Wednesday, November 9, 2016



After a rainy night in Matsumoto, we woke up to clearing skies, that eventually revealed the snow-capped mountains around us.  We headed north of downtown to Matsumoto Castle, which we were interested in, as it is one of the oldest remaining fortresses in Japan.  Matsumoto was another area where we were lucky enough to catch the cherry blossoms in full bloom.  It smelled wonderful!


Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Bicycles in Japan


Lana is partially used to it by now: we're walking down the street, talking, and she turns to say something, and there's no David.  He's back at the beginning of the block staring at an unusual deraileur, frame, crank, or logo on a bicycle.  In Japan, she had to explain to a tour guide that David was taking a picture of a bike.  "Why?" he asked, genuinely puzzled.  David's gotten odd looks for taking pictures of a lot of obscure things, but taking pictures of bikes generally get the most confused glances from passersby.  It's also one of the few things that David's never caught another photographer surreptitiously sizing up for a me-too photo.  If you're in the "Why?" camp, this may not be the post for you.  However, if you know anything about Japan or bikes, David has some burning questions about some of the peculiarities he observed in Japanese bikes.


Sunday, October 2, 2016



We drove from Fujiyoshida to Matsumoto, arriving in the late morning.  We picked up picnic lunch ingredients, and drove out for a half-day trip to Takayama, which was just 2 hours by car (5 by train, for comparison) through some fantastic twisty mountain roads. It was a fun drive for David--there were sections of road that were eerily familiar, having been recreated in a racing game he enjoys.  It's weird to drive a section of road that your brain is convinced it knows when you've never been there in person before. 


Thursday, September 29, 2016

Driving in Japan

We had more reservations about driving in Japan than we've had in any other country, with the possible exception of the first time we drove in London.  We're here to tell you that our fears were warrantless.  We had no idea what to expect, in terms of road signs, traffic density, or driver behaviors.  We didn't know anyone who had driven there, and in our planning stages, when we mentioned that we were renting a car, we'd often get surprised looks or comments.  Having done it, we'd wholeheartedly recommend it--we would have missed out on not just sights and areas, but an entire aspect of Japanese culture if we'd stuck to public transit.  Don't get us wrong, the public transit was awesome, and we used it extensively, but driving in Japan was also pretty incredible.

Monday, August 22, 2016


We only spent one full day in Tokyo (we’d return for a few days at the end of our trip), and as we re-packed, we started the first of several cuts to our one, physical travel guide, removing the sizable Tokyo section to lighten our load.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Finding Our Food Footing

This is the story of how, on a rainy night in the Japanese Alps, we came to eat the worst meal of our whole trip: a train station fast food burger from the Mos Burger chain.
One of the things David was looking forward to in Japan was the cuisine.  Lana was a little apprehensive about it, as she’s not a big fan of fish, especially raw fish, or things that have been cooked but are served cold. All things heavily represented in Japanese cuisine.  We also knew that we could not expect an English description of dishes or ingredients, and that generally, things come exactly as they’re traditionally made. Substitutions are not really an option.  The very polite staff may smile and nod to your “no this/no that” request and then the dish will come out exactly as the cook always makes that dish.  We can respect that.  We also knew, from previous experience using translation dictionaries, that menus often contain specialized vocabulary that’s not in a common dictionary.  We knew there would be challenges, and we didn’t even know all of them yet. 


Japan was one of the first countries we placed on our must-see list for traveling around the world in 2012, and it was one of the last that we removed from that same list, due to cost and time constraints.  At the  time, we decided that Japan was a good candidate for it’s own, dedicated trip.  While our must-see list has grown since then, Japan seemed to be the obvious choice for our next over-seas trip.  A great deal on tickets didn’t hurt either.