OUR TRIP TO JAPAN
COMING BACK TO JAPAN – OUR SECOND TRIP TO JAPAN
Here we are, just returned from our second trip to Japan.
Surely returning to places already visited makes you feel completely different emotions, but still very intense.
The amazement and excitement leave room for a feeling that recalls of finding an old friend and telling how he has changed over time.
Yes, because both places and ourselves change a lot and, in a sense, there will never be the same place seen by the same person, because everything is constantly changing.
Walking through the streets of Tokyo, we came across many places that we remembered, but we noticed new details, different colors, forgotten smells and we too were struck by different sensations compared to the first experience.
In short, I highly recommend revisiting a place you have loved, just to appreciate it in a different way and from another point of view. For example, we concentrated less on visiting all the more “tourist” and recommended places and we had the opportunity to enjoy the cities almost as if we were local, looking for little places outside the main streets, small and cozy restaurants with the scent of home.
Before continuing, I would like to tell you that this trip to Japan was organized with the participation and support of JNTO – Japanese National Tourism Organization.
One of the goals of our project was to make a trip to Japan in the name of accessibility, in order to improve and make known the world of wheelchair travel and in general for people with special needs.
So you will find a lot of information about accessibility, companies that work in the sector to improve the services offered, hotels attentive to the usability of their spaces and many useful tips collected in the field.
We also involved many local partners whom we thank very much as they made themselves available to support our project to improve accessible tourism in Japan.
WHY A TRIP TO JAPAN
The last question of my first article (which you can read HERE) was this: why a trip to Japan?
If you ask me, I would answer you: “Because Japan is one of the few places where I really feel at home”.
I had this feeling clearly in my mind since I first arrived.
The Japanese people are one of the kindest, most friendly and respectful I have ever met. Their gestures are always very sweet, but never artificial. Their bows instill respect and kindness at the same time and in a short time it is inevitable to be involve by their way of life.
Second, accessibility. By now you will have understood, Japan is truly one of the most accessible places in the world. Knowing that there are equipped and accessible toilets in every subway or railway station, close to all the tourist and points of interest and in every park is really priceless.
Thanks to the attentions that this Country has had over the years, people can, despite their difficulties, enjoy all its beauties.
Moving from one part of the city to another, as well as crossing the whole Country is really simple thanks to its vaunted and highly efficient railway system.
Wherever it has been possible, you can be sure that a road without architectural barriers has been built and more importantly you perceive the push of an entire country towards the removal of all the barriers.
Last reason (even more personal): I love anime and manga. Obviously Japan is the paradise of anime and manga and hearing the theme-songs of my favorite cartoons or seeing the blow-ups of the characters on thirty-storey buildings is really a thrill.
SPRING OR AUTUMN
The best times to visit and take a trip to Japan are definitely spring and autumn.
Cherry blossoms are something magical, a sight that must be seen at least once in a lifetime.
Before going to Japan, I always saw the movie scenes where the protagonists were wrapped in a cascade of small pink petals that slowly fell towards the ground. But I thought it was the usual exaggeration of the films and instead… I can assure you that the show is even better!
Autumn, on the other hand, gives you a shade of red ranging from fiery red to the typical autumn brown. You can admire entire mountains changing color and the trees in the parks show off their foliage before losing the leaves for the winter.
Unfortunately we arrived a little early to fully enjoy the autumn foliage, but I must admit that when we found the parks in the correct period I was fascinated by them.
Personally, I preferred spring anyway, also because the days are much longer!
ACCESSIBILITY IN JAPAN
As I mentioned, we made this trip to Japan in collaboration with the Japanese National Tourist Board also because I consider Japan one of the most accessible places in the world.
And I will briefly explain why!
In Japan, forget all the problems with Italian trains!
Each train is on the same level as the platform, all train and subway stations are accessible and in each station there is always at least one accessible bathroom, large, very large, clean and almost always available…
I cannot describe how much this changes the everyday-life of a person in a wheelchair and how much this is truly synonymous with autonomy and inclusion.
- Bathrooms and toilets
As I said above, accessible toilets are a strength of the stations, but not only. Public accessible toilets are everywhere. Every point of interest, main temples, castles, parks, shopping malls, larger shops, trains and stations… everywhere there are public toilets, always clean and well marked.
