And here we are already at our second travel tip for XL families: the amazing, technological and mystical Japan!
Even in this case, if you believe that it is not a trip suitable for children, maybe you will change your opinion;
and even if you think it’s a trip out of your budget!
Let’s start immediately with some tips:
the first important investment of money, if you choose Japan as your next holiday destination, is the purchase of the “Japan Rail Pass (JR Pass)“;
this, obviously, after buying the airline tickets; for which the golden rule of advance booking is always a valid option, in this specific case of approx. 6 months, (travel in August / buy the tickets in Feb. / Mar.)
WHAT IS THE JR PASS?
It is a railway ticket for tourists only (Japanese can’t buy/use it).
Believe me: could sound like expensive but it’s absolutely not, you will travel everywhere without having to worry about Japanese signs, having to remember to drive on the right side and always having, in big cities, the problem of transit permission and – above all – parking…
There are different types of JR Pass, national and local, and different duration: 7 – 14 – 21 days
All information about which JR Pass is most suitable for your needs can be found in the official guide, that you can download at the following links;
or send us a message, we will be happy to send it to you! (the service is for free).
Third step (after having airline tickets and JR Pass in your hands/mailbox):
where to stay.
Avoid downtown hotels in large cities, e.g. you can use your JR Pass to travel on local trains or JR (Japan Rail) or buses and you can rent an apartment that will be a cheaper solution, for sure.
We have at your disposal an excel guide with relative costs regarding the itinerary that we have followed, which can be useful as a suggestion for planning your holiday, ask us for it! (the service is for free).
Now let’s describe about our holiday in Japan:
a journey of 15 days accomplished exploiting the potential of the JR Pass in the 14 days version, and visiting the following locations – we also included 4 days of beach, sea and sun in Shirahama in Wakayama (south) with the children:
- Tokyo 3 nights (apartment)
- Kyoto and surroundings: Nara, Inari 2 nights (guesthouse)
- Shirahama 4 nights (hostel)
- Hiroshima 1 night (hotel)
- Miyajima 1 night (hostel)
- Kyoto 2 nights (guesthouse)
- Tokyo 2 nights (hotel)
What you find below is the story of our journe: enjoy it, and as always if you have any questions to ask me or want more suggestions for managing your trip with children, don’t hesitate in contacting me!
OUR TRIP TO JAPAN! (AUGUST 2017)
Tokyo – day 0
First night out in Tokyo;
impressive silence that reigns everywhere, in the street as on the crowded trains, broken only by sirens of emergency vehicles and … by us!
But the Japanese are very kind, and they really appreciate the kids’ “arigatò”!
Tokyo – day 1
Visiting the Fujiko – Doraemon museum and night walk in Shinjuku.
Doraemon … a japanese cartoon handed down from generation to generation!
Tokyo – day 2 (morning)
Spirituality to be inspired and savored;
walking in the park where the crickets and birds are nonstop singing is something transcendental, that gives you a sense of peace …
the ritual of hand and mouth washing that comes before the universal prayer reconciles all beliefs and religions. Unbelievable
Tokyo – day 2 (afternoon)
Cat Cafè in Takeshita
Frequented by many Japanese, cats are considered a natural anti-stress
Tokyo – day 2 (afternoon)
Akihabara, the district of manga & anime, the Japanese cartoons.
Here they take the question in a very serious way, there are people going around in go-kart dressed like Mario! (Mario Bros. & co.)
The last picture is in front of the statue of the dog Hachiko, who every day went to wait for his master at the train station, even after he had passed away.
The story has inspired a film with Richard Gere
Tokyo-Kyoto – day 3
Transfer to Kyoto with the Shinkansen, the very fast “bullet train”.
It’s not necessary to mention the precision and cleanliness of these super-trains;
However, the cleaning is made by a team of ladies in a pink uniform, working in an astonishing synchrony mode.
To be honest, I have to say that Japanese don’t leave any kind of waste on the trains …
I would add, to give you a more complete picture, that yesterday in the avenues of the Meijin shrine there were people working to collect all the leaves that fell from the trees, in real time …
Kyoto – day 4
Arashiyama bamboo groove:
a forest of very tall bamboo reeds, a place where you can get away from sun, and where you can walk.
Nara – day 4
The park of sacred deer:
these cute animals are accustomed to human presence, so much so that they can be caressed without fear; unfortunately some of them are so accustomed in receiving food from humans that they “claim” it with a sort of some harmlessly goring, or even following and “stalking” you, trying to grab anything is in your hands or bag …
This could be a little sad thinking that these animals were once considered the “Messengers of Gods”;
above all, I think they should always be able to get food on their own, as Mother Nature teaches…
the Great Buddha and the Golden Buddha.
There are statues, places, monuments, stories related to them that can make vibrate the ropes of your soul and relief it, and this is something that flies over the religions.
This place gives you all of that.
