Shrine Tsuwano Japan travel tips The Real Japan Rob Dyer
Blog, Interviews, Planning

Japan Travel Tips: A Journey Into The Real Japan

I first came to Japan in 2000. Here I share my Japan Travel Tips and lessons from my journey into The Real Japan, advice on must-see places for first-timers, my single biggest travel tip and more.

​​Love Japan Magazine was a beautiful print publication, with accompanying website and blog, so I was rather chuffed to have been interviewed by them, discussing some of my many adventures in The Real Japan.

Sadly, the magazine and website have since discontinued. So, presented on this website for the first time, with never-before published photos, is that original interview, first published in 2016...

Interview with Love Japan Magazine

Interview by Emily Lovell


Japan Travel Tips: A Journey Into The Real Japan

​Love Japan Magazine: Could you give us a little overview of who you are, what your blog focuses on?

Rob Dyer: I was born in England and have been fascinated by Japan since I was at school. Reading avidly about the country when I was young. Everything from books about its economy, its cinema (I'm a big film fan), its history and its culture. 

Like many others, I immersed myself in anime, for about a decade. I was editing and publishing a fantasy film magazine at the time, called Dark Star, just as anime started to take off outside of Japan. All of this drove me to start learning Japanese in the early 90s (I didn't get very far!).

​Japanese Pen-Pals & A Shinto Wedding

Before the internet was a part of everyone's daily lives, I had several Japanese pen-pals with whom I corresponded in letter form for several years. One of whom eventually became my wife. :-) We were married at a Shinto ceremony at a shrine in Kobe

My wife and I were both avid travellers before we met, so it was kind of inevitable that we would go on to explore the lesser-known parts of Japan.

Ikuta Shrine Kobe The Real Japan Rob Dyer

​Ikuta Shrine, Kobe - where my wife and I were married


Knowing we were often in Japan, friends (and friends of friends), were frequently asking for advice and ideas for travelling in Japan – but off the beaten track. So I decided to start a website, to share my experiences and to collect all my travel ideas into one place.

The site provides inspiration and resources to anyone interested in exploring Japan beyond the popular clichés we see in the media.

The neon lights of Tokyo and Geisha in Kyoto are certainly part of The Real Japan, but what interests me is discovering and exploring the hidden, secret Japan. The Japan that sometimes even the locals are unfamiliar with. Style wise I guess it's part travelogue, part guide.

I've also started a Real Japan YouTube channel which people can find HERE​.

Compelled To Return

What is it about Japan that has compelled you to return so many times?

Well, my wife is Japanese, so we have family there. Which is obviously part of the reason we spend so much time in the country. As someone born in the UK, I've always seen a lot of similarities between the two countries, but I think the Japanese have managed to achieve the best balance for society as a whole.

Fujimiya ryokan Kinosaki The Real Japan Rob Dyer

​Ryokan, traditional Japanese inns, are a must-experience


Both countries are relatively small islands in close proximity to huge continents. Yet they have managed to retain their own, distinctive national identities. Both countries have extensive histories, and are well-known to foreigners for those, and yet both countries embrace modernity. Albeit in different ways.

I like travelling in Japan to experience the differences.

Ryokan, onsen, the beautiful countryside (especially the mountains and the forests), the cohesiveness of society, the efficiency of public transport, Japanese customer service and vending machines ;-)​, are all things that make Japan a wonderful place to be and explore.

​Amazing Adventures - Personal Recommendations​

You published a free guide called 5 Amazing Adventures in The Real Japan. Can you tell us a bit about that?

I wanted to create a valuable and stylish ​guide to send to everyone who subscribed to TheRealJapan. So I came up with the idea of 5 Amazing Adventures to experience The Real Japan​. (Actually there's a bonus sixth adventure included as well.)

Amazing Adventures Guide The Real Japan Rob Dyer

​Free Guide: 5 Amazing Adventures in The Real Japan


It helps people focus on some of the less obvious but ​often more rewarding things that can be enjoyed in Japan. The suggestions are spread across several of Japan's main islands. Each includes planning resources, tips on when to go, and links to websites where they can find more information or book ​the adventures.

Download your free copy of the 5 Amazing Adventures Guide HERE.

Taiko Drumming on Sado Island

The guide includes all sorts. From joining an ice-breaker ship off the northern coast of Hokkaido (just below Siberia in Russia), having a go at taiko drumming at the Kodo Drummers cultural centre on Sadoshima, island hopping by bicycle between Awaji and Shikoku, and diving off the coast of Okinawa in the south.

Sado Island The Real Japan Rob Dyer

​Exploring Sado Island, 2012


Crucially, I have been on each of these adventures. They are not based on research, or what other people have done, they are all experiences I have had, and are my personal recommendations.


Favourite Places, Stand-Out Experiences

This may be a tricky question, but do you have any particular favourite places or stand-out experiences from your travel around Japan?

I have a soft spot for Kobe. It is like my home town in Japan and I've gotten to know it intimately over the years. But in terms of places explored, everywhere I've been in Kyushu has been very memorable. Particularly the area surrounding the Aso caldera.

Aso Kuju National Park Kyushu The Real Japan Rob Dyer

​Aso Kuju National Park, Kyushu


I tend to gravitate towards the countryside and small towns rather than the cities. Last year we did a 16 day tour of the Chugoku region on the main island of Honshu, taking in the northern and southern coastlines. 


