March - April 2019
  • Day11

    Last night with the Friends

    April 2, 2019 in Japan ⋅ ⛅ 12 °C

    Tonight's mom and dad's last night in Japan with us before they fly home. We made the trek back to Tokyo (with, you guessed it, another train!) and spent the evening lounging in the Marriott.

    It's nice to relax in a full service hotel, where everyone speaks English and the beds are full sized (no more twin size futons on the floor). We took it easy with many games of Canasta and enjoying all the free appetizers and drinks the Marriott lounge had to offer.Read more

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  • Day10

    Hiroshima

    April 1, 2019 in Japan ⋅ 🌬 9 °C

    From Kyoto we continued our trip of train rides to Hiroshima.

    We started our visit with a trip to the peace park and museum remembering the events of WWII and the atomic bomb. A somber reminder of the cost of war and the unbelievable power of atomic weapons. It's crazy to think that my grandparents were younger than I am now during that time.

    Besides the well known peace dome, the rest of the city has been rebuilt and is full of life today. Including some delicious okonomiyaki - a dish consisting of egg, sona noodles, cabbage, pork and sauce, all pan fried together on a massive grill. So so good!

    We spent the rest of our time relaxing and shopping and eating (of course). It's hard work exploring a whole country, we are definitely winding down :)
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  • Day8

    Kyoto - do we have to leave?

    March 30, 2019 in Japan ⋅ ⛅ 15 °C

    We spent 3 nights in Kyoto - what a great city. It feels more like a town, though it's home to over a million people. Each after is full of cute restaurants and shops our cherry blossoms and temples.

    We started in an adorable Airbnb with our own zen garden! The highlight of this portion of the trip was the nishiki market full of food vendors and shops! We had yakitori - deep fried chicken, giant oysters, tempura shrimp, and many other tasty snacks.

    While in Kyoto we also got to hike to see and feed the monkeys! Great views surrounded by pretty cute monkeys - they all had their own personality and were very greedy about their food! We also got to visit the yamazaki distillery (the oldest whiskey distillery in Japan)!

    I think we all wish we could have stayed longer - but on to the next train to Hiroshima!
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  • Day6

    Off to Kyoto

    March 28, 2019 in Japan ⋅ 🌬 15 °C

    Today we were back on the train (after a full breakfast of course) and off to Kyoto. It still blows my mind how fast the bullet train can really go - the train takes 35 minutes whereas if you drove it would take over 2 hours! We need more trains in the US.

    Today we took it easy after checking in to our Airbnb, a very sleek, minimalist/Japanese styled apartment. We played cards, ate lots of snacks, and had some beer and suntory whiskey.

    We went out for a late dinner of ramen (which was delicious) and called it a night. Lots of exploring coming up tomorrow!
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  • Day5

    Pilgrimage trails & naked baths

    March 27, 2019 in Japan ⋅ ⛅ 20 °C

    Today we went to explore some of the pilgrimage routes scattered throughout the area. Our route started with a steep climb through some very old cedar trees (a few were 800 years old!). It was a welcomed change of pace from the busyness of Tokyo.

    The top of the climb came out at the buddist temple - while we were seemingly at the top there was still plenty of more hiking and stone stairways to climb! Thanks to my expert navigation we got to climb up and back down a fun hill.. successfully wiping the group out early 😅 we pushed through and made it down to the falls - the tallest single drop waterfall in Japan!

    After a full day of hiking we all had a quiet ride back home on the local train - definitely looking forward to another fantastic dinner.

    Before we grabbed dinner mom and I worked up the courage to check out the traditional onsen baths at the hotel - nothing like a naked hot spring bath filled with strangers to help you relax. Nerve-wracking as it was it was a great experience and really not so bad. The baths are separated male and female. You're given a normal size and a very small towel before entering your side. In the locker room you strip - definitely no bathing suits allowed (or tattoos which are considered a sign of violence because of the stigma around tattoos and gangs). You take your tiny towel and strut into the shower area where you fully wash, hair and all, before heading into the baths - its important for overall cleanliness of the baths. Once in there there were multiple baths to choose from, some the real deal - coming from hot springs, others are more like hot tubs with salt/coals added. Some were indoor, others outside under the mountains. All were steaming hot and I could only stay in for a few minutes each. Luckily it wasn't very busy so it was pretty comfortable to walk around in the nude - overall everyone just owned it and was polite/kept to themselves. Another rule of the onsen - never let your little towel fall in the water - most people carry them around on their head. After cleaning up on the way out we could relax in the lounge area and have a cool drink - I tried the apple milk. All in all I'm very happy we tried it and wouldn't mind doing it again. Definitely worth trying if given the chance!

