— Feathers and Wax

Planning for Japan

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We’re going to Japan for two full weeks next month! This will surely be my biggest travel adventure yet, and I’m so happy that it will be with Fred (yay!), my good friends Maki and Zach, and yet another great couple, Rick and Jessie.

I’m already heavily into preparation and packing list mode, but I’m so looking forward to this trip that I’m constantly looking up photos of the places we’re visiting to swoon over while I’m at work. Join me!

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Kyoto

Fred and I will arrive in Tokyo in the early afternoon, and our group will meet up and immediately get on a train to Kyoto. I expect Kyoto will be a big highlight of our trip. All of the gorgeous traditional architecture should serve as an immediate culture shock, and I’m fully anticipating us saying “we’re in Japan!” to each other over and over, all jetlagged and silly.

During the roughly 3+ days that we’re there, we’ll climb Fushimi Inari and visit some famous temples: Sanjusangendo, Kinkaku-ji, Ryōan-ji and Kiyomizu-dera (above). We’ll also attend a traditional tea ceremony (very excited about that part) and visit Gion, the city’s famous Geisha district.

One slightly lesser-known thing about Japan is that there are multiple places in the country to go see large populations of cute animals (head to youtube if you have no clue what I’m talking about). Toward the end of our Kyoto stay we’ll see the Iwatayama Monkey Park, which has more than 170 Japanese macaque monkeys, and then we’ll leave Kyoto to head to Nara, which has more than 1,200 silka deer that wander about the city.

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Japanese Alps

At this point, our trip becomes rather outdoorsy! Fred and I have no experience in these kinds of things, but our friends do and have assured us that we will be able to hack it. Our plans are to head to the Japanese Alps, explore the Kamikochi forest (above) and do a relatively doable hike at Mt. Yakedake. I’m just hoping that all the running I do in 90-degree weather in Houston has adequately prepared me for this adventure.

We’ll stay in Takayama for two nights and then head to Nagoya for one night.

Hokkaido

We’ll start off in Hokkaido by checking out Hell Valley (hot springs) in Noboribetsu (above). We’ll also get to stay overnight there in a Ryokan, or traditional Japanese inn. Then our trip transitions back from outdoorsy to civilization with a train ride to Sapporo where we get to taste Sapporo beer (duh) and enjoy Ramen Alley.

We’ll stay in Sapporo for three nights but our days will include trips to nearby Otaru to eat super fresh sushi, fancy ice cream, and see all the glass shops.

Tokyo

We’ll end where we started with more than three full days in Tokyo! I’m so excited for this part of the trip. I’m sure it will be at least a day or two of total sensory overload before I finally acclimate, ha.

So far our plans include shopping in Shinjuku (above), going to an Asimo robot viewing, seeing kabuki theater, visiting a cat cafe and the Hitachino Nest brewing lab, and just generally stuffing our faces with all kinds of Japanese cuisine before finally heading home.

I can’t wait to share all my photos and experiences here when I get back. What are your favorite souvenirs from your trips to Japan? Have any tips for a first time Japan traveler? Let me hear them!

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