Tsuwano: A Picturesque Town Surrounded by Mountains

​On the northern side we spent a couple of days in Tsuwano in Shimane Prefecture. A picturesque town in a valley surrounded by forested mountains. It had bags of character. I found it really charming, and I had the best oyakodon I've ever had in a tiny restaurant there.

Taikodani Inari Shrine Tsuwano The Real Japan Rob Dyer

Tsuwano, Shimane Prefecture


One of my first visits to Japan was to the northernmost island of Hokkaido​. The northerly tip of which lies just below Russia. Much of Hokkaido is designated as national parkland, more than any other prefecture. It's great for adventurous experiences, especially in winter where it regularly gets down to -12 °C. 

My first trip there included snowmobile racing on a frozen lake, a helicopter flight and joining an ice-breaker ship in the ice floes just below Siberia. That was a stand-out few days!

Related: Reflections on The Mountains of Central Japan


​Must-See Places For A First-Timer

What would be your must-see places for a first timer in Japan on a short vacation?

Make sure wherever you go it includes staying at least one night in a traditional wooden ryokan​. Ideally somewhere in the countryside, and make sure it has an onsen. For me, this is perhaps the single most perfect way of experiencing what I think of as The Real Japan.

Fujimiya ryokan Kinosaki The Real Japan Rob Dyer

Fujimiya ryokan, Kinosaki Onsen


Related: The Best Way to Experience The Real Japan? – Stay In A Ryokan


​I'm someone who travels more for experiences, rather than ticking off well-known sights from a list of ‘must-see’ places. My natural instinct is to say to people that they should think about what sort of memories would they want after​ their vacation, and then plan their trip to accommodate those.

That will better determine where anyone should go rather than me telling them.

We are all individuals. But rather than start with a list of places (that most other tourists will also go to), and attempting to tick off as many of those as possible within the time you have, instead ask yourself these three questions:

1.) What Experiences Are You After?
The 'what sort of memories would you want' bit I just mentioned. I recommend the Voyagin website for researching and booking activities and experiences in Japan.

2.) How Long Can You Stay?
This will determine how many of the islands you can visit. You should aim to visit at least two.

3.) Where Will You Stay?
Think beyond hotels to include ryokan, minshuku (B&B), temples, even homestay. Airbnb has some very distinctive properties all over Japan and is worth a look. Booking.com now offers a broad range of accommodation in Japan, not just hotels.

Related: How To Plan A Trip To Japan In Just 4 Steps

I'd encourage people to use shinkansen (bullet trains) for internal travel where possible. Internal flights (which now can be really cheap) can also be an option. ​These will enable you to visit as many of ​Japan's islands as possible, including the 'big five' (from north to south): Hokkaido, Honshu, Shikoku, Kyushu and Okinawa.

Iwaya restaurant Sasayama The Real Japan Rob Dyer

Tanba Sasayama, Hyogo


Do some early pre-trip homework online and/or read your preferred guide book. Based on that research, select a major city and remote town on any of these islands. If you've selected them well, to answer the three questions I mentioned before, you'll come away with some unforgettable memories.

If you need more ideas on how to plan a trip to Japan check out THIS POST.


My Single Biggest Travel Tip

​My single biggest tip: do not just use Tokyo as your base for two weeks or more. 

By all means visit Tokyo and stay there for a while. But if you intend using it as your base from which to do day trips for the duration of your trip, you will be severely limiting your experiences and your memories.

Is there anywhere in Japan that you would like to explore, that you haven't visited before?

The list of new places I would like to explore has no end. There are over 6,800 islands that make up Japan – so there are plenty of options!


Exploring Smaller Islands

But, at the moment, the furthest south I've been is to Okinawa. Beyond that are the Yaeyama and Ryukyu (Nansei-shoto) Islands. I'd like to explore some of the smaller islands at this end of the southern archipelago. 

Sangara Falls Iriomote Yaeyama The Real Japan rob Dyer

​Sangara Falls, Iriomote, Yaeyama Islands


Most people are unaware that when you get down to this chain of islands you're actually closer to Taiwan than you are Tokyo. The climate is subtropical in Okinawa, and at the far end of the chain is tropical rain forest.

So this region feels distinctly different from the rest of Japan – I'd like to explore more of that. (Since this interview was published I have.)


About Love Japan

Love Japan was created by fans, for fans of Japanese culture.  Put together by a small creative team from London in the UK, all of whom have travelled around Japan, they offer a fusion of East meets West.

Love Japan Magazine issues 1 & 2 were produced as limited edition print magazines, which have ​since sold out.

​Their Love Japan Blog was creative, contemporary and colourful, filled with fun and interesting Japanese related topics.  From travel, food, fashion, and art, to interviews, events, and pop culture.

They had contributors from all over the world.

Love Japan Magazine The Real Japan Rob Dyer

Issue #1 of Love Japan Magazine

​All of whom had been inspired by Japanese culture in some way, whether it be to take stunning photos, create delicious food, or to travel and experience Japan's unique landscapes. RIP Love Japan!

You may also like: Interview With AVO Magazine - My First Trip To Japan


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Kumano Kodo route Wakayama Visiting Japan Without Speaking Japanese Rob Dyer The Real japan
Blog, Interviews, Living In Japan, Planning

Visiting Japan Without Speaking Japanese

Around the start of last year, I discovered the blog West Coast To Far East.

