— Feathers and Wax

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Japan

Ok so technically I “hiked up” the mountain, there wasn’t any real climbing gear involved. But this is still a GIANT deal for non-outdoorsy me, so just let me have it.

After spending that rainy day in Shirakawago, the weather cleared up and we were able to embark on our roughly six-hour hike up and down Mount Yakedake in the Japanese Alps, which is technically also an active volcano. We got up very early in the morning, packed some snacks and water and took a bus ride to the foot of the mountain.

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There’s a kind of unique delight and appreciation for all kinds of animals in Japanese culture — but especially the cute ones. With that in mind it’s not all that surprising that in addition to the proliferation of cat, owl and  hedgehog cafes found throughout the country, there are also several locations in Japan that serve as refuges for specific breeds of animals. There is a bunny island, a cat island, a monkey park and even a fox village. Get thee to youtube to see videos of all these adorable wonders.

But perhaps most famous of all is the town of Nara, which is home to more than 1,200 sika deer that are technically wild animals, but are so used to humans that they walk right up to you. Especially if you buy the deer biscuits sold on practically every corner.

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The first leg of our trip to Japan was a few days spent in Kyoto, the former capital, and, as I would find out, the country’s most picturesque and charming city.  Here we visited a few ancient temples and the Nijo Castle, saw dozens of beautiful women in colorful yukatas and even spotted a handful of modern-day geishas.

We also took a quick day trip to the Yamazaki whiskey distillery, which Fred was quite excited about, and practically ate our weight in matcha ice cream, which I was quite excited about.

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We came back from our two-week trip to Japan on Sunday and have been slowly getting back into our normal routine so far this week. But I’m already experiencing Japan withdrawals, and have ended up spending my jetlagged early mornings searching for good Japanese restaurants in Houston.

As friends ask me what my favorite part of the trip was my thoughts keep going to our visit on a rainy day to the tiny village of Shirakawa-go, which felt like walking around in something from a mythical legend.

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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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