Kinkaku-ji, the Golden Pavilion in Japan

Trip to Japan

Trip to Japan, Day 1

We woke up at ~1:30am to start our adventure to Japan (why did we even sleep?) After getting ready, we caught an Uber to the airport, making it by ~3:00am. We figured we needed to be early since we were going on an international flight. As it turned out, the security line didn’t even open until 5:00am, so we sat and waited in a sleepy daze for 2 hours.

After we passed through security, we caught our 6:00am flight to Canada. After a short trip, we took another flight – to Canada (again). We enjoyed a rootbeer float in Vancouver, then caught our last flight – a 9 hour trip to Tokyo!

We happened to go to Japan during BCG’s World Wide Officer Meeting (WWOM). The WWOM gathers all of the partners and officers of the company together a few times a year to take care of company-wide business. They meet in different places each time, and they just happened to decide to hold it in Japan the same time we went to Japan. We didn’t run into any partners on the flight (most of them were taking direct flights instead of stopping twice in Canada), but while in security we immediately encountered a few partners from my office. I guess they just couldn’t stand my absence on vacation and decided to follow me to Japan!

Kiyomizu-dera temple in Kyoto, Japan

Kiyomizu-dera temple

They didn’t follow very well though; while the partners stayed behind for meetings in Tokyo, Janet and I caught a bullet train to Kyoto. The emperor of Japan called Kyoto home from ~794AD to 1868AD. More than a millennia as Japan’s capital  left Kyoto as one of the major cultural centers of Japan, with more historical sites than one can see in a single trip.

We reached our AirBnb late that evening. Exhausted, we surrendered to the bed quickly.

Day 2

Fushimi Inari-taishi gates in Japan

Some Torii at Fushimi Inari-taisha

For our first task, we found breakfast. Janet’s brother told us about Melonpan, so we sought it out. Japan has a lot of 7-eleven stores, and it has the best Melonpan. I had my first experience buying something in Japan, and off we went to start sight-seeing.

We kicked-off sight-seeing with the Fushimi Inari-taisha. Nearly all Shinto shrines have a Torii gate, but the Fushimi Inari-taisha has over 5,000 gates. We spent an hour or so walking around the beautiful grounds and taking pictures of the rows of gates. In addition to seeing many of the Torii’s, we also stopped by the “Holy Rice Paddy.” I don’t know the story for the rice paddy, but it makes for some nice pictures.

They also have a rock on top of a lantern that people can lift. The legend goes that if you make a wish before lifting it, the rock will feel light if your wish will come true, but if the rock feels heavy the wish won’t come true. When I lifted the rock, it felt medium, so maybe part of my wish will come true!

Next, we went to the Ginkaku-ji Temple. Also known as the “Silver Pavilion” in contrast to the “Golden Pavilion” on our agenda for the next day. Ginkaku-ji sports a beautiful garden, with the first, and one of the larger rock gardens we would see.

Ginkaku-ji Temple in Kyoto, Japan

Rock garden at Ginkaku-ji Temple

By this point of the day, large groups of Japanese school-kids covered the grounds. We learned that the schools send the kids on a week-long cultural trip each year. These trips typically tour around Kyoto given its concentration of historically significant sites. We were struck by how well the Japanese kids behaved; they all spoke and carried themselves very politely.

Many of the kids also had English learning worksheets they needed to fill-out. They would come up to foreigners, ask if they spoke English, and then follow-up with a few questions if they said yes. In spite of my conspicuously foreigner face, none of them came up to me. I can only assume that my half-Japanese wife made them think that I might not be foreign enough.

We continued our trek walking along the “philosopher’s path.” Of course, I philosophized deeply as we meandered down the path. At least, as long as “make Descartes related jokes” counts as “philosophize deeply.”

Roots at Honen-In Temple in Kyoto, Japan

Roots at Honen-In Temple

Along the way, we took a quick stop in the Honen-In Temple. The keepers maintained the grounds of this small temple nicely. I loved the tangle of trees with exposed roots, and caught a few nice pictures of some stonework in the area.

