Japan – Day 5: Asakusa

Day 5 saw some gentle wandering through Asakusa, our first shrines, mouth-watering food, and cats.  Every day brings new adventures; there’s no opportunity to get bored!

We began the day with a train ride to Ueno.  Our priority was to get postcards out as soon as possible (knowing they’d likely arrive after we returned to the States), so we sought out a post office, passing the line to pachinko and wandering the Ameyoko Market in the meantime. Continue reading

Japan – Day 4: Tokyo

This day was all about a day-long bike tour of the city.  Biking through Tokyo allows you to cover a lot of ground while going slowly enough for pictures and historical tidbits.  We were able to hit a lot of items on our list, and we learned far more about Japanese history and culture than we bargained for.  It was truly a day well spent!

After another breakfast at the hotel (fish, miso soup, and rice never get old!), we hopped the subway.  This was very different from the train rides up to this point, most notably due to the populous mob packed into each car.  Every day, we knew this was a possibility, and we always tried to leave early to beat rush hour, but this day, the cards were stacked against us.  But I won’t complain; it was a true Tokyo rite of passage.  At least the men with the white gloves weren’t needed. Continue reading

Japan – Day 2: Yokohama

The sun made all the difference.  Waking up with our alarm at 5am (we always get up at this time), I took a peek outside to see a few clouds with clear sky, and this screamed, “sunrise photo op.”  I happily obliged, grabbing the tripod and wandering just down the street to a small river crossing.  We didn’t have any sort of clear shot, but I still loved the feel of the early morning.  We even saw someone feeding the pigeons, and I caught some seagulls on the river. Continue reading

Japan – Days 0: Traveling

No, that isn’t a typo.  “Days 0″ is what I meant.  With a 10-hour flight into the future, it will feel like one of the longest days of your life (but still shorter than the return trip).

While I’ve travelled internationally before, the last time I did so was when I was 13 – young enough to still have an adult chaperone to take care of all the paperwork.  This was the first time doing everything ourselves, and it was quite the whirlwind! Continue reading


Alright, folks!  Enough with the teasers, we’re finally ready for some real content.  Beginning tomorrow, I’m going to post a day of our trip about twice a week (I don’t want to overwhelm anyone with all of it at once!).  Apologies ahead of time: many posts will be somewhat long, though I encourage you to at least browse the photos.  We vacation really hard, so there’s a lot of material packed into each day.  I do try to keep the recounting of our adventures as concise as possible, however.  I will also update this page to include a full index of the entire Japan series as I post. Continue reading

A Taste of Japan: Arashiyama Bamboo Grove

A visit to Kyoto isn’t complete without a trip through the stunning bamboo grove of Arashiyama.  There is nothing more humbling than acres of majestic trees towering above your head, cutting thousands of completely vertical lines 115 feet into the sky.

Bamboo has been revered for its durability for centuries, and it grows incredibly fast, making it a popular renewable resource; the wood is used in thousands of applications.  It is particularly important to the Japanese, who view it as a symbol of prosperity and see its simplicity as representing purity.  Bamboo is unique in its elegance, which is why stalks frequent many zen-hopeful desks, but they are seldom seen in such magnificence.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2015 Continue reading

A Taste of Japan: Old Meets New

Japan is full of some of the most amazing culture and fascinating history.  With a civilization many centuries old, Japan has had a lot of time to evolve.  However, they staunchly retain the rich past that defines their architecture, shrines, attitudes, and traditions.  They respect each other and have an incredible work ethic.  They impress the world every year with their technology, yet they loyally maintain structures that have been in existence for over 1300 years.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2015 Continue reading

A Taste of Japan: Nighttime Shrines

I only have a few more of these highlights before I get into the real meat of our trip.  This week has understandably been busy catching up from our vacation and preparing for another over Thanksgiving.  I know you’re anxious for the full daily accounts, but I’m afraid I’ll have to tease you for just a short while longer…

When you visit Japan, unless you try explicitly not to, you’re bound to wind up at a few shrines.  Fortunately, that’s ok, as every one is unique in their own way.  If you really want to mix it up, try visiting them after dark.  Check to make sure they’re accessible after hours, but if they are, this can provide a great opportunity to beat a lot of the crowds at some of the more popular destinations. Continue reading