For our anniversary Boden and I always try to go somewhere we haven't been and somewhere super fun! Wether a big trip or a small one, we always go exploring to celebrate another year together. Our biggest trip yet was for our second anniversary. In 2017 my parents moved back to Japan! I grew up as a Military B.R.A.T (Born Raised And Trapped) and we lived on the mainland for four years when I was younger. I was just old enough to remember how amazing it was. I always wanted to show my husband where I grew up but because most of that was overseas it's always been a little tricky. I joked about going to see my parents and decided to look at flights, just for fun.
That joke became a real deal within a few weeks.
Flights. Lets be real, two broke college students trying to travel to cool places seems impossible most of the time because of how expensive it can be. It became a full swinging plan, when tickets were $600/each ROUND TRIP (you can even get them for cheaper sometimes, too!) and that included flights from the mainland to my parents in Okinawa. We always use Skyscanner to check for the cheapest flights (Tuesdays are best!)
Transportation. One of the best ways to travel is by train but it can get spendy if you're using them all day everyday one of the best ways to get around is a JR Rail Pass you pay one fee and get to use the pass for a certain number of days. This means you get to ride the trains as much as you want for those days just by using your pass, BUT this ONLY works on JR lines. This worked great for all of the main and touristy locations but we still had to pay for the smaller lines.
Planning. I spent hours figuring out what to see and how we could see as much as possible in one day. Once we had down what we wanted to see we created a map of how to get to and from each place on our chosen route. We took screenshot from Google and if we we’re lost we could just show them to anyone and they would help us out.
Let’s get to it!
*Fair warning, for my birthday Boden got me lenses for my camera and I went a little hard with them during our travels this year.
BONUS DAY : SHANGHAI
We had a 24 hour layover in China and my uncle actually lives in Shanghai so we had the opportunity to visit an additional country. My uncle sent for a driver to pick us up and take us on a boat tour
DAY ONE : TOKYO
Our first stop after landing was to head to our Airbnb and drop off our bags before heading out and exploring. It actually took us a minute to find the place, well more like 30 with the help of a local and a police officer. Japanese people are seriously so friendly and willing to help!
We started off in Harajuku to see the Meiji Shire (where we witnessed two traditional Japanese weddings) then we worked our way downtown to see all of the shops and cafes, one of the more popular shopping places in Tokyo, it was packed! We found a little place where we went on and owl safari.
Shibuya was next on our list, we walked through the famous crossing and hit some of the coolest arcades. We ended the night with my favorite restaurant Coco's Curry House.
DAY TWO : TOKYO
It was Children's Day in Japan, so to find our inner child we started off in Ikebukuro because we HAD to visit one of the Pokemon stores!
We then headed to the Hanazono Shrine, not without sushi bar hoping first, from there we headed over to Sendagaya to view the gardens, which we explored and saw a traditional tea ceremony.
Next we went back to Shinjuku for a train transfer and stumbled upon DOMO(land?) Where they had a free fair to all, children were powering the little rides and games by exercising! It was so cute!
Next was the National Art Museum in Nogiaka after visiting the Nogi Shrine. We picked the Yayoi Jusama: My Eternal Soul exhibit, which Boden said some of it looked like a kid could have done. We even got to help decorate a dot room by adding our own. We enjoyed the rest of the museum for free because we're students!
For the finale of the day we went to Tokyo Tower, it was covered in fish to celebrate the holiday, we went all the way up and loved the night view!
We ended the day completely exhausted having walked 12.5 miles (36,049 steps)
DAY THREE : TOKYO DISNEY SEA
We spent the day at the one and only Tokyo Disney Sea, the park was still decorated for Easter. There were little eggs everywhere and people were buying bunny ears like crazy. The Japanese take Disney VERY seriously and many were decked out in Disney attire. We found the Mermaid Lagoon to be the coolest area at the park, and we agreed that "Triton's Concert" was the best show we had seen all day. We rode tons of fun rides but missed out on the brand new Find Nemo Searider.
We ended our magical day on spiritual note visiting the Tokyo Temple and hitting McD's (Which was 10,000 times better than any American one)
DAY FOUR : TOKYO DISNEY
Oh. My. Goodness. Disney is magical but Tokyo Disney is 10x more! We had a total blast of a day where we ate the most amazing food, saw killer shows and enjoyed rides.
One of the things we decided was a must, was getting matching T-shirts because, when in Japan you do as the Japanese do! It’s very popular to dress up for events and of course Disneyland you can see people dressed as characters or wearing matching outfits, from head to toe.
