Wonders of Japan
  • Dreamy Hot Springs of Japan

    29 Jun 2024

    Five minutes—well, honestly, not even that long. More often, just a quick dip, and running out of the bath in a matter of seconds to get dressed and leave the facilities as if a mob is after me. This was how I was doing “onsen” (hot springs) in Japan when I first moved here.

  • Islands of Japan Worth Ditching the Mainland For

    21 Jun 2024

    Japan is an island nation. Now, please repeat with me - Japan is an island nation. And now, again, but this time in Japanese - Japan is a "shimaguni." In his excellent book about Japan - Bending Adversity, David Shilling refers to the term shimaguni (島国)- meaning island country in Japanese, as "incantation," as a magic term to end all conversations about Japan.

  • Gentle Beauty: Kuju Mountain Hikes

    27 Jun 2024

    Kuju Mountains, located in Oita Prefecture in Kyushu and part of the Aso-Kuju National Park, is one of my favorite hiking destinations in Japan. The mountain range rewards hikers with a rich network of trails and diverse landscape scenery without asking for much in return.

  • Japan Travel Guide

    15 Mar 2024

    They say planning is the best part of any trip. Well, maybe not so much when your destination is Japan. There are some positive reasons beyond this first-world problem, like the abundance of places that all catch your attention but are impossible to fit into a one or two-week-long itinerary.

  • What is Beyond Tokyo and Kyoto: My Three Favorite Cities in Japan

    20 Mar 2024

    Considering it is now almost the spring season—the perfect time for urban travels—it may be a good time to talk about "other" cities in Japan that are worth a visit and which are not Tokyo or Kyoto.

Featured Articles
  • Japanese Summers and the Endless Ocean

    15 Jun 2024

    The brief period of a few real summer weeks, when Tokyo does its best to justify its listing as one of the most liveable cities in the world, is about to be over. The nights when an open window is sufficient for comfortable sleep, and the days when walking on the famously clean streets of the city does not feel like a choice between life and heat-induced death...

  • The Great Ocean Walk of Australia and Post-Hike Blues

    15 May 2024

    Dear reader, if you are here because you are debating, just as I did, whether to hike the Great Ocean Walk, I would wholeheartedly say go for it. After weeks of unnecessary consideration and comparing it with other multi-day trails in Australia, I finally hiked the Great Ocean Walk in late April and was glad that I did. It is one of the finest multi-day trails I have ever hiked.

  • Island Nations and the Place Where the Continents Meet

    12 Dec 2023

    Unlike the saying goes, I can believe that it is already December. On a personal level, this has been an exceptionally delightful but also, at times, a truly heartbreaking year. It was one of those years that brought some of the best and the worst days of my life. It was intense and did not fly by; I felt every minute of it.

  • Great Walks of New Zealand: the Greatest Three, Routeburn, Kepler and Milford

    02 Sep 2023

    I spent the better part of March (2023) hiking in New Zealand. In addition to some day hikes, I did three of the famous Great Walks of New Zealand - namely Kepler, Routeburn and Milford Tracks. The experience has definitely exceeded my expectations.

  • Laos: Where the Wild Things Are

    07 Dec 2022

    I remember flying from Luang Namtha in Northern Laos to Vientiane, the capital city of Laos, during a work trip in 2020. It was my second trip to the country. Our time in Luang Namtha was limited but still filled with several opportunities to introduce us to the landscape beauty of the region.

Favorite Hikes in Japan
  • Asahidake to Naka Dake loop hike in Daisetsuzan National Park in Hokkaido is one of my favorite hikes in Japan. You get to hike next to an active volcano and also walk through one of the most picturesque valleys in Japan – Susoaidaira. Read more.

  • Mt. Miyanoura in Yakushima is the highest peak in entire Kyushu. The hike that can be done as a day or multi-day hike offers the hikers the chance to experience a large diversity of landscape scenery in the company of monkeys and island deers. Read more.

  • Karasawa Cirque trail located in Kamikochi of Nagano, is one of the most popular fall colors hikes in Japan, if not the most. The long trail that leads to Karasawa from Kamikochi bus stop is, however, beautiful in every season. Read more.

