Now that most parts of the world have recovered from the detrimental effects of the pandemic, it’s maybe the best time to pack your dusty Samsonites and plan a trip outside of your country. When the word ‘vacation’ comes to mind, many of you will think about the pristine waters of Bali and Phuket or maybe the Yuzus at Jeju Island in South Korea but you haven’t seen anything yet if you’ve never looked to the east and explored the land of the rising sun; Japan.

For many of us, Japan is a country known for its unique and modest culture, subcultures, food, anime exports and art. Whether you heard them from friends or seen them in anime, books or vlogs, the stories about Japan are always surreal. But believe me when I say, that whatever you know about Japan will change once you arrive in Narita or Haneda.

We recently visited Japan ourselves and we’re telling you right now: you have to see it to believe it. Here’s why:

A Whole New World

If you’re from SEA and have never set foot in Japan, you’ll most likely be in a bit of a shock. Everything about the country is different from anywhere in SEA; akin to a whole new world. You’ll first notice how fast and efficient their public transportation is. From the Skyliner to the subway trains, Japan is known for top-notch service and systems, especially in cities like Tokyo. Because of this, most Japanese people don’t drive or take a cab. Why should they?

Transportation aside; the language, the weather, the pace. It’ll bring you back to your favourite slice-of-life anime because frankly, at least as a tourist, it felt a lot like that.

It’s A Lot Easier Now

I’ve heard many hearsays about Japan; about how difficult it is to navigate around. Those hearsay may be true (once upon a time), but surely it has gotten a lot easier.

Firstly, the new Visit Japan Web site that allows easy access passes Japan’s COVID-19 screening and immigration. We were told to fill up all the forms online and to our disbelief, we skipped a large queue at the quarantine gate and proceed straight to immigration. First class!

Now in terms of navigation; all you need to use to go anywhere is Google Maps. The app will introduce you to a number of different ways to get to your desired destination. This is particularly useful for travel via train, where you need to hop from one line to the other.

However, it can be challenging if you plan to go to a few attractions in a day, not to mention the cost that comes with possible miscalculations, misdirections or any problems in chasing daylight. To make it easier, we recommend you use the Tokyo Klook Pass.

The pass includes choices of various attractions you might be interested such as Tokyo Disneyland, Tokyo Disneysea, Yomiuriland and more. You can also include the Tokyo Subway option for your travels so you won’t kabut to buy train tickets during the rush of it all as it lasts 72 hours.

If you’re unsure about our recommendation you can read the reviews yourself. But we’re telling you… it saved us a lot of time - and zero headaches, too!

For us, we chose to go to Tokyo Skytree, Yomiuriland and the new Art Aquarium. Here are some of the photos at these places:

From left: Yomiuriland, Art Aquarium Museum (Ginza City)

One of the Biggest Pop Culture Hubs in the World

If you’re an anime fan, Tokyo will be heaven on earth for you. The moment you arrive at the airport, you’ll be greeted by a huge Bowser mural as you walk down the stairs. Fortunately for us, we received the anime treatment a lot earlier. Coincidentally, our Scoot Flight was the Pokemon flight that got viral last year - and it was super cute!

It’s a whole different ball game once you reach the city. Mario Karts driving around Shinjuku, mascots walking up and down Harajuku; Tokyo breathes pop culture. It is the birthplace of anime, after all!

If you have limited shopping time but are eager to spend your Yens on anime stuff, we suggest you go to Akihabara. It’s the best place for all things anime including newer ones like Chainsaw Man, Spy X Family and Jujutsu Kaisen.

But if you’re a normie like me who likes Pokemon, Nintendo and your shonen classics Dragon Ball or One Piece, then you can also do your shopping at Shibuya. PARCO houses a Pokemon Centre, a Nintendo Store and a Jump store all on the same level. Saves a bit of time most definitely.

Food - of course!

Do you really think we’d write an article without highlighting Tokyo’s culinary delights? Tokyo is a foodie central. Every other street is home to a unique eatery you’ve not seen before in Kuala Lumpur (unless it’s your big commercial fast food outlets).

From various kinds of ramen to sukiya, tempura platters and sushi, Tokyo offers so much for the hungry hearts. Miraculously, we didn’t bite into one mediocre dish throughout our stay and as a foodie, that’s considered a success to me.

My personal favourite will be the Tsukiji Fish Market. No, I’m not taking about their inner fish market that’s similar to our pasar pagi. The outer market is home to hundreds of food vendors with fresh food served at every corner.

If you’re planning to go here, please find a bowl of sashimi with sea urchin. It will change your life!

However, we do acknowledge that food in Tokyo can be expensive. Not to worry because the snacks and dishes at Family Mart are pretty affordable and tasty as well (depending on who you ask but we love them).

City & Country Attractions

It is almost impossible to explore Tokyo and its surrounding areas in one week or a trip. The city is filled with exciting places to enjoy for all. However, as much as the concrete jungle is where dreams are made of, we still knew that a trip to the countryside was needed as well. Hence why we went to Gunma Prefecture and Nikko.

At Gunma, we visited a number of attractions including an all-you-can-eat crab restaurant. They serve free-flow snow crabs on buffet style serving, which also includes scallops, miso soup and a number of desserts. Insane!

But my favourite part of Gunma had to be the strawberry-picking session. Nope, this isn’t your normal picking activity up in Cameron Highlands. No sir, these strawberries are the freshest ones you’ll ever taste. On top of that, you can pluck them, dip them in condensed milk and consume them fresh right there on the farm. Feels like a dream, doesn’t it?

In Nikko, we get to visit the Toshogu Shrine built in honour of the founder of the Toshogu Shogunate. However, the highlight of the trip was riding the gondola up the ropeway to witness the stunning scenic view of Chuzenji lake, the frozen Kegon Falls and the hills of Nikko, after our bus ride up the winding roads where they shot Initial D’s drifting scenes.

Kegon Falls and a view of the Chuzenji Lake

Feels like a lot of coordination? Nope. Klook’s Gunma and Nikko passes made our travels easier and simpler. Click the links to check them out.

Will we visit Tokyo again? For yet another #KonnichiWOW experience; yes, a million times yes - and maybe we shall see you there, too!