If you’re low of time, big on bullet trains, love culture and want at least a glimpse of Mt Fuji, a day tour from Tokyo to Kyoto and back is possible – although a multi-day trip is recommended to explore this sensational city.
The 700-year-old Nishiki Market is an ambush of culinary delights ranging from Kyoto’s top tofu to boiled quail egg in a baby octupus brain cavity (I know, yum). Its also home to Aritsugu knife shop – a masterchef’s dream shop.
This is simply one of best ground-shaking, chest-pounding, culturally-astounding experiences in Japan. Book tickets well in advance to the Grand Tournament in Tokyo in Jan (or Osaka in March) or special events such as the Retirement ceremony in Feb. Great for the whole family, especially in a box seat (yes, it's totally worth it).
This stunningly photogenic bamboo grove transports you to another time and place. Its tranquillity embodies the spirit of Japan and is particularly hypnotising in a breeze when the bamboo sways
A unique hands-on training dojo that teaches ninja techniques, handed down over 500 years. Includes a gorgeous shop with ninja antiques, kimonos and instant photos if you want to dress up.
One of thousands of Shinto shrines dedicated to Inari, the god of rice, it is famous for the glaring torii gates, mountain trails and general greatness. Its simply a must-see in Kyoto.
Boring name but for those after gifts with a bit of class to take home, inside is a treasure trove for things like woodblock prints, yukata (cotton robes), pottery and jewellery.
This gorgeous, cheap, wonderful, quirky place is perfect for those who tire of regular museums. Make sure you stay a while as every hour the owners flick the switch and light the place up in a veritable kaleidoscope of colour.
Designated a UNESCO world heritage site in 1994, Nijo Castle (Nijojo) is one of the greatest surviving examples of castle palace architecture from the Shogun feudal era. If you happen to be there from late Feb to early March you may also catch the gorgeous plum blossoms.
Considered by locals and visitors alike to be the most classically picturesque Japanese street in the city, Pontocho is a narrow alley filled with all manner of dining delights from street food to 5-star fare.
This is basically every child of the 80's dream come true. "Race" go karts through the mean streets of Tokyo, Kyoto or Osaka dressed as your favourite Mario character. Yoshi is the best! Go Yoshi!!!