Over the course of 8 days we visited 6 distinct locations.
From the seaside of Hiroshima, to the mountains of Kanagawa we adventured around Japan.
Everyday, there was a new experience to be had - lifetime firsts. You greeted them all with openness and curiosity. Some you loved, some you didn't like so much. But you never once complained.
You learned about Japanese culture through hands on experiences and by meeting locals. Below is a day by day summary of where we went, what we saw, ate and experienced.
You were an amazing ambassador of American Culture - always being thoughtful and considerate. And you were a very adventurous traveler, always willing to give something a try! So proud of all the new experiences you had.
It was an honor to get to travel with you! Thank you for everything.
Day 1 - Miyajima
After we descended, we cooled off with ice cream, shopped around for wooden spoons and made our way to Yakigaki no Hayashi for oysters. The raw oysters were delicious (your first ever!). The local beer was good too. We decided that each day we'd make a point to try something you'd never done before.
From there we headed back to Hiroshima via the ferry and checked in our hotel, Chisun Hoten Hiroshima.
Day 2 - Hiroshima
The day started with you trying traditional Japanese breakfast (a first).
We took the train to Uno and checked into our hotel, Uno Port Inn. Then went to try the ONSEN (another first). Our legs needed it after all the hiking and walking. A highlight was the sauna followed by body temperature soaking tubs.
We ate dinner at Osaka-Ya and had delicious ginger-stir-fried pork and green peppers.
We went to sleep after eating delicious chocolate covered almonds and lounging in our yukata.
Day 3 - Naoshima
After a filling breakfast of egg sandwich, fruit, yogurt, granola and coffee we took the first ferry over to Naoshima.
Naoshima is a magical place, an entire island filled with art.
We rented electric bicycles (today's first) and made our way around the island from the Benesse Museum, to the Art House Project and back to the Chichu Museum. We ate at Apron Cafe - I had the curry, you had a scone.
We experienced what it was like for our eyes to find light again at Minamidera and at the Chichu Museum we saw inspiring works by Monet and Turrell. We finished the day with a soak at the Naoshima Bath and ferried home as the sunset.
For dinner we ventured to Ushibete and had Shabu Shabu (another first)!
Day 4 - Kyoto
Along the way we found a printmaker and you bought 8 of her works. We met another quirky older Japanese man who taught us about the trifecta involved in Japanese woodblock printing. The team of three consists of a designer, carver and printer. He was the printer.
Our pottery class (today's first) was a comedy of errors. At least for me who couldn't get the pressure correct. But we made gorgeous bowls and they are being mailed back to our respective houses!
From class we went to Ippodo Tea and sampled delicious shade grown and roasted green tea.
From there we ventured home to freshen up and relax a bit - before meeting for dinner.
We at fresh greens at Ootoya, a Japanese classic! We laughed and talked over red wine. You taught me that men's and women's buttons are on opposite sides of clothing.
Day 5 - Kyoto
After leaving Kinakuji we headed to Tadka for an Indian lunch - there was a little wait, but the food was worth it.
Stomachs full we were reading to do some shopping. We visited the Kyoto Institution - Ichizawa Shinzaburo Hanpu - a canvas bag store that only sells in Kyoto - no online shopping.
With the upcoming festival (matsuri) we made our way to a vintage kimono shop to get an obi (waist belt that holds the kimono closed). We found the perfect green obi that had hydrangea on it, just like my yukata.
After getting freshened up at home we went to dinner with Noriko (Elizabeth's language exchange partner) and Junko. You tried everything: conger eel, sashimi, whole fish (all firsts)!! We talked about cultural differences and vacations and life - it was lovely!
This was one of our biggest days of walking - we topped almost 9/10 miles.
Day 6 - Hakone
After a slower morning in Kyoto we made our way to Hakone. The cooler mountain air was a welcome relief.
The Hakone Open Air Museum was our first stop. We wandered through a perfectly manicured garden looking at the sculptures along the way and made a quick trip through the Picasso Pavillion.
From there we checked into the hotel where you got to change into your yukata, relax in the onsen and eat shabu shabu! You slept on traditional Japanese tatami mat with futon (a first)!
The theme of today was rest and relaxation. We needed a bit of a break so that we had energy for our last two days in Tokyo!
Day 7 - Tokyo
Our day started early catching trains into the city. We missed our first train of the trip, but it was okay, we were able to get a coffee and then catch the next one.
After arriving in Tokyo we went straight to Shibuya to see the famous Scramble Crossing and to do some shopping. On the Hikarie 8th floor we got to watch Furoshiki being dyed and purchase the finest presents for loved ones back home. We also got to sample cuisine from Japan's 47 prefectures in the D&Department Shokudo (cafeteria).
Before our evening at the baseball stadium we checked into the hotel in Asakusa - one of the older and most established neighborhoods in Tokyo. There was a phenomenal view of Tokyo Skytree and the Sensoji Temple.
We feasted on tasty cheesecake over a welcome drink.
We headed to watch the Tokyo Swallows vs the Tokyo Giants at Meiji Jingu Stadium (a first!). One of the remaining original stadiums that Babe Ruth played in. We were treated to Fireworks at the bottom of the fifth!! We practiced sending photos from camera to cell phone (getting super tech savvy!).
We left before the game was over to head to Harajuku - a famous shopping/fashion area. Along the way we kept our eyes out for decorated manhole covers. We ate the tastiest gyoza of the entire trip at Harajuku Gyoza.
It was so fun!
Day 8 - Tokyo
Our last day together....there were tears.
You landed :15 minutes before you took off on the same day!! Time travel is fascinating! Kathy from the future, back in VA.
Glossary of Japanese Vocabulary
Ohayou Gozaimasu - Good morning
Itadekimasu - Said before you eat
Oishi - Delicious!
Arigatou gozaimasu - Thank you
Gochisosamadeshita - Thank you for the meal
Dozo - Go ahead
Tanoshikata - I had fun
Oyasuminasai - Good night
Migi - right
Hidari - left
Dame - no
Yokuneta? - did you sleep well?
Yokuneta. - I slept well.
Yakiniku - grilled meat
Yakitori - grilled chicken
Yakisoba - grilled soba