My Diary.
to Share my Life Events
I want to be honest about my reasons to go to Japan. Japan was not a country, which was on top of my travel wishlist. But sometimes things are different from what you think. And you almost get forced into happiness. If I had already known before about my trip, how wonderful Japan is, I would have traveled there earlier.

It is one of those countries where you cannot get out of the astonishment as it has so much to offer. It is more than I could ever have guessed and more than I could take in my 2 weeks while traveling Japan. Japan is a land of delicious food, beautiful nature, and the friendliest people. The historical village of Shirakawago was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, together with its neighbor Gokayama in the valley of the Shogawa River. And the truth is that, walking through its streets, one understands this decision perfectly.

After 15 hours flight to Japan, I swore to stay awake. But somehow I get so tired from fatigue that I fall asleep. I wake up without orientation, with a pounding headache. Below me shine the lights of Tokyo Bay.

A half-full backpack, the passport and tourist visa, 1 ticket for the Shinkansen and 1000 Yen, that's all I have beside my excitement. I've been waiting for 20 years.

I leaf through the Japan Experience travel guide on my table. And now I do not want to get out of the plane. What if things go wrong? What if my big dream is a bubble and I get back with a case full of disappointment?

With the stream of the other passengers, I let myself drift through the airport. As I walked out of the corridor, an airport employee bowed in a friendly fashion. Thank you for visiting Japan! A canvas shows a kitschy Mount Fuji with cherry blossoms. I am a bit confused by the surreal level of friendliness offered to me at every corner.

The next morning, I wake up at 4 o'clock. The sun has not come out, although the Japanese country name actually means the Land of the Rising Sun. I've been bothering my head for months of what I'll see in two weeks. I want to see everything! I would have to move at the speed of light. So I take the second quickest thing in this part of the earth, the Shinkansen.

With the high-speed train and almost 320 km/h, in the next few days, I travel from Tokyo to Osaka. I go again from Osaka to Kyoto by train and then to Hiroshima. Actually, I had to see both the South and the North and of course, the Holy Fuji. The North is now covered in deep snow. And in the south, I have underestimated the length of the route and the prices.

Japan Travel

Mt. Fuji || Hi Fuji!

But that does not matter, I enjoy the Shinkansen. I also get a typical Japanese meal in a nice box, which you can buy at every station. I am most pleased with the presentation of the rice with a Umeboshi plum on top. The rice looks like the flag of Japan.

While I was passing large cities, villages, and mountains, I almost had the majestic view of Mount Fuji. The businessmen who are sitting with me on the train are already smiling at how I stick my nose to the glass. The Fuji disappears somewhere behind the facades. I saw the Fuji so close, but only for 2 minutes, but I was closer to it now than in Tokyo, the day before.

Osaka || When a potato turns into an octopus

On my program in Osaka is Kuromon Ichiba. It is a sheltered market that offers all sorts of tasty Japanese cuisine. Older ladies do their normal shopping here. While the tourists photograph the fish and seafood. I watch three dancing ball fish in an aquarium until I realize that these are "fugu". I move on to a stand to eat fried potatoes. I hope that I get the potatoes with cheese filling. When I bite, I taste cheese, but the potato, unfortunately, turns out to be in the form of pressed octopus.

I'm actually vegetarian, an octopus is not on my menu. And yet, the same mishap happened to me at a shack in front of Osaka Castle. Only this time it is octopus balls in sauce. It is fate that I have eaten Takoyaki. After all, Osaka is famous for its seafood specialties. The Osaka Castle is not only a perfect reproduction of the original. It is an important contrast to the modern high-rise buildings of the metropolis of Osaka.

Japan Travel

Kyoto || Temples, snow, and myths

Also my next stop Kyoto combines modernity and history in a very typical style of Japan. In contrast to Tokyo, Kyoto is almost a small town. What I liked most about Kyoto is the variety of cultural attractions. The Fushimi Inari Taisha, the golden temple, and the bamboo forest are 3 places you cannot miss in Kyoto.