Very often you can also find a wall bed where you can change an adult (like a changing table but for adults), a changing table for children, a kind of baby-chair for your child while the parent carries out his/her basic activities safely.
Another point that really drastically changes daily life, especially in the case of a person with disabilities with children
- Accessible routes
The Japanese have understood that the aesthetic aspect has been surpassed over the centuries by its usability and have therefore built accessible or alternative routes wherever possible. In this way, each garden, temple and point of interest has been made accessible unless it is absolutely impossible.
The Japanese are certainly an introverted and reserved people, but I assure you that they will not hesitate for a second to help you when they see you in difficulty. Those few times we encountered steps, the people around came to help us immediately, every time I tried to open a door a kind gentleman or gentlewoman helped me with a kind bow at the end.
Many architectural barriers can be broken down simply by helping others, even in these small things.
- Modern cities
The Japanese is also famous for technology and being at the forefront of everything and so is for urban planning and architecture. The new buildings and modern areas of the cities have all been built with no architectural barriers, in order to design a world without architectural barriers from the beginning.
- Really inclusive for everyone
I point out that Japan is also accessible to people with visual impairments. Everywhere on the floor there are signs and guides, both inside the stations and around the city. I was really impressed by the attention they put into designing their cities.
To tell you about Tokyo, a 10-page article would be needed only for this city.
We could define Tokyo as a collection of dozens of cities put together, both for its size which makes it one of the largest and most populous cities in the world, but also for the difference and intensity of its neighborhoods.
Starting with a breakfast in Shinjuku, walking through the Ueno park, shopping in Ginza, moving for dinner in Shibuya and then ending up in the game rooms of Akihabara embodies completely different experiences.
Each neighborhood has its own soul and style. Each side street has something to tell, a place to discover and a corner to love.
It is impossible to point the “center” of Tokyo and it is also very difficult to find the main roads.
Yes, because very often you find the main streets of a city, you walk back and forth through these great arteries and return home satisfied. To love Tokyo you can’t do this: Tokyo is lively and alive in every corner and secondary alley; small capillaries leave from its heart and arteries which, in my opinion, are what make Tokyo one of the most lively cities in the world.
It is possible to get lost in this city (literally) without ever getting bored or disappointed.
Anyway, somewhere you have to start, so here are some of my tips on how to visit Tokyo.
WHAT TO SEE IN TOKYO
I start from Shinjuku because thanks to its railway station it is one of the beating hearts of Tokyo and I recommend you start right here: from Shinjuku station.
It is a city within the city, more than 3.5 million passengers pass through here every day and every time we get lost in its infinite corridors. You don’t have to think about one of the usual stations! Trains are just the beginning: shopping malls, shops, restaurants, entertainment… If you don’t spend a few hours in this station you have not tasted Tokyo!
For dinner, I suggest you to go to Omoide Yokocho: it is a small area a few steps from the station (provided that you go out on the right side, there are more than 200 exits!) Characterized by narrow alleys overlooked by small clubs specializing in street food. Try to grab a couple of chairs and enjoy the excellent chicken skewers!
Shibuya is one of the entertainment and youth districts. Colorful and lively, famous for Shibuya Crossing, one of the busiest intersections in the world.
If you are looking for a lively, disruptive neighborhood, where to shop with Japanese teenagers, this is the right neighborhood.
Ginza is the “innest” neighborhood, Tokyo’s 5th Avenue.
You can find all the great luxury (but not only) brands all in one street. And it is right on the way to go to Tsukiji fish market, so it would be a shame not to take a quick look.
A smaller neighborhood, right between Shinjuku and Shibuya which, however, in my opinion, beats them both.
It is probably my favorite neighborhood in Tokyo.
The style, the way of dressing, the clubs and restaurants, the atmosphere you breathe… everything in this neighborhood makes me feel represented, at home.
Starting from Takeshita Street, the street of Kawaii, I suggest you get lost in the side streets and then emerge on Omotesando, the main shopping street.
I recommend a couple of places (not accessible because there is a stairway):
- Totty Candy Factory on Takeshita Street to pick up the biggest cotton candy in the world!