We enjoyed lunch at the Alice in Wonderland restaurant which was decked out from the entrance, which was the iconic doorknob, to the food which also matched, our rice came in the shape of a heart! Just outside the restaurant was a COOLEST vending machine, it was shaped as a teapot! We loved all of the little details. It made the day all the more magical.
The parades alone were so entertaining and they had two different ones for the day, the first was an Easter themed one and the costumes and dances were so fun! The final show of the night was a light show, containing over 1 million lights, each of the floats sparkled and changed colors. The Genie from Aladdin was definitely the best, he changed into like 30 different characters including; Mr. Incredible, the Cheshire cat, Tigger and so many more.
DAY FIVE : OSAKA
We took the journey down to Osaka via bullet train. We bought a fun little chicken bento box for our trip and it was actually pretty good. It took us about five hours to get to our next apartment so it didnt give us much time.
We did a little exploring around the area but will be returning on Wednesday when we have more time. Since our time was limited we decided to visit one of the iconic buildings in Osaka, the Umeda Sky Building, "the Floating Garden Observatory" it was a stunning view but unless the hide all the flowers at night we couldnt find a garden. There were UV lights throughout the whole floor which added to the experience. We stumbled upon another Pokemon Center and actually got a few things from this one. Then we finished off the night by trying takoyaki (octopus balls) they were something...we're glad we tried them!
DAY SIX : KYOTO
HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO BODEN!! Seriously I love this guy, we tried to make his birthday special and birthday like while still adventuring. When I lived in Japan I never got the opportunity to go down here, this we a must see for us.
We started the day off monkeying around at the Iwatayama Monkey Park where we hiked to see a view of all Kyoto and see all of the monkeys out and about, when we wanted to feed them we had to go into a room too keep a safe distance. It was really fun!
We then enjoyed a traditional Japanese lunch right next to the Katsura River and took a nice walk through a traditional village, we got to get close to the homes and admire their shrines. There were lots of people dressed up in kimonos and we even saw some who painted their faced to look like geisha's. We walked through the gorgeous Bamboo Forest before taking the train to the Kinkaku-ji (The Golden Pavilion) we walked around the garden right at closing time so we didnt get to see all of the shops, they were closing down.
To finish off the night Boden and I wandered the Gion District where we saw more kimonos and explored the many shops that surrounded the town. We stopped in a candy shop where we saw the weirdest drink, we had to try it, and decided grabbed dinner, it was gross. We learned that taking risks has risks.
I grabbed a little cinnamon roll and sang Happy Birthday to Boden as best I could before we called it a day.
DAY SEVEN : NARA + OSAKA CASTLE
We spent most of the day in Nara, where we spent our time feeding deer and visiting the temples throughout the park. We started off by being chases by the begging deer, feeding and giving them kisses and then having my shirt ruined by them biting it. For the most part it was really fun! Next we stopped at the Kofukuji Temple and the Five-Story Pagoda then we walked down to the Kasuga Taisha Temple, hanging out with the deer all along the way.
We stopped to eat some traditional food before heading down the the Osaka Castle! It was really cool! Unfortunately we didn’t get to go inside because we missed the closing by 3 minutes. It was okay though we took a nice walk through the gardens before heading to the 100 yen shop and calling it a day.
Tomorrow we'll be heading to Okinawa to visit my parents!
DAYS EIGHT - TWELVE : OKINAWA
Once we joined my parents in Okinawa. We began arcading and playing tons of fun games, eating lots of great food and admiring the views. Well, as much as we can, I ended up catching a cold and tried my best to feel well enough to still go see things.
(The 14th my Mom ended up leaving for a TDY so we didn't really get to see her for if but she knows that we love her!) So we hung out with some friends from of mine from high-school who are stationed here. We went to a Thai lunch, then headed out to the water for a little photoshoot and snorkeling. The beaches are cover in coral and sharp rocks so we had to keep our feet covered but overall it was a gorgeous site. We explored the caves and wandered the area in search of weird starfish and creatures. We ended the night with sushi and ice cream.
The 15th was our last full day in Japan AND our Anniversary, tomorrow we'll be heading home. We spent the day doing a bunch of little things to tie up this adventure. We started at the Shuri Castle, which was really cool! We got to go inside and see how they lived, what the throne room looked like and all that jazz. Unfortunately it was being re-varnished while we were there so it wasnt in prime condition, it looked great though for having been built in the 15th century. We then explored Japanese markets and shops follow by a delicious dinner for two at Coco's Curry House. We finished off the night by heading over to the arcade one last time to take sticker pictures!
Overall our time in Japan has been great! It was worth the experience and I am so glad I got to share a little bit of my childhood with Boden. We're sad to leave but excited for our next adventure. Thanks to everyone who helped us along the way, it was amazing.