Japan 2015, Episode 7: How Haley Went Bananas

Read in one way, the title describes an event that actually happened the second your author was born. Read another way, the title alludes to one of the most exciting journeys one can take in Japan: visiting the snow monkeys at Jigokudani Yaen Koen (Snow Monkey Park)!

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Japan 2015, Episode 6: Haley’s Moving Castle

I can best describe the few days after Naoshima as an immersion into Japanese history and into the “real” Japan. Shorter buildings. Fewer foreigners. Less English. While the towns I visited during the last few days certainly have well-known attractions, the journey became more about discovering Japanese history and understanding Japanese identity, rather than about ticking the most exciting boxes on my list. Well, except for Nara – Nara was a very exciting box to tick.

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Japan 2015, Episode 5: You need to go here…right Naoshima!

You have no idea how excited I am for this installment. I’m brimming with delight. Just brimming. I try not to use that phrase more than once a week, but this is an absolutely necessary time to use it.

It was my great pleasure to spend about 24 glorious hours between Wednesday and Thursday afternoons on the small island of Naoshima near Japan’s least-traveled large island, Shikoku. Centered around the celebration of art, architecture, and nature, it seemed like a dream to an artsy little alien like me. To boot, I was shockingly able to book a room at the the sumptuous Benesse House on the southern tip of the island, whose company sponsor is responsible for much of the art on Naoshima. I’ve never stayed in a hotel that literally looks like it walked out of my most splendid home design-dream, so this alone was a treat.

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Japan 2015, Episode 4: Kickin’ in Kyoto

You may have noticed that I’ve returned to my old naming convention: goofy and rife with alliteration. I suppose it just didn’t feel like “me” with all of the overly-philosophical banter. Am I an introspective person? Certainly. But this pot needs a few other flavors in order to keep stirring. So, I hope we’re happy with me going back to more “old” IC (having a message paired with plenty of oddly-placed humor and lengthy descriptions), because that is what decidedly works for me.
Anyway, I couldn’t have felt more thankful to have snagged two incredible accommodations in Kyoto’s Higashiyama district. I felt even more thankful when I attempted to book a return trip for this weekend (after my romp on Naoshima Island) only to find that the city was, according to one booking website, 99% booked, most likely due to cherry blossom season. I nearly found myself in a situation where my only options were knocking on doors, doing karaoke by myself (they let you stay overnight in some places if you’ve had too much to drink), or pulling all nighters in the train station. I was relieved to have found backup accommodation in Hikone, about 20 minutes by train from Kyoto. I’ll start today’s entry with an important lesson learned: know the accommodation options of where you’re traveling at the times you are traveling. Letting the wind take you on its course is undoubtedly awesome, but when your overall schedule or too much convenience/time is on the line, it’s best to go the planning route.

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Japan 2015, Episode 3: Sushi in Tsukiji (featuring “What Did We Learn Today”?)

Today, I give a little toast to my first major travel mistake of the trip. It had to happen sometime, and hey – it was more of a “poor planning” thing than anything.

Logistically, I should have just stayed in Tokyo a couple more days. As my next journey is taking me to Naoshima Island, I originally thought it would be better to do Kyoto for a couple days beforehand since it’s closer than Tokyo. What I’m really doing, though, is teasing myself with a very limited amount of time in Kyoto when I have to leave fairly early tomorrow. What’s more is that I have to change hotels today in Kyoto, which involves carrying my gigantic piece of luggage to wherever the nearest taxi is!

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Japan 2015, Episode 2: Takin’ on Tokyo

There is something about the simple act of moving from one place to another that excites me. Planes, trains, metros, and cars are little “mini vacations” in and of themselves. It’s definitely the anticipation of my next destination that gets me, but I usually enjoy the ride as well. After all, travel has gotten pretty comfortable over the last few decades to make up for the stress it can cause, with everything from meals to Wi-Fi provided on many of these forms.

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Japan 2015, Episode 1: In the Air Again

Well, well, well.

It’s been a while, gang. Between wrapping up busy season, promoting some life changes, and dealing with some *lovely* unforeseen events, I once again fell off the map for a while. But move over, life stuff, because I am in Japan for two solid weeks and ready for action like the saucy, swashbuckling adventurer I am!

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