At the end of the philosopher’s path, we reached the Chion-in Temple. I quickly fell in love with the temple since they had a nice indoors area to sit down and listen to a Buddhist monk chant. I enjoyed the chanting, but I loved taking a break to sit after a day of constant walking and standing.

We walked through more of the Chion-in Temple grounds, including finding a shrine made for marriage. I like marriage, so I range the bell and tried to do the bowing ceremony. I probably did it wrong, but I did my best.

Kyle Durfee eating a tiny octopus in Kyoto, JapanChion-in also has a giant bell. Apparently it takes 17-25 people to ring it. Since Janet + me = 2 people, we didn’t ring it.

By now, our feet hated us, but we decided to march them over to the Nishiki market for dinner. Before finding a restaurant, I grabbed an appetizer of octopus on a stick. It tastes a bit like chicken, so I guess I’ll just stick with chicken.

After dinner we dragged our legs back to the Airbnb, and collapsed into sleep.

Day 3

To kick-off day 3, I found us a Ramen place near Kyoto station. The Ramen here must come straight from heaven. Since we needed to catch a tour early today, we arrived at the Ramen shop at ~7am and got instant service. This place draws a crowd though; we walked by the same place later in the week at ~8am, and it already had a line out the door. I’m glad we didn’t need to wait, but it would certainly have been worth it!

After drinking the Ramen broth from heaven, we walked up to the meeting place for our tour. The tour guide arrived at the meeting place, brought us to our tour bus, and we drove to our first stop – the Nijo castle.

Nijo Castle in Kyoto, Japan

Janet at Nijo Castle

I listened to a portion of the History of Japan podcast to prepare for the trip, so when they told us that Tokugawa Ieyasu founded the castle in the early 1600’s, I perked up. Not that I feel any special affinity for Ieyasu, I just enjoyed recognizing a name among the swirl of Japanese everywhere.

Tokugawa Ieyasu was a Shogun, which was a title for military rulers that held power in Japan intermittently throughout much of its known history. The tour guide explained that although the Emperor still existed, the Tokugawa held all the practical power from Ieyasu until ~1868. The Emperor held symbolic power.

Kinkaku-ji in Kyoto, Japan

Kinkaku-ji, or the “Golden Pavilion”

The tour brought us through the castle which displays heaps of gorgeous murals. The tour guide taught us how the Shogun ordered that the murals in the waiting rooms for guests include large trees and tigers to intimidate them. Many of the meeting rooms also had raised platforms where the Shogun and his representatives would sit to do business with others.

As we walked in some of the hallways, the floor boards made little chirping noises. Our tour guide told us that the builders installed the chirping noise intentionally. Rumors have swirled that it helped defend against intruders because even a ninja couldn’t walk on it without alerting people around. We ran into a few places with this kind of floor.

After a few rooms of murals, they brought us by the room where the Shogunate returned power to the emperor in 1868. This room included mannequins representing all of the regional rulers kneeling and bowing toward a mannequin representing the Shogun on a raised platform. The tour guide explained that it represented when the regional rulers came under the order of the Shogun and agreed to return real power to the emperor.

Toward the end of our visit of the castle we came to one of the many rooms with raised platforms. For most rooms, the Shogun used the raised platform, but our guide explained that the Shogun used this room to receive representatives of the Emperor. Here, the Emperor or his representatives used the high platform, looking down on the Shogun.

Although the Shogun held the real power, they still needed to request permission of the Emperor on major decisions. The Shogun could often get away with asking after acting, but not deferring to the Emperor got a few Shogun in trouble. The Emperor may have primarily held symbolic power, but it counted for something.

With its high concentration of historical events and characters that I could recognize, the Nijo castle earned its place as one of my favorite spots

We had a moment to wander before our tour bus continued on, so we went to try to get a picture in front of the entrance. The school kids behaved so well that we decided to try to ask one of them to take our picture, but we quickly remembered that people don’t speak English here since the kids just looked confused then laughed as they politely walked away. Fortunately, some other people from our tour came by so we took turns taking each other’s pictures.

