maximize your time there. Bring something that will entertain you while queueing because you’re going to need it.
5. Trying my luck at Japan Local Buddy customizable tours (Tokyo)
The first time I ever visited Japan was frightening because it was my first ever solo travel. I thought I was crazy to pick a non-English speaking country for my first time abroad. I absolutely had no idea on how to interact with the people there. Then, I stumbled upon Japan Local Buddy, an organization that offers international tourists to enter their desired activities and locations they wish to explore in Japan. The organization will then link you to a volunteer local guide.
I tried booking a tour for my first ever full day in Japan (I arrived late evening the previous day). I wasn’t expecting a feedback to be honest because I indicated a biking tour instead of a walking tour. Then lo and behold, someone agreed to show me around. I panicked and began researching about etiquettes and proper social interactions. Who can blame me, right? Back then, it will be my first time and already I’m going to spend the whole day with a local. I have a general idea what Japanese people are but I didn’t have a Japanese friend back then as reference. This made the experience extra special. My guide gave me an embodiment of what a Japanese woman should be like and she became my first ever Japanese friend.