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  • So if you ever want to see crazy sales and hundreds of electronics shops then Akihabara is the area for you. The shops attempt to lure guys into the shops with women dressed in what I can best describe as a maids uniform. The shops inside are packed with everything from usb sticks through to high end AV gear.

    We also got to experience a demonstration of new tech which was being run in a purpose built area where all the latest NAS options were being shown.Read more

  • We arrived, hot tired and sweaty (I think this will be a theme of our trip!) to be greeted by the scouts of Nagano. After thanking our bus driver and interpreter with gifts of Welsh fudge and love spoons we prepared to meet our home stay families...

    Mr Ando greeted us with a warm welcome from the Japanese scouts and Martin returned the favour with a speech in three different languages - the interpreter was rather puzzled when Martin began speaking Welsh!

    After a slightly shaky rendition of Calon Lan (sorry Brenda and John!!) and a much better version of It's Not Unusual, we met up with our host families to begin our journey to their homes... The scouts staying in Tateshina have a full on day planned tomorrow including visiting a high school to make links, a Japanese cooking lesson and some Japanese Mallet Golf!

    All of the unit have been asked to keep a diary over the next couple of days so as soon as we can we'll get individual stories up on the blog!
    Read more

  • First evening in Japan was a really interesting one. Having seen off the Unit with their hosts our hosts Yoichi and Kyoko suggested a run up into the mountains where it would be cooler, reassuring us it was warm for them too. On the journey up Kyoko asked if Lee and I were up for a challenge. Like all good Scouters we answered yes before hearing the challenge; which turned out to be a visit to a traditional public bath house. No backing down now. We visited a charming waterfall. Where the air was cooler, even if the water was emerging from the rock at 11 degrees Celsius. (Sorry, boring geological details but appeals to the mineral surveyor in me). Then back in the very quiet and air conditioned people carrier, bliss! 15 minutes later we pulled up at this smart place looks like a golf club. We realised we were not going to play a round when Kyoko opens the boot and hands us a towel, flannel, disposal razor and toothbrush. Off we go for our first experience of a traditional Japanese bath house. Our blushes spared when we realised with relief it was segregated bathing but an experience not to be missed.

    This was followed by our first meal in proper Japanese restaurant at the spa. As the light faded we experienced our first real taste of Japan. After we journeyed on to our hosts home, very traditional and you can see the view of our hosts garden this morning that greeted me after a great night of full sleep.

    Day two of our Ho-Ho experience began early with breakfast. English breakfast with a Japanese twist. A side order of rice, soy sauce and miso soup. After breakfast, off to meet the mayor of Ueda for a special reception. All the Unit members in the Ueda area were there and it was great to hear that they had all had a great first night experience.

    Coincidence or good planning; I'll leave you decide? But the last time Welsh Scouts received Ho-Ho in Japan was after the 1991 World Jamboree in South Korea and they were hosted by Ueda. I even knew one of the leaders and have a present for him from an old Japanese friend.

    After that Lee and I were whisked away to meet Joichi, our hosts son. Joichi had been part of the Japanese contingent to the centenary world Jamboree in 2007. Off to lunch in an authentic Sushi Restaurant. For a man who likes his fish fried and battered, Lee battled on but we both agreed sea urchin is unlikely to catch on back home.

    With temperatures soaring to 37 degrees Joichi suggested a drive up into the mountains where it would be cooler! At a balmy 28 degrees Celsius Joichi took us on a 4 mile walk to a famous Shinto shrine. Only on the way back down did he tell us that this was black bear country. To prove the point on the way down he showed us a sign that stated, just 24 hours to he minute to the time we reached the shrine a black bear had been sighted and shooed off. He wasn't kidding but today no bears just Kyoko, his mother, waiting with a bamboo flavoured ice cream.
    Then off down the mountain and a visit to Japan's largest Buddhist temple, Zenjoki.

    Later we had time for dinner in Nagano city and a small tempura restaurant. Really different and all cooked to order. As we were experienced bathers now, Kyoko and Joichi had arranged a visit to a private natural Onsen at a swish hotel. You could instantly tell it was a natural spring by the water's sulphurous odour. Tired, but very clean, our short time in Ueda has come to a close having learnt much about Japanese culture and ways.

    We certainly think we hit the spirit of a number of programme zones today - spiritual and adventure - with our excursion into bear country!
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  • So we've ended up in the front row of the opening ceremony and it's going to be incredible! The sun is shining still and everyone is very toasty.
    Everyone has done lots of swapping today and has had great fun!
    Further updates to follow...

