Travel Diary: Japan

It has always been my dream to go to Japan. I can’t believe I only went this year! It is just such an amazing place. I love everything about it–its culture, food, people. I love how clean and orderly everything is but its all still deeply rooted in tradition and nature. I think I may have been Japanese in my past life. Ahhhhh–I love Japan!

For this trip, I went with my husband, Carlos, and my two high school BFFs, Mayi and Bing. We really had an awesome time. We went through Osaka-Kyoto-Tokyo in six days and felt like we needed an extra week or two to really be able to explore and enjoy the place as we should. Of course, we had the best time, but it was so bitin–haha we are already planning another trip for next year! We went in the beginning of Spring, which was the start of cherry blossom season. We should’ve gone two weeks later though because when we left the trees were only beginning to bloom (most of them were still barren). Anyway, we still had fun, even with the rain, the cold weather (I hate usually hate the cold but this time it wasn’t so bad), and the occasional strong winds.

I heart Japan!!!

IMG_2831This was taken during our first day in Kyoto (we landed the night before). We had to take a train because our hotel was in Osaka. We each got clear umbrellas from a local convenience store–it was cheap but very cute!

IMG_2853We joined a tour group to take us around the temples. I took this while we were walking to the temple grounds. Its so picturesque. And I love the hills in the background.

IMG_2867A temple we passed while on tour.

IMG_2888Carlos at Tenryuji temple in Kyoto’s Arashiyama district.

IMG_2909Tenryuji is registered as a world heritage site–it is the head temple of its own school within the Rinzai Zen sect of Japanese Buddhism. A little history lesson: Tenryuji was built in 1339 by the ruling shogun Ashikaga Takauji. Takauji dedicated the temple to Emperor Go-Daigo, who had just passed away. The two important historic figures used to be allies until Takauji turned against the emperor in a struggle for supremacy over Japan. By building the temple, Takauji intended to appease the former emperor’s spirits.

IMG_2949The temple is just so beautiful!

IMG_2985All around us, flowers were beginning to bloom.

IMG_3039More pretty flowers.

IMG_2999The Bamboo Grove, just walking distance from Tenryuji Temple.

 IMG_3011Looking up.

IMG_3094From the Bamboo Grove, we explored other nearby temples.

IMG_3098Its amazing how they’ve preserved these structures.

IMG_3118We passed by one where we could make a wish. We just had to leave a donation in return.


IMG_3125Some of the wishes on display.

IMG_3130Mayi, Bing and I share a wish. We had to ring this bell before hanging it.

IMG_3156On our way back through the Bamboo Grove. Walking through this thick grove is like a dream. So pretty!

IMG_3151 Picture perfect.

IMG_3228We had lunch at a nearby ramen place. The food was sooooo good.

IMG_3235Ramen was perfect for the cold weather!

IMG_3221The best!

 IMG_3257We did a little sightseeing around the area.

IMG_3303The rain didn’t stop us.

IMG_3313Happy to be there!

IMG_3391Next on our to-do list: attend a traditional green tea ceremony.

IMG_3392In Japan, there is so much more to green tea. For instance, there’s the two kinds of green tea: Matcha and Sencha. Matcha is bright green, creamy and has no pungent aftertaste.

IMG_3393Sencha and Matcha are both “Camellia Sinensis” and green tea, a non-fermented tea. However, the nutrition in Sencha and Matcha is not the same. Sencha is dark green in color, refreshing and quite astringent. It also contains more antioxidants than Matcha, though Matcha has more caffeine and L-theanine (a natural relaxant) than Sencha powder.

IMG_3398We learned about the history of green tea.

IMG_3404I love this scroll she used. Its such a great way to tell a story.

IMG_3415The proper way of bowing.

IMG_3421Bing, Mayi and I.

IMG_3423Sweets to eat while drinking green tea.

IMG_3431What you need to prepare matcha green tea.

IMG_3442Drinking tea the proper way.

IMG_3472At the end of the ceremony we each got these.

IMG_3473This is what they mean.

IMG_3477We learned from the best. This was such a great little tour!

IMG_3480Where our tea ceremony was held.

IMG_3507At the train station, on our way to find another temple. 

IMG_3509Lots of green tea products at the station.

IMG_3567By the time we got to temple we wanted to visit it was already closed, so we headed to Gion for dinner. We chanced upon this restaurant: Negiya Heikichi.

IMG_3572Friendly kitchen staff welcomed us.

IMG_9857Their sukiyaki was delicious! Probably the best I’ve ever tasted.

IMG_3587Spotted a real life geisha along Gion.    

IMG_3553There is so much to discover in this district. I want to try out all the restaurants along Gion.

IMG_3646On the train again for our second day. We headed out to Kyoto to go to Fushimi Inari-taisha shrine.

IMG_3724It was a long train ride! Apparently we rode the train that stopped at every station.

  IMG_3807Worth the train ride. Fushimi Inari-taisha Shrine is beautiful.

IMG_3827I love this place.

IMG_3832Couple photo.

IMG_3833Since ancient times, Fushimi has been blessed with high quality spring water from the Momoyama hills, and thus is known for Japanese sake (rice wine) brewing. Obviously, this isn’t sake but spring water.

IMG_3840Okay, I’m not really sure how this works. And I can’t seem to understand the drawing on the poster haha.

IMG_3864Foxes (kitsune), regarded as the messengers, are often found in Inari shrines. One attribute is a key (for the rice granary) in their mouths.

