Good Morning guys! After two weeks of traveling, Matt and I are back in Canada and I can’t wait to tell you all about our trip to Japan!
I’ll admit, I wasn’t truly excited about Japan until we were on the plane. Asia felt completely foreign to me and I wasn’t sure what to expect when we got there. But guys, I completely fell in love with Japan. The culture and the people are amazing, the country is breathtakingly beautiful (even in the city), and the food was incredible (I could have easily out ate my wallet).
In case you missed it, I shared a copy of the original itinerary a few weeks ago, but if I’ve learned one thing through traveling, it’s that plans tend to change (sometimes a bit more then you’d like).
So today I wanted to share what we actually did during the two weeks we were in Japan.
Welcome to Tokyo! The first thing on our list was checking out the cherry blossoms.
We took a subway to Kitanomaru Park which was full of cherry blossom trees (apparently they would have been a bit more vibrant the week prior, but I still think the pale pink flowers were gorgeous).
That afternoon we visited the Observation Deck at the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building. I knew Tokyo was big, but didn’t really understand the extent of it until we were up the tower. Even on a cloudy day, the urban sprawl was mind blowing. The city just doesn’t seem to end.
We woke up to a gorgeous morning in Japan! After breakfast we took a train to Kamakura to see the second tallest Buddha statue in Japan (and discovered a really cool knife shop along the way).
From there we headed to Enoshima, a small tourist-y island just off the coast. Apparently we were really lucky that day because we were able to see Mount Fuji along the way.
We spent the rest of the afternoon exploring the island’s temples, shrines, and coastline, finishing off the day with a visit to the Enoshima Island Spa.
Spending the evening relaxing at Enoshima Island Spa turned out to be one of my favorite parts of the trip. The Spa’s outdoor infinity pools were positioned in such a way that we could relax in water while watching the sun set behind Mount Fuji. It was one of those moments you just know you’ll remember for the rest of your life.
The weather in Tokyo was looking really rainy that day so we planned a slower paced one, starting with a visit to the Meiji Shrine.
From there we wandered down Takeshita Street, the center of Japan’s most extreme teenage cultures and fashion styles (think Hello Kitty & rainbow grilled cheese sandwiches).
After Takeshita Street we headed to Hinokicho Park to view some more cherry blossoms. Hinokicho Park is a tiny park hidden in between sky scrappers, you could easily miss it if you didn’t know it was there. But what I loved about that park (and most other Japanese parks) is that it was immaculate. It seriously looked like a little piece of paradise.
We finished up the afternoon with a walk to Shibuya to watch the traffic (not even kidding). Shibuya is Tokyo’s biggest intersection, and it was fascinating watching how efficiently the pedestrian and vehicle traffic moves across 7 cross walks.
This was our last full day in Tokyo and it was a beautiful one. As soon as we finished breakfast we headed to the Tokyo Skytree, one of the tallest buildings in the world.
The view from the top was absolutely amazing (again, the city just doesn’t seem to end). Aside from where there was a river or ocean, all we could see was city.
And we even got to see Mount Fuji!
After the Skytree we headed to Sumida Park to check out some more cherry blossoms, and then we finished up the morning with a visit to (a very crowded) Sensoji Temple.
We took the Shinkansen (Bullet Train) from Tokyo to Nagoya that morning. After dropping our stuff off at the hotel, we headed over to the Osu Shopping District for lunch.
After lunch we took a bus out to the Nabano no Sato Gardens.
Touring the gardens was another one of my favorite parts of the whole trip. The parks and gardens in Tokyo were amazing, but this one was on a whole other level. We arrived just before sunset, so we got to see the gardens in full daylight and again in the dark when they were fully illuminated.
The next day we took a morning train to Hiroshima.
After a quick lunch, we spent the afternoon walking through the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, and Hiroshima Castle.
We spent the day exploring Miyajima Island. It was low tide when we arrived, but by the time we left that day, the water had risen up high enough that we got to see the Itsukushima Floating Torii Gate ‘float’.
While we waited for the tide to come in, we explored the rest of the island, checked out the Itsukushima Shrine, and hiked up to the top of Mount Misen.
There were also tons of friendly deer on the island!
We left Hiroshima that morning on a bullet train bound for Osaka. It was so busy on that train that day that we actually had to spend the entire ride either standing or sitting on the floor of the isle (one of the not so glamorous sides of travel).
We arrived in Osaka around noon, so after a quick lunch we headed over to Dotonbori and the Shinsekai District to explore.
Today was our first day trip to Kyoto (there’s so much to do in Kyoto that we couldn’t fit it all in in one day).
We spent the morning exploring the Kinkakuji Temple (the Golden Pavilion) and the Ginkakuji Temples (the Silver Pavilion) and then headed over to the Nishiki Market Shopping District for lunch.
After lunch we wandered over to the Fushimi Inari Shrine which is famous for its thousands of vermilion torri gates.
The top of the shrine sits on top of Mount Inari. There is over 12,000 stairs to the top, but the views are totally worth it!
Today we combined two day trips into one, starting with Himeji Castle in the morning.
Once we finished up at the castle, we took another train to Kobe and spent the rest of the afternoon exploring the Kobe Harborland, the Kobe Port Tower, and Chinatown.
I loved Nara!
Nara is famous for the friendly deer that roam the parks and temple sites. The best part? Feeding them! Tourists can buy ‘deer cookies’ from one of the many vendors in town and feed them to the deer as they explore the city.
After visiting the deer, we stopped by Kofukuji, Tōdai-ji Buddhist temple, and the stone lanterns of Kasuga Shrine.
Day two in Kyoto! First item on the list was the Bamboo Forest.
Next was the Okochi-Sanso Villa, located at the end of the Bamboo Forest trail. The Villa is one of the best examples of Japanese residential architecture, so I was really excited to check it out.
That afternoon we wandered down Sannenzaka & Ninnenzaka street. Most of Kyoto is pretty modern, nothing like what I’d pictured, so I really enjoyed walking down some of the city’s older streets.
That morning we traveled to Koyasan, a small temple town developed at the top of Mount Koya, where we had rooms booked at a monastery for the night.
I’ll admit, I was a bit unsure about staying at the monastery. Guests at the monastery are required to eat the food served by the monks (who follow a Japanese vegetarian diet) and I wasn’t super thrilled about having to get up early the next morning for a prayer service.
But it turned out to be a really cool experience! We were able to join in on a meditation class led by a true Buddhist monk that afternoon and we tagged along on a night tour of Japan’s most famous cemetery that evening.
We were up at 6 AM that morning to observe morning prayers and the fire ceremony (no pictures allowed).
After breakfast, we started the LONG journey back to Tokyo.