Smart spend­ing

Money Magazine Australia - - CON­TENTS - PAM WALK­LEY

Five things to do

1. Pic­nic in Tokyo’s Shin­juku Gy­oen Na­tional Gar­den, the city’s most beau­ti­ful park. Armed with my bento box I vis­ited in late March just as the cherry blos­som was break­ing out and it was breath­tak­ing. Many lo­cals were there, pay­ing homage to this har­bin­ger of spring and pic­nick­ing. Grab a map in English as you en­ter and be sure to hit all the ma­jor gar­dens: English land­scape, French for­mal, Ja­panese tra­di­tional (with tea­house) and the Mother and Child For­est.

2. Stroll through a Shi­rakawa-go vil­lage in the snow to ex­pe­ri­ence a win­ter won­der­land. This moun­tain area is des­ig­nated a UNESCO World Cul­tural Her­itage site. Visit one of its Gassho-style wooden beam houses – named for their re­sem­blance to hands joined in prayer – built from around 1800.

3. Stay in a ryokan. I stayed in the Ya­jik­i­tano Yu in Hakone and en­joyed a lovely Ja­panese “ho­tel” ex­pe­ri­ence, with com­fort­able fu­tons on tatami mats in a min­i­mal­ist decor. The high­light was the tra­di­tional hot spring on­sen in the ho­tel, where guests bathe naked in sep­a­rate male and fe­male ar­eas. Sit­ting in the out­door spa with my fel­low trav­ellers un­der the stars on a freez­ing night was awe­some.

4. Visit Hiroshima Peace Park and Mu­seum, on the site of the com­mer­cial and po­lit­i­cal cen­tre of the city be­fore it be­came the vic­tim of the first atomic bomb dropped on Au­gust 6, 1945. It's both a beau­ti­ful and gut-wrench­ing ex­pe­ri­ence to see this raw re­minder of what hu­mans can do to each other. Es­pe­cially poignant are the filmed tes­ti­mo­ni­als of sur­vivors.

5. Eat oys­ters on Miya­jima Is­land. The seafood has been farmed on this beau­ti­ful is­land off Hiroshima for over 330 years. It hosts an oys­ter fes­ti­val ev­ery Fe­bru­ary. It’s also renowned for the Great Torii gate, which seems to float on the wa­ter, the Toyokuni shrine and the It­sukushima shrine, which is built over wa­ter.

Clock­wise, from above, Shi­rakawa-go vil­lage; oys­ters on Miya­jima Is­land; Shin­juku Gy­oen gar­den; and Hiroshima Peace Memo­rial.

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