Japan 2008

Welcome to my Japan travel blog! ようこそ!

This blog is a travelogue documenting our experiences on a trip to Japan in 2008. I was interested in visiting Japan as I have been studying Japanese for a year and a half, and interested in some aspects of Japanese culture.

We originally timed our visit to coincide with the cherry blossom viewing season. Early reports from the Japan Meteorological Agency seemed to indicate that the cherry blossoms will be late in 2008, so we booked our trip for the second week of April. Unfortunately, the cherry blossoms actually came out early that year (in the last week of March), and by the time we arrived in Tokyo only the late blooming varieties remained. We debated whether to travel up north to catch the “cherry blossom wave” but in the end decided to stick to our itinerary. We did end up seeing some beautiful cherry blossoms, surprisingly further down south in the Kansai (関西) region so we were not entirely disappointed.

Because this was our first trip to Japan (and we have no plans of future trips) we wanted to sample as much of Japan as possible, so our itinerary somewhat resembled (and indeed, was modeled on) those guided tours that attempt to cram as many locations as possible into a limited number of days. So we had to give up on seeing many things – our visit was confined to the main island (本州), we did not get a chance to view Mount Fuji (富士山), and we barely scratched the surface of the towns and cities that we did visit.

So where did we visit and what were the highlights? We spent a few days in Tokyo (東京) and a few days in Osaka (大阪), plus day trips to the historical cities of Nikko (日光)Kamakura (鎌倉)Nara (奈良) and Kyoto (京都). As we were Miyazaki (Studio Ghibli) anime fans, we visited the Studio Ghibli Museum in Mitaka (ジブリ美術館) as well as Tama New Town (多摩ニュータウン) in the vicinity of Seiseki-Sakuragoa station (聖蹟桜ヶ丘駅) which was the inspiration for the locations portrayed in the anime Whisper of the Heart (耳をすませば). As I am a huge Hello Kitty fan since childhood, we also visited the Sanrio theme park featuring Hello Kitty and her friends – Sanrio Puroland (サンリオピューロランド). In Osaka we visited Osaka Castle (大阪城). And of course we did lots of shopping in Tokyo and Osaka.

One souvenir hunting game that I really enjoyed was looking for “Gotochi Kitty” – these are tiny figurines of Hello Kitty (wearing or doing something representative of the location visited) that one can buy with straps to attach to mobile phone, handbag zip etc. We did not manage to get Gotochi Kitties for every location we visited, but we tried our best!