Seriously- Never in a million years did I think I would wake up one day in Japan! It was just never really on the radar, but as my travels were bringing me to South Korea- I realized that it was too close to NOT go- and this would be a once in a lifetime chance!

So right after I visited Shanghai, (Blog post here)  I jumped on the plane and headed to Osaka from October 4 to the 15th. I know people in Osaka, so it seemed to the perfect place to start!

Right from arrival the adventures began with trying to figure out which train to take from the airport to meet my friends! I managed to get on the right train… sort of! (Thank goodness the train had wifi!) I had walked down to the trains and gotten on one, (which was the right one) and someone on the train told me- to quick go across the platform- the other train was the right one.. Crap! So I hustled over to the other.. and off we went. When the officer came by to check tickets- he told me I needed to pay more. When I didn’t understand he pulled out this cool paper with what he wanted to say translated into about 10 languages.. he found english and pointed at it so I could read. I was on an express train and I needed to pay more because I didn’t have an express ticket. CRAP! Express? Was I going to miss my stop? He managed to communicate to me that no- we would stop at my stop. PHEW! It was actually a much more comfortable train and it got me there much quicker! SCORE! I transferred very easily too- after some sign language with the station attendant he showed me where to stand for the next train and Voila! Off I went! PHEW! This is nerve wracking stuff… but I am always so proud of myself when I do it- because it’s scary! And when you do scary things and are successful it just builds more confidence!

Anyway, I made it and Daniel and his lovely wife Nana were amazing hosts and did so much to show me a lovely time, including taking time off from work to play tour guide and even coming up to Kyoto to see me and continue to show me around!

Osaka 

Check out this gallery for some pictures of my time in Osaka!

Osaka is kind of the blue collar city of Japan. It was busy, and gritty, and really interesting. Of course- one of the best things was eating! Nana and Daniel know their food and I had a chance to eat sooo many lovely things. (I only had sushi once and that was by myself in Kyoto!)

Daniel is very knowledgeable about Japanese history so at every temple and the castle he was able to really give me a good overview of what and why and when. 🙂

They really showed me so many different aspected of the city, the older side of town where in the shopping areas the stores are more run down and there is a lot less foot traffic.  (That is where Nana showed me how to use the squatty potty! HILARIOUS but a totally different post!) We saw busy shopping areas and Lord- BUSY is the word!

Asian cities are just so… HUGE! and the lights, and traffic and and and… It could be a bit overwhelming at times! And thank goodness for Nana figuring out my train fare for me each time… it’s a little different than you expect (ok than I expect! LOL) and I don’t read Japanese anyway so…

Kyoto

Check out this gallery for some pictures of my time in Kyoto!

So after a few days in Osaka, I got on the train (so proud all by myself!- well with a lot of coaching from Nana a head of time!) and went to Kyoto.

Kyoto is a much more traditional and laid back city. It kind of has a bit of a “superior” vibe… they have so much tradition and the tourism heavily revolves around it that it feels like the city maybe thinks it’s a little bit better than the rest of the country.

Daniel came up from Osaka one day and we did the “Grand Temple Tour” I think he took me to every temple in Kyoto (and there are quite a few!) The next day they both came up and we rented bikes. It was an awesome way to see parts of the city I never would have seen! We rode all the way out to Arashiyama.

Arashiyama was a cool shopping area, and of course another temple! But we also got to walk through the bamboo forest and that was really neat. We rode our bikes back in the evening and it was dark by the time we got home. What an adventure!

My last day in Kyoto I wandered around by myself. Went to the neighborhood where the geishas are (but didn’t see any!) and wandered around the shops and markets… and finally had that sushi! LOL

Tokyo

Check out this gallery for some pictures of my time in Tokyo!

Again thanks to coaching from Nana and now my friend Solveig- I was able to catch the high speed bullet train from Kyoto to Tokyo! That was an adventure. So fast, yet you never felt overwhelmed by the speed! Then it was a “local” train to go meet my friend Sol. (She and I have been friends for years. We met at a photography conference once upon a time, and always said we would meet up again!) Again, with a little internet guidance from Sol, I made the train no problem and sped out of Tokyo to meet her in the suburbs.

We went out to see Mt. Fuji. The day was so gorgeous- beautiful clouds, deep blue sky! What a great day! We wandered around this “village” where they had local crafts and artisans, took amazing pictures, and had a lovely lunch.

The highlight of our day was going to be a soak in the traditional Japanese baths and watching the sunset over Mt. Fuji! Divine… except… well… I have tattoos. And that means, I could not enter the baths. There is a sign right in front before you even mount the stairs to go in- saying NO WAY JOSE! What a total bummer! Well we went back home and enjoyed a glass of wine and an evening of girl chat instead!

After all my bopping around, I needed a bit of a rest, and she was in the middle of a newborn baby rush… (she is an amazing newborn photographer! www.tokyo-bebe.com Check her out!) so we actually kind of relaxed one day and did our work.

That evening we went out and spend the night in Tokyo. She had a friend’s birthday party to attend, so I went along. We spend the night in Tokyo because she lives over an hour away and everyone planned on having a drink, so better safe than sorry!  We got a cute little AirBnB and off we went- to a British Pub!! LOL

The next day before Sol went home, she took me on a tour of Tokyo… she showed me cool neighborhoods, a temple (of course) and we sat on a rooftop and had some coffee… She dropped me off in Shinjuku- the Times Square of Tokyo- all tiny little streets leading back and forth, and lights, lights and more lights. It was great for picture taking and I walked until my feet were gonna fall off! (And it was still pretty early! LOL)

I managed to get back to my AirBnB on the train- all by myself- what a big girl I am now! I had met a nice guy in Kyoto- and he was also visiting Tokyo when I was- so he stopped by for a drink. That was a nice way to end my trip to Japan!

Have you ever been to Japan? What did you like best?