Last October was the 1 year anniversary of our 2017 trip to Japan, and I revisited all of the memories in a series of daily blog posts featuring my photographs and journal writings (check them out if you’d like, starting with day 1 here!)
I miss Japan very much- it’s like a reverse homesickness where I have a special place in my heart that aches to visit this far away place again. I am still thinking about Japan every day, and I convinced Dustin that we need to go back sooner rather than later- so we are going to spend Christmas in Tokyo this year!
When we went in 2017 we traveled around from Tokyo using a JR pass to get to Gunma, Kyoto, Osaka, and Kinosaki. We saw so many gorgeous places and ate so much amazing food. It was a fantastic trip.
This Christmas we are planning to spend the whole time in Tokyo so that we aren’t moving from place to place so much (resettling into new inns and hotels, moving our luggage around) and we can just explore at leisure from our home base in Ikebukuro. There are so many spots in Tokyo that we have only barely explored, or not at all. I can’t wait. I even have 2 tattoo appointments penciled in with a studio in Shibuya!
Wish us luck! I’m saving all of my pennies… (well, figuratively- they don’t make pennies anymore in Canada…)
I finally made some videos with clips from our 2017 trips around Japan 🙂
These are just mashups of videos taken from my cell phone, my camera, and probably a little bit of Dustin’s cell and camera too. Some parts are a bit shaky but I kept them in because they were still cool memories. A few of these seem to be things that I didn’t even realize I was filming at the time… each video has a whole bunch of quick clips featuring some of the cool and beautiful things we saw in Japan.
Video 1: Tokyo- Ikebukuro, Ikebukuro street festival, Shinjuku, Shinjuku park, Shibuya, Shin Okubo, Harajuku, Ueno, Nagano Broadway, etc.
Video 2: Gunma- Takaragawa Osenkaku onsen ryokan (family run hot spring inn)
Video 3: Kyoto, Osaka- Higashiyama, Fushimi Inari Shrine, Universal Studios Japan, Harry Potter World, Kyoto Station, etc.
Video 4: Kinosaki- Mikunia onsen ryokan and ryokan town (hot springs town), autumn street festival, kaiseki meals, etc.
This is day 14 of revisiting my journal from our trip to Japan last year! If you’d like to start at the beginning, here is day 1.
So, day 14, here we go!
From Shauna’s Journal
Day 14, October 14th, 2017
Goodbye Kyoto. Today we head to Kinosaki. We hailed a taxi to Kyoto station where we ate some yummy ramen and saw some school bands playing (they were very good!)
The shinkansen to Kinosaki was nearly 2 hours long, with gorgeous views the entire way. Mountains, fields, cute little towns with gardens everywhere, paths leading up steep hills of intense greenery.
When we arrived in the town station, a woman asked if we had a reservation at one of the ryokan. She pointed us in the direction of our ryokan, the Mikunia.
We checked in and were shown our room by a kind young man. We had a mixup over yukata (summer kimono to wear around the inn and town). I later found out he was telling me I could choose a coloured Yukata downstairs if I wanted an alternate colour to the standard grey yukata provided, but at the time I thought he was simply asking what colour I preferred, so I said “blue or pink would be great, thank you” in my best Japanese.
He brought me two lovely and elaborate yukata and said “one for today, one for tomorrow?” with a grin. Soon after though, the maids came in and were fretting over my yukata selections (not sure why, maybe the colours or patterns didn’t match the season?) and they took the blue one away, to which he began apologizing to me and I was like “oh, it’s ok! It’s ok!”
The maids were also concerned about Dustin’s yukata size (he’s a big guy) and we were trying to explain that he had bought a personal yukata in Kyoto and brought it with him. Then later, when I tried on my pretty pink yukata, a maid appeared and I showed her that my yukata was much too long for me. I didn’t realize that it was a different kind of yukata than the ones we wore in Takaragawa- this one was a fancier type, using two obi (sashes) to hold it up and customize the length.
Once we figured out all of the yukata confusion, we had a stroll around the gorgeous town of Kinosaki- river with koi fish, bridges and trees, little shops, and footbaths.
We were given a kaiseki shabu shabu meal in our room (SO DELICIOUS), after which the table was cleared and moved aside, and our futon set up on the tatami.
We arrived a bit late so our onsen reservation for private soak was the last slot of the day (11pm) and I had to nap first as I was exhausted- but the wait was worth it. Dustin and I had the little onsen to ourselves and enjoyed soaking in the hot water together. The steam and heat prepares you for a good night’s sleep.
