Everyone knows Kyoto. It receives over 30 million visitors a year and the crowds can be intense, but take the time to explore just a little and you'll find winding cobbled alleyways lined with intimate restaurants, notice small temples tucked between nondescript office blocks, and catch glimpses of peaceful gardens in otherwise built up areas. In fact, part of its charm is just wandering around and seeing what you happen to stumble across. Don't let the huge numbers of visitors put you off - there's a reason why so many people go to Kyoto, and it's worth adding to your itinerary, too.
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I spent three years living in Japan as an Assistant Language Teacher on the JET Programme, not knowing what to expect but with images of Tokyo, geisha and Mount Fuji in my mind. I was placed in Yamagata prefecture in a small rural town that I couldn't find in any guidebook. I learnt to snowboard, climbed mountains, tried my hand at ikebana and kyuudo and koto, dressed up as a samurai, karaoked til the early hours, become obsessed with onsen, and had countless other adventures and experiences. For a relatively small country, Japan has so much to offer, and I love nothing better than exploring - particularly heading off the beaten track and into the beautiful countryside. I set myself a personal challenge to visit each of the 47 prefectures, which gave me a great excuse to do a lot of travelling. Although I've now ticked them all off, there's still so much I want to see. Japan will always be my second home and and I'm looking forward to discovering and learning more for a long time to come.