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2023 is the zodiac Year of the Rabbit: The year that Japan bounces back.
After a long few years, Japan is well and truly back. Even with closed borders Japan has evolved – Here’s a little taster of some of the exciting places and experiences up for grabs in 2023.
A little place we know
Although not exactly new, Ine is a little gem that we have new and exclusive access too. The fishing village sits just of the Japan Sea coast in northern Kyoto prefecture. A stay in one of the refurbished Funaya boat houses is unique experience and each one has arguably one of the best views in the country. Ine itself is a working village and is somewhat abnormally packed full of incredible crafts people who make this place even more special. The best way to reach Ine is by boat – We can’t wait to share this place with you.
Nagoya ignored no more
The city of Nagoya has always been the Japan home of InsideJapan. This industrial but historical castle city is often overlooked for more famous destinations, but we think 2023 will be its year to shine. The city is the gateway to the newly opened and eagerly anticipated Ghibli Park featuring reconstructed scenes from anime greats such as, ‘My Neighbour Totoro’ and ‘Spirited Away.’ The park is also due to have another phase of opening later in 2023 (Be warned though, it is very difficult to get hold of tickets, but we are working on it). So, not only does Nagoya sit very nicely on the Shinkansen route, have great nightlife with delicious specialty food, a newly opened world’s first hotel in a TV Tower, it will be the new mecca for many an anime fan.
Japan does a lot of things famously well. Two of them are design and traditional wellness in the form of onsen hot spring baths and Zazen meditation. There’s a brand-new place on Awaji Island (near Osaka) that combines all of this. The wooden structure of the Zenbo Seinei, designed by Shigeru Ban, floats above the forest below (a view you can take in from the 90m open-air Zazen meditation deck) … The Zenbo has 360-degree views to enjoy, open-air baths, room views across canopy and a restaurant serving locally sourced food. This is a place that’s built on traditional Japanese concepts – it looks great and is designed to make you feel great.
A new Tokyo to explore
Tokyo always gives you something new. Partly size and partly its constant evolution, it’s a city that offers more to discover on every visit. Shimokitazawa has always been a favourite district of ours and it has a lot going for it, especially with the newly built station complex opening it up. There are now new Michelin-rate chefs running restaurants and cafes alongside coffee shops, record shops and all sorts of quirky independents stores. The area also has an exciting new place to stay in the Yuen Bettei Daita high-end ryokan -a slice of serenity in the heart of the city.
There are so many districts to explore – as our team will tell you.
New ways to explore
Tokyo has one of the best transport networks in the world, which makes it easy to experience alternative ways of seeing the city. A few hours kayaking around the rivers and waterways gives a great new perspective, watching the chaos from the relative serenity of the water. Alternatively, hiring an E-bike allows easy exploration of the city’s unsung neighborhoods, cafes, shrines, parks and all the delightful surprises that Tokyo’s less touristic districts have to offer.
If you think Tokyo can blow your mind, Teamlab Borderless digital installation museum has been blowing minds further for around four years now. After devastating us all by announcing that it was closing its doors for good, they recently revealed plans for a completely new digital museum. Opening in the spring of 2023 in what will be Japan’s tallest building in the Toranomon-Azabudai project – all we can say is that we cannot wait. Read about Senior Travel Consultant, Ali Muskett’s Borderless experience.
Old Kyoto, new stays
The cultural capital of Kyoto is going to be as popular as it ever was – the home of thousands of temples and shrines, Geisha culture and unspoilt, traditional low-rise Japan. There is always a reason to visit. It has also seen a few incredible hotels pop up over the last few years.
The high-end Shinmonzen, designed by Tadao Ando, is something very special – from the building itself to the art on the walls, the food and the traditional omotenashi service, all tucked away in a Kyoto backstreet, a stone’s throw from the Shirakawa River.
Another recently opened Tadao Ando hotel is the boutique Marufukuro. Although there are perhaps more impressive places to stay, this hotel has a great back story, as it was originally the headquarters of the famous Nintendo. For serious gamers, the hotel library has a lot of little Nintendo relics and treasures making this place quite unique… and not that far away in neighbouring Osaka, where Super Nintendo World has opened too.
There are plenty more special places to stay in the old capital which, despite its age, never gets old.
Kyushu speeding bullet
A new Shinkansen launched on the southern island of Kyushu in September 2022. Although not revolutionary yet, the new train will open up the laid-back city of Nagasaki up with the new sleek Kamome Shinkansen. The bay-side city of Nagasaki is known more for its dark modern history, but it has a lot of unique aspects, being the only place open to the world during Japan’s 250 years of isolation. With history seen in its architecture, trams, specialty foods, and natural scenery, this place just got easier to visit and is well worth it. Fun fact – tempura arrived to Japan in Nagasaki from Portuguese traders.
People always talk about Japan’s combination of traditional and cutting-edge, so much that it’s almost become cliché. However, it is also true, and just one of the reasons we love this place.
We have a lot of other tips for new or just special places to visit or experience across Japan.
This lot is just the tip of a massively exciting Japanese iceberg.
We know Japan travel better than anyone and will ensure that your trip to Japan is as incredible (if not more so) as you think it might be. Download the brochure here or contact the InsideJapan team to plan a cultural adventure to suit you, your time frame and interests.