More than 14 shrines and temples in the old imperial city are UNESCO World Heritages. I can only visit 4 of them, as the main part is not in the center, but on the slopes of the mountains that surround the city. I have planned several days for Kyoto so as not to miss the best sights, but I could have spent my entire two weeks here.

It begins to snow as I arrive at the top of the temple complex of Kiyomizu-Dera. There are young women in kimono walking past me, and I shiver at the sight. The promised outlook over Kyoto is unfortunately blocked by the gray snow clouds. But the buildings from the year 1633 alone are worth the steep climb.

Many myths surround the temple. I am happy that my trip could not be any better and even surpassed my feverish expectations. I get back to the center of Kyoto. I find the food stalls on the way but I ignore after my double octopus debacle.

Hiroshima || Kissed by a holy deer

From my next station, Hiroshima, I take the regional train to Itsukushima. It is a small island that is one of the three greatest wonders of Japan under the name of Miyajima. I find the semi-wild deer roaming on the island.

The animals are already accustomed to visitors. In front of the Torii, three deer pose in a group photo as if they were also part of the tourist group. The deer, by the way, is a sacred animal here, since according to legend they are the messengers of the gods.

I console myself with the fact that the spit-spot of the pushy deer on my jacket might bring luck. At sunset, I drive again from the island. The sun glimmers violet through the mountains. The shrine of Itsukushima glitters one more time as a reflection in the water.

Japan Travel

Nakasendo Trail || In the Footsteps of Ancient Japan

The old Nakasendo Trail connected Edo (present-day Tokyo) with the city of Kyoto passing through the Kiso valley. This route was part of the Gokaidō, or five routes that departed from Edo. Today, the stretch between Magome and Tsumago is especially popular with tourists and a nice day trip or a couple of days if we are in the area.

The towns of Magome and Tsumago are two ancient shukuba or rest stations of the Nakasendo trail. Magome was the number 41 station and Tsumago number 42 of the 69 rest stations that were on the route Nakasendo, also called in the past Kiso-kaidō or Kiso road, being in the middle of the Kiso region.

The most common excursion is to go by bus from Nakatsugawa to Magome and from there walk a section of the old Nakasendo route to Tsumago or Nagiso. The stretch between Magome and Tsumago is about 8 kilometers long and is relatively easy to do in about two hours and a half or three hours maximum.

Normally it is recommended to make the route starting from Magome towards Tsumago and not vice versa. This is so because from Magome there are less kilometers of climb and it is less hard. Making the way from Magome we have 2.7 kilometers of ascent to the mountain pass of Magome-toge and from there it is almost all downhill. If we do it from Tsumago, there are 5.3 kilometers of climb, which is much harder. But of course, the road can be done as desired and as best suits our itinerary.

I see the beauty of the area from the pass of mountain or port of Magome-toge to the outskirts of Tsumago, where I pass through stone paths surrounded by nature, going parallel to the stream on many occasions and enjoying small waterfalls.

During my walk through Magome I learn a little more about the life of the inhabitants of Magome in the small Shimizuya Shiryokan museum, with a beautiful exhibition of ceramics, clothing and various items. After visiting Magome, I begin my adventure along this stretch of the Nakasendo route that officially begins at the Magome viewpoint, from where I see spectacular views of the entire area.

Until the mountain pass of Magome-toge the road passes between houses and fields of culture, but when crossing the port, I descend by the mountain and enter in full nature. In full descent I find the Tateba-chaya tea house, an old inspection station on the Nakasendo trail. From here the prohibition of transporting some of the five most important trees in the region was controlled.

Nearby is the small altar Koyasu Kannon, dedicated to the goddess of mercy and especially popular with families in the area. Another point of interest during the route are the Odaki and Medaki waterfalls. The last section of the route crosses Otsumago, a small town before Tsumago that maintains many traditional buildings. In it I can find many minshuku or rural accommodation and traditional houses such as the former residence of the Fujiwara family, an original building of the seventeenth century, although with later remodeling.

And by the way, something that accompany me throughout the journey is the sound of the bells! Every few meters I find a bell that I will have to sound to scare away the possible bears that live in the mountains. Once I leave Otsumago behind, I arrive at the town of Tsumago, another of the famous rest stations of the Nakasendo trail that transports me to the Japan of the Edo period.