- Reissue: a small place famous for making 3D cappuccino foam with all the animals and manga characters! Too cute!
- Mr Farmer (this only has one step) where you can eat very good and varied salads, usually difficult to find in Japan.
Another beautiful neighborhood on the opposite side of the city from Shinjuku and Shibuya that we rediscovered on this last trip.
It is one of the few remaining “traditional” neighborhoods, where you can admire the small wooden houses typical of the Edo period.
The main attraction is undoubtedly the Senso-ji temple, which I recommend you reaching along Orange Street exiting Asakusa Station.
A few steps from the temple, however, you absolutely must go to Asakusa Kagetudo to taste one of the best Melonpan in Japan!
For those unfamiliar with Melonpan it is a typical Japanese dessert consisting of a brioche / biscuit in the shape of a sandwich cooked in the oven and often served with vanilla ice cream, chocolate or to stay on the theme of matcha tea. Perfect to enjoy walking.
WHERE TO EAT IN TOKYO
Are you looking for the best restaurant in Tokyo?
If you don’t know where to eat in Tokyo, well… honestly I wouldn’t know where to start. We have tried a bit of everything: the chic restaurant, the hidden little place, the home-made restaurant that only makes ramen, the street food and the restaurants in the shopping malls and I can tell you that we have never had a bad meal!
In Tokyo you just have to let yourself be tempted and inspired by the places, smells and sounds of food. Stroll, tease, taste and when you find a place that attracts you… do not hesitate and enter.
Don’t be afraid of queues in Japan! Very often, outside restaurants and not only, you will find long lines of people waiting. Usually it is a good sign and often they are also fast. In Japan it is normal to queue (which is incomprehensible here in Italy) so give your name, sit down and wait for your turn. You will not regret it!
WHERE TO SLEEP IN TOKYO
Tokyo is so big that you cannot find a center and therefore it is impossible to tell you a place to sleep that is suitable for everyone!
Definitely finding a hotel in Tokyo near a main station is a great choice: it will save you a lot of time when traveling, usually there are different activities and clubs in the area and points of interest.
The neighborhoods of Shinjuku and Shibuya certainly have a lot to offer both night and day. Being in the western part of Tokyo they are a bit further away from the other neighborhoods, but moving by train will not be a problem
We slept at the Candeo Hotel Tokyo Shimbashi which was one of our partners for the duration of the trip.
Geographically very central, close to Shimbashi station and obviously completely accessible.
The hotel also has a traditional Onsen on the top floor and a laundry room, very useful for those who travel like us with little stuff in their suitcases and have to wash their clothes from time to time during the holiday.
We were also hosted by one of Tokyo’s historic hotels: the Keio Plaza Hotel.
It is about 5 minutes walk from Shinjuku station, so already for this reason it is excellent, but it is not the location that has struck us most, but its attention to accessibility.
Being a 5-star hotel we all expect a top quality service and I must admit that even the accessible rooms did not disappoint our expectations.
They have a total of 13 universal rooms (10 Deluxe, 2 Luxury Deluxe and also a 67.4 square meter Junior Suite) and have been really designed in an inclusive way. The handles, handrails and accessories in the bathroom, for example, can be moved, changed in height and depth to be adapted to all needs and above all without sacrificing design.
In a few seconds you can change the aids to allow everyone to have a perfect experience.
If you are looking for a 5-star hotel in a perfect and completely accessible location… here is the LINK of the Keio Plaza Hotel
Mount Takao is a place not far from Tokyo and easily reachable by train, where you can spend a day surrounded by nature to have a picnic with an excellent panorama.
We organized this excursion thanks to Ohayo Travel, a travel agency specializing in accessible and inclusive tourism in Japan.
Ohayo Travel’s mission is to help create a society where everyone can travel freely at any time, without problems.
I particularly enjoyed the day together because Mount Takao is a destination still little visited by tourists and therefore we spent a Sunday afternoon like real Japanese, eating our homemade bento in the midst of many families.
Check our article HERE
Our trip to Japan continued on to Hakone.
Hakone is one of Japan’s most famous tourist destinations for bath, or Japanese Onsen.
