We flew into Tokyo, and stayed three nights in a Airbnb overlooking Tokyo Bay. We went to an indoor amusement park, an onsen resort, a volcanic area, and a garden, then took the shinkansen to Kyoto. In Kyoto we visited a cat cafe and rode bikes to a monkey park and bamboo grove. We hiked between mountain temples and across the Imperial Palace park. We took the train to Kinosaki Onsen and stayed in a traditional Japanese inn. We went to public baths in town and the walked on the beach and rocky coast of the Sea of Japan. On our way to Osaka, we rode a wooden boat through a canyon with rapids. We walked Osaka's neon-lit Dotonbori district and around Osaka Castle, then stopped at Spa World before our flight back home.

Tokyo - Odaiba

We stopped at the JR office in the airport to buy Suica cards, which magically worked on almost every form of transportation. After a long train ride to Odaiba, we had dinner at a Family Mart down the street from our apartment tower, then went to bed.

We flew ANA nonstop from San Jose to Tokyo

On our way to Odaiba, we passed by the giant (100m) ferris wheel.

We stayed in a 23rd floor Airbnb overlooking the Rainbow Bridge and Tokyo Bay.

daytime view from our balcony


In the morning, we walked from our apartment to Joypolis, an indoor amusement park run by Sega.

We went on the Tokyo Halfpipe - stomping closer to the white line in the center produces more spins on the sides.

Joypolis had a bunch of screens that transformed our movements

We bought a Peach Coke from a vending machine.

Evan's favorite screen - a throwing motion created bubbles on the screen.

This attraction involved racing other players (as a cartoon character) by running on a real treadmill.

Evan and Paul went in this spinning ball.

Evan stood in front of a camera, then appeared on the wall as a manatee.

view of our apartment building from outside Joypolis

We stopped by a gacha (capsule machine) store between Joypolis and the train station. Evan got a cat with a leaf pet inside.

Hydrangeas in front of the train and Fujifilm building

Oedo Onsen

In the afternoon, we took the train a few stops to Oedo Onsen, a hot springs resort. We changed into yukata and got bracelets to scan for food and spa treatments. We went to the foot baths, fish therapy pool, and hot mineral pools.

in our yukata (robes) in the tatami room at Oedo Onsen

We all did a 15 minute session at the outdoor fish therapy pool, where little fish nibbled dead skin from our feet.

We had edamame, noodles, and a pickle on stick for dinner.

For dessert, we had crepes filled with whipped cream.

walking back to the dressing rooms through the Edo-era restaurants and shops

night time view from our balcony


The next morning, we took the train to Shinjuku, and bought an all-access pass for the many forms of transport around Hakone. We took an electric train, cable car, ropeway, bus, and pirate ship in a loop around the area. It was too rainy to see Mt. Fuji, but it wasn't crowded at all.

We saw cloud-covered mountains from the train

We had lunch at a ninja-themed cafe.

We rode the Hakone Tozan Cable Car up about 200 meters.

We couldn't see the Great Boiling Valley from here, but we could smell the sulfur.

We bought eggs with slack shells from being boiled in the hot sulfur spring. Eating one supposedly adds 7 years to our life.

We took a pirate-themed ship across Lake Ashi.

Hakone used to be an important checkpoint along the Tokaido highway between Tokyo and Kyoto

We walked along part of the old Tokaido highway, lined by cedars planted more than 350 years ago.

Hamarikyu Gardens

We returned our apartment key, took the train into Tokyo, and left our bags in a train station locker. We walked around the Tsukiji fish market, and then on to Hamarikyu Gardens.

We walked through Hamarikyu Gardens; we had it almost to ourselves because of the rain.

We stopped at the teahouse pavilion in the lake for tea and snacks.

matcha tea and sweets overlooking the lake

This pine is over 300 years old.

We used our Suica IC cards for trains, buses, lockers, vending machines, and convenience store snacks.

We rode the shinkansen (bullet train) from Tokyto to Kyoto. It goes up to about 180 mph, and got us there in just over two hours.


We left our bags in a locker again, then walked through the Nishiki Market area toward a cat cafe. We walked around the Gion for a little while, then took the train to our Airbn on the western edge of the city.

We visited a cat cafe in Kyoto right at dinner time.

We walked through the historic area of Kyoto around dinner time.

Arashiyama Monkey Park

We rode bikes from our Airbnb down the main street of the Arashiyama, and parked them at the base of a hill. We walked about 15 minutes to the monkey park; we saw lots of semi-wild monkeys and a panoramic view of the city.

Over 170 Japanese macaque monkeys run loose at Iwatayama Monkey Park

We saw lots of cute baby monkeys, born in the spring.

