Cafes with live pets are getting popular in the bigger cities in Japan. Most of the cafes have ordinary pets like cats, dogs or rabbits, but some have more unusual animals like otters, hedgehogs and owls (picture). The price depends on the time spend and a softdrink is usually included. The cafe owners seem to keep the pets on a rotation schedule, so the animals don't get (too) stressed of all the attention.
Hopefully everyone knows, that Hiroshima got bombed with the first atomic bomb during WWII. We will not get into the horrific details here, the World Peace Museum in Hiroshima does a sickening good job at that. We will, however, mention the iconic Atomic Bomb Dome, which the museum had been built close to. Originally, the dome was an exhibition hall, but by standing next to the epicentre of the A-bomb (the Aioi Bridge), and since the bomb detonated at 600 m in the air, there were some walls that could withstand the almost vertical blast. After the war, there was a discussion to demolish the ruin, but the decision was made to keep it as a memory of that devastating day in 1945 and a symbol of peace.
Harajuku is the place for both mainstream and alternative fashion. Jingubashi (the bridge from Harajuku towards Yoyogi Park) used to be the place to see people dressed up on Sundays in cosplay, Lolita Goth and visual kei fashion, but nowadays you only see a few here and there. They are top stylized and what might look like a sweet Little Bo Peep can turn out to be middle aged man doing his thing. It is one those refreshingly weird things, which Japan is so famous for.
This elegant and well preserved hilltop castle is Japan's finest example of a real shogun castle. It dates from 1333 and was one of Japan's first UNESCO World Heritage Site. It has never been damaged by earthquake, fire or even war (though Himeji city was heavily bombed during WWII). However, recently it underwent extensive restoration for many years, and now stands (almost) immaculate. All six floors of the main keep can be visited, but its beauty is best enjoyed from the distance on the expansive castle grounds. Himeji Castle is a major cherry blossom spot, which attracts even bigger crowds during the short blooming season.
Don't forget to visit Kokoen Garden next door (buy the combined ticket).
Hiroshima Castle is another Japanese shogun castle. It stands on the flat plain as opposed to a hilltop, but with the usual moat with koi carps. There is also a shrine within the castle grounds. From the outside it looks as pretty as Himeji or Matsuyama castle, but when you enter the castle, you see the difference. It's constructed in modern materials, because the original castle was destroyed by the atomic bomb in 1945. The castle you see today was built in the 1950s with laminate flooring, so you don't need to take off your shoes. There are, of course, impressive panoramic views over Hiroshima from the top floor.
The historical quarter of Kurashiki (called Bikan) is very photogenic with lanes lined with traditional rice storehouses. Particularly along the canals, where rowboats with tourists navigate the narrow waterway under the shady willows. Today the impeccable white-walled and black-tiled houses are occupied by boutiques, craft shops and denim stores. Kurashiki is a popular destination for domestic tourists, while most foreign visitors seem to stick to better known cities.
Kyoto was home for the imperial family for more than a millennium and was spared bombing during WWII. So today, the city has 17 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, besides over a thousand of other temples, shrines, and gardens. So it's understandable that Kyoto is on every tourist's itinerary. The historical quarter, Gion, where geishas used to rush through the lanes, has become very touristic, but is still very charming with kimono-clad tourists strolling around. The famous food market, Nishiki, is equally popular with stalls offering local delicacies like stuffed octopus. So there is so much to see and do in Kyoto, that it will take weeks to cover it all. However, most visitors get templed-out after a couple of packed sightseeing days. Move on (or use Kyoto as a base) to explore other parts of Japan.
Japan is infamous for many weird cultural things, and one of them are the Love Dolls. Full size silicone sex dolls for the lonely man. The cheaper ones are not very convincing, but the more expensive ones are true masterpieces. You can of course customize your doll so the proportions and features fits your wettest dream. Sex shop also sells different scents you can spray on your love doll depending on your fetish. Some of the popular ones are "stockings smell of beautiful leg office lady" and "stained panties of school girls".
The volcano Fujisan is the icon of Japan and something you have to at least see, but even better hike. Its symmetrical cone is easily visible from Tokyo on a clear day and it's only getting more impressive the closer you get. The trek to the summit is fairly easy (though cold) and there are huts and tea houses along the routes that are open in the season (1st July to 27th August). It's probably the most trekked mountain in the world with more than 200,000 trekkers per year, but it only adds to the pilgrim experience to do it in crowds.
Nara is famous for its gigant Buddha and UNESCO World Heritage enlisted temple Kasuga Taisha, but most visitors have more fun with the huge population of deers, which roam free in the park. You can feed them with special deer crackers, which are sold everywhere in the park. In return the deers have learned a few tricks, like bowing (like you would do in a temple). Though the deers mostly are super calm, also around small children, they can get a bit pushy, if they feel cheated or you hide some crackers for them. So always be alert.