We were in Hakone both during our first trip and during the second one and personally I recommend it to everyone. It is the perfect place for those looking for a few days of tranquility from the hectic life of Tokyo or from the fatigue of travel.
It is a place where time seems to stand still and your main concern will be which Onsen to choose and which restaurant to eat in.
For lovers of art and culture, Hakone also offers many museums.
What we liked most is definitely the Open Air Museum, where all the artworks are outdoors in the middle of a park.
HOW TO REACH HAKONE
It is about an hour and a half from Tokyo and a couple of hours from Kyoto.
I recommend you to reach Hakone with the Odakyu Romance Car line that connects Shinjuku station with the town of Hakone.
Odakyu is one of the partners who participated in our project. It is a private railway company that mainly exhibits in the Hakone area. It does not only provide rail transport services, but also has bus and shuttle services (all accessible) in Hakone, has several hotels, restaurants and shops in the area.
In addition, two of the most characteristic attractions are also organized by the Odakyu group: the Cruise on the Lake, the famous lake tour on pirate vessels, and the cable car that takes you from the town to the departure pier for the cruise passing from the top of the Owakudani volcano. Try boiled black eggs in thermal springs which apparently have the power to extend life!!
Another great way to get to Hakone and avoid the busiest routes by tourists is starting from Kyoto passing by Mishima, a quick stop at SkyWalk, a suspension bridge from which you can admire Mount Fuji (with a clear sky) and then continue towards the Cruise on the Lake to finally reach Hakone via the cable car and return to Tokyo with the Romance Car line.
If you want to spend a few days in Hakone in the name of relaxation, I highly recommend that you take the Hakone Free Pass which will give you free or discounted access to all the activities listed above.
You can look at this LINK for all the detailed information
A service that I believe is convenient for everyone, especially if you have a lot of luggage or have some mobility problems, is the luggage delivery service.
At the arrival station in Hakone you will find the counter to leave your suitcases just before the lift and they will be delivered directly to your hotel.
Prices range from around € 6 to just over € 10 each suitcase (depending on the size) and you can take advantage of a discount with the Hakone Free Pass. I recommend checking HERE for the service hours and details.
WHAT TO DO IN HAKONE
Surely the unmissable activity is the thermal bath! Many hotels have hot springs inside, otherwise you can choose from the dozens of resorts scattered throughout the area.
Most of the traditional Japanese Onsens are divided between male and female and therefore if you have a disability and travel with a person of the opposite sex it will not be possible to enter together and get help in case you need it.
I therefore recommend contacting the property and requesting a private room in order to enjoy a break and rest in an onsen without difficulty.
In addition, tattoos are very often prohibited, so even in this case it would be better to book Onsen with private rooms.
Cruise on the Lake
Lake Hakone is one of the main attractions and making a small crossing on board a pirate vessel is something not to be missed. There are several departure piers that you can see HERE
In addition, the boats are fully accessible with a fully equipped bathroom and a lift to climb to the upper decks!
On cloudless days, you can also see Mount Fuji during the cruise.
Thermal baths always travel in pairs with volcanoes and geothermal activity. In fact, in Hakone you can climb to the top of the Owakudani volcano (unless the activity is excessive and therefore access is forbidden) and taste the famous boiled black eggs.
The best way to reach the top of the volcano is definitely via the cable car that starts from the town of Gora and goes directly to one of the starting points of the cruise on the lake.
On this WEBSITE you can check the ticket prices and also the activity of the volcano.
Choan-Ji temple – The temple with 500 Buddhas
Little known and slightly out of the way, this temple hides 500 small statues in the surrounding forest. As soon as you arrive, the atmosphere seems almost surreal and each statue has its own expression and seems to tell its own story. It is a small temple but Andrea and I spent a lot of time there! If you have a few free hours, I absolutely recommend it!
WHERE TO SLEEP IN HAKONE
Hakone is the right city to pamper yourself and indulge in some vices.
I recommend you choose a hotel with an internal Onsen and maybe even a restaurant.
We slept at the Hotel De Yama, an Odakyu group hotel that hosted us in Hakone.
If you are looking for a quiet place surrounded by nature then this hotel is for you.
Another hotel that really impressed us is the Hakone Yutowa which also has rooms / apartments (condominium) available for those who want to stay for several days and also want to have the kitchen and spaces of an apartment available!
