It’s been many years since we’ve been to Japan, but we still dream of it often. It was our first international trip together (and Aaron’s first ever), and it holds many fond memories. We’ve certainly learned a lot since that first trip, and we’d design an entirely different one now. But these pictures still take me back and make me wish I was there once again.
Come dream of Japan with us. These images are sure to inspire wanderlust for Japan for you as well!
Possibly something you’ve already experienced without ever flying overseas, Japanese food is one of my favorite cuisines. Focusing on the delicate combination of unique flavors, it’s seldom overpowering or drenched in strong sauces.
From soups and snacks to desserts and drinks, everything is beautifully presented and often too cute to eat!
Speaking of cute, the Japanese do it so well!
Street signs are cute. Food is cute. Buildings are cute. Statues are cute. Even construction barriers are cute!
If you find yourself in Kyoto, certainly take a trip to the Arashiyama Monkey Park Iwatayama; you can even feed these cuties!
Everywhere I looked, there was something to make me smile.
Cats are cute, too! And Japan has a special fondness for my feline friends.
As you know, I’m a bit obsessed with cats, so I feel a sort of kinship with this distant country. While we didn’t quite make it out to the Cat Island, we saw many wandering with us along the Philosopher’s Path, and we made a point to visit a couple of cat cafes in Tokyo.
Cat cafes are one of my favorite aspects of the Japanese culture, but I also love the traditional kimono, daily behaviors, and spiritual rituals.
One of the fascinating examples of a Japanese ritual is with the mizuko kuyou – statues dedicated and dressed to commemorate lost children. These made us a little sad, but they also served as beautiful tributes.
Japan is known for its beautiful Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples. Miniature palaces with extraordinary gardens, each is a wonder to explore… especially in the fall!
We were warned that we’d quickly tire of visiting shrines in Kyoto, but they truly are so unique, it’s difficult to not appreciate each one.
Another thing I don’t think I’ll ever tire of is onsen, sentou, and ryokan.
What are they? In a word: luxury.
Onsen are natural hot springs, sentou are public bath houses (often confused with onsen), and ryokan are traditional hotels often located at onsen.
Our trip kept us mostly to the cities, so we didn’t get to visit a true onsen, but we did spend a couple of nights at a ryokan in Kyoto, and we spent my birthday at a sentou in Odaiba (though it’s labeled as an onsen given its spa-like setup).
Seriously, why aren’t these more commonplace in the States??
Japanese businessmen will commonly work until long after the sun goes down and then go out with their coworkers for a few drinks or perhaps some karaoke. While you’re unlikely to fall into the businessmen crowd during a visit, you can still enjoy the healthy Japanese nightlife.
We rode a Ferris wheel after dark in Yokohama, taking in the seasonal illumination festival. And we took a dinner cruise across Tokyo Bay, admiring the lit Rainbow Bridge and the Fuji TV building dancing with color.
We also explored Shinjuku and attended the highly touristic Robot Restaurant (only do this if you don’t mind kitschy shows – we found it wonderfully entertaining, but it’s something we’d only do once). And we did a pub crawl in Roppongi (which I didn’t really enjoy, as it was mostly drunk Americans).
With 127 million residents, Japan has some massive cities. In fact, Tokyo is labeled as the largest city in the world by some sources (others grant that title to Guangzhou, China, when Shenzhen is included).
With the sheer size, it’s remarkable to see how they’ve solved problems like population, mass transit, and tourism.
Amidst the sprawling urban centers, Japan also boasts some stunningly gorgeous scenery. We barely got a taste of the countryside from the seat of a shinkansen, but we loved how even the smallest parks and gardens could whisk us away from the din of the city.
And while everyone always swoons at the blush of the spring sakura season, we quite adored Japan awash in autumn colors (and it wasn’t quite as crowded).
To be honest, we don’t need these pictures to long to return to the Land of the Rising Sun. There’s so much we have yet to experience, and so much that we would love to experience again. Between the cute things, the food, the cats, and the culture, we can’t wait to go back!
What are you most anxious to see or experience in Japan?
Psst… do you love reading about Japan? You might also enjoy these:
- What We Miss About Japan… And What We Don’t
- How to Use a Japanese Squat Toilet
- Cat Cafes – The Best Thing Out of Japan Since Anime
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