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Japan: Land of the Rising Fame

Follow my journey through Japan to learn about this beautiful country! Along the way, I will be mentioning some traveling tips to help your own overseas journey.

Lost in Translation. Japanese students and I pose for a picture after chatting about my time in Kyoto. Later, we exchanged emails, and I was able to contact them when I arrived back home.

Lost in Translation. Japanese students and I pose for a picture after chatting about my time in Kyoto. Later, we exchanged emails, and I was able to contact them when I arrived back home.

Olivia Waletzke

Olivia Waletzke

Lost in Translation. Japanese students and I pose for a picture after chatting about my time in Kyoto. Later, we exchanged emails, and I was able to contact them when I arrived back home.

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When we think of Japan, what comes to mind? Anime? Raw fish? Crowded city? Though some of this may be true, Japan has much more to offer. I traveled there this summer, and the country has much more to offer than what we all believe. The city of Tokyo stretches as far as the eye can see. The many districts of the city each offer something different. The Harajuku district can be overwhelming at times. This is where you can find all of the “cute culture” items. Hello Kitty and Kawaii thrive in this bubblegum-princess part of town. The Shibuya district is the complete opposite. This is the home of the busiest intersection in the world. This part of Tokyo, although fairly busy, is fairly peaceful and quiet. The organized chaos levels out the hectic feel of the area. In the town of Kamakura, the Pacific coast provides beauty beyond compare. The clear blue waters and rocky cliffs make for a picturesque scene. The town supports a slower way of life, housing surfers and beach goers alike. Here, you are never short of a decent hiking trail or a pristine beach with the great Pacific Ocean at your feet. In Kyoto, the young and flowering city is filled with vivid color, and is a hot-spot for young people. The native people and the atmosphere makes anyone traveling to Japan always begging for more.



Before planning on where you wish to go in Japan, decide when to go. The beginning of the year is filled with snow and colder weather. All of the temples and shrines are covered in the glistening white, causing them to become whimsical and enchanting. In the spring, summer, and fall, the plant life is gorgeous. The spring and summer is filled with blooms of a variety of plants. The fall gives you magnificent colors in the leaves. Just like the US, Japan experiences all four seasons.

The next step in the planning process is to buy airline tickets. The best option is making a connection in a different domestic airport. When I flew to Japan, I went from Atlanta to Dallas first, then Dallas to the Narita International Airport in Tokyo. We left Atlanta around 6:30 am. This is the best time to leave the U.S. in order to get to Japan as early as you can. The fun starts now, when choosing the location in Japan to visit.


In Tokyo, I stayed at The Pearl Hotel Kasai. It is a perfect fit for ones who desire a quiet escape from the city, but a close enough drive into the heart of Tokyo. The hotel is priced very low, according to TripAdvisor. Though it isn’t the most glamorous place to stay, The Pearl Hotel Kasai is perfect for easy access into the city. This hotel is also family friendly, seeing that it is the leading “off property” hotel for Tokyo Disneyland. It is a short walk to the JR (Japan Rail) station, and the area around this hotel is very safe. The roads are lined with convenient stores, such as 7 Eleven, and ATMs for exchanging any loose currency.

In terms of what there is to do in Tokyo, a whole week wouldn’t even be enough to get started. The first thing to do would be to take a day out of your trip to visit Tokyo Disneyland. It’s the same Disney we all know and love, but most of the safety instructions are in Japanese. This attraction would be close to the hotel – if staying at the Pearl Hotel Kasai – and it’s an interesting thing to check off the bucket list.

Another “must-do” in Japan is visiting the Shibuya district. This holds the busiest intersection in the whole world. One should also take the time in Tokyo to visit the SkyTree building. It is 2,080 feet tall, and is located in the center of the city. The bottom half is a mall filled with stores and places to eat. The top half holds a lookout with an unbelievable view. With 360 window coverage, the lengthy ride to the top is worth the wait. It’s difficult to truly grasp how large Tokyo is until visiting the SkyTree Tower.