The park is at the top of a hill overlooking Kyoto.

view overlooking the visitor center and the city

The visitor center sold peanuts to feed to the monkeys

Arashiyama bamboo grove

We parked our bikes again to walk through the famous bamboo grove.

soft green moss near a temple in the bamboo grove

After dinner, we rode bikes fron our Airbnb. We rode past small rice paddies and gardens.

Kibune and Kurama

We took a train and then a bus to the village of Kibune, north of Kyoto. We walked up and down the single narrow street along the river while we waited for our number to come up at Hirobun's flowing noodles seatings. After the noodles, we hiked up and over a mountain path through template grounds to the village of Kurama.

We walked up the road along the river in Kibune.

We passed the torii (gate) of the Kifune Shrine on our way uphill.

We peeked over the walls at the dining areas set up over the river.

waiting for our noodles to start flowing; three bamboo tubes carry noodles to the people on our right

We grabbed our noodles with chopsticks as they floated by

get ready, our noodles are coming!

We walked up the steps to visit the Kifune shrine.

There's been a shrine on this spot for more then 1,600 years.

We walked back down to the road along a lantern-lined staircase

We found the bridge over the river and started up the steep trail over the mountain toward Kurama.

The trail went up steeply through cedars and other trees.

We stopped to rest near this temple.

We saw a sign indicating the highest point on the trail, then started down the other side.

Buddha with glowing eyes

We could see for miles from the courtyard in front of the Kurama-dera temple.

A dragon statue and moss covered roof guarded this spring.

Evan ran down the lantern-lined path toward the cable car.

After walking about half way down, we took the cable car the rest of the way.

model of the Kibune (west) side of the ridge; we walked up from the river

model of the Kurama (east) side of the mountain; we walked down to the cable car

Evan posed in front of a Tengu (mythical creature)

Back in Kyoto

Back in Kyoto, we walked through the park surrounding the Imperial Palace on our way to the train.

The train station had a map showing the flower forecast for the day. It included roses, hydrangeas, and irises, in four states: only buds, starting to open, fully open, petals fall.

We returned to a train station we hadn't used before, and discovered an art exhibit called the Kimono Forest of Arashiyama. The pillars contain traditional textile patterns, and are lit up at night.

A carved dragon ball guards the fountain, but a sign invited us to touch the water for good luck.

control panel for the Washlet toilet in our Airbnb. It was motion activated; it lit up, turned on the seat heater and sprayed the inside whenever we passed the bathroom door.

Our Kyoto Airbnb had a Japanese style bath: sit on the stool and use the handheld shower and/or the bowl under the spout.

Kinosaki Onsen

We left Kyoto in the morning, and took the train northwest to the small town of Kinosaki Onsen. The town is famous for its seven public baths. We stayed in a ryokan (traditional Japanese inn), and had fancy kaiseki dinners in our tatami room. We walked around the town in wooden sandals and yukata, wearing a QR-code pass for the baths.

In the morning, we took the train northwest toward Kinosaki Onsen.

rice fields with steep mountains rising behind

bird list in our room

Our room had a balcony overlooking the river and mountains.

We saw lots of storks from our room.

Storks hung out on the islands in the river.

We stayed in a traditional Japanese room with tatami mat floors and paper screens. When we arrived, they showed us our yukata robes and sandals, then served tea and sweets.

We wore yukatas and wooden sandals to walk around town. We bought lunch in a FamilyMart.

looking along Kinosaki's main street

We ate our Family Mart lunch sitting on the wall of the willow-lined canal.

After lunch, we walked to Ichinoyu, one of seven public baths in Kinosaki Onsen. Our hotel included pass good at all of them - scan the QR code to get in.

Inside, we we left our clothes in a locker, rinsed off at a stool with hand shower, then went into the hot pools. Ichinoyo featured a cave bath (this is their photo).

We walked to nearby Goshono-yu next. Evan enjoyed making bubble potions in the bathing area with unlimited hot water and body soap.

Goshono-yo was the prettiest of the six bath that we visitied; it had an amazing outdoor area with a waterfall.

After visiting two baths, we needed a cold drink from one of the many vending machines.

Evan tried and liked Pocari Sweat, which is kinda like gatorade but sounds a lot funnier.

Back at our ryokan, we had a many-course kaiseki meal. Our server brought course after course to the table in our room. This dinner had two courses of wagyu beef: thin slices that we cooked in a hot pot, and big chunks that we grilled.

mid through; our waitress didn't speak English and there wasn't a menu, so we didn't know what most of what we ate was

grilling chunks of wagyu beef, shishito peppers, and pumpkin

After dinner, we went to Jizou-yu, which is popular with locals. It had plants growing in a window (lit from above), and very very hot water.

walking along the street at night in our yukata and wooden sandals

The canal is lit up at night

When we got back, they'd moved our table and set up futons for sleeping.

