Tony & I consider ourselves especially lucky that when it came to forming our itinerary for the Japan leg of our trip, we were able to get expert advice from our friend Laura (a.k.a L’Ell, as she is more affectionately known round these parts). L’Ell spent two years teaching English in Japan, so we knew that if anyone was qualified to talk about the best parts of the country that most tourists routinely miss, it would be her! When she told us that Takayama was one of her favorite cities in Japan and the place she always brought friends who came to visit her when she was living in Japan, we knew that come hell or high water, we would have to make our way there.
In many ways, our first week of full-time travel was a lot harder than I predicted. I’ve mentioned it before, but the thing that I perhaps struggled with the most during this time was the food & dining element of travel, which was really surprising to me. We’ve established that neither Tony nor I are afraid of taking chances with our meals or of trying something new and unusual, so this was the last area where I expected to short circuit.
Matsumoto is an average city in Japan that would probably fall off any tourist’s radar if not for one thing: its beautifully restored six-story wooden castle. It also happens to be a gateway to Japan’s alps, but given how Steph feels about hiking, it’s safe to say we came to see the castle!
According to our original itinerary, the day following our perfect Obon experience in Matsushima had been set aside to visit Yamadera. But when faced with the prospect of having to actually climb up 1000 steps to visit the mountain temple there, we realized that not only were we absolutely EXHAUSTED, but the reality of having a private room was just way too decadent for us to pass it up. At $105/night, this was one of our most expensive lodging options and we figured we might as well get our money’s worth.
When I discovered that Tony and I had unwittingly booked the start of our Japan trip to coincide with the Japanese summer festival known as Obon, I made it my mission to ensure that we would get to witness at least one Obon celebration while we were in Japan.
As we were planning our trip, reading about all the possible places we could go, the word UNESCO kept cropping up, again and again. It seemed as though all the most interesting places in the world were either on the list or awaiting consideration. When we read about Nikko, a treasure trove of UNESCO sites and a proverbial slice of old Japan situated just 90-minutes away from Tokyo, it seemed like an obvious choice for our itinerary.
After years of planning and saving for our RTW trip, not to mention all the obstacles we overcame to take it, you would think that Tony and I would have been bursting with uncontainable joy once we hit the ground in Tokyo. Finally, our dreams were reality and we were living the life we had worked so hard to get!
Because we knew we wanted to experience Shibuya at night, we decided to also grab dinner in the area. According to our guide books, the area is teeming with department stores and restaurants, so we figured that finding somewhere that was relatively accessible to eat wouldn’t be too much of a challenge.
I freely admit that when it came to Tokyo, I was at a bit of a loss in terms of things to see and do. The city is so big, with so many little districts and weird things to see and do, that it was all rather overwhelming; it really is a city where you […]
If your aim while in Tokyo is to observe the Japanese cut loose and let their freak flags fly, then Yoyogi-Koen is where you need to go on a Sunday. Located in the Harajuku district, this is where the more flamboyant Japanese congregate, often decked out in elaborate and bizarre costumes and outfits. In a city where appearances are so important, Sundays at Yoyogi-Koen are an opportunity to let your proverbial hair down and enjoy yourself.
Some guidebooks describe the Asakusa area of Tokyo as a glimpse into the past. A chance to see old Edo and wander through close alleys filled with quaint shops selling traditional goods. Perhaps our time there was misspent or we lack the necessary perspective, but we spent a lot of time in Asakusa, and it […]
If our first meal in Tokyo did not make this clear, Japan is a nation of adventurous eaters. While many of the meals that are prepared at restaurants are done so with obvious care and artistic flare, proving the old addage true that we eat first with our eyes, this is not always the case. […]
When you go to Paris and you want great views, you think of the Eiffel Tower. New York, the Empire State Building. Toronto, the CN Tower. Tokyo, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building…? Ok, probably not that last one. In all likelihood, if you’re jonesing to take in the Tokyo skyline, your mind probably jumps to […]
After visiting the Tokyo National Museum, we returned to Ameyoko Arcade on our way back to the Metro. What a difference a few hours made; the sleepy serpentine lanes were now teeming with life and plenty of shoppers. We’ve yet to see things get raucous in Japan, but this is probably the closest we’ll get […]
With the myriad of museums (and other attractions) that are situated in Ueno Park, you’d be hard pressed to pick just one. We know that for many people, Tokyo is all about the space-age technology and all things modern, so perhaps choosing the Tokyo National Museum might strike some as odd because the newest thing […]