We were on the Shinkansen bullet train before 8am on Saturday and walked up to Himeji Castle at 9:30am. I checked in on Swarm and saw that there are free guided tours in English that are excellent, and I’d no sooner declared that we should find out how to get one when an older lady heard us and walked up to lead our tour.  Later in the tour, another guide told us we had the best of all the guides, and we couldn’t disagree.  She was passionate about…

Friday morning about 9:45am, we set off from our AirBnB and discovered a place called Cafe Green Door in a residential area, just a couple blocks from our home, which was a nice change from the previous days’ meats on a stick for breakfast.   We had eggs and coffee to go as we walked to the station and boarded a train for Nara, where we’d scheduled an AirBnB experience involving a bike tour of Nara park, where the deer are plentiful and friendly (and will bow to…

Thursday, June 14, we rode a series of trains until we met Eric, a quad-lingual KKday tour guide originally from China who lives in Japan and was our guide for the “romantic” train taking us to a horse-drawn carriage taking us to a wooden boat taking us down the Hozu River, where 5th and 6th generation boatmen with wooden poles and oars guided us through whitewater rapids, and it was awesome. The level of skill these men had was incredible.  I’ve canoed down the Chattahoochee and kayaked down the…

My son and I sat quietly for several minutes on one of the several hundred stone steps we’d climbed to reach the Shinto shrine at Nikko, a UNESCO World Heritage Site northeast of Tokyo.  His sisters and mom were putting their shoes back on somewhere behind us.  A mountain stream could be heard nearby.  We were surrounded by trees, several times older than the two of us combined.  Not a person was in sight. Me:  “Where, do you think, is the most peaceful place we’ve ever been?” I…

I awoke at 5am on June 7 and walked to the nearest 7-11 for breakfast of eggs and some triangular rice thing with meat inside before taking the train down to a sumo gym to watch giant men in diapers push each other outside of a dirty circle.  There weren’t any matches going on during our stay, so we found that the Arashiobeya gym allows folks to quietly watch through the window from the street, which sounds worse than it is–the wrestlers are actually quite close to the…

We landed in Tokyo on June 6 about 2pm and took the monorail, and then the subway, to our AirBnb in Ginza, deposited suitcases, and started exploring what felt like a new planet. Every man wore a white button up shirt and either navy or black slacks.  Every woman wore a white button up shirt and either a navy or black skirt.  All the buildings, residential or commercial, had exterior fire escapes (which seems more efficient than having such rarely used steps inside rent-able, temperature-controlled space, right?).  And…