Sapporo Snow Festival

The week-long Sapporo Snow Festival, held in February attracts millions of visitors from all over the world, with immaculate displays of ice and snow sculptures.

The Odori Site is the hub of all activity, with concerts and events centred around the ice and snow creations. The festivities spread over to the grounds at the Community Dome Tsu Dome (with snow slides), and Susukino.

An annual celebration since 1950, the festival is famous for its massive snow sculptures. The International Snow Sculpture contest held here attracts participants from various regions worldwide, each of them competing to showcase the best of their country or something remarkable from the previous year. If you’re a master at building backyard snowmen in winter, here’s your chance to graduate to the next level.

Two day trip to Tokyo

Continuing with our suggestions on travel itineraries, today we are posting a sample itinerary for the vibrant megalopolis of Tokyo!

While two days are nothing to even scratch the surface of Tokyo, if you find yourself in the city on a weekend and wondering how to utilize your time for maximum sightseeing, you can follow the following itinerary (created using Holidayen)

Day 1

Tsukiji Fish Market (Early morning)

You will have to start early (very very early, 5 AM) to stand a chance to enter the Tsukiji fish market, famous for its giant tuna auctions and the myriad variety of fresh fish on display. If you cannot swallow the idea of waking up that early, fear not, it is still worth a visit until noon. Have breakfast in one of the famous sushi bars in the market area, you cannot miss them. Tip on selecting the best place to eat: one with decent enough long line but not the longest. Yes, did I mention, there will be a waiting time of about 1 hour on all the decent locations.

Imperial Palace and Imperial Palace Gardens (Morning)

The palace and its gardens offer a nice retreat from the metropolis without actually leaving the city. The beautiful gardens offer nice views of the city and are ideal for spending lazy couple of hours after the busy market.

Akhiabara (Afternoon)

Akhiabara, the otaku town of Tokyo is a ‘must-visit’ Full of gaming arcades, electronics and pachinko machines, this is an area which has helped in giving the adjective of ‘weird’ to Japan (and Tokyo in particular). Try your hand in one of the many arcades, or if you feel like, experience the costly, yet very intersting, maid-cafes. If you have time, you can also visit the nearby Ueno Park for another dose of different Tokyo.

Roppongi Crossing (Evening)

Unwind by people watching in Roppongi. The area also has a number of sake bars to relax after a wonderful day.

Day 2

Sensoji and Asakusa Jinja (Morning)

Next morning, experience the holier side of the city, by visiting Sensoji, the temple area in the north-east. It gives a nice picture of the religious practices of the region, and is especially a good place to visit if you have not visited any other Japanese temple or shrine.

Next to the temple is the Shinto shrine Asakusa Jinja. You can also buy religious charms and souvenirs in the area. Another must try is one of the numerous street food vendors in the vicinity.

Edo-Tokyo/Ghibli Museum (Afternoon)

Consider spending the afternoon in one of the museums, Edo-Tokyo being one of the favorite. I have also thrown in Ghibli Museum in the itinerary below if anime interests you.

Tokyo Skytree (Evening)

Do come back to the Asakusa area for Tokyo Skytree in the evening, preferably after its dark, for the stunning views of the city. Also a perfect place to end the trip and capture some snaps for awesome memories.

For more details, and a map view of the itinerary, visit this page.

Two days in Kyoto

Holidayen is all about travel planning and creating automatic itineraries, and as we prepare ourselves for the launch, we would love to share itinerary ideas for some of the wonderful destinations around the world. Starting in the series today, we have here, a two day itinerary for the beautiful city of Kyoto.

First, a primer on how to get around the city. Subway and buses are your best bets, cabs fare are on slightly higher side, so the recommended way is to grab a two-day unlimited subway and bus card for 2000 yens from your nearest subway station and forget about the hassles of buying tickets for each ride. While subway rides are pretty standard with maps and station names in English, buses can be tricky, names and routes are almost never in English, and English knowing locals are not as ubiquitous as you might expect. But nothing to worry, take a copy of this document http://www.city.kyoto.jp/koho/eng/access/img/basunabieigo-omote.pdf and you will never need to worry about anything else about traveling. Armed with your unlimited travel card and the Bible of bus rides, let’s begin!

Day 1

In case you are not aware, Kyoto is world famous for its temples, so will begin the trip with some of its most popular temples and shrines. Begin your day with an early morning walk through the thousands of torii gates at Fushimi Inari shrine. The trail takes you through the wooded area to the summit of the mountain, entire trip taking around 2-3 hours.

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You can return from Yotsutsuji intersection (around halfway point with a good view of Kyoto) if walking 2-3 hours is not your thing.

Grab something to eat in the bustling shops of Kyoto station on the way to next stop, Nijo Castle. You can get good shots of the castle and grounds from the old foundation stone.

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You can also walk to the Kyoto Imperial Palace nearby, however, you can enter the castle grounds only through prior online booking. For lunch, head to Nishiki Market for some authentic local street food. 

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Spend the evening at the famous Golden Pavilion temple or Kinkakuji. The temple complex and the landscape are a unique picturesque combination of natural and architectural beauty. A perfect place for photography indeed!

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You can visit around the neighborhood around the temple thereafter and head to Pontocho for dining. You can find a wide range of dining options there. from inexpensive street food to expensive establishments.

Day 2

Begin the day from Ginkakuji, beautiful temple on the Eastern side of the city. It is also known as Silver Pavilion, and you guessed it right, modeled after the Golden Pavilion of Kinkakuji.

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From Ginkakuji, walk to the Philosophers’ Walk, especially beautiful during the Cherry Blossom season, when it is full of tourists and locals. There are a number of temples around which you can visit on the way. The walk ends at Nanzenji Temple, which is another good temple to visit.

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In the afternoon, explore Higashiyama district just south of the Nanzenji. It is an excellent place for some souvenir shopping as well as exploring the way to the Kiyomizudera temple complex through the maze of streets going up and down the hills of Higashiyama. Like any other major tourist areas, plenty of options for eating and a good place to sit and eat before visiting Kiyomizudera, the next stop.

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Kiyomizudera is especially beautiful during Fall and Spring illuminations, but definitely a must see regardless of that during other seasons.

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After marveling at the beautiful wooden architecture, head back downhill through Higashiyama towards Gion, which offers plenty of options to spend the evening sipping sake or tea with geiko and meiko entertainment. Most popular street for dining is Hanamikoji street which houses a number of restaurants serving traditional Kyoto cuisine. A perfect place to end the scenic trip of Kyoto!

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Feel free to comment with your suggestions for improving this trip and happy traveling!

Image Courtesy: Japan-Guide