Welcome to Japan – written on the sign above the arrival hall in the airport. Guess what? It will probably be the last time you saw a sign written in English.
Things to know before traveling to Japan
Say goodbye to English language
I’ve visited so many countries that for me, this experience was quite shocking. In Europe, almost everyone knows at least basics in English and communication with one another is quite easy there. In Japan almost nobody talks in English, but if you need any help, they will be happy to be there for you. Japanese people are very friendly, warm, honest and helpful. On the other hand, be careful with the last one. If you are lost in the city and you ask somebody for a direction make sure that they understand what you are asking for. They can even take your there, walk you to the doors of the place you want to go, but sometimes because of misunderstanding they can take you somewhere else, and you can get lost even more. In this and other cases firstly I suggest you to download “Google Translate” app from AppStore or GooglePlay and download offline language packs. You will thank me later.
Secondly, I recommend you to rent Wi-Fi station (You can find those in Tourism information centers in the Airport). Prices are quite low, mentioning that it will be unlimited data. I.E. 30 days of unlimited data could cost you less than 100€/$. Considering that you will have a Wi-Fi station for couple of devices.
Have some cash
Third one, but I guess I should have mentioned it at first – take some cash. At least 500€/$, because in some places you can pay only by cash. In this case you will avoid additional taxes for using local ATM’s.
Ok, so you are ready and set to go out of the airport. First, there are plenty of choices how to get out of there to the nearest city (or the city you want to go) so it is your decision: bus, train, taxi, High-Speed boats (yes, in some airports). Cheapest is bus, than train and try to avoid taxi – it is expensive.
So those are the basic things you need to know before you go to Japan.
This time let’s visit Hamamatsu-shi in Shizuoka prefecture.
Some locals would call this city industrial because of some key industries as textile, die-works and musical instrument and others could call this city “The city of music”, here are two big companies that manufacture musical instruments: Yamaha and Kawai. And also here are museum of music instruments as well. And music festivals, of course, for those you might want to visit website of Hamamatsu city.
The best restaurants, cafes and bars
I guess that after a long trip all you want is a delicious food to fill your stomach, so here is some places you must, or you would like to visit:
Hamamatsu city is known for the best meatballs in Japan (personal opinion). You must visit Sawayaka Restaurant – it is known for meatballs. Trust me, you want to try them and how they serve them is interesting experience. For about 15€/$ you can get your stomach full there.
Japan is known for its “All you can…” buffet. There are bars where you pay 10€/$ and you can drink as much as you can. Time limit is about 2 hours. I guess it is enough, right? But first let’s try “Steak Gusto”. All you can eat buffet. You just need to order a main dish here, which is marked with salad bar and drink (no alcohol) stickers so you would be able to use those two as much as you want. After all this you just pay for the main dish, which is approximately 10€/$. I spent there like 3 hours till I became immovable.
Maybe you would like some Thai food? “Bangkok Café” – a Thai restaurant that will serve you some good traditional Thai food for a good price. Friendly staff and delicious food. Hungry? So many places to go in the city center but hard to chose where? It is an easy decision – “Bangkok Café”.
Now we are full, lets get some drinks, right?
Of course, you can choose places were “All you can drink” is available or got to some popular, crowded place, where you have to fight your way to the bar. I suggest you neither of them, lets go to some cozy secret (I like to call it) bar were you can get some delicious pica and good drought beer (ask for Nama). Kagiya bar – international place for you and your friends. At first it is quite difficult to find how to get there but once you do it – you want to go back. Need to mention that it is that rear place in the city where you can communicate in English.
Doesn’t sound good?
No name bar
Maybe you want to visit “No name bar”. Turkish place with great cocktails and beer, nachos and kebab. Try to order “Day special cocktail” – everyday it is different and strong. This place is also kind of international so you will probably meet someone from west countries.
We are full and drunk and ready to visit some places in Hamamatsu (I suggest you to do it before getting drunk).
Places to visit in Hamamatsu
Hamamatsu castle (Shusse castle)
Firstly, you should visit Hamamatsu Castle, also known as Shusse Castle. Small castle could be found on the mountain by the City Hall. You like Japanese architecture? Visit this place. You like nature, parks, etc? You must visit this Castle and the park around it. Schedule at least 2 hours there. Visiting castle won’t take long, but park by the castle is something really amazing (or maybe it is just me, a guy who loves nature). There are some waterfalls, small temple for your meditation (if you practice some), walk in bamboo forest, kind of jungle looking places and at the end of park, there is an area for your family and pets near the café. If being honest, I spend in that park for like 4 hours and only left because I was hungry. I liked the surroundings and calmness. It is really hard to believe, that such a park in the center of the city, were lots of tourist comes can be so quite and so calm that you can lose your sense of time. Moreover, there are lots of cherry trees called “Sakura” you all know what it is and how beautiful it can be. In that case I suggest you come visit Japan on spring. Sakura blooms here for couple of weeks. The exact time depends on place you are going to, so better check Cherry blossom blooming forecast to not miss it.
By the way, if you like art, there is art museum by the Castle if you would like to visit. Try it.
Talking about Sakura, and especially for nature lovers – visit “Sanaru lake” there is Sakura drive-in or walk-in tunnels on both sides of the river. For astonishing photos and to check your to-do-list. You really don’t want to miss this view – believe me. Sanaru lake is a good place to have a morning or evening run around it (it is about 5 km). I suggest you come there at the “Golden Hour” (Android or iOS), astonishing view and no need to mention, but its for free. So, what are you waiting for?
Would you like to swim in the Pacific Ocean? Lets go to Sand Dunes. It is big and sandy and big. What else could I say? The sand dunes was build to protect city from tsunami (there was no any in this city, but still you have to be careful). Probably you will see lots of pine trees by the coast. So guess what? Hamamatsu city is called by the name of the coast pine trees. Hama – coast, matsu – pine tree. Interesting right? By the way, bring some bread there or you are gonna make those little turtles cry. Yes, there is little ponds with little turtles swimming there. So cute and so aww…
Hamamatsu city museum
Would you like to know more about Hamamatsu history? Check in the Hamamatsu city museum. The museum itself is not big, it can take about 15 min (if you can’t read Japanese language) and about 30-45 min (if you know how to read it). Of course, like everywhere else, there is a park by the museum where you can try old Japanese style houses (not just look from a distance but walk inside too). It is very interesting experience when you try to imagine how everything was there. Get your time to walk in Shijimizuka park and check all these things there. You won’t regret it. Unless you are not that type of a person who likes history and nature.
Bring home some souvenirs
I know that souvenirs are old thing to do, and nobody are bringing them from journey but this is Japan. C’mon, seriously, here are some stuff you won’t find anywhere else. I.E. Ice cream made of sweet potatoes. It tastes like it sounds. But about ice creams there will be another blog so keep checking. Or a wasabi KitKat, Milk IceTea and so on. Of course, there are also some non-edible and useful souvenirs to bring to your family. For all those you have to check 100-yen or so called 1$ shops here. Yes, you guessed right, you can buy everything for 1$ each. Cheap.
Are you ready for your trip to Japan?
Wondering what to pack? Check out my Packing list
Accommodation: find the best deals of hotels and hostels in Hamamatsu
Tap water: you can drink a tap water in Hamamatsu so don’t forget your water bottle.
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