We've been back from our 2 week Japan vacation for about 1.5 week now. For some reason the 2 weeks in Japan felt much longer. I guess that happens when you're on vacation. 🙂
I've been to Japan numerous times for business previously. I usually tagged on a few vacation days at the end of my trips so I could travel around the country. This was my first time to be traveling in Japan for 2 weeks completely on our own schedule. We had a great time in Japan and really loved the country, especially all the different types of food. As mentioned in my traveling with a toddler in Japan post, traveling with a toddler offered some challenges. Adapting traveling plans and schedules to Baby T was a good idea. After two weeks battling with the crowd constantly and hearing noises on speakers whenever we were outside, we were ready to come home to Vancouver.
Slower pace travel
We decided to travel on a slower pace since we're traveling with Baby T. We visited the following cities - Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, Hiroshima, and Fukuoka. When I traveled along in Japan, I was definitely moving at a faster pace. The slower pace was nice though, allowed us to relax and enjoy our time. It also provided lots of flexibility so we could alter to our plans.
4 nights in Tokyo
We flew into Haneda Airport with ANA on a Boeing 787 Dreamliner. I love flying into Haneda because it's so close to Tokyo. We managed to get out of the airport in 30 minutes after landing and converted our Japan Rail Pass before the JR office closed for the day. Whenever I flew into Narita Airport, I'd always encounter long lines at border & customs. Not to mention that it would take about 1.5 hour on the Narita Express to get to Tokyo. Given the choice, definitely fly into Haneda.
We stayed in an Airbnb house for the first 4 night. It was close to the Mejiro train station on the Yamanote line, which meant we could get to the major train stations in Tokyo very easily. We picked Airbnb because it was significantly cheaper than staying at a hotel. The Airbnb host was very friendly and gave us a lot of tips and local attractions that we wouldn't be able to find in our guide book. We definitely felt like we were immersed in the Japanese culture. This is why I'd highly recommend Airbnb. You can sign up here and get a $26 referral credit.
The highlights on this portion of the trip would be checking out Meiji Temple, going to the sumo tournament, and going to Disney Sea. Meiji Temple is situated inside a forest. To get to the temple, you have to walk through a long forested path. Definitely very zen. Here are some pictures from Meiji Temple:
As it turned out, there was a sumo tournament in Tokyo when we were in Japan. We pre-booked tickets and checked out this traditional Japanese sport. I was amazed how much physical contacts there were during a match. The sumos probably took more beatings during a match than boxers during a boxing match.
When we were in Disney Sea, it happened to be during their Halloween celebration. We were pleasantly surprised to see so many people dressing up as characters (i.e. Cozplay). In fact, we weren't able to differentiate the visitors and the theme park workers.
5 Nights in Osaka
After 4 nights in Tokyo, we took the Shingansen train to Osaka. For this portion of the trip we splurged and used the Marriott points that I accumulated through business travels to stay at the Osaka Marriott Miyako Hotel. Our hotel room was on the 46th floor which offered an excellent view. Because I got upgraded as a Marriott gold elite member, Mrs. T and I received complimentary club lounge access. We were able to get free breakfast and free afternoon tea during the entire stay. This was not expected and definitely saved some money for us.
We checked out a few attractions in Osaka and managed to meet up with a couple friends of ours and also Jeremy, Winnie, and GCCjr’s from Go Curry Cracker. It was great talking to Jeremy and Winnie's about financial independence and their FI experience so far.
We also made a few days trips to Kyoto to check out some of the major attractions. Because it was Japan's silver week where the entire nation is off for 5 day, we encountered a lot of people in Kyoto.
3 nights in Hiroshima
After Osaka, we went to Hiroshima for 3 nights and stayed a hostel. I stayed at the same hostel years ago and had a great time. We stayed in a Japanese style private room for 1/3 of the cost of a typical hotel room.
To safe money, we walked all over Hiroshima instead of taking tram or bus. The Hiroshima Peace Park was a nice place to walk around with a lot of sad histories.
We took a day trip to Miyajima Island to see the famous floating torii gate.
Because we are crazy foodies, we rode on the the Shingaensen train for an hour one night to go to Fukuoka just to check out yatai (food stalls). It was worth the trip!
2 final nights in Tokyo
We spent our last two nights in Tokyo to check out some attractions that we missed. We previously booked an apartment through Airbnb but the host canceled on us 4 days prior to our arrival. Instead of spending time on the computer to find another suitable Airbnb place, we decided to use my Marriott points for one night and pay for the other night. Our return flight was at 9 PM. Thanks to my Marriott status, we were able to get a late checkout time of 6 PM. This allowed us to tour around Tokyo on the last day of the trip then returned to the hotel to freshen up before heading to the airport. It was an added benefit.
During the trip we checked out many Japanese traditional markets. It was really cool to see the different items that are up for sale.
The best part about our Japan vacation? All the delicious food that we had. We had A LOT of ramen, sushi, and sashimi. And of course many other Japanese dishes too. We stayed away from western food completely. Who wants to eat Italian and pizza in Japan right?
Now we're back in Vancouver, both Mrs. T and I really miss ramen.
Overall, we loved Japan. It's a great place to visit for vacation. I'll probably go back there for business trips in the future. Would we ever consider moving to Japan when we reach financial independence? We might but it would definitely need to be living in a small Japanese town. The constant crowd and noise in big cities like Tokyo and Osaka really wears on you. Considering it's super hot and humid in Japan during the summer, if we were to live in Japan, we would have to avoid summer.
Hope you enjoyed my trip report. Sorry for the heavy picture content. :p