  • It was 15:00 and I decided to move to Osaka. The final destination for the tour. I was not feeling that great, but since it was only 40 km left, i guess i could make it. I did notice that there were several hills that i have to pass through to get to Osaka..
    After around 6 km i fell down the bike again. This was my fifth time for the trip. It was my fault, i didn't manage to clip off my shoes from the oedal on time. I fell down like dead meet and it was embarassing.
    Around 10 km down i noticed that i will be arriving to the first hill. I stopped at McD and ordered 2 Ebi-Burgers, since i learned from yesterday ebi gave me great powers.
    Of all days, this was the first day since the tour where it did not rain. At all. In fact it was very sunny and hot. I remembered cursing all the time when it rains but this time i was praying to the japanese god that it will be raining anytime soon. It felt like the hill was the steepest that i have ever had in Japan, and the heat from the sun makes it even worse... i could hear my heart pumping so hard..
    Okay first hill was behind me, now get ready for the secind hill. This time it will be even steeper and higher. This will be my last hill, i said to myself.
    The hill was too much for me. I was not in my top condition that day. This time i could here my hear pumping through my eardrum. After a while i felt like vomitting. Thats when i decided to stop and take some rest. After that i did not even bother to ride my bike, i just pushed it up the hill.
    After some time i did manage to arrive to the peak. On the peak of the hill was a small village and it says that i already reached the outkirt of Osaka!
    Goung downhill was unfortunately no fun. The road was but and there were alot of small gutter along the road. I had to go extremely slow, my hand started to get numb from pressing the breaks all the time. I think i had to change the brake again soon..
    At last I arrived at Osaka! What a journey, i was feeling so happy. There were suprisingly alot of bicyclers in the town, and the bicycle roads are good. I had to look out for the bikers more than the cars, since they most of the time have no lights, cycle in the opposite direction of the road and seem to not aware of the existance of the traffic lights. Interestingly the cars in Osaka are very tolerant to the cyclers.
    The hostel was full with backpackers. Coincidently they have on that day "Halloween Party" and i had Okinimiyaki and drinks for free
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  • According to the legend, the god Kasugs Taisha came to Nara with a white deer in the old days. So till this day the deers in Nara are considered sacred and they are all over the town (but mainly at Nara Park where the grasses and tourists are). Louis CK hated them vut i find them extremely cute. They are not scared of humans, so you can touch and feed them. Normaly it is the other way around, some of the humans seem to be afraud of thwn, since the deers could be aggresive that a gang of them will surround you if they smell any food with you.
    The female deers are well groomed, have soft fur and looked cute, so they got alot of intention from the tourists and got alot of food. The male deers on the other hand looked like they haven't taken a bath for years, ugly and have hard fur that sometimes clumps up together. They are normally left alone and didn't get any food. I think the male deers have to start being more metrosexual, or else they might die out from starvation
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  • I could hardly get any sleep, and when i decided to get up it was already 9:30 and i missed my breakfast. I was not feeling so well, my whole body felt numb. But come to think about it, i managed to cover 145 km in one day yesterday, despite the hills! I think it was not so bad at all. I went outside and tried to explore the city.
    I had no idea Nara was a tourist attraction. (It turned out latter to be the best highlight of the tour). I just happened to stop in Nara because i was thinking that i could not make it to Osaka in one go.
    Nara was the capital city of Japan from the year 710 to 794. It has alot of temples and gardens and looks very lovely and calm.
    At the city center people was flocking around a japanese mochi shop, where they show us the mochi pounding proces (mochitsuki). Nara is proud with their dramatic and fast mochitsuki process. It was very interesting to watch
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  • The road to Nara was beautiful. I could here the river flowing at the side, i could see forests and mountains evwrywhere. It was nice. Slowly i felt that i have drained out all the energy that i got. And it was going to get dark soon.
    After a while it was extremely dark, and i was forced to climb up into a next hill. I didn't want to. Not because i of slope so much, rather because i could see the road i was heading was narrow and it was heading me into a forest up the hill and it was extremely dark in there. For the same time since I did not have any internet connection it was risky to try out an alternative path. So i gave it a go...I turned on the lights and climb up the hill. It was so dark i could only rely on my front lamp which is not that bright. Whenever the bikes shakes the light flakes. A couple times it completely turned itself off. Then it was completely dark, i could here the river flowing but nothing else. I stopped. I hit the light a couple times and it turned back on again...what a relieve! This happened a couple times and even though i dont believe in ghosts the forest was kind of eerie. I wanted to get out of the as soon as possible!
    The climb seemed to take forever. My Navi said i shpuld be arriving the peak soon, but i still kept climbing up. I dont have much energy left, but for the same time i wanted to get the hell out of the forest.
    After some time i cycled down the hill carefully, since i was still in the forest. All of the sudden i arrived into what seems to be a rice field, i could see the sky and it was a bit brighter. Soon after that the road got wider and i saw cars passing by. At last! I survived the scary hill. The last Kilometers was pretty easy, i could not wait to arrive at hte hostel.
    The hostel was quite cool, it was a soya-brewery factory about 100 year ago, turned into a youth hostel. I was glad that i arrived.
    I ate at the Hostel and it was expensive but not that good. The waitress explained to me that she like Malaysia and had been there for several times and will be going to Kota Kinabalu in 1 month.
    I took a walk around the hostel, tring to clear my mind and had some drinks. After a while i went back to the hostel and tried to get some sleep
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  • My sleep problem got worse, my head felt like exploding. I decided to take a walk around Osaka. But where? The girl at the Halloween Party recommended me to go to Osaka's Aquarium. But unless they are served on a plate for me to eat I am usually not that interested to look at fishes (later i found out it is one of the biggest in aquarium in the world and looks actually quite cool). So after doing some walking i decided to cycle instead. Next target is Kyoto, only about 50 km away from Osaka.
    The ride was very untypical compared to other days. It was extremely flat, it didn't rain at all that day, its sunny and comfortable. Definitely the easiest ride of the tour...
    Read more

  • I arrived at my hostel in Kyoto and met woth alot of friendly backpackers. A girl from Holland worked at the hostel and cooked for three of us noodles. Free food!
    After dinner i was going to dismantle my bike but then i was invited to join them to tour around Kyoto at night. I gladly agreed.
    First stop was "Geisha hunting". We went to the geisha streets and waited for the Geishas to get out of their houses. It turns out to be quite difficult to find them and the hardly go out. We were not alone. Alot of tourists were thinking the same thing. After some waiting we finally found 2 geishas and everyone were running towards them to take some photosRead more