I’m going to be honest, I wasn’t excited about this trip. I normally cannot wait to get out and see the world. Traveling is one of my favorite things to do. However, I was feeling unsettled about leaving my daughter and being so far away. I was nervous about the time change (15 hours!) and keeping up with my clients. I was concerned about the Corona Virus. I wasn’t nervous I would get sick, I was concerned getting quarantined if we were to get sick.
However… this trip totally exceeded my expectations! I absolutely loved Japan! We spent our time in Tokyo and Kyoto. Here are the highlights.
When we arrived in Japan, we picked up our Ninja WIFI which is a mobile wifi device that fit in my purse so that Randy and I had WIFI everywhere for only $60 for the week! This was a game changer. Although I have Verizon and you can get a data plan for international travel, in my experience it isn’t the best. We will be going this route from now on!
We stayed at the Tokyo Westin. The breakfast was top notch. I was mesmerized by the chef making my omelette with chopsticks! The city is so huge that we took cabs everywhere and still walked about 20,000 steps a day! We saw Tokyo Skytree first which was the perfect starting point. Once you are at the top and look over the city you realize Tokyo is massive!
Golden Gai is a neighborhood in Shinjuku that boasts 200 tiny dive bars and alleys. Each bar fits about 8 people! We were there during the day, but we heard it gets pretty packed and crazy at night! I would describe it as slightly sketchy, yet charming. ;)
The Robot Show is consistently placed at the top of the must see list in Tokyo and it did not disappoint. It’s one of the most bizarre, hilarious spectacles I have seen. You must book tickets ahead of time and if you have a few hours to spare, I would definitely go see it, in all its wacky glory! They serve drinks and the crowd really gets into it.
The food and the people were honestly my favorite part of Tokyo. We had delicious Wagyu beef and amazing ramen bowls. The sashimi was the best I’ve ever tasted at Sushi Yuu.
We took the bullet train to Kyoto. It goes up to 200mph and we enjoyed beautiful views of Mt Fuji. We stayed at the Kyoto Hotel Okura.
Kyoto is much smaller than Tokyo, but I loved it! My favorite tourist site was the Fushimi Inari Shrine. The orange gates throughout the mountain trails are stunning. These torii gates are donations by individuals and companies. The larger the donation, the larger the gate!
The Geisha District was very interesting. We were there in the daytime and actually spotted a few Maiko (younger, Geisha apprentices). There are signs that ask the public to not photograph the girls.
The shopping districts in Kyoto were probably my favorite of the two cities. This is where i bough the majority of my souvenirs. The food was fabulous. We had soba noodles, shabu-shabu, tempura and more sashimi.
A cocktail bar that is not to be missed in Kyoto is L’Escamoteur. This French bar serves up amazing cocktails with a flourish and the atmosphere is ultra-cool. After you have a drink at L’Escamoteur ask around about the secret bar that actually has no name! Ask for help finding the Unnamed Bar which is in the Gion district along the river. It’s above a coffee shop, but you would never know it’s there. It is only lit by candles. It truly feels like you are in on a secret while you are there. (I wasn’t able to take good pictures in these bars because it was so dark.)
The big question I am repeatedly asked… were you freaking out about the Corona Virus? The short answer is not really. We were there in mid-February so only China was quarantining at that time and the phrase “social distancing” wasn’t being discussed yet. We found Japan to be super clean and the people were just lovely. We practiced good hygiene (a lot of hand washing and hand sanitizer) but I never wore a mask. Instead, I focused on staying hydrated (drinking water) and keeping up with my vitamin D3, C and Elderberry.
The culture in Japan is so respectful. They are very deliberate in their movements. I liked how they handed you items with two hands. Of course, it took a few tries to get comfortable bowing but we quickly did. We noticed there are no trash cans on the sidewalks. No one is walking around eating or drinking out of disposable cups/paper goods either. Thus, I saw virtually no litter. No one blows their nose in public (that I saw) and they dress very well. A “funny” thing I noted in Japan was the toilets! I know that sounds funny, but they have 5-star toilets in Japan! The seats are heated, the lids automatically open and close, there is a noise silencing option for privacy and bidet features. We communicated in English or by pointing, but most Japanese can speak enough English so it wasn’t an issue. I have become a pro using chopsticks, too!
The flight is long, but 100% worth it. We flew United, upgraded to Economy Plus and were very pleased with the comfort of the flight. There were hundreds of pictures I could have shared and more sites to share, so if you have any questions I would be happy to answer.
I can’t wait to explore more of Asia!