A Taste of Japan: Onsen/Sentou

This was a totally different experience for us but one we were anxious to try. Now I can understand why the Japanese love it so much! Certainly worth a visit if you get the chance. Next time, we’ll find a true onsen for a real pampering!

LotsaSmiles Photography

We’re now home from our (amazing!) trip, so look forward to detailed daily overviews as I sift through the 3742 photos I took over the fourteen days.  In the meantime, I’m continuing to feature a few specific pictures.

One of the favorite pastimes in Japan is visiting onsen or sentou.  What’s the difference?  The former are natural hot springs; the latter are public baths.  The line between them has been blurred, and the terms are commonly interchanged, with true onsen explicitly calling out the natural hot springs feature of their establishment.  Modern sentou create artificial hot springs by pumping geothermally heated water, so it’s easy to confuse the two.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2015

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A Taste of Japan: Ryokan

While we won’t depart for our big trip for some time yet, we still have smaller adventures, and we’ll feature some highlights from those in the meantime. Japan was an amazing excursion for our first overseas!

LotsaSmiles Photography

Ryokan are a luxury even for the Japanese.  These traditional hotels invite you to don yukata and sip tea on tatami mats in your room.  Far more spacious than hotels in the city, they serve as miniature suites, with a full bathroom (as in: a full room for taking baths – not showers), a “living” room that’s converted into a bedroom with futons at night, and a sitting/sun room.  Many ryokan also feature a high-end restaurant with full, multi-course, traditional Japanese meals (where you sit on tatami mats and food is partially cooked at your table).  If you’re lucky, yours will additionally offer a larger, multi-person sentou or true onsen.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2015

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How to Use a Japanese Toilet

Ok, this post is mostly for the ladies, but men might learn something, too.

For those used to western-style, sit-down toilets, something that resembles an elongated sink in the floor might be met with trepidation and confusion.  These are squat toilets, and they’re quite common in Japan.  Sometimes, they’re your only option, so it’s good to know how to use them.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2015 Continue reading “How to Use a Japanese Toilet”

How do Japanese Celebrate Thanksgiving?

Family are gathered, pies are baked, wine will soon flow (at least in my house), football is queued, and the bird is already releasing heavenly, succulent smells that will quickly infiltrate every corner of the house.  By the end of the day, tummies will be full, the room will be full of laughter and games, and eventually, we’ll all pass out in a food coma before our first holiday movie of the year.

So how is Thanksgiving celebrated in Japan?

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2015 Continue reading “How do Japanese Celebrate Thanksgiving?”

Money in Japan

In America, most walk around with a few credit or debit cards, and that’s all they need. Few carry cash. We use cards for everything from gas to shirts to dinner. We’ll even bust out the card for few-dollar transactions like parking meters and coffee. Even our sole-proprietor food carts take credit cards, and restaurants have to explicitly state if they don’t meet this widespread expectation.

Japan is very different. Continue reading “Money in Japan”

What I Miss About Japan… And What I Don’t

This week marks a year since our amazing trip to Japan (Aaron’s first overseas).  These 12 days are probably also largely responsible for the travel bugs that now fully infest our lives.

To mark the occasion, I thought I’d share some of the things I miss.. and some I don’t. Continue reading “What I Miss About Japan… And What I Don’t”

The Crazy Shops in Akihabara

As you probably know, the Japanese have a remarkable sense of space – particularly in Tokyo. They can cram an insane number of people onto trains, and they’re known for capsule hotels and incredibly efficient tiny apartments. This holds true for their shops, as well. Continue reading “The Crazy Shops in Akihabara”

Maid Cafes

Of the many kitschy things to do in Japan, visiting a maid cafe usually makes many lists.  We aren’t typically ones for overly touristy things, and we often go out of our way to avoid them (tourist attraction undoubtedly leads to throngs of visitors).  But while we were recovering from having been inundated with the overwhelming noise and stimulation of the tiny Akihabara shops, we decided to duck into one of these cheesy maid cafes. Continue reading “Maid Cafes”

5 Fun Things to See and Do in Odaiba

Odaiba was an enjoyable stop on our last day in Tokyo.  It has so much to offer that we couldn’t fit it all in.  We’ll have many new things to check out next time!   Below are 5 fun things to see or do if you find yourself in this Tokyo district. Continue reading “5 Fun Things to See and Do in Odaiba”