Our big trip of the year, in Sarah’s short gap between her Step II exam and the next round of rotations, was to Japan. It’s been one of those destinations I (and Sarah too) have always been curious about, but it never quite seemed like a priority. Now, with a baby on the way and a bit more disposable income than when we were younger, it jumped to the top of our list. So we made it happen and what a trip it was!

We left on June 12th and arrived in Tokyo a day later. 6 days seemed like a good amount of time to explore the city, though we later discovered it was barely enough to scratch the surface. Highlights from our time there:

  • Yomuri Giants baseball game with Sarah’s college friend Keji - Japanese baseball fans are incredible and this was the best ball game I’ve ever attended.
  • Meeting up with collegiate cycling friend to explore Shinjuku, eat at a conveyor sushi restaurant, and hit up the Game Centers.
  • Leather craft and textile shopping
  • Maneki-Neko Cat shrine
  • All the amazing public transportation
  • Nakano Broadway vintage toy shopping
  • Eating a giant $14 oyster at the Tsukiji Outer Market

Collection of Tokyo pictures.

After Tokyo, we hopped on a Shinkansen high speed train to Kyoto, a whole experience in its own right (Sarah made fun of me for nerding out the whole time). In Kyoto, we stayed a Ryokan (a traditional Japanse b&b) run by smallest, nicest old ladies. We didn’t have too many plans for the city and just decided to explore some of the most recommended shrines and eat some of the famous imperial food:

  • The Fushimi Inari Shrine of 10,000 torii gates - I thought it was a hyperbole, but after spending 3 hours hiking through untold numbers of these orange gates, I’m thinking it’s actually an understatement…
  • Nanzen-ji Temple, with its brick aqueduct, the hike through the hills behind, and the beautiful gardens
  • Kakigori - traditional shaved ice treat - absolutely indespensable in the heat and humidity
  • Bubuzuke - the food revelation of the trip. Rice with tea and pickles
  • Sarah buying a million kimonos for fabric at a giant flea market in the courtyard of a buddhist temple
  • Traditional kyoto trips at a tea house

Pictures from Imperial Kyoto.

Our next stop was the island of Shodoshima. We’d put it on our itinerary after reading a NYT article about how artists in the town of Tonosho were celebrating the traditional folk spirits, the Youkai. Also, islands are fun and taking ferries to reach them is always an adventure. Barely any tourists around was a bit strange, but we loved our time there. Besides the Youkai museum, we rented some e-bikes to explore the island and do some light hiking. And then, en route to our next stop, we visited the neighboring island of Noshima, also known for its art scene and rice paddies.

Island life.

Our final destination was Mt. Tsurugi by way of Takamatsu. Sarah had scoped out the mountain as a nice hiking destination, so we booked a night at the mountaintop lounge. We rented a car for a 2.5 hour drive through narrow mountain roads. The mountain offered a chair lift up the 50 first minutes of the hike, and we finished off the rest with a lovely walk up the steep cliff. After that, a beautiful summit, with winding ridge paths to the adjacent peaks. The stay at the lodge was also wonderful, with a delicious dinner and a breakfast to send us on our way the next day. Takamatsu itself wasn’t particularly noteworthy, just a quiet mid-sized town. Though its traditional gardens were by far the most impressive of the many gardens we visited.

Japanese hikings up to Mt. Tsurugi.

To summarize, an incredible vacation, with loads of different and new experiences. We loved Japan and feel like we’ve only barely seen what this country has to offer. We’ll be back, there’s no doubt in our mind that we will want to see more of this beautiful country!