Tuesday 30 September

Arrived at 7:15 p.m. Train from Narita Airport to Tokyo and stayed at Marunouchi Hotel - a little treat of luxury in this "Modern Japanism" first class, four star hotel. Hey! We just spent 11 hours on a plane (and 6 hours at LAX).

Wednesday 01 October

Took the Shinkansen from Tokyo to Kyoto and enjoyed our first bento boxes. Explored the Kyoto Station and two Buddhist temples: Higashi houngan-ji and nisei houngan-ji. Stayed at Fujitaya B&B. Hoshi was a great host and greeted us with rice crackers and tea.

 We just happened to be there during the 50th anniversary of the Shinkansen.

We just happened to be there during the 50th anniversary of the Shinkansen.

Thursday 02 October

Sightseeing in Kyoto:

  • Kyoto International Manga Museum - housed in the former Tatsuike Elementary School with a collection of over 300,000 items.
  • Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine - a Shinto Shrine to Inari, the god of rice, with thousands of vermilion torii gates.
  • Sanjusangendo - a temple with 1,001 carved wooden statues of Kannon - the Buddhist goddess of mercy.
  • Kiyomizudera Temple - founded in 780 on the site of the Otowa Waterfall. It's name literally means "Pure Water Temple."

Friday 03 October

Day Trip to Himeji Castle - one of only 12 surviving original castles from the feudal era in all of Japan. Known for its extensive ramparts and dramatic keep rising up above the city.

 Himeji Castle

Himeji Castle

Saturday 04 October

Train from Kyoto to Nara. Sightseeing in Nara:

  • The big Budda
  • Nara park with its vast population of deer

Took the train from Nara to Osaka. Osaka is Japan's second city an extremely vibrant and lively place to stay. We grilled some meat our table in a local bar, experienced modern-day urban Japan and stayed at Cross Hotel Osaka.

Sunday 05 October

Traveled from Osaka to Hakone via train and bus. Hakone is a beautiful national park area around 50 miles west of Tokyo and just to the south of Mount Fuji. Stayed at Ichinoyu Hatago Sengokuhara, a ryokan with traditional Japanese style rooms.

Monday 06 October

Typhoon Phanfone shut down Hakone and prevented us from boiling eggs in volcanic waters, strolling through the outdoor scupture park, cruising on a pirate ship around Lake Ashi and seeing Mount Fuji.

But eventually, we did get to do a little walking around town, ride the funicular railway and bath in the hot-spring baths of our ryokan.

Tuesday 07 October

Traveled from Hakone to Tokyo on the Odakyu Limited Express, also know as the Romance Car Express, a stylish train with extra wide windows to enjoy the view. Stayed at private apartment in Tokyo via AirBnB.

 While we didn't get to ride the pirate ship or see Mount Fuji, we did get to see this tile painting of them at the train station.

While we didn't get to ride the pirate ship or see Mount Fuji, we did get to see this tile painting of them at the train station.

Wednesday 08 October

Sightseeing in Tokyo:

  • Meiji Shrine - a Shinto shrine dedicated to the deified spirits of Emperor Meiji and Empress Shōken.
  • Harajuku - the center of Japanese youth culture and fashion.
  • SkyTree - second tallest tower in the world.
  • Akihabara - home of hundreds of electronics shops (Gashapon Kai-kan, Super Potato Retro-kan, and the Tokyo Anime Center).

Thursday 09 October

  • Edo-Tokyo Museum - the history of Tokyo in an iconic building filled with interactive and imaginative presentations.
  • Studio Ghibli Museum - animation and art museum of Miyazaki Hayao's Studio Ghibli (Spirited Away, Howl's Moving Castle, Ponyo).
  • Robot Restaurant - a surreal experience featuring a kitschy performance full of flashing lights, taiko drums and techno music accompanied by girls in bikinis dancing with giant pandas, dinosaurs, ninjas and of course robots.

Friday 10 October

  • Asakusa - Rie's favorite place. Shopped and explored Sensoji (a Buddhist temple). We took the Sumida River Cruise.

Saturday 11 October

Stopped by Ueno Park for a little shopping and lunch before departing on a train to Narita Airport. Rie's grandparents met us at the airport. What a delightful couple, and our visit with them was the perfect capstone to our trip.

   Two of the most wonderful people we've ever met. Rie's grandparents.

Two of the most wonderful people we've ever met. Rie's grandparents.

Special Thanks To:

Marc Jackson and Rie Norman for their advice and tips, and glowing recommendations to John Kane and the team at Inside Japan Tours for their quick turnarounds, detailed planning and personalized suggestions.

  "First learn stand, then learn fly. Nature rule, Daniel-san, not mine."

"First learn stand, then learn fly. Nature rule, Daniel-san, not mine."