Friday, January 25, 2013

Pretty good timing!

The first cherry blossom forecasts have been released in Japan - and it looks like we're in luck!  You can see the details (in English - not the easiest thing to find) here, but here are the dates that matter most to us (and by us, I mostly mean me - pretty pink flowers don't really excite John very much):

Location               Opening               Estimated Best Viewing 

Tokyo                   March 25              April 1 to 10

Kyoto                   March 28              April 3 to 12

Hiroshima              March 27              April 3 to 11

Osaka                   March 27              April 2 to 10

Nara                     March 30              April 3 to 11

I know these dates are likely to change and you can't really predict the weather blah blah blah (I'm from Minnesota - I get it), but it bodes well and makes me super excited!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013


We've booked all of our hotel rooms in Japan!  Our criteria for choosing hotels was pretty basic: 

Cost - $75-$150

Location - short walk to a JR Shinkansen station (bullet trains that we will have almost unlimited access to with our Japan Rail Passes)

Bed size - at least an American double - especially when we realized the common "small double" is just a little larger than a twin size bed here!

Cancellation policy - since we booked our hotels before our plane tickets, we wanted to make sure any reservation we made was 100% refundable (most of the ones we looked at were - we used Orbitz and

Once we found those things, we read reviews on TripAdvisor.  My favorite are the very angry, 1 star reviews because "the TV was in Japanese!" and "the room was so tiny!" (always left by Americans - often with the next review being from a non-American: "the room was very spacious!")  We get that things in Japan are much more compact than we are accustomed to - and in Japanese...since we are going to be in Japan...(I think some people on TripAdvisor must not be able to grasp that).  It was useful to find out how much English the staff seems to know, the quality of the Internet, and what "perks" are included (pretty much breakfast and toiletries at our price-point).

I think the hotels we settled on all look pretty decent:

TokyoBest Western Shinjuku Astina Hotel Tokyo
We figured we'll be pretty overwhelmed by the time we get to our first hotel so a Best Western seemed like a good choice since the familiar brand feels a little more like "home."  We got a standard double room with a buffet breakfast on Orbitz for $125/night.

Osaka/Kyoto:  Shin Osaka Station Hotel
Hotel rooms in Kyoto were hard to find - and expensive when we did - so we decided to use Osaka as our base for exploring the area.  The hotel is very close to the Shin-Osaka Shinkansen Station where we can take a JR train to Kyoto in 15-30 min (much shorter than our daily commutes to work!)  Our room is an economy double from for about $106/night.

Hiroshima: Sheraton Hiroshima Hotel
We plan to spend a couple days visiting Hiroshima and Miyajima so we'll spend one night here - and in a deluxe king room (John was pretty excited about that part!)  It was our most expensive room (the king sized bed is a bit of a splurge, but I think we'll deserve it by then) at around $150/night - we found it on Orbitz.

Tokyo:  Mitsui Garden Hotel Ueno
We'll head back to Tokyo for the last couple days to stay in the Ueno/Akihabara/Asakusa area.  Our double room here was about $135/night on

We are also considering a side trip to Kanazawa - if we decide to do that, we have a room booked at the Garden Hotel Kanazawa.  Our double room was about $100/night on

おやすみなさい (Oyasuminasai) and good night!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Itinerary has been posted!

A very rough outline of our current plan is now available on the Itinerary page.  There is definitely no shortage of places to go and things to see - and our Japan Rail Passes and meticulous planning will ensure we visit as many of them as possible (or at least get really lost making a solid attempt trying)!  Hotels, however, are a little harder to find, especially since we will be there during the Sakura season (hopefully), so the rooms we've managed to book are helping to provide the framework.  So, anyway, that's what we have for now.

さようなら and good-bye!

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Planning via Pinterest

I love Pinterest...I love it so much I force myself to avoid it so I don't end up spending several hours pinning projects I'll never do and recipes I'll never cook and houses that'll never look like mine.  That being said, I have found it somewhat useful/inspiring for researching and planning our trip to Japan.  Here are links to my boards (FYI - I almost NEVER update the descriptions/comments on things I re-pin):

Japan - Tokyo
Japan - Hiroshima
Japan - Miyajima
Japan - Nara
Japan - Quirky, Cute, Crafty Shopping
Tokyo Disneyland


Friday, January 18, 2013

Japan 2013: Let the Adventure Begin!

Since it is officially official that John and I are going to Japan this spring, I created this site to share all of our plans and adventures!

As we research where we want to go and what we want to see, we're working on creating an itinerary - I'll post that on the cleverly named "Itinerary" page.  It's not intended to provide a rigid schedule for our trip, but rather a flexible outline to make sure we make the most of our two weeks in Japan - and hopefully save us from (too many) hours of wondering around lost and confused.  It will change a lot over the next couple months so I'll try to let you know when we've updated it and why.

Eventually, we'll add some stuff about us to give you some insight on our perspectives. Maybe we'll even answer everybody's burning question, "Why Japan?"  If there's something besides that you're dying to know, feel free to leave a comment.

We'll probably have plenty of other exciting features to add once we actually have content - I'll try to remember to announce it on Facebook when that happens, but check back if you're interested because I'll probably forget.

さようなら and good-bye!