If you’re after insider information on where to go and what to do in Japan, there’s perhaps no finer source than Peregrine leader Matsumura Hiroyuki. As you’ll see in his interview, his breadth of knowledge is mammoth.
He’ll show you where to eat, where to shop, where to relax and where all of Japan’s most remarkable sights are. It’s leaders like Matsumura that make Peregrine trips what they are.
What are some of Tokyo’s must-see sights?
I recommend to visit Harajuku. In Harajuku, you can visit Meiji Shrine and Yoyogi Park. On Sundays, you might even see a traditional wedding ceremony procession at Meiji Shrine, which is the biggest Shinto Shrine in Tokyo. Next to Meiji Shrine, there is Yoyogi Park, where group of people in 1950s American attire dance with ‘50s rock'n'roll music!
If you go to Harajuku, you can see the epitome of this country: the mix of solemn tradition and the funky pop culture! Most people don't know this, but to get a true taste of the local culture, I sometimes take my groups to Monja Street in Tokyo. Monja is a local food you cook on a hot plate. Ingredients are flour and water with some vegetables, mainly shredded cabbage, and usually with pork or some seafood.
There are around 60 monja shops along this street. My travellers are often surprised at the liveliness of the atmosphere in these shops. Some people believe that Japanese people are polite and quiet and eat meals with square faces... Monja Street may show some different aspects of Japanese culture!
What local transport do you recommend for travellers to get a true insight to Japan?
Trains and subways! The train system in Japan is highly developed. In general, they come quite frequently. Signs are written in English in big cities like Tokyo and Kyoto and it isn't difficult to understand at all. Both subway lines and train lines are symbolized in color and train or subway stops are numbered so that foreign tourists don't have to be scared!
What is the best accommodation you’ve experiences with Peregrine?
An accommodation in Miyajima is great, the location, the room, the foods, which are included, are all superb! The meal at this local cafe/restaurant, Okonomiyaki in Hiroshima, will have you salivating for days. We have many different kinds of okonomiyaki, which are like pancakes but they’re savoury and you cook on a hot plate.
What about the best places in the country for shopping?
In Tokyo, I recommend Shinjuku and Shibuya. For things Japanese, but not expensive, visit Sensoji Temple in Asakusa. In Kyoto, Teramachi Street, Shinkyogoku Street, and Nishiki food market. Teramchi and Shinkyogoku have everything, from traditional things to modern things, coffee shops, restaurants, gift shops - everything! Nishiki food market is a 400 meter arcaded street that mainly deals with traditional Japanese food ingredients. It is fun to walk down.
Sannenzaka and Ninenzaka are two touristy alleyways, however you can enjoy shopping for beautiful traditional Japanese goods, fans, chopsticks, incenses, tea bowls, you name it!
Are there any local festivals you’d recommend to travellers? The Gion festival in Kyoto, which is held from 1 to 31 of July. On the 17 of July there is a long parade of 33 huge festival floats. In the evening, there are millions of stands on the streets around the festival venues, which is around down town, and people enjoy drinking beer, eating street food and watching the floats! <
strong>Where’s the best place to experience Japan’s art and music scene?
Kabukiza in Tokyo for kabuki, a traditional Japanese style play. Kabuki originated about 400 years ago and it is known for unique theatrics, like loud and flamboyant costumes and makeups, sound effects, music, pausing...etc. To watch the whole show takes about four hours, but you can get one act show ticket, which usually lasts about 40 minutes. It’s great.
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