If you asked my family to each name the one place they would love to visit my daughter would say Italy and my husband would declare Japan. It’s been on our joint bucket list (and my personal one which you can see here) for as long as I can remember.
I have always been fascinated by the unique culture and beauty of Japan. And I’m pretty sure that Scott harbours dreams of training as a Samurai, and of creating his own comic book. However, it’s somewhere that has always seemed a bit out of reach – both for our budget and because of the distance.
Recently though our friend Claire from Claire Imaginarium and her husband took an incredible trip to Japan. Her photos have left us both feeling even more inspired to visit the land of dragons, geishas and cherry blossoms. Up until now all of our trips as a family have been within Europe – mainly as I’m a little nervous about flying long-haul. However, our love of Japan shows no signs of abating and really needs to be addressed. And so – here we are – busy planning a trip there.
Image via Claire Imaginarium
Part One – Research
I ordered a travel guide and we have started doing our research on the incredible experiences Japan has to offer. I also got contacted by the Japan Experience Travel Website who have been incredibly helpful in providing me with more information and inspiration. I’ve never taken a tour or used a travel company before, but actually, when it comes to a HUGE once-in-a-lifetime trip like this I feel a lot safer using one. I like the fact that they know the country inside and out and so can offer us in-depth guidance. Especially as we would be travelling with our daughter!
Part Two – Budgeting
Using the knowledge that we’ve gained from our research we have started to piece together a budget. I’ve set alerts on Skyscanner to gauge variations in price flights. And we’ve each spent some time writing a list of where we would like to go. We’ve used those lists to create a ‘master plan’. It’s quite a long list so we’re well aware we probably won’t get to see everything on it but it’s a good starting point for planning a route!
Part Three- Saving
Our latest step (and the hardest hands down for me!) is saving up! We’ve got a rough cost in mind that we could afford to spend and a rough timeline of how long it will take us to save up that amount. It’s looking like our trip to Japan will be in 2019 or 2020 – maybe even 2021 depending on what other trips we take between now and then!
The Things I am most looking forward to:
The Food and Drink
Japanese food is one of my favourite cuisines (aside from Miso soup – eurgh!). I could eat sushi all day every day and often wonder if it’s possible to live off of ramen alone! Lily loves donburi and Scott is obsessed with gyoza. Our favourite restaurant in London is Yama Moma (seriously you need to go try their scallops!) So as you can imagine the food is a massive draw for us when it comes to visiting Japan.
So as you can imagine the food is a massive draw for us when it comes to visiting Japan. One thing I must admit is that I am useless with chopsticks so it’s lucky that I have plenty of time to practice!
We are also big tea fans in this house and I would love to visit a traditional Japanese tea house for a tea ceremony.
If you’ve been around on the blog before you’ll know I’m a lover of craft beer (you can read some of my reviews here). Since the 1990s craft beer has grown in popularity in Japan. It’s now home to several breweries who produce beers using Japanese ingredients and distinct methods. I would love to try out a few of them – particularly from the Swan Lake Brewery in Niigata and the Kiuchi Brewery in Ibaraki.
Scott, on the other hand, loves rum and has his eye on a few Japanese varieties he would like to try! Of course, we’d be travelling in Japan with our child so we’d have to have just the odd nightcap!
The Culture and History of Japan
Japan will be the first chance our daughter has to explore a culture that is vastly different to our own. Of course, Lily has visited other countries however she has never flown long-haul and has never experienced ‘the East’.
I’ve always been fascinated by Japan’s tumultuous history, particularly during the feudal era. In case you don’t know – the feudal era was when Japan was ruled by daimyo (wealthy families), the shogun (warlords) and their Samurai warriors.
My love for the history of the country has me wanting to see so much more than the major cities and get off the beaten track. One place I would love to visit is Shimabara – a beautifully preserved castle town in the Unzendake region. It was a really important town during the Edo period and the buildings, shrines and temples are still there now.
The same applies to Kanazawa – this town is not far from Tokyo but many tourists don’t make the trip there. It’s actually a Unesco World Heritage site filled with original Samurai mansions.
I know Scott has Sengaku-Ji on his list too – this Buddhist temple is home to the graves of the Japanese legends, the 47 Ronin. And he would love to visit a master swordsmith and see a katana being made.
You can’t, of course, mention Japanese culture and not talk about Geishas. I would love to learn more about these beautiful women; the patrons of art and culture in Japan. You can read more about them here.
The Manga, Anime and Kitsch
Scott is a huge fan of Manga and Anime and over the years has introduced me and Lily to it. For our family, a trip to Japan would not be complete without a visit to the Ghibli Museum. We’d love to spend some time in Tokyo exploring the areas of Akihabara “electric town” and seeing the cosplayers in Harajuku. Oh and picking up cute kitsch souvenirs too!
The Great Outdoors
Scott would love the opportunity to climb Mount Fuji. For me exploring Japanese gardens and the Sagano bamboo forest at Arashiyama, Kyoto are a must. I would also love to take a dip in a traditional Onsen hot spring. I’m pretty sure that Lily would love the mystical fairy-tale atmosphere of Nametoko Gorge and Karuizawa Picture Book Forest Museum.
And there you have it – the beginning of our plans to visit Japan! Have you been to Japan? Is there anywhere you would recommend we add to our list?
This post was in Collaboration with Japan Experience.