How to Enjoy Ancient Japan (on a Budget)

[dropcap size=small]J[/dropcap]apan’s major cities embody modernity perhaps more than any of its Asian neighbors. Yet, tucked away in back alleys and quiet gardens, Japan has preserved its ancient traditions for centuries and they are ready and waiting for you to enjoy. Here’s what you shouldn’t miss:

  1. Exploring Kyoto’s Nishiki food market – An early morning stroll in Nishiki provides a glimpse into traditions of food preparation kept alive for centuries. Make sure to stop by the Aritsugu knife shop to watch the process established more than 500 years ago.
  2. Embracing Nara’s free-roaming deer – Nara, Japan’s more than 1,000 year-old capital city, is also home to hundreds of free-roaming, wild deer. Though officially stripped of their divine status, these deer were seen as such for hundreds of years and continue to be protected to this day. Watch them roam the ancient temples and parks around the city.
  3. Enjoying a Japanese onsen experience—Japanese people have long enjoyed hot spring waters, claiming they have healing and rejuvenating properties. Your opportunities to enjoy these waters are seemingly endless, though the springs in the resort town of Hakone offer a more austere, less modern experience than that of Japan’s major cities.
  4. Timing your trip right—perhaps the absolute best way to enjoy ancient Japan is to visit during its breathtaking cherry blossom season. Beginning in late-March and extending into early-April, nothing connects you to ancient Japan better than walking through moss-covered temple gardens while watching the slow fall of cherry petals.