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Tips on Travel: Ready, Set, Go, Time to Visit Japan

Japan is wonderful. The people are friendly. The landscape is beautiful. The food fantastic. The history fascinating. The culture captivating. In the past year I have had the good fortune to visit several times. As I traveled in large cities and out in the heartland, I jotted down some tips to help when you travel to Japan.


ENGLISH LANGUAGE FRIENDLY
As Japan prepares for the 2019 Rugby World Cup and the 2020 Summer Olympics, English language signs can now be found in the subway and railway systems. In busy transit centers in the cities, uniformed guides are also available to help English speaking travelers.

That being said, if you want to explore the heartland outside of the major cities, Japan is not especially easy for English-speaking travelers. If you have the resources, it is best to hire an English speaking guide and, if possible, a driver.
When looking for a guide, understand there is a vast difference between “English proficient” and “English fluent” guides. Ideally you want a gu…

Must Visit Destinations in Japan's Gifu Prefecture - Silk Worms in the Attic, Gunpowder Downstairs and a Pond a Mother Would Love

Usually when I visit Japan, I head straight to Tokyo.

I love the bright lights, the energy, the hurry-and-get-out-of-my-way attitude of people rushing from work to metro and home again. I love the technology and the great Izakaya bars serving yakitori and small plates.



I adore the ramen and dry soba bowl joints where a meal and a beer costs next to nothing. I love the rows of densely packed yakitori, udon and tempura stalls in hidden corners of the city like Shinjuku's Memory Lane (Omoide Yokocho) and the soon-to-be-torn down Tsukiji Fish Market.



I love all that and more, but for my latest trip I wanted to "light out for the territory" as Huck Finn said.


I was headed to the Shoryudo Region which lies between Tokyo and Kyoto. In Japan’s heartland, the nine prefectures or provinces of the region offer great opportunities to explore the unusual and the fun.

Off the Brochure Kyoto, Japan

Japan's imperial capital for over a thousand years, Kyoto is home to antique temples, historic public buildings and meticulously landscaped gardens and parks. Our traveling foodie, David Latt, takes us along with him as he explores Kyoto, starting with the tuna auction at 5:30 in the morning.

No matter how early it starts, I have to see the tuna auction at the Kyoto Central Wholesale Market.
With my guide, Toshiro (“Toby”) Sugihara, we walk through the cold concrete and steel building to find groups of men in heavy coats watching auctioneers flailing their arms around as they shout out prices. The buyers don't respond to the auctioneer until the price is right. Then a barely perceptible nod gives the auctioneer the sale he wants and he's on to the next fish.

The most exclusive, expensive restaurants and sushi bars buy up the highest quality tuna. Before he became a tour guide, Toby was a sushi chef so he knows his tuna. He bends over a beautiful fish and points to the part…