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Curious what backpackers do in Japan? Discover travel destinations all over the world of travelers writing a travel blog on FindPenguins.
  • Nighttime view from our Japanese soaking tub vs daytime view from our balcony.
    This hotel is AWESOME. Japanese service as always is second to none. Room is ultra spacious, beds are comfy. Very happy we are here for a week 😊

  • Perfect weather to be wondering around these gardens and afternoon tea at the Hotel New Grand. Chinese lunch in China town was lovely. We've never seen soooooo many dumplings of various flavours and sizes like this ever! Quite amazing.
    Although we had lovely blue skies once we got to the top of the Yokohama Marine Tower there were many clouds and haze in the distance so still no sight of Mt Fuji from the city 😔 there's still time 🤞🏻Read more

  • After another train ride through the mountains, we arrived at Matsumoto (松本). Our place to stay was a little bit further, so we called another cab. After some discussion and pointing out things on my phone (the driver recognised this and said, “Ah, Guguru Mappusu!”), the kind man drove straight uphill, bringing us to a hilly farm area north of the city centre.

    You see, we'd decided to book a place at a farm, because, why not?

    It was one of the best decisions we’d made. It was a beautiful traditional farmhouse and we were welcomed by a lovely couple our age, Kensuke and Asuka, and their one-year-old daughter Yui-chan. They actually apologising for not having picked us up by car, because taxis tend to get expensive. Not their mistake, they’d messaged me that morning but I'd been offline since 7:30.

    Now for some Japanese terms. They showed us to or room, the zashiki (座敷). Apparently, it's the ‘best’ room in any house, meant for esteemed guests. It had ikebana (生け花), flower arrangements, paper sliding doors called ‘shouji’ (障子) with a veranda beyond that lead straight into their garden, and wooden carvings in the beams at the ceiling called ‘ranma’ (欄間). That’s what the pamphlet on the kotatsu (コタツ) said anyway. You can see pictures of the room on Melvin's blog, Day 7.

    A few minutes later, Asuka-san came in with tea and homemade yomogimochi (よもぎ餅), chewy little snacks ‘mochi’ made from the seasonal herbs in the area ‘yomogi’ which is a type of mugwort. It was her first time making it, so she was a little nervous, but they tasted great.

    We lent their bikes and headed all the way downhill to the city center to take a look at Matsumoto Castle. It was a small, yet beautifully intact castle that I recognised from pictures on the internet. The park surrounding it was full in bloom, but our host had informed us that it would be even more beautiful at night, with a free entrance at the inner garden when the sakura are in bloom. So we headed for a yakitori restaurant (grilled chicken meat) to eat and went back to Matsumoto Castle as night fell.

    Simply gorgeous.

    There were some high schoolers (I think) playing flute on the balcony and we just strolled around the castle grounds as it grew darker, ground spots highlighting the castle and trees with tantalising beauty.

    Some of the people we'd spoken that know a bit about Japan asked us why the hell we would want to go to Matsumoto. Well, just take a look at the image below and you’ve got your answer.

    The Good: I made one of my best photos yet
    The Bad: a taxi twice a day takes the weight of your wallet away; did I mention we had to bike back up that road for over ten minutes, uphill, for the love of God, all the way back to the farm?
    Read more

  • We left the hotel in Hiroshima pretty early and started heading out to Hakone. It was a long journey but totally worth it - 1.5 hr bullet to Osaka, 2 hr bullet to Odawara, little train to Hakone, a switch-back train to Gora, and a cable car up the mountain even more to Sou-un-zan.

    During this time, we got to eat a bunch of "ekiben" which is "station lunch" which is just a lot of yummy food you can buy at the train stations and eat on the trains. We got Uncle Rikuro's jiggly cheesecake, Horai 551's steamed pork buns, maple manju, and really pretty bento boxes (I will post ALL of these pics with our whole trip meals on a separate album).

    The switch-back rains were really awesome, going through some rural areas with pretty trees and rustic tunnels. The last cable car we went on was just a straight path, but had a pretty steep incline up the mountain.
    Read more

  • We stayed at a "ryokan" with an "onsen" or hot springs. Hakone is famous for their hot springs and traditional inns, and we got the whole big experience.