    Now relaxed from the baths, we went on to dinner in our traditional robes. It was just as tasty as the night before with another whole set of courses! My favorite was the tempura fish and veggies, and the beef sashimi.
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  • Day4

    Trains, trains, trains

    March 26, 2019 in Japan ⋅ 🌧 10 °C

    We spent Igor's 30th bday doing what he loves most - riding trains. We started on the local Tokyo subway lines to get to Shinagawa station. From there it was all aboard the high speed Shinkansen from Tokyo to Nagoya - it hit about 140 mph! Even though the majority of the morning had been gloomy, the sun peaked out just enough for us to see Mt. Fuji through the clouds.

    In Nagoya we transferred to our slower train, going about the same distance but 1/3 the speed. We are headed to Kumano in the Kii peninsula. Very much off the beaten path.

    This train ride starts through a more industrial part of Japan until about half way through when it becomes a mountainous ride along the coast - very beautiful! The water is crystal clear along the coast and the mountains are covered in towering trees.

    We arrived at Kumanoshi station around 4 - we had a bit of a snafu with the taxi driver (poor guy). He only spoke Japanese and we only know how to say thank you... He was there from the resort to pick us up but we expected a shuttle.. as such, we thought he was trying to scam us into paying for a ride. I'm sure such an assumption is very rude given that everyone we've met has been incredibly nice and helpful. Anyway, it got all figured out and we made it to the resort!

    We're staying at the Resort Kumano Club - definitely my favorite place so far! It is up in the mountains, surrounded by stunning views. Almost everyone there spoke only Japanese and we definitely stood out - but again, everyone was very very nice and didn't seem to mind our obvious lack of knowledge of Japan or Japan customs.

    We finished the evening with the included dinner - 6 courses and unbelievably tasty. I could spend an hour describing the food but to just give an example, the sashimi course was freshly caught that day from a town close by. After dinner we enjoyed the open bar (also included) and had some fruit wines, sake, and shochu.
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  • Day3

    Hang on let's take another photo

    March 25, 2019 in Japan ⋅ ☀️ 11 °C

    We were all up bright and early either because of the jet lag or because we went to bed at 9.

    We started the day with a tasty breakfast place where you order on these cool machines and they call your number up front - great for us non-japanese speakers.

    After breakfast we explored Yoyogi park which was full of cherry blossoms and a dog park! We got to pet a few dogs even! Best park ever.

    From there we went to the Meiji Shrine a Shinto shrine - dedicated to the Emperor of Japan. We strolled around and then went into Shinjuku for some lunch - converbelt sushi! It was delicious, especially the tuna belly. On the other hand the squid sushi was iffy at best.

    We went on to play some Pachinko and other arcade games. From what we could tell pachinko is some combo of pinball, gambling, and plinko - we did not win..

    Mom and I posed for some beautiful photos and decorated them - Igor and Dad weren't allowed to take photos together.. not that they were all that disappointed.

    We meandered home with a stop at a Jazz bar and some grocery stores for snacks and beers. After a solid nap we dragged ourselves back out. We got to see Shibuya Crossing, it was much better without lugging around suitcase. For dinner we ate at Din Tai Fung, Igor's favorite - celebrating his 30th a day early!

    A very successful and full day with over 7 miles of walking!
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  • Day2

    Touchdown Tokyo

    March 24, 2019 in Japan ⋅ 🌙 12 °C

    We made it to Tokyo! We landed around 2 pm at the HND airport after a whole lot of movies and tasty plane food (plane food is my favorite). It was our first time trying out Delta's premium select which means we had food served in real dishes, more attentive service, and more leg room. I'd say it's worth it if it isn't much more $

    We powered through a long walk to our Airbnb which included walking with our suitcases through the busiest intersection in the world - Shibuya Crossing. I don't recommend it.

    We got checked in and headed out for dinner - waygu beef in a Shabu-Shabu style restaurant! And then finally off to bed to lay down and sleep 😴 many more food pics to come tomorrow!
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  • Day1

    First stop - MSP

    March 23, 2019 in the United States ⋅ ☀️ 8 °C

    We headed out bright and early on family adventure 2019 - after a quick jump from MKE to MSP we have been hanging in the delta lounge trying to help Eric find his passport, playing cards, and eating/drinking our money's worth :)
    Next stop - Haneda, Tokyo, Japan. See you in 12.5 hours.