It has been a HOT minute since I've sat down and worked on writing blogs again. Truthfully, it's one thing I've really missed having time for since Charlie's been earth-side. If you're a working SAHM, you know the struggle to even find a moment to eat a warm meal. But, here we are. Trying to find small moments in the day to recap thoughts and memories because it's something that brings me joy and helps me to slow down. Honestly, I'm not even sure if anyone reads blogs anymore but I digress because that's not the point. LOL. I write for me and to have these thoughts for years to come when my brain starts to get fuzzy. (Which seems to be happening more and more lately. Postpartum brain fog is real.) Anyways... enough with the blabbering and here we go. Coming in hot with a full recap of our trip to the opposite side of the planet- Japan!
This trip was a bit of a last minute decision for me. My family (Mom, dad, younger brother and older sister) had this trip planned for at least the past year. I didn't even consider going because I knew I would be a few months postpartum and traveling with a baby wasn't even something that had crossed my mind. But, as the trip grew closer I started chatting with my family about it and John inquired if I had thought about going? At first I was like, "LOL YOU'RE JOKING RIGHT." John wouldn't be able to join me due to work and solo-ish traveling with a baby sounded like a death wish.
There were so many "what if's"- What if the 13 hour flight was absolute chaos and Charlie had a meltdown? What if Charlie didn't adjust to the time change and we would be exhausted the entire time? What if I wasn't able to handle everything on my own and mentally broke down?
Honestly, all completely legitimate concerns.
However, when I really sat down to think about it I kept coming back to the same answer- this was a once in a lifetime opportunity and all of my concerns were exactly that, "what if's". I couldn't control the outcome of any of them and there was no point in worrying over things that may or may not even happen. So I took the leap and told John I would like to go. (Backtrack for a moment, we do have to take a second to appreciate how incredible it is to have a partner who supports you to do hard things and take chances. I know how fortunate I am to have opportunities like this and that's never taken for granted. If you're reading this, I love you so much John.)
My decision to go was about a month out from the trip. First thing's first was booking the flights and accommodations. I wanted to be on the same flight as the rest of my family, to make it easier for a multitude of reasons, so that was booked first. Then we went to book accommodations, which again I wanted to stay at the same hotels as the rest of my family. Thankfully I was able to get into all of them except one. Which ended up making for a GREAT story, but I'll get into that later into this post. The itinerary for the trip was already mapped out and there were a few excursions and spots I would need tickets for so that was the last step in getting things solidified. We were going to be doing quite a bit of public transport traveling while in the country (3 different cities), so I tried to pack light. For both of us I brought one large suitcase, a diaper bag and our baby jogger stroller. Which was SO great for traveling since it is lightweight, folds up with one hand and fits into the overhead bin!
Now- let's get into the travels!
Traveling to Japan (Wednesday, March 22nd-Thursday, March 23rd)
Our first leg of the travels was out of Miami on March 22nd. We had an 8:35am flight so we decided to book a driver to pick us up at around 5am. We made great time to the airport by about 6am, which ended up being the perfect amount of time because I had some trouble with check in. We were flying through Air Canada and since we had booked the flight using some points I had to pay for Charlie as my lap infant at the airport. (Yes- lap infants fly free however you do have to pay for the taxes on it.) For some reason I wasn't able to do it over the phone and it was just a literal headache having to do it in person but we got it figured out. I had about 30 minutes once we got through security so I went to the Turkish Airlines Lounge (shared with Air Canada at this terminal) to get some coffee. It was super nice! This first flight was from Miami to our connection in Toronto and Charlie ended up napping for about an hour. We love airplane naps. When we got to Toronto we had a couple hour layover so we went to the award winning Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge for some food. At about 1:40pm we headed over to the gate only to discover they weren't allowing me on the plane. To enter Japan, at this time, you had to either have 3 covid vaccinations or get tested within 72 hours of travel. I chose to get tested but my test results that I had printed out didn't say "nasal swab" on them so they weren't going to allow me on the plane. (Japan had very specific requirements for the covid testing) After a few minor panic attacks, my brother saved the day and was able to get my paperwork uploaded to the Japan travel website and approved before the plane boarding closed. Not exactly my idea of "excitement" for traveling but I sure am glad he was there. Something good to note if you're going to be traveling there in the near future. The flight itself was smooth, we were fortunate enough to fly business class and Charlie got some good stretches of sleep on me in the lie flat seats. Bless. After all the travel- 2 planes, 23 hours total and 16 hours in the air ... we finally landed in Japan around 5pm! Charlie was honestly a rockstar during all of the travel and chaos. I am so proud. Also, I can say with confidence that traveling with a 7 month old is not for the weak. Make sure you have a good baby carrier. It took a while to figure out where we were going, get our metro passes (the line was ridiculous) and take the multiple trains so we didn't end up getting to the hotel (Super Hotel Premier Akasaka) until about 11pm. We pretty much passed out when we got there. Something to note about Japan culture is that their hotel rooms are SMALL compared to everywhere else I've stayed. I felt a bit cramped with just me and Charlie in the room, but that also the fun part about being in different cultures! Just have to set your expectations appropriately. Also we didn't need any adaptors for our chargers, they just charged slower because the voltage is lower.
