May 28, 2017
Our last stop for this trip was Sapporo. Stephanie wasn't able to make the beginning of the trip so she missed the purple wisteria. Lucky for her, they were still in bloom in Sapporo so we went to visit the oldest wisteria tree in Hokkaido which was donated by its owner due to its significance.
May 26, 2017
Over the next few days we drove around the northern island of Hokkaido in search of shibazakura. The shibazakura may have been past full bloom in the Mt. Fuji area, but in Hokkaido they were at their peak! And the flower parks were absolutely incredible fields of pink and purple flowers. And of course, they had flower flavored soft serve.
May 23, 2017
Today we took the long train ride from Tokyo to Sapporo. After arriving in Sapporo we rented a car and made our way to the small city of Asahikawa. Over the next two days we drove around to check out the sites around nearby Biei and Furano. Unfortunately we were a little too early (by at least a month) for the lavender season and hillsides full of blooming multicolored flowers. Google Biei and you'll see what I'm talking about. We did, however, still get to catch some flowers in bloom and eat some flower flavored soft serve. Let's just say we took in some beautiful flowers and ate a lot. In fact, some of the best ramen we had on this trip was in Asahikawa.
May 22, 2017
From Tokyo, we took about a 2.5 hour train ride to check out the flowers at the Hitachi Seaside Park. When we first arrived, we were a little confused where we were since the entrance seemed kind of drab or like we were entering an airport base or something. Once we entered the park, we found a large amusement park that also had large spaces of grass to hang out and areas dedicated to different types of flowers.
May 21, 2017
We were hoping to catch a glimpse of blooming wisteria but I think we were too early. Luckily, there were a ton of other flowers to look at and admire. Who even know there are so many different kinds of roses?!
May 20, 2017
From Kagoshima, we made our way to Nagoya for a day of eating and met up with Stef, Jonathan's cousin who lives in Hong Kong. No trip to Japan is complete without her! :) We stopped in Tokyo for a couple days and took some day trips to different flower parks to see what we could find.
We took a train to the Fujii Five Lakes area and took an hour bus from Kawaguchiko to check out the Fuji Shibazakura Festival. Shibazakura is a flower that covers the ground like a lawn and the flower's petals look like that of sakura or cherry blossoms. It didn't hurt to have Mount Fuji in the background. :)
May 17, 2017
Beppu is most famously known for being the home to over 2,000 onsens. Sadly, because I was already pregnant by this time, I couldn't partake in any of the activities, which included mud and sand baths and a visit to the hot springs. So bummed!
Instead, we took a day trip to Oita, visited a museum, and did a little more people watching outside the train station. Can't help but fall in love with all the little kids in their cute school uniforms! :)
May 15 - May 17, 2017
Since we were in the south of Japan, we decided to hop around to different cities, try the local fare and explore a bit since we didn't know when we would be back again.
Our Airbnb host picked us up from the station and took us to a restaurant in Chinatown with what he considered to be the best champon. Champon is a Chinese style of ramen, where the noodles are cooked with the broth then topped with various vegetables and meat. Unlike Japanese ramen, where the broth and noodles are cooked separately and only put together when served.
November 13 - November 15, 2017
We took a two hour train ride from Fukuoka to Arita, a small town known for its porcelain and ceramics. We heard about Koraku Kiln the last time we were in Japan, which was founded in 1865 and has been producing ceramics for the past 150 years. Over time, they've accumulated overstock and have been housing product in warehouses over the years. Just recently they started hosting a "treasure hunt" where visitors can pay 5000 yen to 10000 yen and can spend 90 minutes digging through the different crates and whatever you can fit in your basket is yours to take home.
May 11, 2017
We rented a car in Fukuoka and drove about an hour and a half outside the city to check out Kawachi Fujien, known for their famous wisteria tunnels. I'll have to admit until this trip, I was convinced that photos of the wisteria tunnels were either photoshopped or not real, even the nail salon I go to has photos of the tunnels hanging on the walls.