Then our tour brought us to Kinkaku-ji. I think this “Golden Pavilion” easily contends for the spot of most beautiful site we saw in Japan. The shining gold and surrounding grounds make it easy to get fantastic pictures. Most of my desktop backgrounds are now different shots of Kinkaku-ji.

Kinkaku-ji or the Golden Pavilion in Kyoto, JapanWe concluded the morning portion of our tour at the Kyoto Imperial Palace. The emperor resides in Tokyo now, but will stay in the Kyoto palace whenever the family visits.

Our tour brought us to a buffet lunch after the palace. We had about an hour before our shift for lunch, so we wandered through a very nice souvenir shop. We took advantage of the time and bought a few souvenirs for ourselves, as well as some candy to share.

Heian shrine in Kyoto, Japan

Heian shrine

After lunch, we continued with the afternoon portion of our tour. We started at the Heian shrine. Our guide took the opportunity to teach us a little about Buddhism and Shintoism. He described both of the systems as more practical than Christianity – people will come to temples or shrines when they need something and perform relatively short rituals with donations. People don’t spend too much time saying long prayers, or worrying too much about things when times are good.

Our guide also discussed how most people in Japan practice both Shintoism and Buddhism throughout their lives. At birth, families will often bring their baby to a Shinto shrine for associated rituals. At death, families turn to Buddhist temples. A few people mentioned that in Japan you are “born a Shinto and die a Buddhist” for that reason.

He also explained that shrines exist for a multitude of different purposes. To emphasize this point, he pointed out a shrine for ball-based sports. The Japanese soccer team visits this shrine before the big matches, and the shrine even sported a banner of the team over its entrance.

Kiyomizu-dera Temple

Overlook at Kiyomizu-dera Temple

After the shrine, we took a pass through Sanjusangendo Hall. We walked slowly through the hall of 1,000 statues of Kannon, a Buddhist deity. It also includes statues of several guardian deities. Each statue has different features, which must have been a massive undertaking for the carver.

We finished our tour at the Kiyomizu-dera Temple. This temple overlooked a lush forest, and had larger grounds than most. They also installed a wooden platform extending from the temple to give a better view of the surrounding area. Our guide kindly took a picture of us overlooking the scene.

After the tour, we walked to the Gion district to see the Yasaka shrine. We had passed by it the day before, but looks best at night, so we went back to see the lanterns on.

Yasaka shrine

Yasaka shrine

Day 4

Bamboo forest in Kyoto, JapanWe took a break from the temples and shrines to go see the bamboo forest. It reminded me of the Redwood forest in New Zealand, with lots of opportunities to take sky-oriented pictures of the long, tall tree trunks.

At the end of the forest, we entered the Okochi Sanso garden. I might have enjoyed this garden the most of any. We spent a good hour or so enjoying the quiet and taking beautiful pictures.

After the garden, we walked back through a portion of the bamboo forest to enter the Tenryū-ji temple. We took our time through the gardens here, and walked through one of the more open temples of the trip. The temple has a nice open room of tatami mats to sit on while overlooking parts of the garden, which helped us stay longer since by now we cherished every opportunity to rest our feet.

After the temple, we walked down the main street of the area to try to find some lunch. We decided to just get some fried chicken from a food cart so that we could keep moving quickly, but it tasted really good too.

Pond at Tenryū-ji Temple in Kyoto, Japan

Pond at Tenryū-ji Temple

We also got some ice cream. I got a rose flavored ice cream that I still think about, and now I’m on the lookout for rose flavored ice cream or gelato whenever we go out. Unfortunately, this flavor seems even more rare than my other favorite dessert taste – chocolate & orange.

Baby Japanese Macaque monkey in Kyoto, Japan

We ate our ice cream as we walked across a bridge to get to the Arashiyama Monkey Park. All it takes is a 20 minute hike up a hill, and you get rewarded with a hill full of monkeys!

The monkeys roam free at the monkey park. As if to emphasize this point, a monkey ran up and shoved a lady almost as soon as we got there! OK, “shoved” is a strong word, it was more like a “tag”, but the monkey was super into it!