I leave you the LINK for further information and reservations.
Kanazawa is a “small” city (when compared to the immense Tokyo) on the western coast of Japan, at the foot of the Japanese Alps.
It can be reached from Tokyo in about 3 hours with the Shinkansen.
If you have time, I recommend a quick stop for lunch in Nagano, in the heart of the Japanese Alps, and visit the Zenko-Ji temple.
If you want to walk from the station it is about 30 minutes and the walk is certainly pleasant but I warn you that the road is mainly uphill, so if you are in a wheelchair or have difficulty walking long distances you could opt for the bus.
Kanazawa is much more intimate than big cities like Tokyo and Kyoto and has an almost homey flavor. It is famous for the gold works and art and you can find this precious metal really everywhere, from face creams to the top of ice cream!
WHAT TO SEE IN KANAZAWA
If I had only a few hours to spend in Kanazawa during my trip to Japan I would have no doubts about what to see: the Kenroku-en garden. Just a few steps away from Kanazawa Castle there is this simply wonderful park. Suggestive in autumn and romantic in spring, it is one of the most beautiful parks I have ever seen in the world.
There is harmony, passion, dedication and perfection. I can’t explain what makes this garden so special, but it’s definitely something not to be missed.
Hoping that you have more than a few hours I recommend you go to the Omicho Market for lunch (I love markets around the world) and then continue to Higashiyama, the geisha district.
Here it is mandatory to try ice cream with the gold leaf on top, which satisfies more the eyes than the palate, because personally I didn’t feel the taste…
Another recommended neighborhood is Nagamachi: the samurai neighborhood. It is a quiet neighborhood on the opposite side of the castle, very characteristic where you can also visit a traditional samurai house.
WHERE TO EAT IN KANAZAWA
Even here in Kanazawa I have a couple of tips:
- Kourin Sushi: a small, indeed very small, local, but perhaps the best sushi we have tried in Japan. Andrea particularly liked it for its welcoming and homely atmosphere, but at the same time very traditional.
- Morihachi Main Store: a local / pastry shop that we discovered by chance while walking. On the ground floor it sells traditional Japanese sweets, while upstairs it is possible to have a tasting of sweets and tea. Truly a pleasant place for a short stop while walking.
After Kanazawa we continued our journey to Japan to Kyoto.
Well… what to say, no trip to Japan is complete without visiting Kyoto
Kyoto is probably the city that best embodies the spirit of Japan. The perfect union between tradition and present, between sacred and worldly. Certainly one of the most romantic cities in the world.
HOW TO VISIT KYOTO
Kyoto certainly has a lot to offer, but first of all are its hundreds of temples. I therefore recommend getting up early in the morning, taking the train to move to the outskirts of the city and then visiting the temples returning to the center.
Yes, because there are a lot of temples to visit, some a little outside the city and unfortunately they all close around 5 p.m., so you cannot postpone the visit in the second afternoon.
After 5 p.m. you can devote a few more hours to shopping and look for some indoor areas, because especially in autumn when the sun goes down the temperature drops a lot.
HOW TO MOVE AROUND KYOTO
The subway in Kyoto is much less developed than in Tokyo, as are the railways. In addition, some temples are not close to the main lines, so my advice is to move around Kyoto on foot and for long distances I recommend taking a taxi. We preferred the taxi over public transport because it is generally faster, it takes us directly to the destination and we usually paid about € 6-7 each ride.
BEST PLACES IN KYOTO
- Fushimi Inari-Taisha Shrine: it is perhaps one of the most famous and characteristic places in Japan, the cover of many tourist guides and the protagonist of countless photos on Instagram! Here you will find the famous red doors.
For those who are not practical, the red doors mark a path that starts from the sanctuary and reaches the top of Mount Inari at about 233 meters above sea level. Although several sections are asphalted and smooth, the whole route is obviously uphill and unfortunately it is not possible to arrive at the beginning of the wheelchair climb since there is no barrier-free way. Before going up there is a “side” path, but on an uphill dirt road, so unfortunately it will be a bit complicated. Once you arrive on the route, however, you can travel long stretches without problems.
