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Posts tagged ‘Asia’

chasing fall

One of the reasons we had chosen Japan for our late October trip instead of the numerous destinations in Southeast Asia that are on our travel list was our nostalgia for autumn. Kyoto, in particular, was rumored to be breathtakingly beautiful in the fall, with its ancient temples surrounded by colorful foliage. We got a heavy dose of autumnal weather, but not much in the way of scenic landscapes during our five-day stay in the Kansai area. Fortunately, we found what we sought in the mountains.

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crossing the Alps

After a pleasant half-day in Matsumoto, we got up early for the most ambitious undertaking of our Japan trip: a full-day traverse across the Hida Mountains, which are known as Japan’s Alps, via the Tateyama-Kurobe alpine route.

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tingling tastebuds

Sampling various cuisines is one of our favorite aspects of traveling, though at times the local fare can be disappointing. Given the popularity of sushi, teppanyaki, and udon, we were certain this would not be the case during our recent visit to Japan. In fact, we were practically salivating at the culinary prospects that awaited us.

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castle fever

Unexpectedly, the turning point of our journey around Japan – when the trip ceased being a hellish nightmare of parenting frustration and actually became enjoyable – came on a rainy day in the unassuming city of Matsumoto, located in the foothills of the Japanese Alps.

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acting out

One of the touchstones for our parenting philosophy – or at least for balancing our wanderlust with our parental responsibilities – is a photo two friends, both of whom had recently given birth, shared before we had kids. In the picture, they are standing side by side in a wooded area, with huge smiles on their faces, their infants asleep in the carriers on their chests, and about half a dozen lemurs climbing all over them. The photograph was taken at Vakona reserve in Madagascar, which we subsequently visited.

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surf’s up

Several weeks after returning from Japan, we are still sorting through our photos and mentally processing the trip. Culturally, Japan is unlike any other country where we have traveled. The half dozen posts we have already devoted to our ten-day visit barely scratch the surface of what we want to share, both in terms of our observations and our favorite images of the striking places we visited. To avoid Japan overkill, however, we’d like to break up our overseas travel tales with a post about our adventures closer to home.

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the sacred deer of Nara

Much as we loved Kyoto, after a couple of days of jam-packed sightseeing, it was time for a change of scenery. The crowds might have been less oppressive had we planned our stay midweek. Instead, as luck would have it, our visit to Kyoto fell on the first pleasant weekend after a massive typhoon had rocked the country. After two days of battling the crowds and trying to squeeze in a representative number of sights, we realized we needed to take the intensity down a couple of notches. Instead of spending a third day shuttling between temples in Kyoto, we headed south for a day trip to Nara.

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kimono watching

In addition to history, culture, art, and food, we would add one more reason to the list of rich experiences that make Kyoto a must-see destination: it just may be the best place in Japan to people-watch.

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city of emperors

Kyoto, with its overabundance of temples and shrines, fantastic food scene, and a wide array of small artisan shops filled with intricate handcrafted wares, is widely considered Japan’s most tourist-friendly city. Our first 24 hours in Japan felt more stressful than relaxing. It wasn’t until we checked into our AirBnB in Kyoto, took a stroll around our neighborhood, and immediately stumbled on a covered arcade lined with cute shops and hole-in-the-wall restaurants that we felt like our vacation had truly commenced.

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fools in the rain

The upside of hitting rock bottom at the outset is the knowledge that there is nowhere to go but up. After our many misadventures on arrival in Japan, we hoped that a new day would help us turn the page and make the most of our vacation.

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