Japan is…amazing. I didn’t expect to like it so much. The nature, the food, the people, the architecture, it feels like I’m discovering something that was carefully crafted and maintained with pride and love.
Our first stop was Haneda, a small fishing town close to the airport:
Tea, coffee, water, and juice. These things were all over Japan. Very convenient!
Biking is big here, we soon learn.
Our first home across the Pacific Ocean: a quaint and neat little hostel run by a merry woman named Yuka.
The first shrine we visited, one of my favorites. A small neighborhood place, empty in the morning save for one man praying.
A street in Haneda. They drive on the left here
I really enjoyed this first stop. It gave me a taste of everyday life in Japan: quiet, clean, and efficiently beautiful.
Our next stop was Tokyo. Here we used M’s Hilton points to treat ourselves to a two night stay in the Hilton Tokyo. It was a fun two days; we had some down time and enjoyed a nice dinner to celebrate our anniversary, and we met up with a childhood friend of mine who lives in the city.
The famous Shibuya crosswalk at daytime
View from our room in Tokyo
More Shibuya. It looks loud, but it was actually very quiet
Though sometimes crowded, Tokyo is really quiet! There was no honking, no loud conversations. Not even a loud sneeze! As a former New Yorker, this was baffling.
Then we took our first Shinkansen (bullet train) ride up to Nikko National Park. A small mountain town where almost all the food shuts down by 5 pm. Still, we saw some pretty awesome shrines, temples, and mountain views.
Moss is plenty
Fresh drinking water
Tree giants along the walkway to Toshogu Shrine
Shinkyu sacred bridge is right by a road, but this view doesn’t reveal its proximity to the modern world
Prayers; requests and gratitude
In line along Toshogu
View from Nikko Station
Moss-covered, part of Shinto shrine
Japanese school field trip, listening intently
Hiroshima was our next stop. M really wanted to visit, and I’m glad we went. The memorial was beautiful and inspiring. It paid respect to those that died, those that sacrificed for the better of others, and those that will go on to make a better future. I wonder if the US would be able to memorialize a tragedy this way.
Colorful paper cranes folded to recognize President Obama’s visit to Hiroshima earlier this year
Sadako Sasaki on the Children’s Peace Memorial
Finally, Kyoto. Old Japan. There were plenty of tourists and Western restaurants along Pontocho district, the iconic narrow streets next to Kamo River. We enjoyed a stroll down those streets and ended up grabbing a beer and a simple meal at the end of the night. Gion was also filled with tourists, but it was still nice to see some of the architecture and participate in a tea ceremony!
Solitude for reflection
Making matcha tea for tea ceremony
Coffee and breakfast our first morning in Kyoto. I felt like I had stepped back into Brooklyn, NY
Streets in Gion
Strolling in Gion
Another one of my favorite shrines. This one is within Nishiki Fish Market
Nishiki Fish Market food
A shrine in Gion
This made me smile (an important yoga pose!)
Big tea house in Pontocho
On our last night in Kyoto, we stopped by Hachimonjiya, a small 3rd story bar/gathering place for artists, writers, and locals owned by photographer Kai Fusayoshi. We had great conversation with Kai and our bartender V, who was from Lebanon and here for her PhD. I highly recommend for anyone who enjoys tucked away local dive bars and street photography. Finally, our last bullet train from Kyoto to Osaka to catch our flight to Taipei:
All in all, it was a great if not busy week. We walked an average of 7 miles a day, which just about balanced out all the yummy food we ate!