It's run by an interesting guy called Sean who, rather impressively, relocated in 2016 with his family - all the way from Holywood U.S.A. to the mountains of Hida Takayama, in Japan's rural Gifu Prefecture.

West Coast To Far East

I really liked how Sean’s posts and YouTube videos focused on sharing his personal experiences and thoughts about his new life – good and bad – as he was experiencing them.

It isn’t your average “I’ve been there and done that and here’s how you can too” shtick. Far from it.

What especially makes Sean’s content so engaging is his honesty and willingness to admit he doesn’t have all the answers. That, several years on, he’s still finding his feet in Japan.

West Coast to Far East blog The Real Japan Rob Dyer

Visiting Japan without speaking Japanese

Visiting Japan for the first time can be a daunting experience. Add in potential language challenges and cultural differences – it might give you some cause for concern before your first big adventure here.

It’s the No.1 topic first-timers to Japan ask me about. So last year I wrote a book How to Travel in Japan Without Speaking Japanese. After reading my book on the subject, Sean and I got to talking about the challenges of travelling in Japan.

Sean invited me onto his YouTube channel to chat more about the themes in my book and to exchange experiences, discuss our personal insights and share some tips with you on visiting Japan without speaking Japanese.

Takahashi Okayama The Real Japan Rob Dyer

A series of 3 videos

Over a series of three videos we explore some of the challenges when visiting Japan without speaking Japanese. We share our combined experience, offering solutions that you can use to ensure your first or next trip to Japan is the best it can be.

And we share some personal annecdotes along the way, which we hope with encourage, inform or amuse as we go.

If you enjoy these videos and have any Japan travel related topics you like me to cover in future, please let me know by leaving a comment at the bottom of the page.

You might also want to subscribe to get updates on all new content.

 

 

Video 1

In this first video we get to learn a little about each other and discuss some of the most common concerns and questions people have about visiting Japan. Especially when you don’t speak the language.

Insights you’ll get from watching Part 1

  • Why I started The Real Japan
  • How living in Japan changed Sean’s perceptions of the challenges of traveling
  • The perceived language barrier and some ideas on how to overcome that
  • Japanese hospitality (omotenashi)
  • Why travelling in foreign countries rewards even just a little effort
  • Using phrasebooks and translation apps
  • How my subscribers’ feedback has improved my book
  • Why preparation before you come to Japan can really pay off

 

Video 2

In this second part, we touch on some of the amusing things that can occur while travelling, as well as these topics:

Insights you’ll get from watching Part 2

  • Preparing for a trip – mindset and practical tips
  • Navigating Japan’s huge train stations
  • Using taxis with Japan’s difficult address system
  • Not being afraid of ‘getting lost’
  • Building in time to wander – without a plan
  • Not researching everything in advance
  • Tips on avoiding crowds of tourists
  • Getting off-the-beaten-path

 

 

Video 3

Insights you’ll get from watching Part 3

  • Exploring the big city
  • Interacting with the locals
  • What to do when you leave your toothbrush at home
  • Finding a pharmacy in Hagi
  • Being a ‘wild foreigner’
  • Using body language
  • Interacting etiquette

 

 

I hope you find our chat interesting and that you get some useful tips you can use in planning your own adventures.

 

 

How to Travel in Japan Without Speaking Japanese

There’s loads more on this topic in my book How to Travel in Japan Without Speaking Japanese.

If you want to travel in Japan but don’t speak Japanese you can learn more about my ebook HERE.

How to travel in Japan without speaking Japanese ebook The Real Japan Rob Dyer

Are you currently planning a trip to Japan? Have any questions? If so – leave a comment below.

Subscribe to West Coast To Far East’s blog HERE.

You may also like

Living In Japan – Travel Tips From The Real Japan
3 Months In Japan – Without A Plan
Change Your Life – Why Am I Doing This?

More of my interviews

JaDan YouTube
Just Japan Podcast: The Real Japan
Travel For Stamps
Love Japan Magazine
AVO Magazine

Like this post? I’d love it if you’d share this image on social media! ↓

Visiting Japan Without Speaking Japanese Rob Dyer The Real Japan West Coast to Far East

Join a Growing Community of Travellers!

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Akiko DuPont photographer The Real Japan Rob Dyer
Blog, Exploring, Interviews

Connecting Through A Lens: An Interview with Photographer Akiko DuPont

Freelance Documentary Photographer Akiko DuPont

was born in Japan. But her father’s work saw her spend her childhood in several other countries including China, Pakistan and England, before returning home to Japan, where she went to University.

DuPont says she has always been interested in the diverse life experiences of people around the world.

Her curiosity drives her to engage with these subjects, and to develop a rapport with them. Often a story emerges about what makes them tick, and how their circumstances sit within the wider context of the rest of the world.


Akiko DuPont photographer The Real Japan Rob Dyer

Connecting Through A Lens: An Interview with Photographer Akiko DuPont
by Rob Dyer

 

People lie at the heart of her work; and DuPont’s photojournalist style is typified by natural light and real life locations, giving her work an immediacy, capturing fleeting moments in the lives of her subjects.

Her photographs have been published and featured around the world, including The Washington Post, The Huffington Post Japan, Mainichi Weekly, FOX News, and many more.

