We only had nine days and we knew roughly what we wanted to see. As with everything this meant we would miss so many amazing things Japan has to offer, but it's either become overwhelmed with trying to see everything or hone in on what you have time to see.
Tokyo. After all of my research there was no way we were not going to spend some time in the nation's capital. Delicious food, modern Japanese culture with a little bit of the traditional mixed in every now and again, museums, all of the fun people watching, cat cafes, and so much more. I told Sarah I was going to eat my way through Japan and this started off the right way in Tokyo with sushi rotaries, and anything else I could find. We even got in some late night karaoke to complete a full Tokyo experience. The pictures below will explain it all!
Japanese macaque that live high in the mountains and are adept at living in the cold offered by the extreme winters there. What caught our hearts is that nearby are some natural hot springs the monkeys choose to relax in when they get cold. It....is....ADORABLE. More pictures below but we stayed there for a few hours and very much enjoyed the town nearby called Shibu Onsen. The town uses the local hot springs for many local baths people come to for healing. And they too cook fabulous food!
He is famous for the painting "Tsunami" and many other masterpieces. Click on the links for more information and good pictures. We were not allowed to take any pictures of his art so I have none to share with you. This pic of Sarah and me is taken at Shibu Onsen when we stayed in one of the traditional ryokans. Yes we are getting ready to eat a lot of food again!
In Kyoto we saw the ancient capital of Japan, visited a castle, a temple covered in real gold, saw temples and shrines galore, ate more food, stepped where Shoguns had ruled the empire and then eventually gave it back to the emperor, and then ate some more food.
Shinjuku. It was a fun and bustling part of Tokyo.
While in Shinjuku we walked to the Samurai museum. Well worth the visit. Our guide shared all sorts of information with us as we looked at armor over 400 years old! It ended with a demonstration by an actor who had learned to show how a samurai would use his sword. Really neat.
A samurai shoots an arrow from horseback.
Not as impressive in a photograph as it was seeing him move. Wow.
One of the many temples we walked to while we were in Tokyo. I thought about naming them all but come on!
The one night as we walked three miles from the museum we had stopped off at to downtown Tokyo, we saw a sign that said "hot beer." Yes please. What a fun place and good brew.
I read online somewhere that a person can pay a lot of money to have a hotel room looking directly out into Godzilla's face. I believer this would be life size if there was a body attached.
Yes! Food. So much food!! And so good.
The national park in Shinjuku was beautiful. Fall was in full bloom with all of its amazing colors showing off their best.
There was an indoor garden in the park with an orchid show going on while we were there. Quite nice.
Ode to ramen! And in this case the vegetarian kind.
Totoro. Long story but go ahead and watch the animated movie My Neighbor Totoro to get part of the long story. It's rated one of the top fifteen of all-time.
The giant gate in Asakusa. Again I am sure it has a name but seriously just go look it up if you want to know. Massive shopping street starts just behind this that leads up to a temple.
This is that temple.
Near Asakusa is the infamous kitchen street. This is where you can go to buy awesome Japanese kitchen gear for a little less yen. Such as super sharp knives!
Then we found out they would engrave the knives with Japanese writing with our family names - here is what Tim got for his Christmas gift. How cool?
More food! We stopped at one of the izakayas, or street bars, and ate some more. This was probably our first dinner out of three that night. Keep it small and taste it all!
Then we stumbled upon an owl cafe. Sorry to all of our friends if we should not have gone but we could not help ourselves. It was so fun to touch and see owls up close and even touch some of them. Some of them were "NO TOUCHING" owls. Thirty in all we had quite an owly time.
A good friend Tim visited us while we were in Tokyo. He and his wife are stationed in Okinawa which is not too far away. He led us to delicious food and some fun karaoke. This included a super late night sushi dinner with a fantastic conversation with some random Japanese guys eating next to us around 2am.
The next day we visited the imperial palace, or what was left of it, and then had a tasty snack as Tim showed us how to open the rice balls correctly.
So fun seeing a good friend while traveling. And he serves our country as a marine! Nice.
After getting to Shibu Onsen came in to this dinner. What!? So delicious.
And these are the outfits our ryokan gave us to wear while in town and going to baths. This was also our room.
This is the path up to the Snow Monkey park. It's about a forty minute walk from town and around twenty from the drop off spot. Kind of a nice way to get ready for seeing monkeys in the wild by walking up a beautifully wooded path.
Monkeys!! Always grooming, always...almost.
They would get so close and we clearly did not bother them.
And there were so many monkeys carrying around babies! And cute!!
They would ride around underneath or on top.
Just chilling on some pipes with hot water running through them near a cool bridge over a small stream in the mountains - no biggie.
Some of the tiny guys were just unbelievable to sit and watch.
The monkeys also enjoy the healing powers of the water.
Our favorite of them all. This little guy would swim under water while no other monkey seemed to ever get their head wet. When he was done he jumped out and climbed the post within inches of us. At the top he shook his head to get the water out of his ears (or hers).
One of the baths in our hotel. They are gender specific and one must go in as they were born - naked. Our second hotel had one you could reserve that was a couples bath, but even the public baths in town were gender specific and followed the same rules.
Yes, more food. I have only showed a few pics of our food and I wish I had put them all on here. It was truly super good.
When we visited Hokusai's museum in Obuse but could not take any pictures. This one is a copy of his work in the town. Go online and look up some of his stuff.
There are a lot of apples grown in Japan. We stopped for fresh apple pie.
A shrine we visited on the way to another shrine.
I posed for a picture outside of the temple where one of Hokusai's major masterpieces exists. It's painted on a ceiling and is called the All Seeing Phoenix.
After getting to Kyoto I decided we needed food of course even though we did not really need any... well of course we did.
The most famous temple of Kyoto hosts over 10,000 of these gates. Just the sheer number of them is quite impressive.
People bought these smaller versions of the gate to use in some form of worship. They would leave them at various shrines throughout the temple grounds. Lots of them!
We got pretty excited when we saw all of these kids on a field trip. One of us leaned into the other one and said, "Look, minions!" We saw a few groups of minions throughout our time in Japan and I think the tactic is smart. Hard to lose a kid with a yellow hat on right?
On the way back down the hill the temple was on we stopped for lunch. This was our view of Kyoto while we ate our food.
My meal - no I did not know what it was but it was scrumptious.
Sarah's lunch. Hers was good too.
Posing with a stuffed Totoro.
Cat cafe in Asakusa.
Yes we paid to play with cats because it's a Japanese thing and I couldn't leave the country without doing it.
Sarah luring in a cat to play.
A ninja cooking us stone soup. Another long story and no he's not a real ninja, at least I don't think he is. Great food.
No pictures allowed inside the castle but this is where the Shoguns lived when they were in power. It was magnificent with amazing paintings and architecture.
The outside was nice too.
It was not possible to get the shots we were trying to get but the building itself was just breathtaking.
So we added ourselves to mix it up.
Castle behind us as we stand on one of the main defensive points.
Sarah saw a note for this temple covered in gold and we had to go. She does love her some gold.
Anyone want some seafood?
Back on ramen alley in the Tokyo station. I arranged our trip to make sure we would have enough time our last night to stop off at the station for some more ramen. It did not disappoint, again.
This is the line waiting for the one particular ramen place we went to on our last night. On the floor with the person who has read shoes you can see a sign saying you can expect to wait 30 minutes from that point. People waited longer. Much longer.