Christmas in Japan

In America, Christmas is celebrated for religious reasons, but it's also as a celebration of friends, family, and giving. While most of us spend time with our families or friends, in Japan, it's the most romantic holiday of the year- even more so than Valentine's Day!

Shimmering lights and the colder weather can make a lot of us want to be in relationships, which is why it's so easy to relate with Christmas in Japan! On Christmas, couples exchange gifts, eat strawberry shortcake, and enjoy the lights all around the country.

This year, if you want to try a new kind of Christmas, try a romantic trip to Japan- it's the perfect way to celebrate the end of a wonderful year and the beginning of something new with a significant other.

Staying in a ryokan

A ryokan, or a traditional Japanese-style inn, has become a must for most travelers going to Japan.

This is completely understandable: where else in the world can you sleep on bamboo (tatami) mat floors on futon, bathe in hot springs, and be served traditional Japanese full-course meals in your room?

An amazing ryokan, though, can really impact your budget- to stay in a high-quality ryokan during a peak travel season (like during cherry blossoms or fall foliage) can set you back over $1,000 per night. While there are cheap ryokan out there, you might not find yourself getting the experience that you want.

This post, then, is dedicated to how to get the kind of experience you want that fits into your budget.

1. Plan ahead. Within the last year alone, travel to Japan has increased by about 50%. That's a huge increase, and hotels and ryokan haven't quite caught up yet. This means that accommodations book quickly, and sooner than expected. Hotels and ryokan can be booked about a year in advance, and that's probably the best time to do it. 

2. Consider traveling during off season. Personally, I like doing this anyway because it means that everywhere is less crowded. This is a great option if you like temples and shrines, too, because it means you'll have a little more peaceful alone time. For ryokan, though, it means you have a better chance at booking a room, and it could be cheaper, too.

3. Don't spend every night in a ryokan. Even though it may seem like a hassle, it might be worth it to splurge just for one or two nights on a truly amazing ryokan, and to book a simple, no-frills hotel for the rest of your stay. That way, you can get the experience of it without breaking the bank.

Japan and WiFi

Japan doesn't have a lot of free WiFi. It's true.

No matter what you've heard about Japan and electronics (which are amazing-heated toilets and airplane windows that darken when you push a button, touch screens to order almost anything at an izakaya, bullet trains...) WiFi isn't readily available for free. Before you go, definitely check that your hotel offers free WiFi, and make sure you're set for tethering your devices and have a portable router. It's worth it, we promise.

From The New York Times Travel- Solo in Tokyo

View the original article here.

"Tokyo is an ideal city for solo travel. Tables for two or more are not the default arrangement, thanks to standing sushi bars and long counters at restaurants specializing in tempura, ramen and soba. It is not uncommon to sit opposite a sushi chef and talk, or to order a meal from a restaurant ticket machine and enjoy it on a stool alongside other solo diners. At department store food halls, one can buy bento boxes, hot dumplings, and savory pancakes known as okonomiyaki and dig in at nearby tables. And at any 7-Eleven (they’re ubiquitous and a go-to lunch spot) onigiri, balls of rice filled with meat, fish or vegetables that fit in your palm, can be had for a couple of dollars for a tasty lunch on the run."

No one to travel with? No worries. There are few places in the world that are as accessible and as open as Japan for single travelers.

Discovering Japan can be incredible when done on your own. Not only is it one of the safest countries in the world, but people are kind, welcoming, and helpful. Traveling on your own also allows you to be open to meeting new people, instead of just focusing on your travel partner or group.

Something else that's really special about traveling in Japan on your own is how peaceful it can be. Whether you're getting lost in a crowd in downtown Tokyo or exploring a shrine, it's easy to find peaceful moments. Most of us think about "zen" when we think about Japan, and there's a reason for that. Getting lost in Japan is far from stressful- instead, ending up in gardens off the beaten track, seeing tranquil neighborhoods, and finding that perfect little cafe- that's what getting lost, alone, in Japan is all about.