Notable past projects have documented the fast changing lives of the people in Myanmar. Putting on record Philippine victims of sexual violence during World War II. And documenting the work of the last traditional tattoo artist of the Kalinga tribe, also in the Philippines.


Akiko DuPont photographer The Real Japan Rob Dyer


But for her most recently completed project, Jiji and Kinako, DuPont chose to look within her own family to tell a far more personal story.

It documents her grandfather Jiji’s growing love for a cat (Kinako) during the progression of Jiji's Alzheimer’s disease, and was picked up by many Alzheimer’s organisations around the world.

The connection to her subject here, uncommon in her work, at times making it especially difficult for her. At one point having to stop taking photographs for almost a year.


Akiko DuPont photographer The Real Japan Rob Dyer


DuPont was recently shortlisted for the IWPA  - the International Women Photographers Award. She’s now based out of Tokyo, Japan and London, UK.

I caught up with DuPont during her latest exhibition, for the Jiji and Kinako project, at the Sway Gallery in London.

Akiko, thanks for being with me today to talk about your photography, we're here in the sway Gallery in London.

I just wanted to spend a few minutes to get to know you for our readers, and for them to understand a little bit about what inspires your photography, and also the travels that that takes you on as well.

You were born in Japan and grew up on an oyster farm I hear. So what was that like?

The oyster farm was in the Kansai area, Hyogo. I lived part of my childhood outside Japan, and then came back to Japan when I was seven and then moved to an oyster farm.

Because I was quite small the effect [on me] wasn't that big I believe, but because I did go outside the country I did have a little bit of a different sense compared to the other people.

Akiko DuPont photographer The Real Japan Rob Dyer


Because it was a very small town, everybody was very close, very traditional, and I did have a little bit of a challenge blending in sometimes. We had different values, way of thinking, manners. I’m glad I came back.


Childhood - Growing Up Outside of Japan

You spent a lot of your childhood in a number of countries including China, Pakistan, England and Japan. So how did that come about?

So, my father's work brought me to those countries. My sister was actually six months old when we went outside Japan. China. I heard we went there soon after the Tiananmen Square incident, there was quite a little population of Japanese.


Akiko DuPont photographer The Real Japan Rob Dyer


And then we went to Pakistan soon after when India and Pakistan were fighting and when they calmed down. So we were quite lucky. Then we moved here to England and came back to Japan when I was seven.


Getting Into photography

You studied media literacy at Sacred Heart University in Tokyo, and I wonder what that course encompassed, and if that's where your photography began, or whether you were doing photography before you went to university.

I began photography actually after University, but I think I had a little bit of seeds of getting interested in photography while I was growing up, because my grandfather was into photography.  Then I did go to study media literacy and got interested in journalism. I loved art all the time, so that was the seeds I guess.

I got interested in journalism... but realized that sometimes words aren't enough

Then it was all about media literacy when I was in university, but it did make me realize that sometimes words aren't enough. And then photographs, the images isn't enough sometimes. So you always need something together and then I thought - well, I should do photography.


Akiko DuPont photographer The Real Japan Rob Dyer


Just on that briefly, what sort of photography equipment do you use?

I use my Nikon D800, and whenever I do documentary I try to have two cameras all the time on my shoulders, because you never know what's going to happen. And you don't have time to change lenses and they're both D800s.


Documentary Photography

Your style - you've got a very kind of documentary style, but you've got our own kind of natural curiosity about people it seems and how they live their lives. I wondered how that fascination came about? Was that driven by your childhood where you were living in different countries?

Definitely. Even if I just lived in Japan, maybe I ended up doing documentary photography.  I did see a little bit of differences, see different cultures and different people. The way they live. The way they act.

That made me interested in people so much. I did live in the oyster farm though but I did go to Tokyo and people are so different in Japan - even in Japan. Yeah, I love people.


Akiko DuPont photographer The Real Japan Rob Dyer


Myanmar In The Here and Now

One of your projects Myanmar In The Here and Now featured in the Japanese newspaper Mainichi. I really loved those photographs that you've got of Myanmar - the light in them is particularly striking. I just wondered if you could tell us a little bit about that project?

So I went and when I went to young I felt this very warm feeling. A little bit of it reminded me of old Japan actually. And the people were very warm. They were very polite. They had a manner a little bit like the Japanese actually. Then, when I went inside the mountains, people were a little bit like that.

Myanmar reminded me of old Japan

Akiko DuPont photographer The Real Japan Rob Dyer

Myanmar series, Photo: copyright Akiko DuPont


A little example that made me very interested in the people, was when you were walking inside the mountain you encounter local people. In Burma there's a very big temple in Yangon which is called Shwedagon Pagoda and it is thought that for people it's ideal to go there at least once during their life.

Then the locals said “Did you go to Shwedagon Pagoda?”, and I said “Yeah I did” and they asked me “Where are you from?” so I tell them “I'm from Japan, Tokyo” and they say “Oh, is that close to Yangon?”.


Akiko DuPont photographer The Real Japan Rob Dyer


They don’t know Japan, and they don’t know Tokyo, and that fascinated me so much.  The people living inside the mountain countryside have a very simple life. They have so much emotion and I thought I should document them.

SEARCH: flights to Myanmar.