  • Yakiyama and Magose Passes along the Iseji Route of Kumano Kodo are two distinct trails in terms of the difficulty. The trailheads for both hikes start at lovely Owase town, the easy access is beneficial for those who want to experience some of the pilgrimage trails of Kumano Kodo without walking the whole route. Read more.

  • Mount Aso hike offers the best combination of the unique aspects of hiking in Japan. The trailhead is easily accessible with a direct bus leaving from Aso town. Depending on the alert level, hikers can get closed to the craters which are often steaming in all their glory. This is a relatively easy hike with only short steep sections. Read more.

  • Oirase Stream hike in Aomori prefecture of Tohoku is another very popular fall colors hike. You follow the gentle Oirase Stream all the way until you reach Lake Towada. It is a very easy hike with almost zero altitude change but still a very rewarding one with various waterfalls along the route. Read more.

  • Japan is definitely not short of active volcanoes. Yake Dake located in Northern Japanese Alps is a great introductory and non-technical hike in the Japanese Alps where the trails are often a little more challenging and even technical in some sections. Read more.

  • Sadogashima island traverse is a five to seven hour hike that covers an impressive variety of landscape scenery. The hike is popular particularly in June during the peak flowering season. Read more.

  • One of my favorite hikes in Kyushu is in Kuju-Aso National Park—Kuju Mountain Range. There are two trailheads that lead you to some of the highest peaks of Kuju Mountain Range and eventually to Hokkein Onsen Sanso – a mountain hut fully equipped with a dining room, dorm and private rooms, and an Onsen. Read more.

  • The most famous one of all pilgrimage routes in Japan, along with 88-Temples of Shikoku, is the Nakahechi Route of Kumano Kodo. This is one of the best intro multi-day hikes in Japan where one can get to experience both the nature and culture of the country. Read more.

TRAVEL TO JAPAN

My Favorite Hostels in Japan

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Japan Travel Guide

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Where to Visit in Japan

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Traveling Japan on Budget

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About Me

I am Burcu. I was born in a town of chemical engineers— including both my parents—near Istanbul on the winter solstice of 1980. I think this has a lot to do with my undying love for winters and cold destinations such as Norway, Alaska, and Hokkaido, but it hardly explains why I am asleep by 9 pm every night. I spent most of my youth in Istanbul, first at a boarding school and then with family, although I was also fortunate enough to spend a few years of high school and university abroad at an age young enough to admire other cultures, places, and people with no prejudices. As for the job department, I am a lawyer, and after spending thirteen years in a law office, I took a six-year break and eventually moved to Tokyo, Japan. As of 2023, I have a full-time job in Tokyo in a field that does not strictly qualify as legal services but still relates to my previous legal experience. In my blog, in addition to Japan, you will read a lot about nature destinations like Norway, New Zealand and Switzerland—three of my favorite destinations with astounding nature. I also write articles for magazines and websites. I am happiest when walking and saddest when I think of how my country changed over the last two decades.

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Favorite Travel Habit

If I am in a city, I love to walk around during morning rush hour. That is the only time a city cannot hide its truth and pretend to be nicer than it is. I am sorry to report but Istanbul that you see during rush hour (ouch!) is what living in Istanbul feels like. I wrote more about some of my travel habits in the “why do we travel?” post.

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Hotels or Airbnb?

Definitely hotels. I like the transitional feel at hotels, that temporariness. It makes me feel lighter. Airbnb on the other hand makes me feel suffocated being surrounded by someone else`s life/decoration choices. I wrote more about Why I Don`t like Airbnb. Another post inspired by my love of hotels/hostels is the Favorite Hotel/Hostels list.

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Favorite Destinations

I love anywhere with beautiful nature. Alaska, New Zealand, Norway and Switzerland are four countries/regions that I find to be exceptionally beautiful. As for cities, I am a devoted fan of Paris. I think it is the most beautiful city in the world.

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Where I live

Well, not in a bathtub or in an onsen but you probably still get the clue – in Japan. More specifically in Tokyo, in one of its very laid back eastern wards, Shibamata of Katsushika where the wonderful Mizumoto Park is located. I love it.