    Our room has a private "onsen" that is set outside, and water was Hot Hot Hot!! But my skin feels fresh and my body rejuvenated. A first time experience for Maisie and Steven but they wore the "yukata" well. The meal, brought to us in our room, was a traditional 10-course meal with sashimi, shabu-shabu, sukiyaki, baked rice, lots of fish, and of course dessert! It was delicious and felt so pampered.Read more

  • Finished up the morning in Sou-on-zen. We had an awesome breakfast and Maisie and I got to go for one more dip in our private "onsen" before we left. It was nice to see the view in the daylight this time.

    Also- I french braided her hair for the first time today. It turned out better than expected.

    Then we headed to the Hakone Open-Air Museum. We really didn't know what to expect but had heard lots of great things about it from other tourists. It's pretty much a really ginormous sculpture garden - with installations and visual art from artist all over the world - and it's all set on the beautiful mountain grounds of Hakone. Probably the best art installation museum I've ever been to... And I've been to a lot. There were SO many great ones, but I've just posted the ones that I fell in love with. Great inspiration for my next projects.

    Once we left Hakone- we headed back to Tokyo/Shinagawa. Got to visit with my grandma and aunts and uncles before we leave and walked around where my mom grew up, which was nice.

    For dinner we went to a "kaiten sushi" restaurant which is where they have a revolving belt weaving through the entire restaurant with counter and booths connected to them and you just take a plate if you see something you want to eat. Of course they had every type of sushi, and more! Including dessert! It's kind of a novel experience but a great part of Japanese culture since they are everywhere! Popular with people on dates, families, and if your out drinking and need a bite to drink. At the end of the meal they come and count your plates and price everything according to the color/type of the plates. What's awesome is they it's pretty affordable - really great sushi and other foods for 3 adults was about $35.

    It was really a great day with sun, art, family, and food..... But it was all going too great. On our bullet train back to Shinagawa, we kind of rushed to get off the train - it was late, Maisie was getting fussy - we go through the gates and walk to the end of the station and I realize I DON'T HAVE MY PURSE!!! I left it on the train...... Lucky for us, the last stop was in Tokyo, just one stop over. We talk to someone, they call the office in Tokyo and they find the purse! We head over to Tokyo station and everything in my purse was still there. My wallet, brand new cell phone, the rental cell phone, mine and Steven's sunglasses, and about $450 cash. AND MY FAVORITE PURSE!! It would have been a very sad trip if I lost all that so close to the end of my vacation. But all was well and thanks to everyone who helped me get my stuff back!!
    Read more

  • More from the Hakone Open-Air Museum.y favorite pieces.

    This first one is my absolute favorite, titled "Close"

    Also- we really loved this fried-egg installation and Maisie LOVED it too, until see she decided to walk really close to the edge of it and slipped and fell off. It was scary and sad when it happened, but kinda funny as I think about it now LOL.

  • Since it was the last full day in Japan for us, we took the morning easy. Had breakfast at the hotel, walked around some local grocery stores (and bought A LOT of stuff), and watched some people make "tai-yaki" and ate it!

    We checked our the Aqua Park that was in the courtyard of the hotel we're staying at - by far the COOLEST aquarium I've ever been to, and I've been to a lot of aquariums. The first section had really simple tanks with only one or two types of fish in each- and the tank surface was a touch screen!!! They each had a different cool interface and when you clicked on the side it had facts about fish that were in there!! So cool- a great way to engage this generation aquarium go-ers and getting them educated.

    Maisie and I also ride the merry-go-round :)
    Read more

  • This was AMAZING!! If you are a fan of Miyazaki films and have seen many of the Ghibli films - this is a must go!! Unfortunately, they didn't allow any photography inside the actual museum - so I don't have anything to show, but trust me when I say, it was magical!!! They had thousands of sketches and storyboards, cool film gadgets, models and adorable play areas.

    Crazy thing that happened - our appointment to see the museum was at 4pm so we left for the trains around 3pm, which was plenty of time. Except - there was a passenger accident that shut down a large portion of the lines. We had to scramble and get on a bunch of different trains to get there- we were 20mins late but they still let us in :)Read more

You might also know this place by the following names:

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