Jiji and Kinako - A Personal Story

Your most recent project here at the Sway Gallery in London, Jiji and Kinako, is not about strangers in other countries, but it's actually much more personal story. And a very moving one too; documenting the love of a cat for your then 94 year old grandfather, and the progression of his Alzheimer's disease.

I wondered if you could explain and share a bit about that story, and how you came to take the photographs.

So he's my actual grandfather, and he's one of the people who influenced me so much. I had no intention to show this story to the world actually. Whenever I do documentary stories, I try to make it as neutral as possible, because I don't want to affect my viewers with my own opinion - the way I think.


Akiko DuPont photographer The Real Japan Rob Dyer


Then this story is too personal, too emotional, so I thought I'm going to show this to the world. I’ve been taking these photographs between 2012 and 2017, which is last year. And during the process of taking the photographs was also witnessing his dementia progress, and that was heartbreaking.

Witnessing my grandfather's dementia progress was heartbreaking

So I had to stop taking photographs for a few months, or maybe about a year. But then, watching them filled the family with so much warmth and happiness, so I thought maybe it can do the same with the people outside the family.

So I decided to publicize it, release it and I'm very glad that I did.


Akiko DuPont photographer The Real Japan Rob Dyer


After doing this exhibition, with all the reactions from people, I don't know…  So my opinion about making things neutral has changed a little bit. Sometimes, when the photographs are personal it might have more power sending a message.


Dementia and Alzheimer's Disease

So did they have a cat? Or was the cat introduced into the household?

The story behind that is my friend actually had a cat. A massive cat called Omochi. She got pregnant and had three babies. She didn't know what to do, so I decided to have one - which was Kinako.

My grandfather hated cats. So I hid it in my room for a while. And then, one day, my grandfather wandered into my room and found the cat. And he grabbed the cat and looked so happy!


Akiko DuPont photographer The Real Japan Rob Dyer


Until that day, actually after he got diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, he began to shut himself a little bit and smile less. I think that's common with a lot of people who get diagnosed actually.

Then, when I saw his smile, I thought I need to take a photograph of them. So, that's how the story began. Soon after that he snatched the cat and took him to his home - so he was fully converted!


Favourite Countries To Travel

You've shot around the world including Europe and the Far East, and I wonder what your favorite places both to travel and also to shoot in are, and whether there was a correlation between travelling and shooting.

Asia and Europe are completely different worlds which I cannot choose where is good or what good but if I had to choose one place I'd say Japan and Burma. Burma is changing so much right now.

I love Burma - it has so many faces

I went there maybe seven years ago the first time, when I took the photographs of the people in the mountains, and the people in Yangon, actually most of the people, did not have cell phones.

And then after I went back three, or four years ago, everyone had a cell phone and everybody had Facebook, so things changed so much.


Akiko DuPont photographer The Real Japan Rob Dyer


I'm sure people's values have changed a little bit too and the way people began to act was different as well. People began to wear mini-skirts, and dyed their hair, but I think that is similar to other countries. Yeah still I love Burma - it has so many faces.


On Living In Japan And The UK

You now split your time between the UK and Japan (which is what I do actually) and I wonder what it was about each country that draws you back rather than make you choose just one of them as your home.

It’s a very personal answer. I want to keep my roots to where my family is. Obviously my family is in Japan, and then my husband is in the UK. I want to spend more time where they are.

That's personal and then I cannot choose Asia or Europe, and I'm very lucky that I have two homes. Yeah, I have several projects in Asia and then I'd love to begin something in Europe so I'm still trying to study things.


Akiko DuPont photographer The Real Japan Rob Dyer


I wonder what it was that when you're travelling, not necessarily just for photography for working purposes, but what it is it draws you to travel, what you like to get out of experiences?

So, like earlier I said I love people and this work has allowed me to meet people, a lot of people who have different lives. Not specifically some someone special or a celebrity, they all have different lives. Knowing people's lives is a little bit like reading a precious book.

Knowing people's lives is a little bit like reading a precious book

I do take scenery sometimes, but most of my photographs are of people, yeah because people makes the world very rich. So I keep wanting to meet somebody, it doesn't necessarily be somebody new. I want to explore.


Akiko DuPont photographer The Real Japan Rob Dyer


Where To Go In Japan

What about in your home country in Japan. Are there any places in particular that you would suggest that people perhaps visiting for the first time should go to?

My home town is quite interesting actually, but if I had to choose one place it would be a place called Himeji in Hyogo. That's where my school was actually, close to my village. It has a castle, Himeji Castle, and it's beautiful, it's absolutely beautiful.

If I had to choose one place to suggest visiting in Japan it would be Himeji

Its history is wonderful. It’s one of the castle that doesn't have an elevator right now and it's World Heritage. But it's not just because it's World Heritage but it has little bits of charm.


Himeji Castle The Real Japan Rob Dyer

Himeji Castle


For example, it has so many big rocks used for the wall. And then, when they were making the wall, they began to have a lack of stones that they can find. So they began to use gravestones to build the wall. So when you explore, if you're lucky, you can see several names on the wall.

And then the castle was not owned just by one family, so as the history goes by, several new families used it. So if you walk through the wall, you can see the different family marks which is quite interesting too.

Book a Tour: Visit Himeji and Takeda Castles in a 2-Day Tour from Tokyo


Akiko DuPont photographer The Real Japan Rob Dyer


Future Projects And Plans

Finally, I just wondered what your next photography project might be? I don't know if you've already got something lined up or whether you sort of let chance just happen or dictate what comes next?