Beyond the spectacularity in architectural terms of the largest wooden building in the world and the grandeur of the Great Buddha 15 meters high. and of its neighboring Golden Buddha, the buildings of the Nigatsu-do and Sangatsu-do with terrace hit by the sunset light is something really amazing:
in the land of the rising sun, even the sun setting is a wonder that fills the heart …
Inari (Kyoto) – day 5
Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine:
with its Torii in bright orange color, this Shinto-shrine is one of the most spectacular sites in Japan:
hundreds of portals, one after the other, climb up a sinuous path that leads to the Sacred Mountain of Inari, where devotees leave a Torii of different dimensions, with the inscription of their requests and prayers.
Looking at Francesco, Maximo and Milla climbing towards the sacred mountain, I saw in them the already defined traits of their respective personalities:
the spiritual guide, wise and carefree;
the indomitable warrior, a knight without fear;
the sweetness and firmness of the character.
Shirahama (1) – day 6
Sandanbeki Pirates Cave:
amore than 1,200 years ago, in these sea caves, beaten and corroded by the sea, Japanese pirates found shelter …
Sailors and fearless men, but with few scruples!
Shirahama (2) – day 6
What can I say, nothing is like the sea for kids!
Then, if the sea is the Pacific Ocean and the beach has a white sand imported from Australia – just like that! – nothing to add …
And then, a little ice cream!
Shirahama downtown – day 7
Dinner & fireworks on the beach!
Wakayama – day 7
Adventure World, a sort of huge zoo combined with water and amusement park.
I don’t like to see animals in captivity or making show for food, at all. Even when I was a child I didn’t like circus.
Someone says that animals are mostly born in captivity, so they do not suffer their actual condition.
Ok, try to explain this to the two bears in the pool separated by a glass, look at their expressions…
Paying the ticket means feeding this kind of business, and frankly speaking: I decided this would be one of our stages just because probably was the only chance we got to see pandas, I don’t think we’ll ever go to the China mountains.
The best thing happened in the day?
Maxi wants to see all the animals free.
A Greenpeace activist is growing up: that’s ok for you, mummy?
Wakayama – day 8
Day spent at Rinkaiura beach (natural sand, not like the Australian sand of Shirarahama beach).
Low water for meters and meters, the Japanese people “armed” to explore the rocks, with the water max 1 mt. high, dressed for diving.
I haven’t seen women swimming – thinking about it, not even men: the first approach to the water women have is sitting on a float, and men driving them … without getting too far from the shore.
I have a doubt:
maybe one of the signs in Japanese reported the possibility of sharks in the sea??
Eating homemade ramen and noodles, while Francesco …
angry like a snake!
*THE JAPANESE CUSTOM*
Every time a controller enters or leaves a carriage of the train, he/she greets the passengers with a bow, which has nothing formal, like their proverbial kindness
Hiroshima – day 9
Day dedicated to the rejection of stupidity and human ferocity.
We all know the historical, dramatic event; but it’s always good thing don’t forget and explain what happened to our children.
On August 6, 1945 was a beautiful summer day in Hiroshima:
people went to work, children to school.
At 8:15 am, the “Little Boy“, a nuclear bomb of about 4.4 tons, was dropped by the bomber Enola Gay and was detonated at 600 meters from the ground (in the first photo you see the exact hypocentre, where now is a car parking).
Devastation, horror, instant disintegration for the lucky ones at the temperature of 3,000-4,000 celsius degrees;
Many others, were not so lucky.
150,000 people died in that day and on the following years.
In Nagasaki 60,000.
Without bombing Japan with nuclear weapons the war would have continued for a long time against an indomitable Japan?
And deaths among American soldiers, and Japanese civilians and soldiers would have been many more?
Maybe. But we don’t know.
We know about what kind of the tragedy that was.
I decided not to publish strongest images, nor stories, even if I think that, sometimes, to change their way of thinking of some people the only way is to hurt their sensibility, because even small barriers when time goes by can turn into barricades, due to the people ignorance of facts.
I don’t like the world we are going to give to our children.
That’s the reason why we get there, in Hiroshima.
Monument to Sadako Sasaki
The 2-year-old Sadako was at home, at about 1.7 kilometers from the point of explosion.
The violent air shift threw her out of the window.
His mother ran out to look for her, and found her not far from the house. Growing up, Sadako became strong and athletic; but in 1954, at the age of 11, she was diagnosed with a severe form of leukemia, a consequence of atomic bomb radiations.
Her best friend, Chizuko Hamamoto, told her of an ancient legend: who create with the technique of Japanese origami a thousand cranes – a symbol of a long life bird – could have a wish come true.
Chizuko herself made the first one for her, and Sadako continued doing, hoping to be able to get back to racing soon.
However, her desire was not only related to this; Sadako was dedicating her fullest effort to the making of origami, because she believed that in this way she would put an end to all the sufferings, taking care for all the world war victims, bringing them peace.
