When you best travel buddy is suppose to go to France with you, but gets the flu instead, you just say: “It’s OK! We’ll just go somewhere else… start thinking.” Off to France I went with Haley & her husband Jason (instead of Maggie). When I returned, Maggie and I started planning our next adventure. I kinda let her pick anywhere in the world: I just wanted to go someplace warm… more on that later… so we explored the ideas of Bali, Tahiti, Hawaii, the Caribbean and then we found some cheap flights to Japan and I said,” Sure, why not. There’s no one else I’d to go Japan with.
We chose to go in the spring to catch cherry blossom season and we had a weekend without weddings, so we could go for 12 days. I really had no idea what I was getting myself into, but it ended up being one of the most adventurous trips full of the best stories. Throughout the trip, I kept thinking: I’m so glad Maggie is here because so many other people would have stressed out, been worried at times, been too tired to carry on and instead: Maggie and I kept in step and problem-solved and navigated out way through the 60 miles of walking, 1,100 miles of train rides, tons of Taxi rides and buses.
Our route was: Tokyo – Nagano – Osaka – Kyoto — Himeji – Kofu – Heda – Tokyo
We hung out in onsens (Japanese hot springs and private bath houses), we drank wine (so much wine!), Maggie ate nearly every kind of Japanese street food from octopus balls to ramen to anything fried and on a stick. My favorite was the crab legs on a stick —they were unbelievable! Every day we had our photo spots in mind and we’d wake up and rush off to start clicking away. We’d run ragged till the end of the sunlight and then dine and drink till we were worn out. It was one of the most exhausting trips I’ve ever done, but it was wonderful!
I learned so much about Japan and the Japanese people on our trip: they are some of the kindest people in the world and are so hospitable —anytime we asked for directions, they would nearly walk us to our destination; Japanese children are so well-behaved and calm; taking shoes off before you enter a home or restaurant is a brilliant idea; the Japan is one of the cleanest countries I’ve ever visited—they take great pride in their cities; it’s not as crowded as I expected it to be, but the countryside is very populated and they make use of every square-inch of land; places do not open until 10 a.m. and typically close about 10 p.m.; everything is done orderly and people follow unspoken cultural laws like always forming lines everywhere when walking in mass crowds.
So for any of you off to Japan to adventure, here are my tips for you: Carry yen with you—almost no one takes credit cards and this became a problem for us on a couple of occasions; definitely take advantage of the Train Pass for your travel and order it before you go—they’ll ship it to your home; There are coin lockers at train and bus stations and these are wonderful for storing luggage while you explore; go to your number one tourist spots first thing in the morning so you can enjoy them for a little while without crowds (it’s totally worth being the first ones there); women should dress modestly: we almost never saw bare legs anywhere we went; rent or buy a mobile hot spot before you come or when you first land in Tokyo—this will be so helpful for navigating throughout Japan or for instagraming your whole trip, haha.
I typically come away from a place in awe of God’s creation and the beauty He’s made in the world, but to be honest, I didn’t come away from Japan with that experience. We missed cherry blossom season by coming about a week or two too early because their winter lasted longer than normal. So the natural beauty of Japan was still dormant. The country had the potential to be blooming with beauty, but instead we had to search for it and we’d find one brilliant cherry blossom tree among a hundred dormant ones. And sometimes, life is like that for me: there’s potential for beauty and goodness in many places, but I have to search for it. And sometimes, a season of “winter” lasts longer than we expect. There is beauty to be found in rest, in winter and in a season of change. At the right time, beauty will bloom and then we can enjoy a full season of growth, harvest and beauty.
I also cemented my feelings about busy-busy trips and cities for vacations: There’s a million other things I’d rather do and a million other places I want to see. I’m far more impressed with God’s creation than what the best architects in the world can create. So next place you’ll see me will be the beautiful Greek isles! I can’t wait to explore the seas, beaches and caves of Greece. But for now, I hope you enjoy some of my travel and landscape photography from Japan.