- Kiyomizu-dera: a Buddhist temple from which you can admire the city from above. Being on top of a hill it is better to take a taxi or you can walk from below. The path is completely accessible, even if you have to make a nice climb. I recommend you to go here at sunset to enjoy an incredible show.
- Sanneizaka and Nineizaka: to reach Kiyomizu-dera you will pass through these beautiful and very characteristic neighborhoods. It will seem to jumped into medieval Japan and you can almost imagine how it could have been a few centuries ago.
- Kamo Shrine: this lesser known but very beautiful shrine is located north of the city. We were lucky enough to see two weddings in half an hour, complete with newlyweds dressed in traditional clothes, so perhaps this also contributed to the atmosphere.
Here you will also find the red doors as in Fushimi Inari, but this time they are a lot of steps…
For all the manga-lovers like me, here they “shot” the new film Hello World by Tomohiko Ito, some scenes are set in this sanctuary.
- Kinkaku-ji: the famous golden temple that is reflected on the lake.
- The Imperial Palace and Nijo Castle: not far from each other, there are two palaces that show the splendor of a lost era. The Imperial Palace has very beautiful gardens and they can both be visited entirely since they no longer host members of the emperor’s family.
- Sanjusangen-do: a beautiful perfectly accessible Buddhist temple, complete with paved paths in the middle of the gravel and wheelchair rental service. They did a remarkable job on accessibility.
ONE DAY AS A GEISHA
Have you ever dreamed of spending a day feeling like a Geisha? To be able to seduce a man with a single glance? Well… what better place to do it than in Kyoto.
The best way is to rent a kimono for a day in the countless shops across the city. Prices vary a lot depending on the quality of the kimono, the accessories or added services that you choose (bags, shoes, make-up and hair style …), but they are around € 60-100 for the whole day.
Another option is to buy it directly and take it as a souvenir. Almost all the stores will give you the opportunity to choose between the two options, although usually the rental shops have less choice regarding the kimonos for sale and vice versa.
In any case, it is a truly essential experience during your next trip to Japan.
SHOPPING IN KYOTO
Now you may be wondering what to do after 5 p.m. and having visited all these temples … the answer is SHOPPING!
I recommend some areas that are, in my opinion, the most suitable to spend a few hours before dinner.
- Shijo Dori: the long shopping street that leads directly to Gion the district of geishas and entertainment. Here you will find shops, malls and several restaurants.
- Shinkyogoku and Teramachi Kyogoku: two completely covered shopping streets, perpendicular to Shijo Dori, perfect in case it rains.
- Nishiki Market: the inevitable city market, for eating, buying souvenirs and shopping.
WHERE TO EAT IN KYOTO
- Kiyamachi-dori: a tiny road, right at the bottom of Shijo-dori, full of restaurants. I especially recommend Kappa Sushi, which you can find HERE
- Nishiki Market: it is an excellent solution if you want to tease a little while you continue to walk
- Hanamikoji-dori: a street in Gion that lights up at night and creates an almost magical atmosphere. Full of restaurants, especially meat.
Although Kyoto and Osaka are very close (it takes about 15 minutes with the Shinkansen) they are actually profoundly different.
Osaka is a much more modern, youthful and … illuminated city. There are entire streets which at night are almost more illuminated than during the day, with signs in motion several meters high and entire buildings as a showcase for titanic-sized advertisements.
HOW TO VISIT OSAKA
Unlike Kyoto, here I recommend getting up later, since most businesses open around 9.30 and 10 a.m., and go on living the city until late at night.
The most touristic part of Osaka is not very large and it is therefore possible to walk around it. To move, I recommend the subway compared to the JR railways, so if you plan to make several trips, I recommend that you make the day ticket, thanks to which you can save a little.
WHAT TO SEE IN OSAKA
The best neighborhoods to do in Osaka are also those related to shopping and entertainment.
Probably the most characteristic neighborhood in the city. Illuminated signs, shopping centers, restaurants and … giant crabs! Certain corners of Namba seem to come from the fantasy of a Japanese manga.
Here you will find the famous Ebisu Bridge, one of the most popular places in the city.
Walk north along the main Mido-suji road, or choose to go to Shinsaibashi-suji, much more characteristic. It is a much smaller street, always crowded and full of people, sometimes almost claustrophobic, but at the same time electrifying.
