After 2 glorious months in Bali, I wasn’t really sure that it could get much better. But, I was mistaken!
Ryan and I met our good friends Steve and Julia when we lived down in Atlanta back in 2015. We’ve remained good friends since then, and they planned a visit up in Canada this past summer. While we were roaming the Rocky Mountains, we started planning our trip to Japan together!
Our trip to Japan had been in the works for a number of months, and we had 2 weeks to explore Tokyo, Mount Fuji + Kyoto with Steve + Julia before heading onto Hiroshima ourselves.
So, we made our way from Bali (after our visa expired) to Kuala Lumpur, where we spent 2 weeks backlogging as much work as we could before flying to Tokyo. We arrived late at night and headed straight to bed before heading out on a walking tour sponsored by Context Tours. In our first day, we explored Harijuku, Omotesanto, Yoyogi Park and a very famous temple. I almost immediately fell in love with Tokyo.
Tokyo is the largest city in the world and has a population comparable to the size of Canada, so I felt like it would probably be big, dirty, noisy and overwhelming. It wasn’t at all. Everyone is quiet and orderly and it struck me as one of the coolest cities I have ever been to almost immediately. On top of that, we were in Japan during cherry blossom season and arrived right as they entered full bloom. I have never seen cherry blossoms as beautiful as the ones in Tokyo – it was a pretty magical experience!
We had 4 days to explore Tokyo with Steve + Julia, and were able to explore quite a bit of the city, checking out Shibuya crossing, Chiyoda and the Tokyo Tower, Asakusa and the Skytree (near to where we were staying), Akihabara where all of the anime is, along with many other things. We saw so many beautiful cherry blossoms, and ate a ton of amazing sushi in those first few days.
I felt sat to leave Tokyo at the end of our 4 days, and felt like I still had so much to see and do! We had reservations in Fujiyoshida near to Mount Fuji, so we made our way there using a series of trains. Fujiyoshida was much colder than Tokyo, and the cherry blossoms hadn’t opened up yet. It was still beautiful though, and we were able to make a visit to the Chuerito Pagoda on our first day there!
Unfortunately, our second day in Fujiyoshida poured rain and we were trapped inside all day. Fortunately, we had booked an adorable AirBnb where we were staying in a loft of a guesthouse with cozy space heaters and fuzzy blankets. All 4 of us work entirely remotely so it worked out well to have an unplanned work day added to the mix.
The following day, we made our way from Fujiyoshida to Kyoto via the Shinkansen or bullet train, which goes up to 300 km/h! We arrived in Kyoto in no time and made our way to our AirBnb, which was a bit out of town.
We had a week in Kyoto and during that time we explored quite a few of the tourist activities in Kyoto, including the Arishiyama bamboo + monkey forest, the Thousand Tori gates, the old town, and the Golden Temple. We also spent a morning doing a traditional tea ceremony where Julia and I got to wear kimonos! We wandered the Philosophers Path to see the last of the cherry blossoms, and ate copious amounts of delicious sushi.
Although Kyoto is much smaller than Tokyo, it was still very busy for cherry blossom season. I loved the old feel of Kyoto and how in many areas it felt as though we had stepped back in time to a more traditional Japan. We had a day to compare that to neighbouring Osaka, which is a busy and bustling city located about 30 minutes from Kyoto.
We had the chance to explore Donburi, which is a famous area in Osaka where we went for conveyer belt sushi, played games in an arcade and took silly photos – all musts while in Japan! Ryan and I also spent a day at Universal Studios Japan, where we went to Harry Potter World. After re-reading the series while we were in Bali, it was awesome to finally visit Harry Potter World – to explore the Hogwarts castle and drink butterbeer, among other awesome things!
We parted ways with Steve and Julia after 2 weeks of traveling with them and they headed back to Tokyo, while we took the Shinkansen over to Hiroshima. It was so fun to travel with friends who travel and work very similarly to us and who have the same philosophies on life.
Hiroshima was somewhere I had been eager to visit for a long time. Being in Hiroshima was so much more emotional than I ever could have predicted though. We went to the Bomb Memorial and Peace Park and toured the museum where we were able to take in just how devastating the tragedy was. It was astounding to see the destruction first hand and to learn about what had taken place there. We saw the children’s memorial, and it brought me back to grade 3 where we folded 1000 paper cranes to send to Japan. Seeing where those cranes go so many years later was a powerful moment for me, and a reminder that we can learn about history so much better by seeing it in person.
Following our emotional visit to the Bomb Memorial, we made our way to the baseball stadium to watch the Hiroshima Carp play. Baseball is the most popular sport in Japan, and the Hiroshima Carp are a popular team to watch. The game was awesome, and in some ways so American, and in other ways so very Japanese. Instead of hotdogs and popcorn, they served Udon and sushi, and all of the cheering was very organized and everyone in the stadium seemed to know what cheers to sing at what time. It was the most orderly baseball game I’ve ever been to, as with everything in Japan!
We had 2 days in Hiroshima, so on our second day, we went out to Miyajima, which has become a popular place to photograph a giant orange gate that stands out in the ocean near a temple. We got matcha soft serve and watched the sun set over Miyajima before heading back to Hiroshima.
Following Hiroshima, we made our way back to Tokyo for 3 more days, where we explored some of the neighborhoods that we hadn’t seen while being in Tokyo the first time. We explored Shinjuku, the famous fish market, ate a ton of awesome conveyer belt sushi, and hung out with Becky once more for another fabulous meal. Being in Tokyo is quite enjoyable and there is always something new to see or do – I don’t know if you could ever do it all!
By the end of our 3 weeks in Japan, we were both infatuated with the country. We both love sushi, the orderly nature of Japanese culture, and the politeness of the people. We certainly weren’t ready to leave, but our bank accounts were hurting, and we were burnt out from all of the travel. Something we’ve been learning through our time in Asia is how exhausting it is to constantly be moving while trying to work.
Many of our days in Japan were spent just exploring, but most of them were split between work and exploring, where we would work in the morning and explore in the afternoon. This is an amazing life, don’t get me wrong, but it is challenging to balance work and fast-paced traveling.
Up next: Taiwan! Stay tuned! 🙂