They let visitors feed the monkeys, but for safety you have to go into a little hut on the property that has a fenced wall that you can stick food through. It almost makes the experience a bit of a people zoo, since we stood in the cage while the monkey’s looked in.

The monkeys have their birthing season in the April/May time frame, which meant that adorable baby monkeys wandered around with the others. The mothers often carried them around, and all the other monkeys seemed to take shifts following the baby as it explored the area.

Japanese Macaque in Kyoto, Japan

While at the park, a bird flew by. It wasn’t a large bird, or even a predatory one, but as soon as one monkey saw it and called out, all the other monkeys instantly panicked and started screeching as well. The monkey nearest the baby monkey instantly snatched up the baby to cover it until the monkeys became comfortable that the bird had passed. As it turns out, some hawks prey on the monkeys, so they’ve learned to warn each other and take cover.

Otagi Nenbutsuji Temple

Konen at the Otagi Nenbutsuji Temple

After hiking back down the hill, we caught a taxi and went to the Otagi Nenbutsuji Temple. Most people know this temple for the more than 1,200 rakan stone statues. To a westerner, it appears like the temple has tons of semi-humorous Buddha statues.

Since the temple sits on the edge of the city, we enjoyed our most peaceful temple visit. A light rain started to fall that I felt added to the sense of natural calm that permeated the grounds and huts. We even took advantage of an open temple on the grounds to meditate for a moment. Some people talk about meditating in Asia, but we did it.

We caught a taxi back to town and enjoyed one of my favorite meals of the trip. The Kyoto train station has tons of restaurants, so we found the top floor with the highest rated restaurant on yelp. We ordered some tonkatsu! We had fun smashing our own sesame seeds to mix with the variety of sauce options they provided, and then enjoyed some of the best tonkatsu I’ve ever tasted.

After dinner, we finished our day by going to a cultural show in Kyoto. The show displayed a tea ceremony, flower arranging, and some music and theater traditional to the area.

Day 5

Isui-en garden in Nara, Japan

Isui-en garden

After a melonpan breakfast, we caught a train for Nara. The emperor used Nara as the capital during the 700’s AD, but now deer use it as a great place to get food from humans!

People know Nara for the wild deer that approach people for food. For a few yen, you can buy wafers to feed them. Not only do the deer come close, but they’ll get aggressive if they think you’re holding food back. Instead of getting aggressive, the deer typically behaved very politely. They have integrated with the culture so well that lots of the deer will even bow to you to ask for food. We would bow, the deer would bow back, and we would give it a wafer.

We saw our first deer shortly after leaving the train station. No one was selling wafers, so we just admired from a distance.

We started at the Kōfuku-ji temple. The temple made for a few nice pictures, but we ended up moving fairly quickly through the grounds.

A short walk from the temple, we found the Isui-en garden. In my opinion, no other garden had as many good picture spots. It seemed like the Meiji-era designers anticipated photography and made every turn picture-perfect in composition and content.

Isui-en garden in Nara, Japan

Isui-en garden

Some guides sat at the entrance to the garden to give free tours. Our guide told us about about life in Japan, how he liked Nara, and explained different elements of the garden. He also pointed out some great spots for pictures, and kindly took a few for us so that we could both be in the shot.

We also took a look inside the Neiraku museum. It’s a small museum with some nice bronze artifacts, mirrors, and paintings. We enjoyed the artifacts, and really enjoyed the place to sit. We walk ~10 miles a day on these trips, which feels like a lot when our jobs mostly include sitting.

After the museum, we finally found some wafers to buy, and fed some deer! The big deer came rushing up to us when they saw the wafers, so we fed them some, but then sought out the baby deer. The younger deer typically acted more timidly than the adults, but still came close enough for food.

Giant Buddha statue in the Todai-ji Temple in Nara, Japan

Buddha statue in the Todai-ji temple

After that, we went into the Todai-ji temple. This temple houses a HUGE Buddha statue. It also has large statues of other deities and guardians. People also come to the temple to crawl through a hole in one of the pillars. Apparently the hole is supposed to be the same size as the Buddha statue’s nostril, and – on an unrelated note – if you can crawl through the hole you’ll be enlightened. I didn’t think I could fit, so we watched a few other people crawl through it.