Breakfast also had lots of courses, including picked vegetables, a soft boiled egg, shellfish miso, and fish. There was also soft serve ice cream.

Takeno Beach

We also took the train one stop northwest to Takeno Beach on the Sea of Japan. We played on the sand, hiked onto the Nekozaki Peninsula, and walked along the coast.

We took the train one stop to Takeno, then walked about 15 minutes to the beach. It was too cold to swim, and we had the beach to ourselves.

These baby birds were nesting in the entryway to the men's bathroom.

We followed the trail onto the Nezozaki Peninsula. It went up right away, with a great view of the beach and town.

There was a basket of walking sticks available to borrow at the trailhead!

There were lots of carved buddhas along the trail.

After a picnic area, the trail got narrower and steeper; the sign said it was 1km and 50 minutes.

Trees closed over the trail and made it like a tunnel.

The rocks were covered with funamushi - like giant roly-polys that move like cockroaches.

We walked along the rocks between the ocean and the west side of the peninsula.

Looking toward the peninsula that we'd just walked on.

The coast on this side was very steep and rough.

Evan showing how big the funamishi get.

We think this a black kite - we saw lots of them flying over the beach.

Black kites have a wingspan of about 4.5 feet

rice paddies along the train between Takeno and Kinosaki Onsen

back in Kinosaki Onsen

After the beach, we visited two more public baths before going back to our hotel for dinner.

Irises in bloom in front of the Kinosaki Onsen train station

Yanagi-yu had a footbath outside.

Inside, Yangi-yu had giant cedar beams. This is the entry area where we left our shoes; the blue curtain leads to the men's locker room.

view from our room across the river

We ordered a kid's plate for Evan on the second night.

appetizer plate and crab legs to start

sushi platter with flying fish

ready to go out on the town

Mandara-yu had small outdoor cedar tubs.

At breakfast, we thought these were rice noodles with the greens, but they were dried tiny fish.

Hozu-gawa river boat ride

On the way to Osaka, we got off the train in Kameoka to go on the Hozu-gawa river boat ride. The 16km route winds through a steep forested ravine; guides use poles and oars to steer the boat past giant boulders.

We (and our luggage) went on the Hozu-gawa river boat ride. We rode down a steep canyon with rapids; one guide ran up and down with a pole, while another used an oar.

Our guide told stories about the river and got people to cheer as we descended.

Running up and down and pushing the boat with a pole looked like really hard work; he switched with another guide about halfway through.

We passed by two deer on the river bank.

Cedars grew on the steep banks on either side.

lots of flowers on the rocks along the river

When we got close to the end, a snack boat pulled alongside. We got sodas and a pickled cucumber on a stick; they also sold fresh grilled squid and other snacks.

Evan with a pickled cucumber on a stick


We continued by train to Osaka, and checked in to the KKR Hotel just across the street from the Osaka Castle. We went out to Dotonbori to eat dinner and see the neon lights.

view of Osaka Castle from our room in the KKR Hotel

Evan played with the pop-up ninjas that our ryokan hosts gave him as we left Kinosaki Onsen

We went to a yakiniku (Japanese BBQ) restaurant for dinner. We grilled nine kinds of beef, garlic in oil, and shishito peppers at our table.

We did not get one one of these from a gacha machine.

After dinner, we walked around the Dotonbori area in Osaka.

In this place, you can go fishing in a big indoor pool (catch and release). We just looked in.

Evan got a squishy panda from a gacha machine.

on the bridge at the western edge of Dotonbori

We rode up 77m above the canal on the elliptical Dotonbori Ferris Wheel

about to go up

view of Osaka at night

looking down toward the canal

Osaka Castle

In the morning, we walked across the street to the Osaka Castle. We walked over the moat and around the grounds of the park surrounding the castle.

Evan playing with the tablet with Osaka Castle in the background

crossing the outer moat toward one of the giant gates leading to the castle

Osaka Castle was originally built in the late 1500s, and was destroyed and rebuilt several times. This version dates from 1931.

The outer moat separates the castle from modern Osaka skyscrapers.

walkway leading over the moat

umbrella check outside our hotel

Spa World

After checking out of our hotel, we went to Spa World until it was time to go to the airport for our flight home. Spa World has themed onsen from around the world, and a swimming area with lazy river and giant slides.

promo photo of the European zone baths (men's side when we visited)

promo photo of the Asian zone baths (women's side when we visited)

Evan and Kimberly rode the giant (150m) water slide on the 8th floor swimming area