When traveling to this beachy town, the best bet for lodging would be a Ryokan experience. These are the Japanese style bed and breakfast hotels. When coming to Japan, it’s a must-do. In Kamakura, I stayed at the Sunmi Club. This Ryokan overlooked the ocean, and the view from the balcony can capture the eyes of the viewer for ages. The suite consists of 3 rooms: a bathroom, a living area with a television and tea table, and a sleeping room. There are no beds, but there are cots to sleep on with pillows and sheets. A classic Japanese dinner was fed to us on the highest level of the building. We ate sushi, sukiyaki, and shrimp tempura. The view at night was unexplainably beautiful. The lights from the bay shown an elegant reflection off the Pacific waters. 

Kamakura is a small seaside town with access to one of the best surfing locations in the world. For those who not looking to do water-sports, the town is filled with quaint shops and beautiful beach views. There is also an abundance of hiking through bamboo forests, and adventuring in this town as well. To go for a more cultural experience, going to see the Temples and Shrines are great ways to spend the day. The second largest Buddha is located in Kamakura, as well as the Tsurugaoka Hachimangu shrine. This particular shrine is right in front of a long street of quaint shops and restaurants as well. The best thing to eat in Kamakura, or just Japan in general, is ramen. Real Japanese ramen is worlds different from the packaged kind bought at the grocery store. The broth is infused all day with many different kinds of meat, and when it is ready to be served, the noodles are placed in the broth. The dish is then topped with slices of meat from the broth, vegetables, a deviled egg, and a seaweed chip for garnishing.

Mount Fuji is at the top of the list of things to see in Japan. The Lake Ashi lookout is just an hour away from Kamakura. The lookout from the lake is breathtaking. Across the sparkling blue, the mountain lifts itself from the distant hills, cutting the clouds on its way up. When comparing the pictures of the mountain to the real thing, it is a life changing experience all in itself. After this trip to Mount Fuji, my perspective on size was changed forever. The local Blue Ridge mountains are nothing like this insane natural work of art. On a clear day, the entire mountain will be visible to the eye, depending on the location where it’s being seen. On a cloudy or foggy day, only the top of the mountain can be seen, but this eerie sight is still worth the trip.



A trip to Japan is incomplete without a stop to Kyoto. The young and flowering city is filled with tourist locations and deep culture. The most popular shrine in Kyoto is the Fushimi shrine. The shrine is situated on a mountain, and all up the mountain, the trail is lined with endless Toris. These Toris are at every shrine, but the Fushimi shrine is special in the fact that these Toris were all donated, and are counted by the thousands. The hike to get to the top of the shrine is very steep and difficult, but when you reach the shrine, no other view is better. 

While touring a castle in Nakagyo-Ku, Kyoto, a group of local teens stopped to talk with me. I had assumed that they were on a field trip to the castle as well.  They spoke little English, however we will still able to communicate. The teacher chaperone with them explained, the best he could, that the students were practicing English, and they wished to ask me a few questions. The group asked me questions like “How long are you staying in Japan?” and “Where are you from?” As I answered, the students wrote down their answers in their best English. I took pictures with them and they each gave me  a letter with an origami swan. With all of the community based locations in Kyoto, I never fell short of waving to local students, or even sharing a smile.

World travel, as scary as it may seem, is very enjoyable. My trip to Japan changed the way I see myself and others. I proved to myself that I had the responsibility to travel the world, and I’m no longer in the dark about foreign countries. I have a different perspective on life, knowing that people everywhere are living it completely different than me.



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About the Contributor
Olivia Waletzke, Social Media Lead

Olivia is a freshman at South and new to the journalism crew! Writing is a huge passion of hers so the Journalism group is a dream come true for her. She enjoys hanging out with her friends and adores meeting new people to talk to. Olivia was born in a suburb outside Chicago and is a definite Midwesterner. She likes watching John Hughes movies and listening to music. Olivia has a deep passion for traveling and just recently traveled to Japan over the summer of 2018. Olivia is into fashion. You will...

1 Comment

One Response to “Japan: Land of the Rising Fame”

  1. Sristi on November 5th, 2018 1:41 PM

    This is such a beautiful article!! Love you waletzke, you’re such a talented writer!!

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