After grabbing lunch, we fed some more deer, and went to the Kasuga-taisha shrine. I most enjoyed a dark room at the shrine that they filled with lit lanterns.

After the shrine, we fed some more deer and just enjoyed the quiet city. A few deer lay still on the grass, and seemed happy to let us pet them for a while. We also saw a deer stampede – I don’t know what spooked them, but out of nowhere a bunch of the deer just bolted across a field. No one got hurt; it just made the day a touch more interesting.

Deer at Nara, JapanBefore we made it back to the train station, Janet noticed an elementary school boy waving to her from a bus. Janet waved back, and the kid instantly became super excited and told his other friends on the bus. In seconds, we had a whole school bus of kids excitedly waving to us!

When we got back to Kyoto, we had our first real sushi in Japan. We went to a conveyor-belt sushi shop in Kyoto station. I had never been to a conveyor-belt sushi place before, and I had lots of fun with it! I wish more small-plates restaurants would use conveyor-belts.

After dinner, we went and got a “cream soda” for dessert. In Japan, “cream sodas” are what we would call “floats,” and instead of rootbeer, their soda of choice is Melon Fanta. Melon Fanta tastes a bit like Inca-Cola (which I can only describe as tasting a little like bubblegum), and is a bright green. When it has ice cream for a float, it looks like a magic potion, and tastes delicious!

Day 6

On day 6, we packed up and said goodbye to our beloved Kyoto. We took a bullet train to Hakone, a city made popular by its abundant Ryokan. Ryokan are traditional-style inns. They typically have a hot spring bath called an onsen, you sleep on cushions placed on the floor, and they bring a traditional meal to your room. They also provide a Yukata to wear, which is like a bathrobe.

Pirate ship at Hakone, Japan

The pirate ship

When we arrived at Hakone, we dropped our bags off at our Ryokan, then went to explore some of the local area. We took the bus to an area on lake Ashi, and had a hot lunch to warm us up from the cool drizzle outside. Janet got soba noodles, and I got Oyakodon, also known as “parent-child donburi” since it includes both chicken and eggs.

Then we got tickets to ride the “pirate ship” across the lake. The “pirate ship” is a ferry for the lake, and it really does look like a pirate ship. We managed to get seats on some soft, white couches at the front of the ship.

During the pirate ship ride, we passed the Hakone shrine, famous for its Torii gate in the water. We took pictures of it as we passed, and grabbed some pictures of another pirate ship on the lake as well.

We exited the ship on the north part of lake Ashi, where you can typically take a gondola ride over a semi-active volcano. Unfortunately, they had closed the ropeway for repairs, so we ended up catching the bus back to our Ryokan.

Ryokan in Hakone, JapanWhen we arrived to our Ryokan, they showed us the facility and brought us to our room. We decided to immediately take advantage of the private onsen. I have rarely been so relaxed as when I had a hot bath in the peaceful ryokan. It reminded me of Rotorua in New Zealand where we had a similar hot-spring experience.

When we returned to the room, we decided to explore some Japanese television. Fortunately, we came to Japan during a major sumo tournament! I had a grand time as we watched the sumo matches, and googled the hundreds of questions that came up. Why do they throw rice? What are the rules? Why do walking packages of chazuke wander onto the mat before each match? So many questions!

After an hour of sumo, the innkeepers came in to prepare our room for dinner. They brought 3 rounds of traditional plates – I think we had a total of over 13 different dishes. Although they give us the option for a “western” style meal, we didn’t fly all the way to Japan to eat American food. We went all-in with the traditional meal, and loved it! The meal mostly consists of different kinds of seafood; a sushi- and sashimi-lover’s paradise.

The decadent meal probably took a good two hours. After we finished, the innkeepers put away the table and laid out our beds. It was a soft, comfy way to end the day. I fell right to sleep.

Day 7

We woke up early to enjoy another round of the onsen. After the relaxing bath, we went up and got ready for breakfast. Once again, we indulged in the traditional Japanese meal.

