Japan on a budget - Part 3 - Orlando / Florida Guide
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There is one thing you can certainly count on once you are in Japan and that is that you are never going to be very far from a mountain. The ratio of upland areas compared to coastal areas is very high as you would expect from a series of islands force up out of the sea. There are ample hiking opportunities within easy reach of most major cities. These range from challenging multi day hikes in the Japan Alps to gentler walks that can be completed in a few hours.
If you want a taste of earlier times then follow the Nakasendo trail in Nagano’s Kiso Valley, or the old Tokaido highway between Hakone and Mishima. These are routes that historically linked Tokyo and Kyoto. When the weather’s good, the trails along the north shore of Lake Kawaguchi in Yamanashi prefecture offer spectacular views of Mount Fuji across the water.
Hot springs (onsen) are equally abundant, and worth seeking out, especially so after a walk or hike. In Nozawa (Nagano prefecture) and Kusatsu (Gunma prefecture), there are public bathhouses which are maintained by the local communities, visitors are welcome to use for no charge. If you are in the first of these areas then check out the centrally located Oyu bathhouse, while the bracingly hot Shirahata-no-yu in Kusatsu, is worth a try if you are in the second area. In more remote rural areas, especially further north, you can still find outdoor baths that are open to the public, but you’ll need to shed your inhibitions along with your clothes to enjoy them properly.
One thing to check is the Japan National Tourism Organization website (jnto. go. jp) to see if there are any traditional festivals (matsuri) happening during your trip. These energetic celebrations offer a fascinating window into Japanese culture, and there are hundreds of them taking place throughout the year, and of course all of them are free.
At the peak of summer, you can also catch spectacular fireworks displays almost every night. Renting a bicycle can end up saving money on transport, while allowing you to enjoy your surroundings at a more leisurely pace. Just be sure to shop around, you should be able to find a bike for JPY500 (£4) a day in Tokyo or Kyoto, but some places will charge a lot more. If you are a keen cyclist then you may want to consider the Shimanami Kaido , an island hopping 70km bike route that traverses the Seto Inland Sea between Hiroshima and Ehime prefectures. Bikes can be rented for ¥1, 000 a day (£7. 50), and bridge tolls are being waived for cyclists until the end 2018, although this may be extended.
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