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.



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 five thru two hundred and eight: april 11, 2016 thru april 14, 2016

Previously we hadn't given much thought to visiting South Korea, but with a few extra days on our hands and flights being pretty cheap we decided to take a quick hop over to visit our friends there. We had a great time exploring around the city and shopping and eating and spending time with old friends. Allie especially enjoyed checking out the street art around the university area.



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-five: april 1, 2016

We spent a night in Hakone at a really great AirBnB that was in a remote area of Hakone, but unfortunately the weather wasn't great and we couldn't see Mount Fiji, so we only have one  photo from that day.

days one hundred and ninety-six thru one hundred and ninety-eight: april 2, 2016 thru april 4, 2016

After saying our goodbyes, we boarded a train back south in pursuit of sakura in full bloom. First stop, Nagoya. Wow, what a difference a few days makes. Our two days in Nagoya were quite something with the sakura in full bloom. After a full day of cruising around the city, we were lucky enough to meet up with another group of friends visiting Japan. Our friend Fion and her husband Marcel stopped thru Nagoya to have a quick dinner with us and catch up before to Kyoto. 

Later that evening we headed to one of Nagoya's main parks where the sakura were supposed to be illuminated. That's not the only thing we found in the park. Tons of locals were out enjoying the sakura and there were food stalls and live music. It was quite a celebration!

The next morning we continued to explore Nagoya and took our time and enjoyed the beautiful weather and scenery with the locals.

Hope you're not tired of sakura yet...because there are a lot more pictures coming! :)



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 ninety: march 27, 2016

In the late afternoon we headed to the airport to catch a late night flight to Osaka, putting us in close to 2 AM. To our surprise, the immigration lines at Osaka airport were some of the worst we've experienced thus far. We didn't get our bags and exit the airport until close to 4 AM. For such a major airport, we would have expected there still to be taxis available to take us into the city, but we weren't so lucky. Our other option was to take a bus into the city and then a taxi the rest of the way to our AirBnB. At around 5 AM we arrived at our AirBnB. I went to sleep for a few hours while Jonathan went up to the rooftop to check out the sunrise with Osaka Castle across the river.

days one hundred and ninety-one thru one hundred and ninety-two: march 28, 2016 thru march 29, 2016

Today we took the train to Kyoto, dropped our bags off in a locker at the station and went to meet our friends Lindsey, Clement and Kari who were on vacation from the states. Thankfully, they were ok with us crashing their trip. For two days we cruised around Kyoto and explored temples, shrines, and ate as much food as our stomachs could bare.

When we visited Fushimi Inari Shrine, it was late in the afternoon and we intended to find a nice place to watch the sunset. Not surprisingly, there were tons of people walking thru the Torii Gates and was near impossible to escape the crowds. Jonathan had the bright idea of following a trail that wandered off the side of the hill and supposedly reconnected with the main walk path at the top of the mountain. Let's just say that we successfully escaped the crowds, but we also didn't get to see much of a sunset. We did, however, get to make our way casually down at dusk which was much more peaceful than being amongst the crowds down at the bottom of the hill.

After leaving the shrine, we were starving. Lucky for us, just nearby the train station there was a small yakitori restaurant that was still open. I think we ordered the most of anyone there.

The next morning, we headed to Kinkaku-ji, the Golden Pavilion and managed to snap a few photos with barely any people in it, quite an art form when some of these places are seen in person.

This was one of the first areas where the sakura (cherry blossoms) were starting to bloom, but many weren't open yet.

Next stop, the Arashiyama Bamboo Forest and the nearby park.

Just above the bamboo forest is an area overlooking the river down below. The sakura contrasted against the green surroundings was beautiful.

That evening we went to visit Kiyomizu-dera Temple perched up on the hillside with a view of Kyoto. We had read that some of the areas were illuminated in the evening so we wanted to check it out.

Afterwards, we headed back to Gion for some dinner with the rest of the group. On our way, we came across this beautiful weeping sakura tree hanging above the walkway. 

We found another small yakitori restaurant off a small side street and were told that we could wait for seats to open up. After about 5 minutes of waiting they called us in and asked if a room upstairs would be ok and if we could squeeze. To our surprise, the room was more than big enough and we even had our own little balcony area. (yes, we pretty much ordered the entire menu!)

Next stop, Osaka!



days one hundred and seventy thru one hundred and eighty-one: march 7, 2016 thru march 18, 2016

Oh yes, we're back. It didn't take much convincing for us or even Jonathan's parents, to dive Raja Ampat. Hey, we know what we like, right? Similar to our first cruise, we spent 11 days on the Samambaia exploring the Raja Ampat area with the same crew we've grown to love. We got spoiled again and pretty much had the boat to ourselves - it was us, Jonathan's parents, and our cruise director's parents. Not bad, eh?



days one hundred and fifty-six thru one hundred and one hundred and fifty-nine: march 3, 2016 thru march 6, 2016

We had a short gap of time to fill before heading back to Raja Ampat and we decided to stop thru Singapore since we had friends we could visit. In our three days there, we were pretty impressed with the city. Amazing architecture that integrated sustainability, efficient public transportation, clean streets, and thankfully good food too!


day one hundred and fifty-eight: march 4, 2016

After hearing about Gardens by the Bay, we decided that it was the one attraction that we had to see in Singapore. Separate from the main gardens, there are two enclosed domes that you can buy tickets to enter. The first is the Flower Dome, which is the largest glass greenhouse in the world and houses plants from around the world. And most importantly, it's air conditioned!

The second dome is the Cloud Forest Dome, which is more focused on plant life from the tropical highlands.

Our final stop in Gardens by the Bay was the Supertree Grove, which measure between 25 and 50 meters in height and are designed to provide shade during the day and come alive with lights and sound at night. Over 162,000 plants comprising over 200 species are planted on the Supertrees.

Ooof, I know that was a lot of flowers to go through -- but they were all just so beautiful!