Breakfast in the Ryokan at Hakone, Japan


We also took the opportunity to call our families at home. It was fun both to check-in with them, and also to ask for some Japanese help from Janet’s Japanese-speaking brother.

Hachiko statue at Shibuya station, Japan


After a few relaxing hours, we packed up and caught another bullet train to Tokyo. Stepping out of Shibuya station made it clear that we had left Hakone; we traded the slow, peaceful ryokan for fast-paced Tokyo.

After finding our AirBnB, we dropped off our bags and ran back down to the station to see the Hachiko statue. Hachiko was a dog owned by a professor. Hachiko would wait for the professor every day at the time the professor’s train would come in – and continued to do so for 9 years after the professor died while giving a lecture. The Japanese recognize Hachiko for his supreme loyalty, and even built a bronze statue for him outside the station. As if a loyal dog isn’t cute enough, someone put some kittens on the Hachiko statue, which drew quite the crowd.

After watching the statue for a few minutes, we went back to our AirBnB to meet my cousin! He lives in Japan, teaching at a university. He was nice enough to show us around a few spots in Tokyo.

We started with some ramen! Delicious!

Tokyo Tower in Tokyo, Japan

Tokyo Tower

After ramen, we visited the Meiji Jingu shrine. We saw several wedding processions there, so I took some pictures. One of our tour guides in Kyoto mentioned that Japanese typically do Christian style weddings (sometimes traveling as far as Australia to find the perfect church). Many still do a Shinto or Buddhist ceremony, and our guide mentioned that some will do multiple ceremonies to take advantage of all the possible photo ops!

After the shrine, we journeyed to the Tokyo tower. We got some great views of the city from the tower, and saw part of what seemed like a live-broadcast comedy show.

After the tower, we said goodbye to my cousin, and went off to dinner in the Tsukiji fish market area. Everyone thinks this market has the best sushi in the world. They probably think that because it does. I mean, I couldn’t believe how good the sushi tasted. Every bite just melted into our mouths. We loved every bit.

Day 8

We couldn’t get enough of the ramen in Japan, so we stopped by a ramen shop for breakfast. The shop we chose ended up having bar-style seating, but with little walls between each seat for privacy. After the waiter brought us our ramen, he dropped a little curtain so that we even had privacy from the kitchen.

Shinjuku Garden in Tokyo, Japan

Shinjuku Garden

After breakfast, we went to the Shinjuku Garden. I enjoyed central park when I went to New York, but Shinjuku felt much more peaceful and separated from the big city. Lots of families enjoyed the park area, with little kids drawing pictures of the flowers or just wandering with their parents. We got some good photos of the area and enjoyed the natural area.

Procession in Tokyo, JapanOn the way out of the garden, we ran into some sort of procession. We have no idea what was going on, so I’m including a picture of it here. If you know what this is, let me know in the comments!

After the garden, we went to the Imperial Palace. They don’t let anyone get too close to the actual palace, but it does have nice grounds to walk through. It also displays some historical fortresses, towers, and guard houses.

Once we finished up at the garden, we trekked over to a restaurant to try okonomyaki (which we affectionately call “okee-dokee-gnnochi”). Not everyone likes it, but we made sure to try it at a good restaurant, so I quite enjoyed it.

After lunch, we went to Akihabara, known as the electronic district of Tokyo. It has lots of traditional electronics stores (for things like wires and connectors), but also has lots of computer and video game shops. It also has a ton of arcades themed on video game and anime entertainment. We window shopped the electronics, and bought a fish-shaped cream-filled pancake, and a delicious crepe (I had craved a crepe since we saw some at Tokyo tower).

After finishing up at Akihabara, we went back to Shibuya station.

At work, my office has an annual retreat that includes a themed costume party. This year, they chose to theme the party on book characters. We were going to have the retreat almost immediately after returning home, so we got our costumes before we left. What did we choose for our costume? Where’s Waldo – that’s what!

Since the costume had come, I decided to bring it with me to Japan to use at Shibuya crossing. The crossing reminds people of Times Square, and some call it the busiest crossing in the world. This means that it makes for a great “Where’s Waldo” shot! Janet got set-up in a Starbucks that overlooks the crossing and snapped a few shots of me in the middle of it wearing the costume. I should have gone deeper in, but I still think the pictures turned out well.