Day 1 (Friday, March 24th)
The time change threw Charlie for a bit a loop and he was up for the day by 5am on Friday. I tried to get him to go back to sleep but he wasn't having it so we went for a morning walk and got some coffee at the 711 next to our hotel! Our walk took us to a cute park nearby called Takahashi Korekiyoo Kinen Park where Charlie and I got to see our first cherry blossoms. They're so beautiful. We then walked back to the hotel and I got Charlie down for an early nap before my family woke up and we set out for the day. Our game plan was to get adjusted and start to explore parts of Tokyo. We saw the imperial palace, took the train to see Shibuya crossing (one of the busiest intersections in the world) and shopped around Shibuya. There were SO many shopping malls and it was really interesting to see what was in style for Japanese fashion! We then got lunch at this amazing japanese-Italian spot called Black Brown. After all the adventure, Charlie was pretty exhausted so we went back to the hotel for a nap. We were asleep by 4:30... I woke up at 8pm. Bless my family for bringing me back some fried rice for dinner because I was starving. Charlie woke up around 9:30 so we showered, had dinner, FaceTimed John and we're back asleep by 11pm. I think it was safe to say we both needed sleep.
Day 2 (Saturday, March 25th)
Charlie woke up at 7am which was GREAT. We love normal wake up times and adjusting to the new time change! Like I had mentioned in the beginning, it was one thing I was quite worried about was if Charlie would adjust well to the change. I think the advice I received from a good mom friend worked well. Focus on keeping him calm and happy during the travels and let him sleep when he wants to. It'll probably be stressful so no need to add more on top of it with trying to keep a schedule. Instead acknowledge that the first few days might be tough and focus on adjusting back to your routine when you get to your destination. Once we got dressed for the day we met up with my brother and sister and walked down the street and picked up another morning coffee since it was cold and rainy out. We took the subway to Uneno Park to see the beautiful rows of cherry blossoms and visited the Tokyo National Museum! Since it was another cold and rainy day, spending it at the museum was perfect. I wanted to also mention as a breastfeeding mom, I personally felt comfortable nursing in public. (Also probably important to note that I normally feel very comfortable nursing in public) Yes, it isn't necessarily "normal" for Japanese women to nurse open in public because they're a very private culture but nobody is going to say anything to you if you do. They are also very accommodating to nursing/pumping mothers though and typically have a nursing room at many public places. I would utilize them as well because Charlie is at the age where he tends to get very distracted so I found the rooms as a nice, quiet break. After our time at the museum we walked back through the park to check out a street food festival going on! I tried Japanese beer and this interesting dish of rice wrapped in bacon with some type of mayonnaise sauce. Ask me what it was called I have NO idea because everything is in Japanese but it was GOOD. On my way back to the hotel for the evening I found a cute Christmas ornament at a local shop in Akasaka (its my thing, I get ornaments wherever we travel to), stopped at a Japanese bakery and picked up some take out noodles for dinner!
