It's no secret that here at Lonely Planet we love to travel. We all develop soft spots for particular destinations, so this week we're highlighting the places that the Lonely Planeteers love.
Why did you choose to go to Japan?
- Sapporo because it's a hub city for the northern ski fields and in February it's host to the Sapporo Snow Festival and Toyota Big Air (a snowboard competition with heaps of international stars).
- Nagano because it's gateway to Honshū's ski fields.
- Tokyo because I was keen to get a snippet of the zany electric Japanese city vibe and, of course, to shop it like it's hot.
What did you expect of Japan and did it live up to your expectations?
I expected clean, safe, fun travel and that's pretty much what I got. I expected excellent food, great beer and great custom, and my expectations were exceeded - things like people going out of their way to help me find an obscure noodle place on a vague map, and the amazing cold draught beer and great cheap food throughout the city's izakayas.
What was the best thing you saw, the best thing you ate, and the best thing you heard somebody say?
The best thing I saw was fresh powder at 4pm in the afternoon (in Myoko Kogen). Anywhere else in the world this would be shredded by 10am. Seeing busy Sapporro city blanketed in thick powder snow was pretty amazing too.
The best thing I ate was okonomiyaki (Japanese pancake), cooked on the bar in a mom and pop-style izakaya in Myoko Kogen.
The best thing I heard? My mate Derek asking people about where to dance in Tokyo. He would say 'Ichiban dance-ooh?' Loosely translated: Number one dance.
What advice would you give a first-time traveller to Japan?
Don't believe the hype - it's not super expensive. Learn some of the language - you'll be infinitely rewarded. And possibly giggled at. Sit in an onsen with a beer.
What would you do differently if you were to go again?
I would visit Osaka. And instead of carting my snow gear around, I would take advantage of one of the luggage delivery services - hotel to hotel, Tokyo to Hokkaidō, 1600 Yen (approx AU$20).
I would also have pre-planned a night out in Tokyo. I found it pretty hard to crack when you were looking for somewhere to party without any pre-planning. And I would hit even more vending machines. I'm an addict.
Like the sound of Japan? Download your chosen chapters from the latest Japan guide.