Discover a different side of Japan
A bucket-list destination for many, the best way to take in the many vibrant sights and sounds of Tokyo is via the double decker open-air bus called ‘O Sola mio. On this trip, which runs for about an hour, you’ll pass major attractions such as Tokyo Tower, which, at 333 metres high, is the world’s tallest, self-supported steel tower. The bus also visits Ginza, Tokyo’s most famous upmarket shopping precinct, and Toranomon Hills, a high-rise business district. An absolute tour highlight however, is cruising over Rainbow Bridge, a suspension bridge that crosses northern Tokyo Bay. The harbour views are spectacular, and on the top deck of the bus you’ll feel as though you’re flying through the air.
For unbeatable panoramic views of Tokyo and beyond, Tokyo City View is not to be missed. Situated in the heart of the city centre, the indoor observation gallery sits 250 metres above sea level, while the outdoor Sky Deck is 270 metres above sea level. Iconic landmarks such as the Tokyo Tower and Tokyo Skytree are easy to spot, and on a clear day you can even see out to Mt Fuji. When you’re this high up, and well away from the crowds below, the vast spread of Tokyo and its incredible infrastructure can really be appreciated.
If you’re after an authentic Tokyo dining experience, you can’t go past a meal at an Izakaya, an informal Japanese-style pub. A great place to find an Izakaya is in Kabukicho, which is part of the lively and colourful Shinjuku district – the centre of Tokyo culture. Nearby is the hub of Tokyo’s administration, Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building, the JR Shinjuku Station, which services 3.5 million passengers a day, and a chaotic maze of streets lined with a mix of department stores and quirky boutique shops.
A Change of Pace in Yamaguchi
After the hustle and bustle of Tokyo, it’s time to travel to Yamaguchi. From Tokyo’s Haneda Airport to Iwakuni Kintaikyo Airport, it’s approximately a 1hr 40mins flight to reach this serene and truly stunning part of Japan.
An important structure of the region is the wooden Kintaikyo Bridge, built in 1673 in Iwakuni. Featuring a series of five wooden arches, it’s a rare sight, even outside of Japan, and its intricate creation is the culmination of a range of masterful techniques.
Also worth a visit is Hagi town, which is where Japanese daimyo Terumoto Mori built his castle in 1604. Now one of Japan’s most prominent historical cities, buke yashiki (samurai houses) from the Edo Period still line the streets, offering an insight into what life might have been like during that time.
A popular destination for many tourists is Tsunoshima Bridge, a toll-free bridge connecting many of the surrounding remote islands. At over 1,780 metres in length, it’s one of the longest bridges in Japan, and since its inauguration in 2000, has featured in several movies, commercial messages and television programs. Stretching out over the clear turquoise blue sea, it makes for a spectacular sight, and it’s definitely a place you’ll want to make sure you have your camera at the ready.
This much sightseeing often builds quite an appetite, which means a visit to the Karato Fish Market in Shimonoseki is in order. Fresh fish and seafood is available to purchase, and every Friday, Saturday, Sunday and national holidays, the first floor of the market turns into a seafood stall, known as ‘Iki-iki Bakangai’. As a festival-like atmosphere grows, crowds of visitors from all over Japan and further afar can enjoy delicacies such as hand-rolled sushi with fresh food, blowfish soup and ‘fuku sashi’ - blowfish sashimi.
Other attractions include historical buildings such as Iwakuni Castle, the Old Megada Family’s House, and the Nagayamon Gate of the Megada Family, as well as art and history museums like the Iwakuni Choko-kan Museum, the Iwakuni Art Museum, and the Iwakuni Shirohebi (white snake) Museum. The Iwakuni Shirohebi Museum is a fascinating place, and the only place in the world that the Iwakuni white snake is found. Visitors can learn about the life and history of white snakes through games and scale models.