5 Offbeat Tips for Travelers
Looking to get beneath the surface of Japan, instead of just seeing the main tourist spots? Well, here are a few tips:
1- Read Up
Besides Deep Japan, check out English language publications (like Time Out) and see what is going on. Join in food festivals (for instance Tokyo Harvest in November), flea markets, small concerts, free yoga or running events (check out the Hash House Harriers). You will see an entirely different side of the city you are visiting, and get to know some cool local spots.
2- Check out online tour companies
I realize this might sound counterproductive, but a lot of online tour platforms (like Veltra, Govoyagin etc...) have really odd and unique tours. For those a bit nervous about taking trains out of town, tours can be a great way to see awesome scenery and eat great food without having to worry about getting lost. You can book everything from tea time with maiko in Kyoto to crazy performances in Tokyo, and whiskey tours in Hokkaido!
3- Get Lost
No, seriously. Tokyo in particular is a great place to just ramble at will. You will find cute local cafes, hidden temples, weird buildings and little shops all over the place. Within central Tokyo you are rarely more than 10 minutes away from a train station, so when you are tired, just hop on board.
4- Culinary Adventures
If you are an adventurous eater, just remember these words: 'Osusume no ryori onegaishimasu'. Basically it means 'whatever you recommend'. While this will not work at chain restaurants, going to a smaller place and saying this means you are in for a treat!
5- Forget Hotels
Skip expensive hotels and make use of services like Airbnb, couchsurfing or hostels. You will not only save money, but your hosts (or staff) will be able to let you in on tons of local secrets!