Japan & South Korea (Oct 2014)
[Day 1] Dulles International Airport (D.C.) -> Narita International Airport (Tokyo, Japan) -> Khaosan World Asakusa Hostel +++++, 5 star amenities and friendliness [Day 2]
Hot Springs: Like many Spa’s, the Odaiba Onsen is located right by the ocean. The price is pretty reasonable, especially if you choose to fall asleep there rather than at a hotel. It is only closed a few hours in the late mornings.This place is located close to Diver City and the giant Gundam. Japan is hard to navigate since nothing is in English, very few people speak it, and Tokyo features the largest subway/rail system in the world, so do your research ahead of time.
[Days 2-4] Tokyo via rail (see Japan Guide)
Shinjuku: This district is one of the busiest railway stations in the world. You may feel a little pressure even if you can get on a train off peak hours. Otherwise, this district has many business and shopping, nothing atypical.
Harajuku: This area includes a few streets with small cutesy stores. It is the fashion capital in the capital in which cosplay occurs on the weekends. The most fashionable of fashionable here.
Shibuya Pedestrian Scramble: As the movies have typically shown, Shibuya Crossing is one of the busiest intersections in the world. 3 thousand people cross at one red light. Enjoy the view from above at the Starbucks in the mall across the street.
Tokyo Tower: Every city has a high point to view the city, especially at night. This tower was built at just the right height, not too high or too low to allow for the optimal viewing experience. See the sunrise or sunset and enjoy one of the fancy crepes which are even more delicious than the ones in Paris.
Imperial Palace: The place features a historical park, the only place that was protected and avoided bombings by the US in World War II. The gardens are accessible to all but the palace only to a few. Exit from Tokyo Station and walk a few blocks to this serene area in the busy metropolis.
Akihabara: Anime is one of the specialty hobbies spread around the world but started in Japan, featuring a different type of cartoon. For Anime lovers, the streets in this area are a must. You can find hobby shops of all kinds that sell Anime products and Maid Cafes.
Tokyo SkyTree: Although this tower is technically the tallest tower in the city, the long line for the ticket to get a ticket may not be worth the trouble. Make sure to plan this attraction out ahead of time and to have a full day’s worth of time to truly explore it. Otherwise, there are luxury shops at the base of the tower.
Tsujiki Market: The fish market opens in the wee hours of the morning so get up extremely early if you want to watch the tuna auctions go for hundreds of thousands of dollars. Being known for the fresh seafood, there are many sushi restaurants around that open early in the morning.
[Day 4] Ikebukuro, Tokyo -> Kyoto on Willer Express overnight bus – small and hard to sleep in if you book with an even number of people, best to book separately for lone travelers to lie down across two seats in their own rows [Day 5]
[Day 5] Kyoto -(30 min via rail)-> Osaka -> Kyoto -> Tokyo on Willer Express [Day 6]
Osaka Floating Gardens: The “Floating Gardens” are located at the top of the Umeda Sky Building, a tall commercial building with a grand view of the city. Romance is the theme for when you arrive so be ready or bring a partner. This building is a short walk from the train station.
Osaka Station: This train station is built like a giant outdoor mall, with many layers of shops and a skywalk that connects several commercial buildings all in one.
Kyoto Station: You may wonder what is impressive about a train station. The stations in Japan are especially large with this one in the layout of a colosseum. You can walk up many flights of stairs or escalators to the top and walk across a bridge to the other side only to come down tens of flights of stairs/escalators. Truly a marvel of human engineering.
Kyoto Tower: This is a low tower, since Kyoto is not a mega-city, for viewers to see the city. The view at night is not particularly optimal due to the beams blocking photos and the lights being indistinguishable.
Higashiyama, Gion: The historical districts in Kyoto are located here. You can view historical temple, homes, and Geisha. In one particular alley, you will find a touristy street full of people and shops selling Matcha products and desserts including ice cream, buns, and cakes.
[Day 6] Narita -> Incheon International Airport (Seoul, S. Korea) -> Seoul Station Guesthouse Hostel ++++, your money goes far
[Day 7] Seoul
Gwangjang Market: Seoul has many open markets for great street food and other cheap wares.
Gangnam: If you have heard of the song Gangnam Style by Psy, you will know this reference. This district is a rich are in the capitol where girls eat cheap ramen but buy $5 cups of Starbucks. Walking down the street, you will see high-end shops and sometimes even celebrities of Korean dramas or Kpop.
North Seoul Tower: The most romantic tower on top of a hill plays Korean drama music to set the mood. Outside on the fences, people place love-locks just like in Paris. Certainly take a partner up but it can get lonely by yourself seeing so many couples.
[Day 8] Incheon -> Dulles