The other major center of Osaka is Umeda, home of the city’s main station (not the Shinkansen station which is still a little further north).
It is about 4 km (2.5 miles) from Namba station, but I still recommend you walk it at least once and stop in one of the thousands of shops (some not so small) on the street.
If you want to save time, however, you can take the subway that will take you from one station to another in about 15 minutes.
Umeda is a more modern and somewhat quieter neighborhood than Namba.
You can also go up to the Umeda Sky Building from which you can look down on the city.
Between Osaka and Namba
Very suggestive is the small temple of Tsuyu Tenjinsha (Ohatsu Tenjin) which was dedicated to two lovers who, unable to be together, committed suicide in this temple. It is a destination for many lovers to bless their love. It is hidden in the middle of the skyscrapers, so you can try to find it yourself, or click HERE and let Google Maps do the rest!!
Discounts and “skip the line”
The first important information is that if you want to access discounts or privileges you must present your disability coupon IN ORIGINAL when purchasing tickets.
Unfortunately, we left it in the car at the airport and therefore they only granted us a discount.
If you present the certificate of disability you can request:
- a discount on the entrance ticket
- Guest Support Pass: will give you the opportunity to wait for your turn for attractions in a dedicated area.
- Universal Express Pass: will give you the opportunity to access the priority line for access to attractions and wait less in line.
More information on the site HERE in the barrier-free guide section
USJ – Universal Studio of Japan
Maybe some of you will remember my article on Disneyland Paris.
Obviously we could not miss the Universal Studios of Osaka on our trip to Japan.
The theme of course are all the films produced by Universal Studios in these years.
There are fewer rides than Disneyland Paris (if you’re wondering: no, we didn’t go to Disneyland Tokyo… yet!) But it really feels like entering a movie set.
Surely the most beautiful area ever is the one dedicated to Harry Potter. They rebuilt the village of Hogsmeade with truly sensational care and precision.
We couldn’t get that dumb smile off our faces!
The Jurassic Park part is also beautiful (with a lot of dinosaur shows, some were really scary…)
And then I loved the Minions part… what can I do, I love cartoons. We also tried to win a puppet, but unfortunately we weren’t good enough at throwing bananas.
Accessibility to USJ
The paths inside the park are all barrier-free, as are the restaurants and shops.
There are accessible toilets in all the bathrooms, although personally I found that they are not signaled at best (often we had to ask) and there are not many.
Unfortunately, we had problems with the attractions, because at the entrance we were given information different from the ones given from the staff of the individual attractions and different from the Guest Service.
Only 3 attractions are prohibited for wheelchair users for safety reasons and are: Hollywood Dream, The Flying Dinosaur and Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey.
Unfortunately, however, the staff of the attractions has forbidden us access to almost any carousel (even to the “spinning-cups”…), so we went to ask the Guest Service for explanations which confirmed that only these 3 attractions are prohibited, while all the others are accessible.
TIP: as soon as you enter, go to the Guest Service (as soon as you enter on the left) and have the attractions you cannot do marked (if something changes) and then explain to the staff that you have spoken to the manager.
WHERE TO SLEEP IN OSAKA
At least in Osaka the answer is easy: in the neighborhoods of Namba or Umeda.
We stayed at the Candeo Hotel Osaka Namba. Very central, excellent starting point for visiting the city on foot and, as in Tokyo, a top floor Spa and a laundry room.
We chose the Candeo Hotels because we wanted to find an accessible solution to count on in many cities in Japan and I was sincerely very satisfied with their services and excellent locations in the city.
I leave you the LINK for more information as we really enjoyed our time!
WHERE TO EAT IN OSAKA
More than where to eat, I recommend where NOT to eat: in restaurants on the main streets, those with huge signs and giant crabs and 4-meters-size sushi.
My advice is to take a nice photo, take a look around and go in one of the side streets. Walk for 5 minutes in any direction and you will find a huge selection of excellent restaurants, at a much better price and with much less queue.
I recommend one in particular in the Namba district: Tsurutontan Soemoncho and you can find it HERE
It makes some great soups and the biggest ramen dishes I’ve seen! And Andrea say that too, so you can believe him. I recommend taking a plate of ramen in broth and some appetizers and then share everything!
