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Nagoya: The Home of Toyota

Our reason for stopping in Nagoya was simple: visit the Toyota factory, and catch a flight to China. Although Nagoya is Japan’s fourth most populated city, it’s off the mainstream tourist path. The Toyota Motor Corporation headquarters and many of its domestic production plants are located in the city of Toyota – yes, they actually named a city after the company – about an hour train ride east of central Nagoya. Confusingly – and impressively – there’s not one, but three, Toyota Museums in the Nagoya region.

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Hakone: Mt. Fiji and Onsens

Heading south from Tokyo, towards Nagoya, we stopped in Hakone for one night. Yet another hot spot for tourists, Hakone is most widely known for its picturesque views of Mt. Fiji and its abundance of natural hot springs. However, the chances of actually seeing the infamous image of Lake Ashinoko with Mt. Fuji in the background are quite slim due to weather and poor visibility. Continue reading

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One Week in Tokyo

Experiencing Tokyo, the world’s most populous city, a melting pot of old and new, tradition and business, temples and neon lights, was one of the primary reasons why we travelled to Japan. When we were looking at accommodation (two months in advance) we almost cut down our days in the city due to the high prices and lack of availability. But we stuck to our plan of spending a week there and booked a small, cute and modern private apartment conveniently located by the largest JR station. We used credit card reward points to offset the price and justified it due to the fact that our trip was nearing it’s end and we were running short on places to splurge. Continue reading

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Takayama: More Food & More Temples

En route from Kanazawa to Tokyo, we stopped in Takayama, a city in the mountainous Hida region of Japan. According to Japan-guide, Takayama “now ranks as one of the prime candidates among travelers wishing to add a rural element into their itineraries.” I had a desire to see as many cities as possible in Japan – something very different than the relatively slow-paced travel style we had become accustomed to. But here we were, a year and a half into travelling and breaking almost every rule we had. We had a jam-packed schedule in Japan with day trips and one-nighters; we booked things in advance (although not far enough); bought an unlimited two-week rail pass and even slept in dorm beds. One thing we should have done was research cities in advance because WiFi was (shockingly) incredibly limited in Japan. Continue reading

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Kanazawa: The Gold Leaf City

After visiting Hiroshima, one of the most devastated cities from WWII, we headed to Kanazawa, a city that managed to escape any damage during WWII. Kanazawa, a castle town founded in the late 1500s, also boasts escaping any significant damage from natural disasters and while it used to be a powerful and strategic city, it never fully industrialized. Consequently, it is one of the few Japanese cities where many of its buildings are still original and is home to many historical attractions such as restored residences and districts. Continue reading

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One Night in Hiroshima

In 1945, the first atomic bomb in history was dropped on Hiroshima. The destructive power of the bomb obliterated nearly everything within a two kilometer radius. Since then, great efforts have been taken to rebuild the city. Maybe it’s something embedded in our psyche that gives us a desire to go somewhere where such great destruction occurred because, like so many others, Dan and I wanted to experience the city. We caught a morning train from Osaka and booked one night in a hostel. In retrospect, we could have day tripped, although the change of scenery, not to mention upgraded accommodation was a nice change. 

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A Day in Nara: Deer and Sake

Our second day-trip out of Osaka was to Nara, an ancient capital city known for its historical temples and a large, tranquil park. A day in Nara was a lot more relaxing than a day in Kyoto, and everything is within walking distance. As soon as we got off the train we headed east towards the park in search of the deer that Nara is famed for. Over 1,200 wild sika deer freely roam Nara Park (about five square kilometers in area). Killing one of these sacred deer was a capital offense punishable by death until 1637 and the deer are currently designated as national treasures. As we walked up towards Kofuku-ji, we spotted our first group of deer, followed by many, many more! Continue reading