We spent an incredible three weeks in Japan this summer and only scratched the surface of this culturally rich and incredibly beautiful country. Whether you’re currently planning a trip or just curious about traveling to Japan, this post will answer some of the questions you may have. Is Japan expensive? What is a JR pass? Is it really a cash-based society? Do they speak English? Read on and find out.
For our first visit to Japan, we decided to stay in Kyoto for one of our three weeks, and it worked out perfectly. Kyoto is a cultural epicenter, having been the capital of Japan for more than a thousand years. It is well preserved, being one of the few places spared during the WWII bombings due to it’s cultural significance. From the iconic torii gates of the Fushimi Inari-taisha Shrine to the geisha district of Gion, Kyoto encompasses one’s vision of Japan. You can easily spend a week (or a lifetime) in Kyoto, but it is also centrally located, making it an ideal basecamp for day trips to numerous places, including Nara and Himeji.
Japan is a great place for a family adventure. Besides being one of the safest and politest countries in the world, the kawaii culture is something to experience. From Hello Kitty trains to rows of gachopon toy capsule vending machines, kawaii is everywhere…and bound to make you and your kids smile. Another prevalent aspect of Japanese culture is the Shintoism and Buddhist influence. Besides the grand shrines and temples, there may be a little shrine in your AirBnB or a ceramic representation of an animal spirit (often kawaii such as the Tanuki) in front of a restaurant. Once your eyes are open to it, you can find them everywhere! Experiencing different customs and cultures with your children is the best education you can give them.
It’s often the little things that make or break a trip. Getting a poor night’s sleep makes you grumpy or less likely to hike to that amazing waterfall. Your phone dying could be a minor inconvenience, or it could leave you stranded. Having a medical emergency or getting sick away from home can be scary or keep you in your room for days. While you can’t prepare for everything, you can add a few essential items to your packing list that can turn trip-ruining disasters into minor inconveniences. Read on and travel with confidence knowing you can handle whatever your adventures throw at you.
If Cuba has been calling to you but the travel restriction held you back, read on to find out everything you need to know to travel to Cuba as a US citizen. The logistics and uncertainty of Cuba travel was actually a big part of the draw for me. I read that you can’t visit from the US and you need to go through Mexico. I read the airport is a nightmare. I even read men aren’t supposed to wear shorts. None of these turned out to be true. Don’t worry, there are enough challenges to keep it interesting. This isn’t a trip to Hawaii, embrace the adventure and you won’t regret it. I will separate the fact from fiction and break down what you need to know before you go.
I think we all picture colorful vintage cars when we think of Cuba, but that is only a small part of why Cuba is truly an unspoiled step back in time. Initially, I was so overtaken with the cars, buildings, and people, that I didn’t even notice what was missing…McDonalds, Starbucks, billboards, and hotel chains. Yes, there really is a place left that we haven’t ruined…but don’t worry, we will. Go before it’s too late!