Another place that shows what life was like for the commoners of Tsumago during the Edo period is the Shimo Sagaya, a traditional house rebuilt in 1968. This house now also functions as traditional accommodation or minshuku.

Japan Travel

Japan, My Love

I would not like to go back to Tokyo tomorrow, but instead, go for a walk through Japan. My backpack is now filled with Japanese sweets, curry paste, clothes, and green tea. It also contains the best memories of a trip I've ever had.

As I sit in the plane, the airport staff waved in a row on the runway to farewell. Although the friendliness of the Japanese is famous, I am always touched again and again. Japan is something special, whether it is the sights, nature or the people. And I would at any time exchange 2 weeks vacation in Bali against 2 weeks in the winter through Japan.

2 weeks in Japan were not enough, but at least a beginning. Choosing a route was difficult because there is so much to see and there is so little time left during my travels in Japan. You should consider exactly what you want to see and what you want to save for a second visit (you always need a reason to come back!).

Japan is a country with a long tradition and culture. It has beautiful landscapes, quiet temples, beautiful ski resorts, and secluded islands. It is also home to one of the largest cities in the world. This mix of modernity and tradition is something you should experience.
Kalyan Panja Kalyan Panja Author
La Shell said...

Japan is at the top of my list to travel. I think I'd need a month to do so though.

Taylor Johnson said...

Japan definitely seems like interesting country to visit! Great post!

Carmelatte said...

Japan must have been amazing <3


Anonymous said...

A perfect and detailed post.will certainly save this for my next trip.

Mom Knows Best said...

Sounds like you had a wonderful trip. The 15 hours on a plane is a long time so sleep is always good.

Monica said...

I loved reading your post and learning a bit about Japan! My brother and his family were there last year and had a wonderful experience. Sounds like such an amazing country to visit!

TrishaLyn said...

That sounds like an amazing trip! It's not at the top of my list either, but I would like to go eventually.


I would love to go to Japan. The thought of such a long flight is really off putting, but I doubt they will move it closer.

Lakshmi said...

What a wonderful trip...Will definitely bookmark this site when am planning my trip

Terri Beavers said...

I would thoroughly enjoy a vacation to Japan. I've always wanted to visit the gardens there. And I'm sure I would enjoy the Japanese cuisine.

Tonya Wilhelm said...

You ate the octopus! You are very brave. It sounds like a wonderful trip.

Nancy P said...

Amazing Itinerary! We're actually going to Japan very soon and we can't wait to discover such a beautiful country!

Ashley Blom said...

Well it IS on my list and your post made me want to check it out! I would have loved to see some pictures.

Yankee Quipster said...

A 2 week trip to Japan would be a dream vacation. It is on my bucket list but not at the top. I'm not an experience foreign traveler so places in the UK and Europe will come before Japan. Richard B

Joanna Davis said...

When I will go to Japan I would love to visit Kyoto first. I have read some books that introduced me to the Kyoto of the 15th century, a fascinating world of geishas. I'd love to walk around the old town and try to spot a true geisha.

Roger Willis said...

I've always been intrigued with Japan. The culture, the beautiful landscape....I'd love to visit!

Tiffany said...

Thank you for sharing your experience! It sounds like you had a great time. A lot of Japanese vacation on Oahu. Whenever I would visit I always admired how friendly and happy they were. I would love to have the chance to travel there.

MrsTee said...

Japan sounds amazing! I would love to be able to travel to Japan and experience all it has to offer first hand . . .

TColeman said...

Japan is one place that I have never been but always wanted to. Now you have made that even more true!

Blair Villanueva said...

I dont remember when is the start I became obsessed on studying Japan's culture and the people. And one thing I realized, I have lots of things that needs to know and learn, its a nonstop learning. And I never get tired of it.

Emma - Bake Then Eat said...

I’ve been lucky enough to visit Japan twice but I still need to return as thee is so much to see. Like you I am a vegetarian and the first time in Japan I struggled so badly to get something to eat. It was better the second time luckily! Lovely review, I can’t wait to visit again.