Category Archives: Japan 2015

Yufuin | Japan adventure 2015

After visiting Kagoshima, we took our first Shinkansen (aka bullet train).  Wow, what an amazing way to go!  So fast, smooth and quiet at 180ish miles an hour.  Wish we had them in the states for sure!

Train composite

Then we switched to a local train to continue our trip to Yufuin.  It certainly wasn’t as fast, but it was easier to see the landscape go by: orchards, rice fields, bamboo forests, quaint villages… we saw it all!

Local train composite

Yufuin is a lovely resort town comprised of two main streets filled with cute shops and restaurants, and frequented by a lot of Chinese tourists.  We stayed at a ryokan (a traditional Japanese inn) with a several private in-house hot springs, which we took full advantage of.

Ryokan composite

We spent two days walking the streets of Yufuin during the day and soaking in the hot springs in the evenings — sure could have used a few more days of that.  Highlights: the fish pedicure (we didn’t actually do it as it look like it tickled A LOT) and the cat store (two floors full of every cat item imaginable and then some).

Streets of Yufuin composite 2





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Kagoshima | Japan adventure 2015

Stop number two on our 3-week adventure was Kagoshima, which is on the southern end of mainland Japan.  The highlight of this smaller city is the large, active volcano across the bay — Sakurajima.  We arrived to our small but efficient hotel in the evening and proceeded to take full advantage of the free ramen offered in the restaurant — perfect timing as we hadn’t eaten dinner yet.  Nothing like fresh, yummy ramen when you’re hungry at 9:00pm.  When we awoke the next morning, we discovered our interesting view, but as we weren’t planning to spend too much time in our room, it wasn’t much of a concern.


We made our way across town by foot and tram.  The cherry blossoms along the river were blooming and there were a lot of interesting sculptures, statues and little gardens along the way.

Kagoshima compilation 1

Our destination was ultimately the ferry station, where we caught a ferry over to the volcano.  Yes, not only is there a ferry terminal on the volcano, but also a visitor’s center, shops, homes and several schools.  We took a tour bus to various views of the volcano, but the real highlight was on our ferry ride back when Sakurajima erupted for us.

Kagoshima compilation 2

We got one more ash cloud when we were out in town for dinner. It was a little disconcerting to be walking around, window shopping, and then look over and see a volcano erupting. But also an amazing experience.

Kagoshima compilation 3

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Okinawa | Japan adventure 2015

In spring 2015, my family and I took a 23 day trip to Japan.  Why Japan, you ask?  Well, we had several reasons: the hubby always wanted to go there, the kid is taking karate lessons, friends recently moved there…  and really, it was some place very different.  Our last big family trip was to Ireland and we were ready to try something a little more challenging.  This is an account of our adventure.  Hope you enjoy coming along!

Our first stop: Okinawa.  We spent three days on the lovely island of Okinawa — definitely could have spent longer.  The highlight was visiting with our friends who live there — it was fun (and helpful) having someone to show us the ropes and take us around.  Our hotel was right near the water and had a lovely view.  It also happened to be a few blocks from our friends’ apartment, so we were able to meet them quite easily by walking along the seawall.

Seawall composite

After a lovely break on their beach, we enjoyed a traditional Japanese lunch of hamburgers.  Ok, not so traditional but super yummy!

Lunch composite

 (Missing the two youngest in this picture.)

The next day, we rented a car and John did all the driving (he’s the expert on left-side drive).  We headed north to the Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium, a beautiful setting that houses some amazing sea critters such as the very large whale shark and the best climbing structure EVER (the picture only shows a fraction of it)!

Aquarium composite

On our last day in Okinawa, we visited the Japanese Navy Underground Headquarters.  This was a stark and heartbreaking reminder of the role Okinawa played in WWII and an important history lesson for the kids.

Underground museum composite

After emerging from the tunnels, we were awarded a gorgeous view of Naha and a really fun park nearby with some crazy slides.

Naha composite

Overall, Okinawa was a beautiful, friendly place to visit and we barely touched the surface of it (an ongoing theme of our trip, we came to find).  Definitely on our list to visit again!  Next stop: Kagoshima.  Stay tuned!

Also posted in Personal