Where's Waldo in Shibuya Crossing

Where’s Waldo?

We closed out the day by walking through a local store and buying some Japanese candy.

Day 9

Our last full day in Japan! We kicked things off with some rice balls with fried shrimp for breakfast. Then, we made our way to the Senso-ji temple.

Sensoji temple in Tokyo, Japan

Sensoji temple

This is Tokyo’s oldest temple, and has a crowd of shops running along the streets leading to it. I found lots of good places for pictures at this temple. You’ll notice that it incorporates swastikas into the design everywhere. The swastikas have nothing to do with Nazism – many cultures used the swastika for various meanings well before the Nazis came around.

After visiting the temple, we went to a sumo lunch! I think we might have enjoyed this activity more than any other single thing in Japan (well – except maybe the monkeys). The sumo lunch started with a demonstration and explanation of sumo, including a few retired professional sumo wrestlers. Sumo wrestlers put on a lot of weight, but they showed off how nimble and flexible they stay – one dropped into doing the splits without any problem!

After some basic demonstrations, they gave us a chance to try to throw the pros. After I put on one of those fake sumo suits, I struck a sumo pose and started a pushing match with one of the sumos. The sumos don’t have any trouble facing off against us, and they usually let the challengers win after some fun. I had the honor of being the first person they decided not to let win :). It felt like I had something going when I was in it, but you’ll see from the video that the sumo was merely toying with me. That was a super fun experience.

After the “matches”, they brought out sumo food. Sumos may carry a lot of weight, but they actually eat very healthily. The diet primarily consists of rice and chankonabe – essentially a vegetable soup. They just eat a lot of it to gain weight.

After the sumo lunch, we went to the Tokyo Skytree. We didn’t go to the top, but we went to some restaurants ~60 floors up. We got some good views, and topped-off our tummies with an early dinner.

Yasukuni shrine in Tokyo, Japan

Entrance to Yasukuni shrine

After that, we took a quick trip to the Yasukuni shrine. We didn’t have it on our original itinerary, but I remembered it from the History of Japan podcast I listened to for the trip. The Yasukuni shrine gets attention occasionally because it enshrines all those who died in wars involving Japan. This includes ~1,000 war criminals from WWII. Enshrinement includes absolution from earthly sins, so people affected by Japan’s actions in WWII tend to oppose the enshrinement. As of late, the controversy has largely become a political lever, where Japan’s enemies decry the shrine to foster anti-Japanese sentiments, especially whenever a political leader decides to visit the shrine.

I don’t have much of an opinion of the shrine – I just get excited to visit places that I knew a little about, especially one surrounded by some amount of controversy. I quite enjoyed my visit.

Before we went back to our AirBnB, we walked around the town and got a little dessert. Our AirBnB owner placed a book with recommendations in our room, so we took her advice and went to Silkream. After we sat down, I read in the menu that Silkream “wish[es] to make a café where an adult woman may be relaxed.” I quickly looked around to find another male patron – but with no luck. The waitresses didn’t seem to mind though, and we still got our fancy ice cream with a “graceful form and high class appearance.”

By the time we left, another college-aged woman came in with her three guy friends, and as they read the menu we heard one of them exclaim “is this place for women???” At least I wasn’t the only one surprised.

We also did a little more souvenir shopping before returning to our AirBnB.

Day 10

Sushi at the Tsukiji Fish market in Tokyo, JapanOur flight didn’t leave until the afternoon, so we took advantage of the morning. We went to the Tsukiji fish market to get some excellent sushi for breakfast. After breakfast, we took a look around the fish market to see everyone preparing fresh seafood for the day.

After the market, we wandered around a bit more and bought some more candies to bring home. Then we grabbed our bags and started the long flight back home. We had two stops in Canada on the way back again, and made it back home a little after 10pm.

Janet and I loved Japan!


Akasuka sumo in Tokyo, Japan

Keep seeking truth.



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