Japan was amazing!
We are not experienced world travelers so taking a trip to Japan was kind of a daunting experience! We had no idea what to expect so we were nervous but when I mentioned on the radio that we were going, we heard from quite a few people who'd been and reassured us it was friendly, safe and of course, beautiful. It's not like going to Europe where, for the most part, the culture is very similar to the United States.
We left on a Thursday at noon and arrived on Friday at 2, Tokyo time. We were tired but we immediately had to rush out and look around. Here are some pictures from our first few days in Tokyo.
That's the view from our hotel room. Tokyo doesn't look like any US city. It was developed way before the car, so roads go every which way and it's very congested and busy.
One of our favorite things to see were the markets. They sell what we would think of as exotic foods right out in the open. Kind of like the state fair with foods we've never had, along with lots of fish and noodles.
They have pet stores there but they're a lot different than here. Only one animal per cage and WOW were they expensive! This cat was about 3000 yen, or about $3000.
Speaking of cats, you can visit a cat cafe, where you basically hang out with a room full of beautiful cats. People come and just sit on their phone and laptops like a Caribou, but there's no eating or drinking, just hanging out with cats! They also have a hedgehog cafe where you hang with hedgehogs!
They gave us little cat Popsicles that the cats just went crazy over.
This was so odd to me. Restaurants display very realistic plastic versions of their foods out front and because it's such an art to make these, there's a store where you can actually buy plastic versions to take home.
They have McDonald's and we thought it would be a good backup if we didn't like Japanese food but we only at one one. Carson had a cheeseburger although they have some more exotic versions there.
We went to a private home and took sushi making lessons. Homes are much smaller in the city because it's so crowded. You take your shoes off when you enter and put on slippers the host provides. The sushi was super-authentic, not dressed up with tons of sauces and garnishes like we have here.
We were invited to a private home for a ceremonial Japanese tea. It was very formal but they were very kind and understanding of our lack of etiquette knowledge. This is our host inviting us to sit at the head table.
Here is a host making tea for us. Again, it's all very ceremonial. You aren't supposed to talk while having tea, so it's nothing like getting together with friends to chat.
This is part of the Imperial Palace. Most visitors only see it from the outside and that's what we did.
After a few days in Tokyo, we went up in the mountains. Mt. Fuji is hard to see because it's usually surrounded by clouds but we got a decent look at it from the road before it disappeared for the day.
The hotel we stayed at for the first few nights was a lot like any American hotel. But on night four, we stated at a very traditional Japanese hotel. It's a big room with a low table and no beds. At night you roll out a futon to sleep on. This hotel was the only one where the language barrier was a bit of a challenge because the staff spoke very little English. I had my Japanese phrase book and Goodlg Translate and they came in very handy!
When we checked in, they had us pick a kimono, not as a novelty, but as a standard item to wear in the hotel. It was okay to wear regular clothes around the hotel but it seemed rude to me, so we all put ours on. Carson was a little annoyed and embarrassed but eventually he was glad he did when he saw everyone else wearing one.
Here's what a very traditional Japanese dinner looks like. Lots of fish!
...and honestly, a few things we coudln't identify. I loved it and ate everything. Carson struggled with the Japanese food quite a bit but he was polite and ate all he could.
This is breakfast the next day. Soup, fish, fruit, eggs, rice, tea, small dumplings and pickles.
We only saw this at the traditional Japanese hotel. You can soack your feet in hot water whilte sitting at the hotel bar.