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Toile, the mascot of Mr. Toilet House, the Toilet Museum in Suwon, South Korea

Mr. Toilet House? A Toilet Museum!

The big gold-colored statue of a turd right next the entrance was enough to tell me that this museum wasn’t going to be a disappointment! Mr. Toilet House Believe it or not, Mr. Toilet House is the popular name for the Toilet Culture Museum in Suwon, South Korea, just south of Seoul. I hadn’t even…

view of Japan Rail train tracks

Traveling by Train in Japan: 8 tips

For those of us who do not know Japanese, traveling by train in Japan can be a bit daunting, to say the least. Here are some tips for Japan travel that will allow you to negotiate the Japanese rail system, including reading signs, without knowing any Japanese at all. Japan has several different rail companies….

closeup of a Maiko performing at Gion Corner in Kyoto

Gion Corner: The Simplicity of Japanese Musical Art

A show that’s produced for foreign tourists can be an insulting oversimplification of local culture, or it can be an interesting peek into that culture. I wasn’t sure which I was getting when I agreed to go to a performance by Kyoto Traditional Musical Art Foundation  at a venue called Gion Corner, in the famous…

close-up of a lotus flower in Ueno Park, Tokyo

5 Tokyo Gardens

I’m not particularly into gardens. I enjoy them, but don’t enjoy gardening. I visited a few gardens in Tokyo partly because I was curious about Japanese gardens in particular, and also curious as to how they are used by people in such a big city. But mostly I went to them because I wanted to…

From the western part of the Hida region, this house was built in 1797.

Takayama Hida Folk Village

If you read this blog at all regularly, you’ll know that I particularly enjoy visiting historic buildings: the more authentic the better. That’s why one of my goals in visiting Takayama, Japan, was to see the Hida Folk Village just outside town. (Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links. If you buy anything through them, I…

a manicured garden fronts one of many Yanaka temples

Strolling Yanaka in Tokyo

Tokyo is best known for its big-city-ness: huge, new, shiny, crowded, and exciting. I found it overwhelming in terms of noise and crowds, and also in terms of choices: where to go, what to do, what to eat, where to sleep. Add to that my functional illiteracy—I can’t read Japanese lettering or say more than…

The ornate, enormous, white Himeji Castle looms.

Things to do in Himeji for a Day

As I stepped off the train for a day of sightseeing in Himeji, I said to myself, “I’ll look for the tourist information office first and ask how to get to the castle.” (And, yes, traveling solo for so long, I did sometimes say things like this out loud!) While there are other things to…

Matsumoto Castle, including both of the added wings

Matsumoto: My first Japanese castle

I chose to visit Matsumoto because I love castles. I’ve seen many in Europe, so this was an obvious choice in Japan. There are a few other things to see in Matsumoto, but the castle is the big draw, and, judging by the hordes of tourists shuffling through the castle with me, it’s a popular…

a girl in traditional clothing takes a picture with her mobile phone in Kanazawa

Kanazawa: Worth a Visit?

Kanazawa hit the travel sections in March 2015 with the opening of a new shinkansen (bullet train) line going there from Tokyo. It cut the travel time to less than two and half hours. I’d never heard of it before, but that coverage led me to add visiting Kanazawa to my plans. Kanazawa, I read, has…