Tuesday, May 12, 2015

My Top Experiences in Japan

In my Lonely Planet guide book we have used for every trip we have taken up to mainland and around Okinawa, there is a list of top things to experience while in Japan. I counted them and we managed about 16 of the 30 things on the list. Not bad, but today I want to share my personal favorites of what we have been able to see and do in Japan. And while I'm on the subject let me just say how fabulous traveling in Japan is. The only downside is that it is the most expensive country in Asia to travel around. But man, they make traveling/siteseeing, etc. so great. Clean, considerate, punctual. If you have a chance to visit Japan, do it!

1. Temples and Shrines in Kyoto, Japan 
Ahhh, Kyoto. This place is the ultimate Japanese experience. Personally I prefer it in the fall, but seeing it in cherry blossom season--more like seeing how the Japanese adore cherry blossom season--is a memorable experience.

2. Geisha spotting in Kyoto.
Geisha are so fascinating to me in this modern time. They are still so mysterious to us outside foreigners. But they really have some kind of magic charm that when you see them you are drawn to them and can't take your eyes off of them!

3. Ride the Shinkansen

I LOVE the bullet trains in Japan. I wish I could always travel by bullet train. They are always exactly on time to the second and while you are zipping by so fast, the inside is so quiet and relaxing. Expensive, but worth it.

4. Experience Osaka by night.

The Dotombori district of Osaka is so much fun, and what you imagine when you think of modern Japan. Lights, signs, sensory overload. It's lots of fun.

5.  Visit Hiroshima

You come to love Hiroshima as you visit the sombering sites/memorials from the atomic bomb destruction and then see the city now and the people. They are such kind people, and the city is a testament to moving forward and promoting peace.

6. Mingle with the Wild Deer on the Sacred Island of Miyajima

Just south of Hiroshima, this beautiful and charming island is my favorite. You never want to leave this beautiful and serene place. And the delicious grilled oysters are a highlight. Miyajima is a hidden gem.

7. The Great Buddha of Nara

Nara also used to be an old capitol of Japan, and the Buddha there is awesome. The town is charming too, also filled with wild deer everywhere.

8. Experience Japanese Onsen

I don't have a picture of this, because you never take anything in the onsen with you--even your clothes haha. Onsen is traditional Japanese baths, and it's so relaxing. Onsen are segregated between men and women, and yes, you are completely naked. I love the onsen!

9. Visit Shibuya Crossing in Tokyo
Thousands and thousands of people pass through this crossing everyday. It's fun to watch it unfold from the Starbucks there. But what is crazy about visiting Shibuya is that while it looks like chaos, it actually is very quiet and polite. I made a video crossing the street, and when I watched it I realized how boring it seemed because everyone is so polite crossing so there is so little noise!

Last but not least...
10. Experience Japan's Islands!

Okinawa and its outlying islands: what can I even say? Just go back and read my Okinawa tab ha. Such beauty. The snorkeling/diving is some of the best in the world. The people are so incredibly warm and welcoming. We love these islands. 

I love Japan and I feel so grateful I had the chance to experience it these past two years!!

Friday, May 8, 2015

Golden Week Dragon Boat Races

At the end of Golden Week in Okinawa, they have their big Dragon Boat Races at the main port in Naha. This year I was finally able to see some races and it was lots of fun. Even more fun, because we got to see the Navy Womens team compete. My friend Mickelle and I both knew a few people on the team and it just makes it so fun to cheer for people you know. 

It was so fun seeing everyone cheer each other on. Japanese teams were high fiving the American participants and other competitors. 
The Navy team warming up

 These sweet girls LOVE Baby J. And he loves them. We are going to miss them!
And they're off! The Navy team is in the middle and shortly after this was taken, they took the lead and smashed the competition to win the race. All their hard work paid off.

Happy Golden Week from Japan!