More Japan Destinations
  • Tohoku: One of Japan`s Least Explored Yet Most Rewarding Regions

    09 Feb 2024

    Tohoku, the region of Japan tucked between Hokkaido and Honshu, turned out to be everything that I dreamed it would be: beautiful nature, onsen tucked in the forests, some of the most underrated temples in Japan, and charming mid-size cities that somehow feel traditionally contemporary.

  • Traveling Japan on a Budget

    11 Oct 2023

    Is traveling Japan on a budget possible? Short answer - yes. Is Japan really that expensive? Short answer - no. Here are some of my recommendations to keep your Japan travel costs at a reasonable level.

  • Kanazawa: One Fine City in Japan

    20 Feb 2024

    Kanazawa is a fairly small city located in Ishikawa, one of the western prefectures of Japan, combining traditional Japanese architecture with some very innovatively designed museum spaces including D.T. Suzuki Museum and Museum of Contemporary Art.

  • Sadogashima Island Traverse Hike: Forests, Ridges and Strange Things

    16 Sep 2023

    Sagodashima Island traverse hike was full of surprises. Some purely pleasant and some pleasantly strange surprises.

  • Cape Ashizuri in Shikoku: Japan`s Wild Cape and Most Beautiful Temple

    08 Feb 2022

    We have a long trip from Tokyo to Cape Ashizuri, or Ashizuri Misaki in Japanese. We first need to take the plane followed by a hopefully scenic train journey before we get on the car for the final leg.  We barely make it to our plane out of Narita bound for Kochi due to the train line suspensions caused by power outage.

  • Shikoku Pilgrimage Accommodation

    01 Apr 2021

    The accommodation along Shikoku Pilgrimage Route is one of the most discussed topics in relation to this journey. Along the route, there are various types of accommodation including free temple (tsuyado) or locally funded accommodation (zenkonyado), paid temple accommodation (shukubo) and various other paid categories ranging from hostels to high end hotels.

  • Walking Kumano Kodo: UNESCO World Heritage

    22 Mar 2021

    It is 5 am in the morning. I will shortly start hearing the footsteps of the monks and their students. The preparations for the morning pray start at 5.30 am. The prayer room, which is decorated with hundreds of lanterns, needs to be heated up.

Explore More
  • New Orleans, a City Ruled by a River

    21 Mar 2023

    New Orleans is a city, which is much older than its own country. This makes perfect sense once you get to spend a few days in this amazing city that is geographically and politically part of the USA but is mentally million miles away.

  • Best Hiking Movies and Documentaries

    27 Jan 2022

    Whenever I feel blue or anxious, watching hiking movies and documentaries always helps me to lift my mood. While this may attest to a strange character trait on my part,  I also enjoy the survival movies where the protagonists need to cover thousands of kilometers on foot overcoming unthinkable challenges.

  • Into the Greenery: Scottish Highlands by Train

    25 Feb 2023

    After years of contemplating - I finally traveled to Scottish Highlands in the summer of 2016 for a short visit of three days. I benefited from a long weekend that fell between two weeks of meetings in London.

  • What Is a Weekend? The Freelancer`s Dilemma.

    12 Nov 2023

    “What is a weekend?” - the best line from the British TV Show Downton Abbey, which started as one of the greatest shows to satisfy our escapism needs but went on a little too long.

  • Gobekli Tepe: Interview with Excavation Team

    01 Apr 2021

    There is no question that Turkey is an archeological wonder and home to magnificent sites such as Ephesus and Pergamon in the Agean region. While we are very proud for hosting such extraordinary sites on our own soil, we are never short of imagination and the ability to “manufacture” stories associated with these sites. I reached out to German archeologist Jens Notroff, who is part of the crew of the archeologists running the Tepe Telegrams to discuss the story of Gobekli Tepe.

  • Farewell to Fuji – Back to Canon

    25 Aug 2020

    Farewell to Fuji, I today sold my X-Pro II and lens set - my main camera for the last 4.5 years and probably the most beautifully designed camera ever but if we can talk of chemistry between cameras and humans, we sure did not have it. I went back to my old full frame Canon.

  • Best Books About Tech Startups and Their Origin Stories

    27 Feb 2024

    The topic of this post, my favorite books on tech startups and their origin stories have almost nothing to do with the main topic of this blog: traveling. Well - I actually have one Airbnb-related book on the list. But it is as close as it gets.