Category Archives: Asia

Getting to Know Nagano and Zenko-ji Temple

Nagano was familiar to me as the host of the 1998 Winter Olympics, but beyond that I didn’t know what there was to see and do besides winter sports. What I discovered during my one day in Nagano was a pleasant city surrounded by low mountains, with a relaxed vibe that quickly drew me in….

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Jigokudani Monkey Park- See Hot Spring Loving, Wild Snow Monkeys in Japan

My main reason for visiting Nagano was to do a day trip to Jigokudani Monkey Park, home to Japan’s famous hot spring loving, wild snow monkeys. I was inspired to visit Jigokudani Monkey Park by all the adorable photos I was seeing of snow monkeys soaking contentedly in the hot pools. As an animal lover,…

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Gokayama, Japan- Enjoying Historic Architecture and Traditional Crafts in Ainokura Village

As with most places I travel to, I was inspired to visit Gokayama by a photograph I had seen. It was a scene I couldn’t resist- a tiny village of thatched roof houses, their steep, sloped tops covered in snow, perfectly complementing the mountainous backdrop in the distance. From then on, I often dreamed about…

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9 Ways to Experience Japanese Traditions in the Chubu Region of Japan

Each country has its own unique culture, but there’s something really compelling about Japan, a place that widely respects and complies with tradition. Japanese traditions, whether it be those associated with architecture and craftsmanship, ceremonies and celebrations, or etiquette and hospitality, are a big reason why I keep returning to Japan. On my previous two…

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Exploring the Arashiyama District of Kyoto

On the last of our 3 days in Kyoto, we decided to explore the Arashiyama district, a mountainous, forested region in the western outskirts of the city. We were initially drawn to this popular sightseeing district by photos of its famous bamboo grove, but quickly discovered that Arashiyama has far more to offer, both in…

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Fujiyoshida Sengen Shrine- Traditional Starting Point for Climbing Mt. Fuji

In the midst of a dense, old growth forest at the foot of Mt. Fuji, sits a small shrine complex with a special connection to the sacred volcano. Kitaguchi Hongu Fuji Sengen Shrine (Fujiyoshida Sengen Shrine) is the traditional starting point of the Yoshidaguchi Climbing Trail. Pilgrims would come here to pray before beginning their…

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Saiko Iyashi no sato Nenba- A Charming Open Air Museum of Japanese Crafts and Culture

On the northwest side of Lake Saiko, one of the Fuji Five Lakes, is a charming village called Saiko Iyashi no sato Nenba. This traditional Japanese village was once a small farming community until it was destroyed by a typhoon in 1966. It has since been recreated and turned into an open air museum where…

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Oshino Hakkai- 8 Sacred Ponds in the Fuji Five Lakes Region

Oshino Hakkai was a place I missed out on during my first visit to the Fuji Five Lakes region, so on my second trip I made it a priority to visit. What piqued my interest was a photo I saw of thatched roof houses on the shoreline of a pond, backed by a snow-capped Mt….

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Exploring the Fuji Five Lakes- Things to Do Even When You Can’t See Mt. Fuji

Perhaps no other place in Japan is iconic as Mt. Fuji. The allure of this sacred volcano attracts many tourists to the Fuji Five Lakes, an ideal area for viewing Mt. Fuji’s perfect cone. There’s just one problem. Mt. Fuji is notoriously shy, often hiding behind low hanging cloud. Where are you Mt. Fuji? I’ve…

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Visiting Meiji Shrine- Tokyo’s Most Important Shinto Shrine

Early on an August morning, while Tokyo was just beginning to wake up, I was already standing in front of the large wooden torii gate marking the entrance to Meiji Shrine. Breathing in the fresh morning air, I happily began walking down the wide graveled path leading to the main shrine building. Shaded by tall…

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How to Spend 4 Days in Tokyo- Our Itinerary

Ah, Tokyo. Just hearing the name conjures up images of densely packed skyscrapers, streets lined with larger-than-life advertisements and crowded public spaces. Yes, that vision is correct, but there is much more to Tokyo than first meets the eye. Tokyo is a city where the past, present and innovations for the future co-exist in perfect…

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Visiting Tottori Hanakairo Flower Park- One of Japan’s Largest Flower Parks

I love visiting gardens on my travels, so it’s no surprise that the Tottori Hanakairo Flower Park was a highlight of my 3 day trip to the Tottori prefecture of Japan. With about 50 hectares, the Tottori Hanakairo Flower Park is one of the largest flower gardens in Japan. There’s a wide variety of flowers…

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Guide to Buying and Using the Japan Rail Pass

If you’re planning a trip to Japan, you may have heard about the Japan Rail Pass. It’s a convenient, easy to use pass designed for tourists who will be travelling by train in Japan. We decided to buy a Japan Rail Pass to use on our 2 week trip to Japan since train was going…

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  • Paula - Hi!
    I was researching about JRPass and on their website is possible to add Hiroshima to the route, as it is considered part of JR line. Is it possible that they changed it during 2017?December 19, 2017 – 6:42 pmReplyCancel

    • Rhonda Krause - You can use the JR Pass to get to Hiroshima, but only on certain types of trains. We took a Nozomi train, which the pass is not valid on, but chose it because it left at the time we wanted and got us there faster than the other trains. Had we chose a different train (other than Nozomi and Mizuho trains), we would have been able to use our pass.December 27, 2017 – 4:48 pmReplyCancel

