I have been thinking a lot lately about how I wanted to document the moments and exciting places that I get to go to with each one of my visitors, but I didn’t want to bore everyone with a million blog posts on the same things. However, I thought to myself that each trip will be special and unique and when I look back on this I want to be able to remember each one. So this is chapter one of a slew of visitor blogs.
For those who read my last post I mentioned that John and I have many visitors in the coming months from family and friends. Before our move to Japan we had a lot of people who said they wanted to visit us, I just didn’t think we would get this lucky and have four different sets of visitors!
My grandma and aunt were our very first guests to arrive in Japan! It was actually perfect timing because I had been going through a bit of homesickness prior to their arrival, so what better way to cure that then to have a visit from grandma! Here’s a snap from their arrival (and yes grandma this is a good photo of you!).
I had a full itinerary planned for their trip and was surprised that they had very little down time while they were here. One of my favorite things about having my family here was seeing Japan through their eyes. It has been almost six months since John and I made our move over here and I was surprised to find how much I’ve become accustomed to life in Japan, like the food, chopsticks, lack of personal space, taking my shoes off, walking on the left side of the road, etc. It’s an amazing revelation to see how much you’ve learned and changed in such a short period of time. With that being said lets get on to the good stuff, Barb and Trish’s (BP) travels around the Land of the Rising Sun!
On the top of the Japan bucket list, besides a trip to Kyoto and Tokyo, was for grandma and aunt Trish to see what a traditional Japanese village looks like. There are a few very beautiful places in Gifu Prefecture, just north of where we live in Nagoya, so we decided to take a little road trip north to Shirakawa-Go Village (白川郷 – “White River Old District”), which also happens to be an UNESCO World Heritage Site. This village is popular for it’s famous thatched houses called Gassho-Zukuri (合掌造り). Due to heavy snowfall in this area of Japan, it became popular to build these style homes.
One of my goals for this trip was to also take advantage of my families visit to see things that are also on my Japan bucket list, this village happened to be one of them. Here are a few photos from the day. My favorite thing was hearing my grandma say over and over again “this is just amazing”. She continued to do this basically everywhere we went, but lets be honest she’s got something right, Japan is pretty amazing.
Next up was the essential trip to Kyoto. We are lucky enough to live one train stop away on the Shinkansen from Kyoto (meaning it’s only 30 minutes away). Seriously, 30 minutes and you have access to OG Japan and it’s amazing shrines, temples, and castles. I thought for sure that I would be sick of Kyoto, and maybe I will be by the end of it, but I highly doubt it. There is so much to see and do in this city that I don’t think it will every be possible to see it all. My goal is to add one new place every time I visit. With this visit, I added the Fushimi Inari and Kyomizu Temple. I asked my grandma what her favorite part of the entire trip was and it was no surprise to me learn that Kyoto was her favorite. It truly is a beautiful place.
After a few days in Japan’s original capital, a tequila sunrise (or two) at the Kyoto Tower, and some unavoidable “gaijin” misconduct, we headed back to Nagoya for a day of rest (and a trip to Seto for glass blowing) before our journey to Tokyo. Having just been to Tokyo a few weeks prior, I was hopeful that I could get us around without getting too lost. One thing I’ve come to learn about Tokyo is that nothing is close, the subway is a headache, people are everywhere, and a plan is necessary…except I didn’t have one.
I wanted my grandma and aunt Trish to be able to see a few quintessential things of Japan’s largest city, however, aside from a trip to the Tsukiji Fish Market, Shibuya, and Shinjuku, I was plum overwhelmed with Tokyo. For those that know me, I don’t typically get overwhelmed in a city, but guys seriously there is no place in the world like Tokyo. It’s amazing, exhilarating, bright, and completely nuts. You’d probably be overwhelmed too. This trip was also a little different from my last one, because when I was last there John and I just wandered around with no specific plan. We live here, if we really want to see Tokyo, we can hop on a train. My grandma and aunt don’t, so getting the Tokyo experience was necessary.
Thankfully, with a little help from my friend, Trip Advisor, I think we covered a lot of good ground in Tokyo. It even included a cocktail in the sky at the Park Hyatt Hotel. For the movie buffs out there, this is the bar where Lost in Translation was filmed. We managed to make it to Takeshita Street, the Shibuya Crossing, Shinjuku, Tsukijui Fish Market, and the Asakusa Sensoji Temple. I also managed to get them into a little hole in the wall yakitori restaurant in the Golden Gai area of Tokyo…needless to say yakitori was not their favorite (for those who haven’t seen Better Late Than Never on NBC, watch the Tokyo episode and you will learn all about yakitori ;)).
Last but not least we finished off the week with a tour of Nagoya and a little road trip to Mikimoto Pearl Island. Of course, none of us left with real Mikimoto pearls, but what an experience it was to see the famous women pearl divers! We were also lucky to catch a special exhibit on royal crowns. Pretty spectacular if I do say so myself. For those living in Japan definitely worth the day trip to see this place! We also managed to squeeze in a trip to the pacific ocean on the way home to see Meoto-Iwa, two rocks joined by a rope called the married (or wedding) rocks.
The last few days my grandma and aunt were here were low key and spent as a day in my life or a walk in my shoes. I was able to take them to my traditional tea ceremony practice where they were able to participate as tea ceremony guests and meet my sensei. They were also able to meet many of my friends here in Nagoya and I’m grateful to have such wonderful friends that are so warm and welcoming. We’ve truly been blessed with this journey in Japan and to be able to share it with some of my family members is a wonderful gift.
Next up my high school friend, Bowden, a trip to Seoul (including the DMZ – wish us luck), and another round of Tokyo and Kyoto. Life is good!