May 10, 2017
Yatais or food stands in Fukuoka are really popular and are sprinkled all over the city. They usually set up shop in the early evening and stay open until the early morning. We decided to eat at Yatai Mama Chan and it did not disappoint. Mama Chan wasn't there that night but her son and husband held down the fort and prepared our dinner. It was so simple but we quickly fell in love with the fried rice and ramen. So delicious!
November 2, 2016
I hope you're reading this next post on a full stomach. If not, you're tummy will definitely grumble for the next few minutes.
In our 24 hours in Nagoya could be summed up in two words, it would be "happy tummies". All we did was EAT EAT EAT. We had every intention of seeing the fall colors here but again, we were a little too early so we did the next best thing.
November 1, 2016
We made a quick pit-stop in Kyoto hoping to see more fall colors. Although we were a little early, we definitely got to see some of the leaves beginning to change and of course, fill our bellies with more yummy food!
October 31, 2016
After Tokyo, Jonathan, Stef, and I stayed a week longer in Japan to catch some fall colors and hopefully, get a glimpse of good ol' Mt. Fuji. We traveled to Lake Kawaguchiko and visited the Chureito Pagoda, where we visited earlier this year for the cherry blossoms.
October 28, 2016 - October 30, 2016
Halloween isn't Halloween, until you've done it in Tokyo.
Our best friends, Hajime and Maily, spent last Halloween in Tokyo and told us it was the best party of their lives. It didn't take much convincing us or Jonathan's cousin, Stef, to join in the party this year. Knowing the Japanese and their love to dress up, we knew we had to be something special. I would try to explain what we were...but I feel like the pictures can pretty much do all the talking. Just as we expected, there was a big party in the Shibuya area, where thousands of people flocked the streets and would stop to take pictures with anyone and anything!
days two hundred and eleven thru two hundred and fifteen: april 17, 2016 thru april 21, 2016
Coming to Japan, we had really wanted to see a sumo match. After doing much research, Jonathan discovered that every year there is a free match at Yasakuni Shrine in Tokyo. Of course, the seats are first come first serve, so we tried to show up an hour early, but still ended up waiting in a long line. However, the arena is fairly large and we were able to get pretty good seats in the shade where we could see.
day two hundred and ten: april 16, 2016
Today, we headed over to the train station to catch the bus to a nearby flower festival where pink flowers were supposed to cover the entire grounds with Fujisan in the background. Just before purchasing our tickets, the man collecting the tickets told us that there were less than 10% of the flowers blooming and that in his opinion it wasn't worth going. We took his advice and decided it probably wasn't worth the money so we headed out to the lake to enjoy the morning air and find a clear view of Fujisan.
days two hundred and eight thru two hundred and eleven: april 14, 2016 thru april 17, 2016
After landing back in Osaka from Seoul, we boarded the train and headed north for our full day of travel to get to Lake Kawaguchiko. Our timing couldn't have been more perfect. Our AirBnB host told us that it had rained all morning and it had just cleared up within the hour before our arrival. We rode the express train, which we were pleasantly surprised with since it was a Fujisan themed train.
days two hundred and one thru two hundred and four: april 7, 2016 thru april 10, 2016
On the 7th, we spent the day in transit on trains and boats making our way south to Teshima Island. Every three years, there is an art exhibition called the Setouchi Triennale. We had been told by friends of friends that Naoshima Island was a must visit if we had the time. After doing some research we discovered that Naoshima is just one of the islands in the Seto Inland Sea that houses permanent and temporary art installations. With our last minute planning we were only able to find one option for accommodations on any of the islands and to our pleasant surprise, it was an awesome AirBnB experience with Kazu Hide, a Teshima local who had returned home to grow and sell fruits and vegetables while also managing a small homestay. He was an excellent host and hosted us each night with tea and great conversation. He also cooked dinner for us one of the nights and it was quite exceptional.
