Japan represents different things to different travelers. To some, Japan is a country of cutting-edge modernity, a place whose capital, Tokyo, with its neon skyline and 13 million people, is like something out of a science fiction film. To others, Japan is a spiritual place, a country steeped in tradition, its deep forests, valleys and ancient coastal highways closely tied to Hiroshige’s paintings. And while Japan is famous for its dual nature of hyper-modernity and heritage, it’s more than that. It’s a haiku with many different layers and meanings.For every popular tourist attractionand landmark, there's a lesser-known tourist attraction and landmark it its shadow. Here are 5 must see places in Japan you probably never heard of.
Secret Garden:Saihoji, Japan
Kyoto has several secret gardens. Some are highlighted in guidebooks, and then there are the lesser-known ones, the "green gems" that are tucked away like long forgotten fairytales. The secret garden at the Saihoji temple in Kyoto, Japan, is considered the first Zen meditation garden. Created in the Nara period, between 729-749, the ancient space features maple trees and bamboo groves. But it’s the garden’s many shades of moss that make it look like something out of the land of fairies; soft yellow and green hues coat the garden floor like an imperial carpet. Since the 1970s, the Buddhist monks who tend to the Saihoji temple have put restrictions on visitors, adding another layer ofsecretivenessto the secret garden. In order to visit, tourists must not only get a postcard reservation, but they also need to engage in an activity such as meditating or chanting once they enter.
JBS Bar:Shibuya, Tokyo
Walking into the JBS Bar is like walking into a short story byHarukiMurakami, Japan’s most famous novelist. The walls of the narrow, second floor jazz bar –jazukissa, in Japanese –in Tokyo’s busiest area are lined with over 11,000 records, the private collection of the owner, Kobayashi-san. (In 1974, before he found international fame as a writer,HurukiMurakamiopened a jazz bar called Peter the Cat.) The JBS Bar –the JBS standing for jazz, bluesand soul -isn’t a bar in the traditional sense; with only 13 sets, it’s more like a listening room, a curatedexperience for aficionados who want to sipYebisuand listen to vinyl recordings ofColtrane,Mingus, and Muddy Waters.