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The busy Akihabara area of Tokyo on a rainy day.

Tokyo, Anime, and My Son

Disclosure: The following is a sponsored post; I received payment for writing it and including a link. All opinions, however, are my own! My 17-year-old son, Robert, is not a traveler. That’s not to say that he hasn’t traveled, however; we’ve dragged him along with us on vacations all his life. Rather, he just isn’t…

general urban sprawl as seen from Tokyo City Hall

Tokyo City Hall: Taking in the View

The classic Tokyo destination for a big view of the city is Tokyo Tower, which looks like a cross between a communication mast and the Eiffel Tower. What stopped me from visiting it was the ¥1600 (€12.50) fee to reach its upper observatory at 250 meters. Alternatively, the newer Tokyo Skytree is taller, but also more expensive: ¥2,060…

view of Japan Rail train tracks

8 Tips for Navigating Japan Rail

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 that will allow you to negotiate the Japan Rail system, including reading signs, without knowing any Japanese at all. Japan has several different rail companies. The biggest is…

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…

a pond with trees overhanging in the Imperial Palace East Garden, in Tokyo

5 Tokyo Gardens

I’m not particularly into gardens. I enjoy them, but don’t enjoy gardening. In Tokyo, I visited a few 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 visit a…

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

Takayama’s 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. The Hida region around Takayama is mountainous, so the traditional buildings generally have…

a manicured garden fronts one of many Yanaka temples

Strolling Yanaka

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.

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 other more minor destinations are…

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…