Day 3 (Sunday, March 26th)
We originally had a full day tour planned with an agency for today but they canceled on us last minute due to the weather. Somehow we got connected with this other INCREDIBLE tour guide called Yoko though a friend at Savannah's yoga practice. It's crazy how life works out sometimes and sometimes good things fall through for even better things to come into play! It was a rainy day, but that didn't stop us. Yoko took us out for an amazing day exploring different spots in the town of Kamakura. She picked us up from our hotel that morning and then drove us through the countryside to drink matcha tea in the bamboo forest of the Hokoku-ji Temple. Along the way we stopped and got pastries at a local bakery shop that was her favorite. Our next stop was at the Kotoku-in Temple that showcased a giant buddhist shrine in the center. We even had the opportunity to walk inside of it! We then tried Japanese cookies at the famous Sakura Sakura bakery before walking through the cherry blossom lane to the Tsurugaoka-hachimangu Shrine. Yoko even stopped at a grocery store and helped me pick up diapers for Charlie. It was such an incredible day and she was by far one of the BEST tour guides I've ever had. She was informative, so kind and really took her time showing us around her country. I cannot recommend her highly enough if you're going to make the travels to Japan and want a tour guide. Her instagram handle is @yokofukudatokyosakura, but if you don't have instagram feel free to send me an email and I'll help you get connected to her! Once we got back to the hotel we went out for sushi for dinner where I ate my bodyweight in salmon sushi (and also tried squid!) before finished the day seeing all the cherry blossoms lit up in downtown Askaska.
Day 4 (Monday, March 27th)
Honestly... I didn't know what to expect of today but it was probably one of my favorite days of the trip. Charlie had us up early so we picked up another 711 coffee and went for a morning walk. Don't get me wrong, I would love to sleep in but honestly I've been enjoying our morning walks around the city. Once we were all up and ready for the day we took the subway to Toyosu where we spent the morning at teamLab Planets. (Note, you need a reservation to do this so make sure to book in advance because spots fill up and it is 100% worth it!) The best way to describe it is that it's a digital art museum where you walk through multiple different exhibits for a full body sensory experience. It was one of those experiences that really hits you in the moment and forces you to take a second, slow down and truly be in the moment to immerse yourself. I can't recommend it highly enough if you have the opportunity to go. The pictures don't even do it justice. Afterwards we walked through the beautiful Yoyogi Park with the ancient oaks to the Meiji Shrine. Matt (my brother) had recommended walk through this famous street called Takeshita Street... but it was LITERAL CHAOS. I've never seen so many people jam packed into one street before. It was definitely an experience but not not I was crazy about and Charlie was also not having it so we quickly abandoned that. Way to crowded for me. Instead my sister, my dad, Charlie and I went to a bar and got "mega" beers. (I ordered beers but thought that mega was a brand but it was in-fact the size of the beer. LOL. Gotta love translation errors.) It was a good day.
Day 5 (Tuesday, March 28th)
This was our last full day in Japan and also my brother's birthday! We started off the day with our usual morning caffeine stop at 711 and then took a walk. After a morning nap, we met up with my family and headed to Akihabara. Its a section of town Matt really wanted to check out and is known for being a shopping hub for manga, anime, video games and souvenirs. Some of the shops had 10 floors! It wasn't exactly my taste but was still a fun experience. We also tried out luck at claw games but they're clearly so rigged. I tried two and didn't even come close so I gave up. Lol. Then we ate at a popular conveyor belt sushi spot called Sushiro! I was definitely a bit skeptical at first (you don't go to conveyor belt spots in the US unless you want food poisoning LOL) but it was delicious and it was so fun to order off the menu and watch your food come down the belt. Everything was fresh so I can confidently say you should try out a conveyor belt spot if you're in Japan. We ended our day walking through the incredible Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden and watching the sunset. Inside the garden it has the most impressive greenhouse I've ever seen. 10/10 recommend making a stop there as well!
Day 6 (Wednesday, March 29th)
Today was our first big travel day from Tokyo to Osaka! Charlie and I were up early so we went to a local cafe for some coffee and breakfast as per usual. While Charlie took his morning nap I packed everything up and then we met up with everyone to walk down to the station. It is definitely a process to get your tickets for the Shinkansen so if you're going to be taking the train make sure you pack your patience. We had chosen to get the JR pass that is available to international travelers, it is a couple hundred dollars but if you're planning on taking a few of the JR trains it could work out in your favor. We boarded the train at 12:30 and off we went to Osaka! The bullet train has top speeds of 200mph so it was quite the experience watching the countryside fly by as we traveled. Although we were staying in the city center, we had to take one more train to get to Nippombashi where our hotels were. Funny story about this stay... this was the only part of the trip where I wasn't able to book the same hotel as the rest of my family. Unfortunately where they had booked as already sold out so I choose the closest hotel to them. I didn't realize it at the time but I had booked a room at a "love" hotel. Meaning that they rent out rooms by the hour if you get what I'm saying. LOL. My brother had pointed it out when we were on the bullet train headed to Osaka. My sister, Savannah, decided to join me at this hotel so I wasn't alone in a different spot. We didn't really know what to expect, but honestly we had a great stay. The hotel was clean, our room was HUGE- like the size of an upgraded American suite. It had a massage chair, shower, bathtub and... an ATM INSIDE OF THE ROOM. We died a bit at that one. Anyways, once we had checked in, we walked around the corner (it was about 3 min. from the other hotel) and met up with my mom, dad and brother to head to a Raman spot for dinner called Ramen Zundoya. You first ordered off of a kiosk outside and then went and sat yourself inside where they brought you your food. Delicious! I could already tell that Osaka had a very different feel to it then Tokyo. While it was still a bustling city hub, it was much more low key and relaxed.
