My Japan Recommends

Just putting a quick note on some of my top recommends from Japan as i get a lot of requests and have been having to cobble together for friends.  Here’s a starter list:

Pro-tips in general:

  • Use this amazing site that has great english pages: to book restaurant reservations with many michelin-star and otherwise foody and hard to get reservation locations in Japan.  Most japanese restaurants don’t have good english websites and don’t take english phone calls.
  • Buy a japan-rail pass before flying to japan, activate it at Narita or other JR Rail station.  Huge savings over buying tickets individually or locally in japan after arrival, 7 or 14 day passes, you can make reservations for multiple trips at any JR Rail station and have nice comfy chairs, reserved seats, and tons of fun.  Riding the bullet trains never gets old, great fun and way to get around the entire country.  lots of google ads take you to vendors who sell the passes, all are licensed, but i used this one.


  • Amazing Tsukiji market tour and private cooking class, this was insanely good.  We did this before the move of the market out of central tokyo to god-knows-where.  But this company was top shelf, and the experience insanely good.  Best sushi meal of the trip, and fun for family with 2 teenagers not easily impressed:


  • Really reasonable great location boutique hotel.  Cheap/great-value, and good location.  I’ve stayed in 5+ hotels in Kyoto that were all more $$ and lesser locations.  Very, very small rooms, but comfy.   Kyoto Granbell Hotel.
  • Phenomenal 6-person, michelin-star sushi restaurant, best i’ve had in Kyoto, well worth the $150 fixed price experience for 3hrs of entertainment and close-magic-cooking. Sushi Gion Matsudaya.
  • Great Kyoto cooking class in a private home with a woman-chef who has pro-kitchen experience overseas.  Great english, great tour of the market before or after to buy directly from vendors (in the big central Kyoto market), great location, really neat small private home with good kitchen.  We spent 3-4 hours with her, were entertained, and great meal.  Very price reasonable.  Contact Midori Nukumizu at her email:
  • My teenage boy loved this ninja dojo where they had a several hour private ninja training class, they *loved*.  Good for teens boys and girls.
  • Insanely good coffee, several locations, be prepared to wait in line for 15-30 minutes… worth it and fun to wait in line in expectation of great coffee!
  • Do a day trip out and back to Nara, amazing walks from train station to dozens of temples including insanely old/awesome/etc.


  • If you have the JR Pass, consider taking a morning side-trip from Kyoto on the bullet train to the city of Himeji, to check out the Himeji castle.  OMG, insanely awesome… apparently the best/oldest/original castle in the country.  So. Cool.  Better day/morning trip than others from Kyoto IMHO.
  • Before or after the castle go to the rope-way and up to a hiking area for a 2-3 hr trek around some old temples that were used in several films including the tom cruise japan film about samurai. Shoshazan Engyo-ji Temple, via the rope-way called Mount Shosha Ropeway

Onomichi – coming soon

Fukuoka – coming soon

Miyajima Island – coming soon

Kanazawa – coming Soon (Kiragawa Go, Takayama day trips)

Hiroshima – coming soon

Nagasaki – coming soon

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