I've been having several ideas. One is, especially because your site is about Japan, I'd love to do something that has to do with myth - Japanese myths. Not because I love myths, but this is all about history, and I'd love to know my home country's history through the myths, which should be interesting.

Japan has a lot of issues about nationality right now. So I'd love to document something like that - and spread the news [about that] a little bit through my photography if it's possible.

All Akiko DuPont photographs copyright Akiko DuPont - reproduced with permission

With special thanks to The Sway Gallery, London

VIDEO: Interview With Akiko DuPont

TRJ Resources

Akiko DuPont photographer The Real Japan Rob Dyer


Feedback and questions welcome - leave a comment below.

Planning A Trip To Japan?

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Ritsuren Garden, Takamatsu, The Real Japan Rob Dyer
Blog, Interviews

Getting Out of Your Comfort Zone in Japan

Some thoughts about getting out of your comfort zone in Japan - and in life.

Why this topic? Well, a couple of reasons...

Getting out of your comfort zone in Japan Rob Dyer The Real Japan


Trying Stuff You Might Not Otherwise Choose

For many people, experiencing The Real Japan will mean doing and trying stuff that you might not otherwise choose to - largely because it takes a bit more effort.

But, in my experience, going off the beaten path more than rewards any challenges or new learning curves it throws at you.

Going off the beaten path more than rewards any challenges or new learning curves it throws at you

Fancy climbing to the top of Akashi Kaikyo Bridge - the world's longest suspension bridge - 300m up?

Or taking a icebreaker ship out into the winter ice floes off the northern coast of Hokkaido in deep winter?

READ: Why Travel Jitters are a Good Thing


Our Built-In Comfort Zones

Then there's us, as unique individuals. We all have our own in-built comfort zones. Some of us are better at pushing those than others. (This means I am not great at it!)


Rob Dyer in Sendai The Real japan

Overlooking Sendai from Aoba Castle


These are often very personal to us, but can impact on how we take on the world, including things like travelling. If we can face and beat those personal challenges, I'm convinced our lives (and our travel) will be better as a result.

If we can face and beat those personal challenges, I'm convinced our lives (and our travel) will be better as a result

In recent weeks I've received several personal emails and been asked publicly why I don't appear more in the videos on my YouTube channel.

It's a very good question.

READ: 3 Months in Japan - Without A Plan

 

What Takes Me Out Of My Comfort Zone

And the honest answer is that appearing on camera takes me out of my comfort zone.

Now, when it comes to travelling, I know that pushing one's comfort zone to 'go further' frequently leads to unplanned and delightful adventures - that I would never experience if I hadn't pushed my comfort zone a little.

Appearing on camera takes me out of my comfort zone

So, today I'm making a commitment to you that I'll be more open about exactly who I am and why I love doing what I do - and how I will do my absolute best to see that helps YOU discover more of The Real Japan.

And, yes, that will include me appearing in my videos more from now on.

The popular (an very entertaining) J-Vlogger JaDan recently published an interview with me on his most excellent YouTube channel. Watch the video below.


VIDEO: The Real Japan - Life In Japan

YouTube The Real Japan Rob Dyer

Subscribe to The Real Japan YouTube channel HERE.

Question:
Are you good or bad at getting out of your comfort zone?  Let me know by leaving a comment below.

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Getting out of your comfort zone in Japan Rob Dyer The Real Japan

READ: Japan - Why You Need To Go Beyond Tokyo
READ: 3 Months in Japan - Without A Plan
READ: Why Travel Jitters are a Good Thing

 

Feedback and questions welcome - leave a comment below.

 

Mobal Japanese SIM The Real Japan

 

Planning A Trip To Japan?

Sign up for our Japan Travel Bulletin today, download your free copy of our Guide to Amazing Adventures in Japan, receive access to our free Resource Library and Private Facebook Group.

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Living In Japan Tips Kobe The Real Japan Rob Dyer
Blog, Interviews, Living In Japan, Planning

Living In Japan – Travel Tips From The Real Japan

The Dream of Living In Japan

Living in Japan is a dream held by many.

Escaping the rat race and starting a new life in an incredible country like Japan is easier now than it has ever been.

In this interview with J-Vlogger JaDan, I share some of my personal insights on escaping, living in Japan and tips on travelling in Japan.

From my first visits to this amazing country, to my lifestyle choice of splitting my time between Japan and the UK, through to my travel plans for this year.

 

 

JaDan – Dan In Japan

Dan’s YouTube channel – JaDan – Dan In Japan – chronicles his everyday life in Japan.

Aside from the peek into what he gets up to, via his ‘day in the life’ style videos, he offers tips for those looking to live in Japan, videos about Japanese language, travel VLOGs and his love of (mainly J-punk) music.

I recommend subscribing – I do!

Warning! Language wise, not all of Dan’s content is safe for work or young ones.

Dan and I first met in November last year and we instantly hit it off. Which I guess was no surprise, since I was already a fan of his entertaining channel. So I’m delighted to now feature on it.