Day 7 (Thursday, March 30th)
Today was our first full day in Osaka. Savannah and I found Starbucks close to the hotel this morning so we walked about 5 minutes down the street and picked up some coffee. After getting ready, we met up with our family and spent the morning walking around Ōsaka. We found the cutest local pottery shop close to the hotel and I purchased some small pieces to bring home. I'm not much for souvenirs, but two things I do love are local vendors and finding Christmas ornaments wherever we go. Then we visited the famous Namba Yasaka Shrine. It's a statue of a huge lion’s mouth that is believed to swallow evil spirits and bring good luck! After getting some cute pictures (see below) we took the subway to the coastline to visit the worlds largest aquarium- Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan! It was SO cool and featured ocean life from all over the world. As you walked through the exhibits you started with one section of the ocean and followed it around the globe. Charlie loved looking at all the fish and that warmed my heart. The jelly fish exhibit was definitely my favorite. I would definitely recommend checking it out, even if you don't have kids we had a great time! Plus- I think it only cost maybe $20 USD per person to get in. We then spent the evening doing some more walking around of Osaka before picking up some salmon sushi for take out. Most nights the rest of my family went out for dinner, but its just tough with Charlie at this age because he goes to bed so early. Honestly, I did feel a little fomo at first but it was nice to relax at the hotel, unwind and watch some Netflix every evening before going to bed since my hands are so full during the day.
Day 8 (Friday, March 31st)
Today the rest of my family had a bike tour planned and Charlie was a bit too young so while they headed off for their 8 hour tour Charlie and I decided to check out the Osaka Castle Park! It's one of the big time tourist spots in the area. After his morning nap we took the train over. It was beautiful out and honestly the perfect day to walk around outside. The Ōsaka Castle was first built in the 1580's as a military stronghold from war and is the largest castle in Japan! There were so many beautiful cherry blossoms blooming around the moat. We took the long walk all the way up to the castle and then hung out for a bit in the shade. Charlie went down for a nap in the carrier and I took the opportunity to get some food at the one of the restaurants they have at the top. I good chicken nuggets and this edamame pancake for lunch. I'm not sure exactly what it was called, because of course the entire menu was in Japanese, but it was good! In the evening we went for a food tour to some local spots. We tried Gyoza (dumplings), lightly battered/fried vegetables, Takoyaki (a Japanese snack with octopus ) and more! As we walked the streets we saw a so many different carnival style games. Our guide mentioned that they were very popular in this area. There was even one where you could catch your own fish in their giant tanks and they would cook it on the spot for you!
Day 9 (Saturday, April 1st)
Today was our last full day in Osaka so we decided to check out the urban district of Umeda! There was a ton of shopping and we even found a Lululemon. (Of course we had to stop in to check it out) Our first stop as at the Umeda Sky Building. The 173 meter tall building consists of two towers that are connected together by the "floating garden observatory". It gave us a full 360 degree view of Ōsaka! When we were walking to the sky building earlier that morning we saw a bunch of people waiting in line for a bakery spot. It smelled SO good so we decided to join the line on our way back. The spot called "Gariguette" and it was a French bakery. We waiting in line for I think about an hour for these flaky pancake/croissant sandwiches. They were beautifully made like artwork and really delicious. I'm not sure I would wait in line again, but it was an experience thats for sure. We then shopped around for a bit before heading back to the hotel. Charlie and I decided to get some gyoza for take out dinner. I found a spot right around the corner from the hotel called "Gyozaya Ura Namba" that had the most DELICIOUS dumplings I've ever had. 10/10 recommend stopping by there if you visit Ōsaka! It was a hole in the wall spot that would surely pass by if you weren't looking for it. They had maybe 2 tables, but SO good. (Also, funny side story but when I was ordering off the menu my google translate wasn't working and it was all in Japanese (of course) so I panicked and accidentally ordered 12 dumplings. LOL. Glad I did though because they were so good and I ate them all. No shame.)