day two hundred: april 6, 2016
After realizing we would be seriously missing out if we moved further south without visiting Yoshino/Nara, we booked another night at our AirBnB and took the train to Yoshino for the day. We were not disappointed and were happy we went early in the morning too as it got hazy in the afternoon. Oddly enough, we ran into a woman, Donna, from our New Zealand trek on the Milford Track in Yoshiko. What an incredibly small world!
day one hundred and ninety-nine: april 5, 2016
Trying to keep up with the full bloom of the sakura, we headed back to Osaka for a few nights. Our first day we ended up just finding a nice spot at Osaka Castle to relax and enjoy the day people watching.
day one hundred and ninety-eight: april 4, 2016
We decided to make another stop thru Kyoto for another day and night. Again, what a big difference from a week earlier?! The blossoms were in full bloom and the bright pink flowers were in beautiful contrast to their surroundings.
days one hundred and ninety-three thru one hundred and ninety-four: march 30, 2016 thru march 31, 2016
Next stop, back to Osaka in search of more cherry blossoms. In just the few days since we landed in Japan, the sakura blossoms were already more mature, beginning to bloom and the locals were already out enjoying the beautiful scenery, weather, and picnicking under the blossoms which they call hanami .
day one hundred and forty-six: february 22, 2016: a loooong day in transit
The afternoon before, we flew to Kuala Lumpur since flights to Tokyo were significantly cheaper and KL was a good hub for future travel. After our one night stopover, we boarded our ANA flight to Tokyo on time on the morning of the 22nd. After settling into our seats and taking off we were both comfortably watching movies when there was a sudden jolt and a bit of noise. It wasn't characteristic of typical turbulence and to be honest, we were pretty scared, momentarily clutching each other's hands. About 5 minutes after the incident, the flight attendant came on the intercom and announced that the right engine failed. Yikes! She said that we had to turn back to KL because we wouldn't make it to Tokyo on one engine. Of course, we were thankful to be safe, but bummed to be delayed. We were told that everyone would be sent to an airport hotel and rooms would be arranged and flights were being rebooked for everyone.
days one hundred and fifty-two thru one hundred and one hundred and fifty-five: february 28, 2016 thru march 2, 2016
Sorry, not a ton of photos from Tokyo, but it mostly entailed eating, drinking and a little bit of karaoke. So in addition to the whole ski crew from Myoko Kogen, we also were able to meet up with our good friends, Hajime and Maily, and my cousin, Stephanie, all of whom live in Hong Kong now. So yes, we basically ate our way thru Tokyo. There are some videos from karaoke the first night that somehow didn't make this post, but those who were there enjoyed a Jung brother's rendition of Mariah Carey's "All I Want For Christmas", something that will never be forgotten.
We heard about the Sapporo Snow and Ice Festival so we rescheduled our time to spend one day in Sapporo before heading back home. Some of the snow and ice sculptures were pretty impressive, including a massive one completed by the Japanese military of Darth Vader and Storm Troopers, complete with TIE fighters. We pretty much spent the 24 hours we were there – wandering the city and eating food. Needless to say, we were stuffed for the long plane ride home.
Our second week in Niseko, more friends and family joined us. We moved to a new house on the outskirts of town to fit everyone in. We were lucky enough to get another good powder day on the same day we had guides from Hanazono Powder Guides again. Perfect timing. We also ventured over to Rusutsu for a day for a change of scenery. We enjoyed the onsens, good snow, good company and plenty of hot lemonade at the 1,000m Hut at the top of the mountain. We will definitely be back to Japan to ski in the future.
We heard about Niseko through Jonathan’s brother and brother’s wife, Jason and Paula, who went to Niseko last season and couldn’t stop raving about the awesome snow. So, we knew we had to visit! We told a couple friends about it, not expecting anyone to come, but nine of our closest friends came out…and we couldn’t be happier about it! Then after four days, we had more friends come!