No trip to Japan is complete without a visit to Nara park.
For those who do not know it, it is not its trees, its meadows or its ponds that make this park wonderful, but … the fawns!
Thousands and thousands of tender fawns that roam free throughout the park. You can touch them, feed them (only with biscuits sold on the spot) and obviously take lots of photos.
Attention: although most of them seem cute and cuddly, they are still wild animals and it is therefore always better to pay a little attention. Plus some… bite! Be careful when you buy the biscuits and start giving them to two cute puppies, because in a moment you will be chased by an angry pack of hungry deer.
HOW TO GO TO NARA
Reaching Nara is very easy from both Osaka and Kyoto and it takes about an hour in both cases.
You can therefore decide to organize the trip to the park starting from the city where you spend more nights or where you have more time available.
Once you arrive at the station, follow the signs for the park (or follow the crowd) and personally I recommend you take a walk to the park (about half an hour). The road is smooth, but a bit uphill.
OKAYAMA E KURASHIKI
This year we decided to visit these two “villages”, Okayama has 700.000 inhabitants and Kurashiki 470.000, but compared to Tokyo and Osaka they certainly have the flavor of the country village.
How to travel to Okayama
Very easy! Obviously the answer is by train! You can take Shinkansen from Shin-Osaka station and reach Okayama in less than 2 hours (Shinkansen takes 48 minutes, but Shin-Osaka station is slightly north of Umeda station)
What to see in Okayama
Koraku-en: this garden is considered to be one of the top three gardens in Japan (along with Kanazawa’s and Mito, north of Tokyo). It is very large and you can walk through its narrow streets, bridges and paths. As in all Japanese gardens, as soon as you enter you will feel the calm that the place infuses.
Obviously perfectly accessible, except for a few bridges built only with zigzag axes, easily circumvented by an accessible path (perhaps they were more an ornament than real bridges…)
Okayama Castle: exactly in front of the Koraku-en garden you will see its castle. You can also make a single ticket to visit both.
How to travel to Kurashiki
From Okayama station you can reach Kurashiki in about 15 minutes by train.
What to see in Kurashiki
The most beautiful area of Kurashiki is undoubtedly the canal area. You can start your walk at the Ohara Museum of Art and follow the canal for about 1 km (0.6 miles).
Some say that Kurashiki is considered the Venice of Japan. Surely the boats and the small canal can remember Venice, but at least this time I have to give Italy a point and admit that I found Venice more characteristic.
To make the most of your day you can make the first stop in Himeji in the morning, have lunch in Okayama and visit the Koraku-en in the early afternoon and walk around Kurashiki as soon as it starts to get dark because with the evening lights everything becomes much more romantic then continue to Hiroshima or go back to Osaka.
SOME CRITICAL ISSUES
I also want to point out the problems in Japan for those with a disability, because it certainly cannot be perfect in every aspect.
- Small spaces
Due to the high density of inhabitants, especially in Tokyo, very often they tried to make the most out of every little corner, so hotel rooms are generally very small (often even accessible ones) as well as spaces in some restaurants
- The crowd
Although Japanese are very careful and respectful of others’ personal space, you will almost always be surrounded by thousands of people in all directions. I understand that this can make it more difficult to move around the city on your own.
- The oldest neighborhoods
There are neighborhoods, especially in Kyoto, where they have kept the original or traditional buildings and architecture, therefore small streets, steps and buildings not accessible. Very often it is possible to find an alternative route, but there are certainly areas of Japan that are not accessible or at least less accessible.
CONCLUSIONS OF OUR TRIP TO JAPAN
You will have understood it, I really have an immense love for this Country and for its people. As soon as I set foot in Japan I felt at home.
It is no coincidence that this was the longest article I wrote (and I still restrained myself) because I could really go on talking about Japan for hours without ever getting tired.
I hope it is not too long (but let me know in the comments) and I hope it has given you some useful information on accessibility, such as visiting Japan and has given you a little desire to visit this Country.
At last, Tokyo will host the next 2020 (maybe 2021) Summer Olympic Games. What better time to drop by in Japan?
See you soon to the next article…