Japan stories: part 1
A friend reached out asking for travel advice for an upcoming trip to Japan. Over the weekend I finally began to compile an email with some notes from our trip.
As I began writing up the notes I realized I had been putting off a blog post about our trip because it sounded so so so daunting to recount our 11 days of travel.
Fortunately, the email was reading pretty much like a blog post so here we go. Almost four months later here is a small piece of our foto diary and travel notes from Japan with a focus on the highlights of where we stayed and visited. I have the intention to do a few more posts from our trip so here we go with part 1.
*TLDR: just head to my IG stories and click on the Japan highlight for the cliffnotes of our trip & some entertainment too.
As I have written before, the trip to Japan was spur of the moment. We knew we wanted to go on a family trip (note it is not a vacation) in November after a few big projects wrapped up. We threw out the idea of Paris, NYC, Mexico City. All places we had been before but could be fun to stay for an extended visit. Airfare to these cities was way more than we expected. So I threw out Japan. We had been talking about going but never knew when it could make sense. As luck would have it, airfare was just under $600 round trip and we had direct flights from Portland so it was a no brainer.
Four weeks later we were on our way. Anxious about an ELEVEN hour flight with Momo I don’t think I even had much time to consider jet lag, excursions, what culture shock I might feel or more importantly what 24/7 Momo care would be like over 11 day! Next thing I knew we were getting ready to land into ten days of unknown Japanese cultural immersion.
We were running low on sleep but high on adrenaline as we de-boarded the plane. Everything was so different but still familiar. We were completely lost though. Just following the crowds of people thru customs and looking for any icons or symbols to familiarize ourselves with our surroundings. Somehow we figured out the train into the city and walked a half mile with our bags & stroller alongside locals commuting home after work, landing at our hotel tired but happy. It was 7pm and we dropped the bags and headed straight out to get a meal before diving into bed.
For our time in Tokyo we stayed in two diff hotels, which I recommend depending on how long you are there, staying in different parts of the city to get the most out of it. As you can imagine there is so much to explore, it can be overwhelming. Everyday we would check out a new part of the city and it would feel, smell, look & be completely different than what we had seen the day prior. Flash forward to our last day in japan we met some friends of friends and they explained to us that what Tokyo is today is the collection of about 30-something villages that eventually became this huge city. That anecdote completely sums up our Tokyo exploration.
For our first leg of the trip we did three nights at the Wired Hotel in Asakusa which was more old town and really charming. Smaller streets and alley ways to explore and a short walk to the Senso-Jii temple which is a must see, lots of local vendors and close to an owl cafe too, lol. Staying in Asakusa the first few nights really made us feel like we were in a new and different place. I think staying in Shibuya or any of the other more central/downtown spots makes it feel like almost any big metropolis. Long story short, easing into Japan in this neighborhood was something I found to be really welcoming and comfortable.
The hotel was a boutique hotel that seemed geared towards American/western travelers and offered a traditional breakfast each morning that was exactly to my expectations. Fish, rice, pickled vegetables and other random items. For Momo they offered a western breakfast consisting of eggs, croissant and fruit.
For our first day we bit of a lot. We explored our neighborhood visiting the Senso- Ji temple and then taking the metro over to Harajuku and Shibuya. Walking thru the shopping boutiques and large malls we had a memorable, for all the wrong reasons, lunch at the top floor of large mall with a teddy bear theme. We all had hit a wall. Mario was disobediently putting his feet on the table. A crass move to make even in the states but majorly taboo in Japan the land of manners and politeness. We were mortified. I immediately removed him from the table and scolded him and then took him for a walk around the department store to distract him and wait out our food’s arrival.
After that eventful lunch we took a short walk to the nearby Meiji shrine. Maybe my favorite landmark visit from our entire trip. A large and beautiful city park that immediately calmed us upon entrance. You walk thru a huge gate and find a wide path that snakes throughout a 170 acre forest and mixed in little buildings. Taking you eventually to a large shrine complex where we saw brides and grooms and children dressed in traditional Japanese clothing celebrating various milestones and occasions with their families proudly posing with them for photographs.
By now it was six pm and we continued to explore Shibuya landing at another fancy mall and enjoying a quiet sushi dinner as Momo had fallen asleep in his stroller.
Day two we took a good walk over to the Ueno neighborhood to visit another park. To our surprise we happened upon a market full of food vendors and a pond in the middle of the park where we were able to board swan boats and paddle the lake. It was a much more relaxing day than our marathon day before and exactly what we needed.
More to come from our visit to Japan. Please comment with any questions as that can inform my future posts.