 

Rob Dyer, Kanazawa Castle The Real Japan

 

Insights On Living In Japan

Here’s a few of the insights on living in Japan you’ll get from watching the interview:

  • About when I first came to Japan
  • Why it was 10 years before I returned to Tokyo after my first time there
  • About my lifestyle choice of splitting my time between Japan and the UK
  • Getting worse at speaking Japanese!
  • Travelling in Japan without speaking Japanese
  • Some of my most memorable travel experiences in Japan
  • My guide to 5 Amazing Adventures in The Real Japan
  • Dan’s ‘Lightning Round’!
  • My travel plans for this year

Plus there’s also a quick look at Akashi Park and Castle – next to where we filmed the interview.

 

 

I hope you enjoy getting to know me better and some of my motivations for living in Japan. Perhaps hearing about my travelling throughout this wonderful land will inspire you to try your own adventures.

 

Are You Thinking About Living In Japan?

Or do you have plans to? If so, tell me about it – leave a comment below.

Catch the full interview on JaDan’s YouTube channel HERE.

Watch my interview with Dan about his random decision to move from the UK to Japan HERE.

You may also like:
3 Months In Japan – Without A Plan
Change Your Life – Why Am I Doing This?
How To Cruise An Icebreaker Ship In Hokkaido

More of my interviews:
Just Japan Podcast: The Real Japan
Travel For Stamps
Love Japan Magazine
AVO Magazine

 

Like this post? I’d love it if you’d share this image on social media! ↓

Living In Japan Tips The Real Japan Rob Dyer

 

Planning A Trip To Japan?

Sign up for our Japan Travel Bulletin today, download your free copy of our Guide to Amazing Adventures in Japan, receive access to our free Resource Library and Private Facebook Group.

 

 

Mobal Japanese SIM The Real Japan

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JaDan Dan In Japan The Real Japan Rob Dyer Dan Hewitt interview
Blog, Films, Interviews

From Yorkshire To Akashi: Interview With Dan Hewitt aka JaDan

A Yorkshire Lad, Raised in Sheffield

Dan Hewitt, better known as YouTuber JaDan – Dan In Japan, is a Yorkshire lad born and raised in Sheffield, in the heart of England.

One day, Dan awoke and decided to relocate to Japan.

He wasn’t a Japanophile, had never considered living in Japan before.

But he moved here anyway.

 

JaDan Dan In Japan The Real Japan Rob Dyer Dan Hewitt interview

 

Starting A YouTube Channel

Initially, to give him something to do, and to share his day-to-day life experiences (like washing his clothes with washing up liquid instead of washing powder), Dan started a YouYube channel called JaDan.

He moved to Japan in April 2016 (to a city called Akashi) to pursue a new career teaching English.

Dan has a love for gaming, comic books, technology, photography, sightseeing, and punk music.

Now, JaDan adds two new videos every week (on Mondays and Fridays) to his YouTube channel, that are packed full of interesting, fun and useful content related to life in Japan.

All delivered in Dan’s own inimitable style (aka Not Always Safe For Work). ;-)

 

JaDan Dan In Japan The Real Japan Rob Dyer Dan Hewitt interview

 

Our First Meeting

I first met Dan in December 2017 at a Twitter meetup in Kobe. He’s a unique character and certainly not your average expat English teacher. We hit it off immediately.

I was keen to hear and understand more about his relocation, and what advice and ‘reality checks’ he would offer anyone else considering the move to Japan.

So, I caught up with JaDan in Akashi, some 6,000 miles from his home city of Sheffield, to discuss Jaffa Cakes among other important stuff.

VIDEO: Interview With JaDan – Dan In Japan…


 

YouTube The Real Japan Rob Dyer

And One More Thing…

If you liked this article and film you might like to subscribe to my YouTube channel HERE.

And be sure to hit the bell icon to get notifications of all new posts!

I post a new inspirational video every Friday.

 

Resources

 

Related: Exploring The World’s Longest Suspension Bridge – Akashi Kaikyo
Related: Uonotana Fish Market, Akashi

JaDan’s YouTube channel

Japan Travel Tours & Activities

Subscribe to my YouTube channel

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JaDan Dan In Japan The Real Japan Rob Dyer Dan Hewitt interview

Feedback and questions welcome – leave a comment below.

Planning A Trip To Japan?

Sign up for our Japan Travel Bulletin, download your copy of our Guide to Amazing Adventures in Japan, receive access to our free Resource Library and Private Facebook Group.

​Read More
Just Japan Podcast The Real Japan Rob Dyer
Blog, Culture, Interviews

Just Japan Podcast: The Real Japan

I’m not usually much of a podcast listener but there was one that caught my ear – the Just Japan Podcast show – hosted by expat Canadian Kevin O’Shea – who as lived in Kobe for 9 years.

Just Japan Podcast

It genuinely does live up to its strapline: “Everything you want to know about Japan“.

So I was delighted (and more than a bit chuffed) when Kevin invited me to appear on his excellent show.

Kevin has been running his blog JustJapanStuff.com since 2013.

His podcast first aired at the start of 2014. It’s rightfully recognised as one of the go-to Podcasts for anyone who has any interest in Japanese culture and life in Japan.

I thoroughly recommend listening and subscribing to his terrific show (links below). And be sure to check out previous episodes – there’s some real gems in there!

LISTEN Now: Podcast #168: The Real Japan

 

Just Japan Podcast The Real Japan Rob Dyer

It genuinely does live up to its strapline: “Everything you want to know about Japan“.