This is day 9 of revisiting my journal from our trip to Japan last year! If you’d like to start at the beginning, here is day 1.
So, day 9, here we go!
From Shauna’s Journal
Day 9, October 9th, 2017
Wow, this place is so lovely I can’t believe i’m here. This morning we woke up and had a delicious breakfast in the Gekko room. I tried things that I have no idea what they were, and some were so delicious! I especially enjoyed the crispy fish that were grilled for us. One was split down the middle so that it looked like one large, flat fish, but Dustin pointed out it was just grilled that way.
I’m extremely glad we decided to make this a 3 week trip, as it’s going by incredibly fast. I don’t miss home yet (usually I do… I mean, of course I miss Tegan and Butters, though!) but I do miss Ikebukuro! I was really starting to feel comfortable there, getting to know the streets, the train station, the “We Road”- so I am glad we are going back there for a couple nights when we return to Tokyo.
We still have plenty left to see and do- Ghibli Museum, Shibuya, Nakano Broadway, Sawanoya Ryokan, Ueno Park, etc… and yet I am already dreading leaving Japan because I know I will miss it a lot! There is a special feeling in Japan that I’ve never felt anywhere else. I enjoy experiencing uniquely Japanese things, and practicing my Japanese with locals.
I will definitely, definitely want to come back to Japan again. (Every year? Please?!)
So right now I am sitting at a large granite table next to a giant suspension bridge that connects our ryokan to the rotenburo (outdoor onsen area). The Tone river is rushing loudly underneath me. To my right is a lovely path that winds down the riverbank and connects to the different onsen baths. Two are mixed and one is women only. This morning I took a dip in the women’s bath. It was very relaxing but I couldn’t handle it for very long- the other women were also getting out after their soak remarking “atsui desu ne!”(hot, isn’t it?!)
I need to practice the art of relaxing. In the last year or so I feel like I’ve been working on being happy in the moment, in the now, and I am doing better with that. But still, sometimes I struggle with just enjoying peacefully doing nothing in particular- the kind of full relaxation a ryokan invites. Dustin definitely struggles with this also.
This afternoon I decided to open the big window in our room to let in the air and the sound of the river. The little beetley-bugs that had been resting on the outside of the window rushed in on me in a sudden ambush on my hair and Yukata. The bugs are cute but they startled me and I was squealing! I was able to gather them up and shoo them back outside with a handtowel…
Dustin and I went down to the indoor onsen again today. I had a good soak. On my way back up the elevator a man and woman got on next to me- the man was saying “samui, ahh, samui” and clutching his arms (“cold, aah, cold…”). Having just come from the steaming onsen, I chimed in when he met my eyes and said, fanning myself, “Samui? Atsui desu! (“Cold? I’m hot!”) and they laughed with me at my little joke. When the doors opened at their floor he walked off smiling and saying in English in a funny voice “I’m cooolllddd!!!”
There is a cute little gift shop here that has specialty chocolates and foods, and lots of unique handicrafts made by local artisans. A kind woman works there, and I bought a few souvenirs and gifts today- some cloth coasters, a kokeshi doll, some chocolates, and a Yukata. I asked the woman if she thought a green or pink obi (sash) would look better with the green yukata I picked, which had subtle pink flowers on it. She suggested pink looked cute, so I got the pink. I said “these chocolates look so delicious!” in Japanese, and she complimented me “Nihongo wa amari jouzu desu ne!” (your Japanese is very good!) to which I responded with the polite denial approach “made, made” (more to go, more to go!)- even though I know she was being kind and my Japanese is very basic, it really made my day. I’d been studying my books and trying so hard to learn. A simple “good evening” “that was delicious” or “thank you very much” in Japanese is so appreciated here, so I try to keep these phrases in mind.
After I bought my purchases the woman said in Japanese “hold on a second…” and grabbed a box of sesame oil chocolates I had been eyeing. She put it in my bag and said “a gift for you!” It was so sweet of her! I was flabbergasted and thanked her profusely.
I’m not a very spiritual person or anything like that, but something about that little shop and that woman reminded me of Nanny McKim, who was very interested in Japanese culture and had so many Japanese handicrafts and dolls in her house. I know what Mom would say- “Nanny wanted you to have those chocolates”. And, coincidence or not, the sesame oil chocolates the woman gave me ended up being my favourite ones. ❤