I awoke the Monday after Fathers Day to this Facebook message from one of our Tokyo karate instructors:  Did you feel the earthquake? Are you okay?  My nightmare from our first night in Japan had come true. Luckily, we’d missed it by a day, as it occurred near Osaka, and we were in Miyajima.  However, our trip’s longest Shinkansen ride–from Hiroshima to Tokyo–was supposed to occur that day and give us an early enough arrival time to see the Samurai Museum and have several hours to enjoy the…

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…

Wednesday, June 13 began with hot coffee at McDonald’s in Kyoto, because that was the only place I could quickly find hot coffee in our new ‘hood (we also had fried meat on a stick from a nearby street vendor).  By 9:45, we were at the “Golden Pavilion” — Kinkau-ji Temple.  Covered in gold leaf on 2 floors, it was built by a Shogun as a retirement villa, but willed to become a Zen temple after his death in 1408.  It was absolutely beautiful. Not pictured:  the thousands…

We awoke on Tuesday, June 12 to a kaiseki breakfast brought into our room while we sat in our yukatas (i.e., pajamas).  After our meal, we made our way down to the bus stop, which took us to the train station for the 3-hour train ride toward Kyoto.  But before getting to Kyoto, we got off the train, shoved our bags into lockers, and then walked into the local area by the Odawara train station, because my bride had read that there was a noodle place there that…

Monday, June 11 started early, as we boarded our Shinkansen “bullet train” at 8am.  I was excited about my first ride on these super fast trains I’d heard about as a child.  We grabbed breakfast on the platform to eat on the ride to Odawara station, where we took a local train for a bit, and then a bus to Hakone. My oldest looked a bit green on the bus ride and filled a large percentage of an empty convenience store bag with her partially-digested breakfast.  When we…

Sunday, June 10, we really slept in and did not hit the 7-11 til nearly 10am!  It felt good.  Then, we took the train to hit a museum all of us were really excited about:  Miraikan, aka the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation, aka the “robot museum.” But before we got there, we walked over to the Museum of Maritime Science and saw the nearby Soya, the first ship used for Japanese exploration of Antarctica, as they both happened to be right by our train stop…

On our fourth day in Tokyo (Saturday, June 9), we were finally able to sleep in a bit and hit the 7-11 for our eggs and onigiri at 8:30am instead of the usual 6am.  By 10, we were inside the National Museum of Nature and Science in Ueno Park.  The children loved the dinosaurs, aviation, and car exhibits, as did I. Just before noon was an experience we scheduled for our son, who started taking karate a few months ago, but it was probably my favorite activity we…

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…