Day 10 (Sunday, April 2nd)
Today was another travel day to our last destination! We took another JR train from Osaka to Hiroshima! The hotel we stayed at was called the Kiro Hiroshima by The Share Hotels. It was by far my favorite out of all the ones we stayed at. A modern twist on a traditional Japanese hotel. So cute! Once we checked in, we walked next door to a local brewery spot called Raku Beer. We had some appetitizers and drinks before heading out to walk the city nearby. We were in a cute section of town called Kamiyacho that was pretty much in the middle of the city. Since it was the weekend we found a pop up market on the street with some local vendors selling their hand crafted jewelry! I picked out two necklaces, one made out of a coin and one that was a crafted leaf. Everyone else decided to keep shopping and find a spot for dinner, but Charlie started to get tired so we picked up a doughnut and steak take out for dinner at Ikinari Steak. Fun fact, Japanese even eat steak with chopsticks. That was an experience!
Day 11 (Monday, April 3rd)
We only had two full days in Hiroshima planned so today we had an all day walking tour booked. Our guide picked us up from the hotel and we first traveled down to the coastline to take a ferry over to Miyajima Island. Its a famous spot known for their very friendly wildlife and beautiful shrines. We were greeted by many "wild" deer (although they didn't seem to mind us much and strolled right up) before walking through the Itsukushima Shrine and to the Otorii Gate. Our guide then took us through the town for shopping, beer and street food! I had some delicious chicken kababs and an edamame fried dish on a stick. Yum! Our next stop for the day was at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial, Atomic Bomb Dome, Peace Park and the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. Walking through it all was a very emotional and powerful experience that I think is absolutely worth the trip to the city. I don't have many words to describe it but it's something that moves you pretty hard. I'm glad we had the opportunity to experience today through the eyes of a local guide.
Day 12 (Tuesday, April 4th)
This was our last full day in Hiroshima before we start our travels back to Tokyo and eventually to the US! We decided for a relaxing day spent at the peaceful Shukukeien Garden. Charlie and I sat on a bench while he nursed and cherry blossoms floated around us as gusts of wind blew through. Then my mom, dad, savannah and I had a long lunch at the cutest French spot. I can't find the name unfortunately but it was right around the corner from the hotel next to Ikinari Steak. The sushi board we shared was beautiful and the skirt steak I ordered was probably the best I've ever had. We stopped at Don Quijote to stock up on some Japanese candy to bring back home. Don Quijote is a big chain discount store found all around Japan with everything from groceries, clothes, toys, etc. Its another spot you need to check out to say you've done it in Japan.
Traveling Back to Florida (Wednesday, April 5th-Thursday, April 6th)
Our travels back to the US took us a few days. First on Wednesday we had to take 3 trains back to Tokyo and then outside of the city to our hotel next to the airport in Narita. We stayed at the Hotel Mystays Premier Narita. It was standard but did provide around the clock complimentary shuttle service to the airport which was great. We stayed one night and our flight the next day didnt take off until the later afternoon. Once we checked out at 11, we decided to slowly head to the airport that way we wouldn't need to rush. The airport had a ton of shopping as well to keep us busy for a few hours. We weren't able to drop our bags off until 2pm, but once we did we made our way through security. Charlie and I hung out at the Air Canada lounge at the Narita airport for a few hours before boarding our first flight from Narita to Toronto. It was a long overnight flight that was about 13 hours. Charlie was a champ and we were able to get probably 7+ hours of sleep during the flight. Bless lie flat seats again. We landed in Toronto around 7pm on Thursday, which basically meant that we were going to re-live the day with the time change. Wild. Our last flight was set to take off around 8:45pm and get us into Miami at Midnight where we gratefully had a driver waiting us to take us home. It was a LONG few days of travel (2 taxis, 1 shuttle bus, 3 trains and 2 planes ), but Charlie was a champ and I am SO grateful we were able to join my family and take this trip. We're there moments that were really hard? Sure, but the incredible experiences FAR outweighed it. If you're on the fence about traveling with young children, take the leap. Life slows down for no-one and you're more than capable to handle anything that comes your way. I tried to make sure I didn't leave anything out, but if you have ANY questions- please don't hesitate to send me an email or comment below. You got this!