IMG_3873People pray at Fushimi-inari-taisha Shrine for success in business, good luck and better skills. The shrine also serves as the head for 40,000 Inari shrines all over Japan.

IMG_3880Ringing the bell for good luck.

IMG_3892The place is huge, you’ll need a good hour to explore the shrine.

IMG_3908Red torii (shrine gates) donated by worshippers line the path, so close together that they form what resembles a tunnel leading all the way to the top of Mt. Inari-san rising high above the grounds. The winding four-kilometer-long path to the summit is always crowded with worshippers making a visit to the shrine, called the Oyama-meguri (Oyama tour).

IMG_3941I’m guessing all the writings on the torii are the names of the people who donated to the shrine.

IMG_3945You can make a wish here.

IMG_3948The many wishes up close.

IMG_3987Passing through the shrine gates.

 IMG_4000So photo worthy!

IMG_4061Last photo at the shrine.

IMG_4091The shrine at night. 

IMG_4349From the airport we took a train to get to our hotel.

IMG_4516At Shibuya–time to do a little shopping!

IMG_4629Okay, so our original plan was to go shopping. And then we stumbled upon this place that allowed you to play dress up. We rented these costumes and took photos using their photo booths. It was so much fun!

IMG_9888And this was the result: anime versions of us! Hahaha.

IMG_4781Finally, shopping at Harajuku.      

IMG_9915The next day, we headed to Mt. Fuji. It was so beautiful.

IMG_9914Happy photo.

IMG_9917Soft serve ice cream at the top.

IMG_9911What a gorgeous view.

IMG_9916While on the bus going back to Tokyo, I spotted cherry blossom trees in full bloom.

IMG_5829Our last day! We tried to get a photo with a cherry blossom tree. This was the best we could do.

IMG_0041Cherry blossoms.

IMG_5845Off to Ginza to shop!

IMG_5895Love this photo of the three of us.

IMG_5874Haha Beatles inspired!

IMG_5951The busy streets of Tokyo.

   IMG_5978After almost a week of taking trains, we decided we didn’t want any more haha. We took cabs instead.

IMG_9986Carlos and I.

IMG_6054Trying on these spectacles.

 IMG_6191Busy Harajuku.

IMG_6171Posing with my two umbrellas.

IMG_6228Carlos trying on these funky sunnies.

IMG_0066  Took a break from all that shopping–we had waffles with all the trimmings!

IMG_0035My favorite: Gift Gate!!!

IMG_6253Ran into some Harajuku girls.

IMG_6339Photo with Hachiko! <3

  1. Katherine Reply

    OMG! I heart Japan, too! Love the pics, especially the food ones. LOL.

    I was on a flight back home to L.A. (from Seoul), and I had a layover in Narita. I went through through the customs just so I could step out of Narita Airport for 30 minutes. Japan looks so beautiful.

    P.S. Love your boots!

    1. kellymisa Reply

      Japan really is an awesome place! Hope you get to see it for more than 30 minutes next time LOL! 🙂 My boots are from Charles & Keith–they’re super comfy!

  2. Michelle Ma Reply

    Beautiful photos! I want to go to Japan too..soon! 🙂

    1. kellymisa Reply

      Its really worth the trip! Put up a Japan fund–that’s what we did! 🙂

  3. Kristi Reply

    Hi Kelly, I will be going to Japan this October and I feel excited just looking at your photos. 🙂 I hope it’s okay to ask about some of the activities you had in your itinerary:
    – How do we sign up for the Green tea ceremony? I am going with my Mom and I think she would like that activity. 🙂

    -Where did you take your pictures with Mt. Fuji? From what I have been reading there are several viewing decks but I think where you are was spot on.

    Hope to hear from you soon. Thank you in advance. 🙂

    1. kellymisa Reply

      I am so excited for you! Japan truly was a life changing trip for me. I fell in love with the country–it is so beautiful. With regards to your questions, my good friend Mayi planned all our activities. She booked our tours online, which included the Green Tea Ceremony, which was something like $20 and the Mt. Fuji tour. These tours proved to be super convenient, especially the Mt. Fuji tour because transportation was arranged and provided, as well as a tour guide to show us the perfect places to take our photos. You’re right about Mt. Fuji having several viewing decks. We didn’t think about it though as we went with the tour. I just don’t remember the price for this one, but I’m sure you will be able to find a good tour group/company to take you. Japanese are very trustworthy, so I’m pretty sure you will get your money’s worth. Try to look for a reputable site when booking (read comments/experiences about the tour). So sorry, I cannot remember which tour group it was because I didn’t book it. I kind of just tagged along with everyone’s itinerary.

      1. Kristi Reply

        Thank you Kelly! 🙂

  4. M.KAWASHIMA Reply

    Hello Kelly

    I live in Japan, and it is Japanese.
    I visited your site by chance while I was surfing the net. I’m writing a comment to see a nice photo.
    Although would have been staying a short time, or visited Japan was the place where your imagined was?
    It and was a little early to be met in cherry blossoms, I was a little disappointing would be raining.
    Still there is Japan nice of a lot, by all means now, please visit the Japan dyed in autumn leaves! It’s so Amazing!
    PS: I am using the translation software because it might not be in the appropriate sentence, I’m sorry! So goodbye(^^)

    1. kellymisa Reply

      It is so nice to meet you! Thank you for leaving a comment on my blog. I am in love with Japan! Truly I am. It is such a beautiful country. I cannot wait to go back there again soon, hopefully to see the cherry blossoms in full bloom! That’s a good tip–to visit Japan in autumn–it must be breathtaking! 🙂

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