On our recent trip to Japan , DH described this country as enchanted, and I couldn’t have agreed more. Except for a brief layover in an airport in Osaka many many years ago, while our way to Bali for our honeymoon, we had never visited Japan.
Therefore when our 7 th graders had an opportunity for a spring break Apoogee ** school trip that could include parents, we were beyond excited to sign up to travel with them.
First we had to figure out the affordability for our family of six as well as the logistics of tagging along with our twins boys, but this 15 hrs trip made sense for our family for so many reasons!
We also have our amazing niece/god daughter who has been living in Tokyo whom we’ve talked about wanting to visit for soo long now .In addition, we as a family had also entertained the idea of hiking Mount Fuji.. I mean why stop at just Mount Kilimanjaro right?😉
Upon landing in Haneida airport in Tokyo , we meet up with our lovely family friends who were traveling on a similar itinerary as we were, their young son also traveling with the Ladue School Apogee class trip.
The first things I observed was how efficiently we moved through customs, picked up our luggage and off we were, trying to navigate the JR train system all on our own. Travel instructions were mostly in Japanese writing (Konchi), and while there were signs in English, they seemed to be in the minority, so you had to pay very close attention reading maps /signs or you missed out.
This idea of needing to pay attention is not uncommon when you travel to a new place, but somehow with the very fast pace of Tokyo’s busy metropolitan’s city with its countless trains, bullet trains,subways, buses running so efficiently on a tight time schedule ~we really needed to pay attention or risk getting lost on this huge city of close to 30 million people.
I literally give my DH, all the travel credit , on this trip as usual , he had done so much research and pre planning to ensure that our ten days of traveling through Japan was smooth as possible. Our daughters and I had the best time exploring foods ( thanks to recs from our niece/god daughter guide extraordinaire who was quiet fluent in Japanese already), there were cousins and friend times, lots of matcha flavored ice cream and drinks, local snacks from seven eleven on every corner, and we even found Starbucks and McDonald’s there too !
We traveled in mid/late March, with a stroke of good fortune and fate , found ourselves right on the middle of the blooming of the beautiful cherry blossom season! Apparently the cherry blossom is only about 2 weeks long annually! Okay, that was just pure lucky as we could not have planned THAT!
DH , our two daughters and myself travelled together , while our twin sons travelled and explored with their class travel group . There trip was organized by a tour company EFJ, that included a well planned itinerary , lodging and accommodations as well as a local Japanese guide. We would meet up with their travel group every once in a while for dinner or to visit a temple together or just for a hug and a picture! This felt bold,to give our 13 yr old sons’s independence in another country,while being just a text or call away.
The teachers and parents that travelled and stayed with the group were all so wonderful, keeping us in the loop as much as possible , amidst wifi woes at times lol.
We visited several cities in Japan , mostly following along our sons’ itineraries while improvising our own plans here and there. There was A LOT of walking so make sure to pack comfortable shoes . We stayed at nearby ArNBs and hotels except for one night that we shared the same hotel as our sons in the town of Kawaguchi while visiting Mount Fuji.
Experiencing the beauty of this country is incredible, from the intimidating snow capped mountains of Fuji to the beautiful island of Mayijima with its floating Torrin temple gates, numerous beautiful temples and shrines,and the in between cities of Kyoto with its classy charm, the sophistication of Tokyo with its art museums and sharply dressed women and “salaried men” to the sobering city of Hiroshima – Japan had it all to offer an inquisitive tourist!
Beyond the beautiful landscapes of this country, I believe I was most intrigued by its people and culture. I had SO many questions.. how do they manage to keep the peace around them ? Is this really a NO gun society ?wow! Everyone seemed to simultaneously mind their own business while also showing respect to eachother! How are there hardly any trash cans and yet the streets and the train stations were SO clean?!, where were their homeless population? And how is everyone seem to be so nicely dressed, appearing to have purpose with something to do/ somewhere to go?, how are they so quiet on massively crowded buses and trains? Why do you not even smell people standing so close to you, armpits raised to hold on to poles for stability on those crowed moving trains?
I also wondered a lot about how efficient the Japanese technology appeared to be, warm toilet seats, with bauder( impressive TOTO brand!) , even in public places?!😳, bathroom so compact and efficient , random anti fog mirrors in hotel bathrooms( this was such a champion!, I mean who really wants to get out of shower , only to view their reflection in a cloudy mirror? Yes sometimes those bathroom fans just don’t cut it I’m sorry lol.
I also noticed that while I still needed to pay attention in order not to miss bullet trains which ran so precisely on time, by the seconds even! As the days went on, I became even more and more relaxed .
I was not worried about my safety in Japan. Our brilliant god daughter’s apt explanation that Japan allows for creative thinking because your fight or flight nervous system is not always activated, trying to ensure your safety. This felt absolutely true to me, it was much easier to be in the present in the moments, here in Japan.
Ultimately, this turned out to be a trip of a lifetime. I keep telling my DH that he really has a natural calling to travel planning if he ever gets tired of being a shrink lol
In all seriousness , I would love to return to Japan again very soon, not only for the amazing foods, sights and shopping. I would return for the peace and tranquility of this place. Amidst the bustling cities, visiting beautiful temples tucked in along lovely hikes and trials provided me with much needed quiet.
As always, thank you for reading my blog and of course I welcome your comments and any shared experiences .
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** DH ( darling husband)
**Apogee ( gifted class name at Ladue Middle School)