This is the view of the sulphur hot springs from the cable car in Hakone (1.25-hour train ride from Tokyo). Yellow bits of sulphur and the smell of rotten eggs filled the lightly-snowing air that afternoon. Hakone is a good place to visit for a day trip.
At the open area of the Ten-Zan hot spring in Hakone after a really relaxing few hours. This onsen is a little out-of-the-way but it is very authentic and is highly recommended. At 1200 yen per visit, you can't go wrong. There were so many naked see-no-touch hot young muscular guys around and they got me so bothered that I had to visit some see-and-touch establishments back in Tokyo that very night!
This is the famous Nishiki Market in Kyoto (2.25-hour bullet train ride from Tokyo).
Visiting markets is one of the must-do things during all of my holidays. Having lots of free samples available for tasting is just one of the many reasons why.
Things on sale at the market can be as intricate as carved root vegetables (top picture) and as unknown as the stuff shown in the middle picture.
The wonderful thing about these market stalls is how specialised the goods on sale are, be it pickled vegetables, tea, seaweed or steamed egg rolls!
Kyoto is the old capital of Japan and these (refurbished) streets have been done up in a way to mimic the olden days—definitely a different feel here compared to the oft-claustrophobic metropolis we call Tokyo.
Monks seen at a Kyoto subway station. What you can't see from this picture is how disciplined their actions and movements are (think military precision).
Don't be fooled by this huge Christmas tree at my Kyoto hotel lobby. Japanese are not big with this Christian holiday—them taking down the festive decorations before midnight on Christmas Day is a dead giveaway.
The nice little creek that runs through the city gives Kyoto a very peaceful feel. And where else can you find seat cushions at a bus stop?
In the top left you can see queueing directions on the small floor area of an ATM booth (how uniquely-Japanese) and in the bottom left a solution borne out of a lack of space. Top right shows a little garden that pops out of nowhere in the shopping district and bottom right shows mannequins found nowhere else but in Japan, the most polite country in the world.
If you want to see the most temples and shrines in the shortest amount of time, Nara Park (1-hour train ride from Kyoto) is the place to go. Deers roam wild there and create their own little problems, both to the visitors and the cleaners.
It was a rainy night when I was in Osaka (0.5-hour train ride from Kyoto). This is Doutonbori, one of the hipper places. The transparent umbrellas are the flavour of the day and I bought one too.
The longest shopping street in the country (Tenjinbashisuji) can be found in Osaka. 2.6-km of pure retail joy and some of the things on sale have really misleading labelling!
Love hotels are quite commonplace in Japan and this one in Osaka is very aptly-named.
Due to a lack of space, a lot of businesses (particularly bars) set up shop in apartment blocks and thus a block can house a lot of bars (note: "2F" means 2nd floor), some of which can only have 5 or so people in them at any one time. The one pictured above is from Osaka (straight joints) but I have been to the ones in the Tokyo gay area (Shinjuku Ni-Chome)—they are a must-see for all gay visitors!