 

Listen Now on YouTube:

 

TRJ Resources

 

Just Japan Podcast on Soundcloud:
https://soundcloud.com/justjapanpodcast

Just Japan Stuff blog:
https://justjapanstuff.com/


You might also like:

Interview With Travel For Stamps
Interview With AVO Blog
Interview With Love Japan Magazine

 

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Just Japan Podcast The Real Japan Rob Dyer

What podcasts about Japan do you listen to? Any you can recommend?

Join a Growing Community of Travellers!

Sign up for my biweekly bulletin today, download your copy of my Guide to Amazing Adventures in Japan, receive access to my free Resource Library and Private Facebook Group.

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Wadi Rum Jordan The Real Japan Rob Dyer
Blog, Exploring, Interviews, Planning

Interview With Travel For Stamps

Interview With Travel For Stamps

Tifanee Baker who runs the travel blog Travel For Stamps has just published an interview with me on her blog.

It’s about my global travel adventures not just limited to Japan – although, of course, Japan does feature highly.

Tifanee is a licensed attorney from Texas. She also happens to be in love with travelling the world, including her own playground, the USA.

Between ziplining in the rainforests of Puerto Rico, and learning to scuba dive in Malta, Tifanee also runs the blog Travel For Stamps. Here she shares her passion for global experiences.

 

Montenegro The Real Japan Rob Dyer
Perast, Kotor Bay, Montenegro

 

My goal is to show others that experiences matter more in life because memories last longer. Experiences can be gained through travel far and wide, and close to home. You can travel and travel often without breaking the bank.” she says.

Which chimes a lot with my outlook on travelling too. So when Tifanee invited me to be interviewed as part of her Wednesday Wanderer series of interviews with other travel bloggers, I jumped at the chance.

 

Bitchu Matsuyama Castle, Takahashi The Real Japan Rob Dyer
Bitchu Matsuyama Castle, Takahashi

You can read the full interview on the Travel For Stamps website HERE.

Reflecting the global scope of Tifanee’s blog, the interview goes beyond my Japanese adventures, taking in my first proper overseas holiday, in Greece, where I first caught a taste for travel.

It also takes in my unforgettable experiences of smuggling in Syria (!) in 2009, alongside a week spent navigating from one end of Jordan to the other.

Sunrise in the Wadi Rum Jordan Rob Dyer The Real Japan
Watching the sunrise in the Wadi Rum, Jordan

 

It was here that I experienced one of my most indelible travel memories to this day. Staying in a Bedouin camp in the Wadi Rum desert, getting up at 5am, climbing to the top of a rocky outcrop – to watch the sunrise.

To read about this and many other adventures, including those in my beloved Japan (of course!), head over to Tifanee’s blog and read the full interview.

I hope you like it as much as I enjoyed answering the questions.

I’d love to hear where you have been in the world that still holds a special place in your memories – please let me know by leaving a comment below.

Read my Travel For Stamps interview in full HERE.

You may also like:
Interview With Love Japan Magazine
Interview With AVO Blog

 

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Interview With Travel For Stamps Rob Dyer The Real Japan

​Planning A Trip To Japan?

Sign up for our Japan Travel Bulletin, download your copy of ​our Guide to Amazing Adventures in Japan, receive access to our free Resource Library and Private Facebook Group.

​Read More
Rob Dyer The Real Japan AVO Blog Interview
Blog, Interviews, Planning

Interview With AVO Magazine

The AVO Magazine is an epic website in all senses of the word – it’s great and it is vast!

Its focus is on Japanese music, with a good amount of anime, manga, and cosplay included for good measure.

When AVO announced their idea for a series of ‘First Time In Japan’ interviews with travellers in Japan – about their reflections on their first trip to Japan – I was curious.

I thought this was a great idea! So was delighted I would be the first interviewee in this new series.

You can read the full interview online HERE.

 

Rob Dyer The Real Japan AVO Blog Interview

 

I was asked a lot of questions and they were really thought-provoking. It was only when answering some of them that it made me pause to think about why I love Japan so much. And what it is that keeps me returning after so many years.

I’m looking forward to reading more interviews in the series. It’s a terrific idea – I wish I’d thought of it first.

Related: Interview With Love Japan Magazine

 

AVO Blog Interview Rob Dyer The Real Japan

 

AVO Magazine was created as AVO Blog in 2012 by Francisca Hagen. Based in the Netherlands a great deal of the site is in dual languages – Dutch and English.

It’s an online magazine, regularly updated about Japanese culture related events in the Netherlands and Belgium, and publishes reports, interviews, reviews and fun and informative articles.

Read my AVO Magazine interview in full HERE.

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AVO Blog Interview Rob Dyer The Real Japan

 

I’m also interest in (and also write about) music, so that aspect of AVO Magazine has a lot of appeal for me personally.

And it’s encouraging to see blogs as well-maintained and frequently updated as AVO is also spreading their love and passion for Japan.

I strongly recommend checking it out – regularly: http://avo-blog.nl/?lang=en.

Related: Interview With Love Japan Magazine

Related: An Insider’s Guide To Tokyo’s Live House Scene

​Planning A Trip To Japan?

Sign up for our Japan Travel Bulletin, download your copy of ​our Guide to Amazing Adventures in Japan, receive access to our free Resource Library and Private Facebook Group.

​Read More