  • Maria - Hi Rhonda! I am so glad you made this article, we are planning our first trip to Japan in May. We will be staying in Shinjuku area, however, we are planning to spend 1 night in Kyoto. I was tasked to plan our itinerary and just looking over the guides using JR Pass to Kyoto is overwhelming. Seeing that you already went that route (Tokyo – Kyoto) I have a few questions if you help me out: Was is hard finding your platform/train number? Where is the best seat, left or right window? And is the trip non-stop or you have to ride another train, and hoe do you know when to get off? Thank you so much.April 15, 2018 – 7:15 pmReplyCancel

    • Rhonda Krause - Hi Maria. It wasn’t hard finding the platform because everything is well signed in both English and Japanese. Once you’re on board, the train cars have a screen that will tell what station(s) are coming up next. They also will make an announcement when you approach a station. I believe the Shinkansen from Tokyo Station to Kyoto is direct, but you can double check using the Hyperdia website or app. It will show train schedules and if there are any stops along the way or transfers you have to make.April 22, 2018 – 9:47 amReplyCancel

  • Malcolm - I bought a rail pass for my upcoming trip to Japan. Knowing that it is valid for 7 days, I planned my trip accordingly: I arrive in Tokyo Monday afternoon, and will travel by bullet train to Kyoto. I will return to Tokyo by train the following Monday morning. I am writing to verify that the rail pass will not expire before Monday morning, since I activate it on the previous Monday afternoon. Any information that you can provide will be great! Thank you!May 29, 2018 – 12:11 amReplyCancel

    • Rhonda Krause - Hi Malcolm. The pass is valid for 7 consecutive days period beginning on the date the PASS is first used. So if you specify your starting date to be a Monday, then the 7th day would be Sunday. The pass wouldn’t be valid the following Monday because that would be the 8th day. Hope this helps!May 29, 2018 – 1:47 pmReplyCancel

Visiting the Edo-Tokyo Museum

It’s not very often that I go out of my way to visit museums when I travel, but once in a while I find one that interests me enough to pay a visit. The Edo-Tokyo Museum was one of those that caught my attention. Even though this was my second trip to Tokyo, I still…

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  • Annika@457 Australia - EDO-TOKYO Museum reminds us of how did Japanese people live long time ago. Thanks for sharing. I just realize how gorgeous their ways of living is.October 10, 2016 – 11:47 pmReplyCancel

  • M - love all your “Tips”. excellent blog. Immensely helpful. Great photosDecember 21, 2017 – 11:24 pmReplyCancel

The Tottori Sand Museum- Around the World in Sand

Walking into the Tottori Sand Museum I was dripping with sweat, having spent the last hour or so across the street exploring Japan’s largest sand dunes. I was eager to get into the museum not just for the cooler temperatures (although, that was a big part of it), but also because I was curious to…

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  • Miriam - Incredible what they have been able to create just from sand and water! What an amazing museum!August 25, 2016 – 5:14 amReplyCancel

The Tottori Sand Dunes- Enjoying Japan’s Largest Dunes

Wait a minute…I’m still in Japan, right? I scan the scenery surrounding me- it’s all sun, sand and sea. This looks nothing like what I saw on my first trip to Japan a year earlier. Where were the castles, the temples, the shrines, the forests? Instead, here I am, standing at the edge of the…

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Climbing Mount Mitoku- The Trek to Nageiredo

Walking up a smooth, well-worn stone staircase to Sanbutsuji Temple, I instantly hoped the whole trail up Japan’s Mount Mitoku wasn’t going to be this steep. Looking back now, that was the easiest part of hiking Mitokusan. My adventurous hike (or should I say climb) up Mount Mitoku began simply enough. I met with the…

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How to Spend 3 Days in Tottori, Japan- My Itinerary

Stretching along the Sea of Japan, in the San’in region of Chugoku in Western Honshu, is a coastal prefecture that’s largely untouched by foreign visitors, at least for now. But once the secret gets out, I’d expect that to change. Tottori prefecture is an ideal area of Japan to visit for people, like myself, who…

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Feeding Deer in Nara Park, Japan

Entering into the heart of Nara Park we are greeted by a small, friendly deer wandering freely throughout the grounds. Approaching us, the deer bows its head down, as if to say hello. “Oh, so cute! Look how she’s bowing her head,” I enthusiastically announced to Mike. “I think she’s politely asking for some deer…

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Exploring Nara Park- Temples, Shrines and Deer!

Our one day in Nara was spent almost exclusively at Nara Park. I usually like to explore as much of a city as possible, but there were so many sights in this one park that I didn’t even feel guilty for not branching out into Nara’s other areas. Nara Park is very large and packed…

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  • Danial - Looks like you had a great time there! I’ve never had contact with tame deers before so the deer feeding experience would be great.July 15, 2016 – 8:44 pmReplyCancel

    • Rhonda Krause - Oh yes, it was really fun to get to interact with the deer. Back home in Canada that would be a big no-no!July 18, 2016 – 2:02 pmReplyCancel

  • Frank - Really beautiful and I love the deer. We’re going to Japan in November and I’d love to see this place.
    Question: did you stay overnight and did you do a day trip from Kyoto?

    Frank (bbqboy)July 21, 2016 – 2:01 amReplyCancel

    • Rhonda Krause - We stayed 2 nights in Nara. One day we explored Nara Park and the second day we did a day trip to Yoshino. I’m so excited for you to visit Japan!July 21, 2016 – 11:19 amReplyCancel

  • Frank - I meant “OR did you do a day trip from Kyota?”July 21, 2016 – 2:02 amReplyCancel

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