During the fourteen months she spent at the hospital, Sadako made cranes with any paper at her disposal, including packs of his drugs and the wrapping paper of gifts of other patients.
She died on the morning of October 25, in 1955.
Sadako completed only 644 cranes, while the remaining 356 were completed by her friends. All the cranes were buried with her.
After his death, her friends and classmates published a collection of letters to raise money to build a memorial for Sadako and other children who died as consequence of Hiroshima’s atomic bomb.
In 1958, a statue of Sadako was placed in the Peace Memorial Park, representing her with a golden crane towards the sky.
At the foot of the statue, ther is a plaque with this phrase: “This is your cry, our prayer, peace in the world“
Miyajima-Hatsukaichi – day 10
this place was declared UNESCO heritage site, and was previously inaccessible, since it was considered a sacred place.
However, people try to preserve its purity, removing the alternation of life and death.
For this reason, pregnant women and people with very serious, terminal health problems can’t walk on the island near the sanctuary.
Of course, even here you can see the sacred deer strolling down the street (and in the ferryboat station).
Another peculiarity, the Torii of access to the red sanctuary is located in the middle of the sea;
but due to the tide, at a certain time of the day, the sea retreats in a very incredible way, and the Torii can be reached walking.
We had lunch, and from there to a few hours, we were able to get close to this ancient Torii.
Kyoto – day 11
(on the way back)
Evening spent between onsen – the Japanese bath ritual that, after some initial perplexities about the Japanese concept of nudity, the kids have practiced in a relaxed way, following all the ritual steps;
After, we walked to the Gion district, famous for the presence of Geishas; now disappearing, due to the very hard school training.
Kyoto – day 12
Visiting the Manga Museum and the Zen temple of Kōdai-ji.
The Japanese take the manga in very serious way; there are satirical, educational and formative manga comics, representing the youth Japanese people way of life, etc .;
and they spend hours reading them in these rooms, in a religious silence.
In this museum there are over 300,000 mangas, from 1945 to today.
The Zen temple of Kōdai-ji has a beautiful stone garden and Japanese maples, one very similar to our ones and a beautiful view from the woods on the nearby Ryozen Cannon memorial, dedicated to all the unknown soldiers of World War II, and inside there is a gigantic, white Buddha.
On one of the external portals there are various swastikas: this symbol is associated with Buddhas in Buddhist and Hindu religions, as a sign of prosperity.
The most of us associate it exclusively with Nazism, after it was borrowed by the German National Socialist party, but it is a symbol that has a completely different genesis …
Tokyo – day 14
Visiting the Tokyo Tower, with a 360° view of the city.
Unfortunately, Mount Fuji is not clearly visible, as it is cloudy. But the city view is amazing!
There’s a nice story about a “mistery ball,” found in 2012 during restorations and replacement of the antenna – this was the first restoration since the year of construction of the tower, in 1958.
Nobody knows how this ball has been put up there!
And to finish the day in the best way… the original Japanese sushi!
That Francesco didn’t eat, of course!
Tokyo – day 15 (morning)
Visit the Tsukiji fish market:
we start with a breakfast at 8:45 am with grilled swordfish skewer;
continuing with Maxi, who tastes anything in range, and Milla who imitates it; we finish eating tempura (fried fish) at 10:30 am.
Francesco and mummy Lorena: out of games
Tokyo – day 15 (early afternoon)
We move to the district of Odaiba to visit the Miraikan, museum of Science and Technological Innovation, to admire androids and robots, including the latest manufactured by Honda: Asimo.
We are admired by the robotic evolution, but also a little disconcerted:
here in Japan people think that in the future there will be a lot of people who will live – by choice or necessity – alone, and so they are developing a pet-robot.
And speaking of androids and Blade Runners:
can you to recognize in the photos the human girl and her android copy??
As their creator says:
“What is being humans?” …
A question which is not so simple to answer, in my opinion.
And we did not miss a visit to the nearby mega-robot Gundam and its store, where you can find tons of scale models!
For the girls, the option is the original Hello Kitty store!
Tokyo – day 15 (evening)
Let’s close this full day with a Japanese-style dinner on a boat in the wonderful Tokyo bay, looking at the skyline.
Goodbye, beloved city of Tokyo …
LAST – BUT NON-LEAST – TIPS: THE WONDERFUL JAPANESE WC!
If you want to know the guidelines instructions for the complicated Japanese WC, don’t panic … well, this service is not for free! 🙂
We had to recruit a team of engineers to solve the problem!
Final considerations about Japan
The purity, the reluctance and at the same time the elegance of the gestures and the generosity of the Japanese people have left us an indelible sign in our hearts.
Like the time we were waiting for the bus, back from the beach, with our feet soaking in a natural hot water tank nearby the bus stop.
Next to us, a Japanese mum and dad, no longer young, with a disabled son, who insisted on giving as gift to our children a water game, and then they left us smiling…
who knows what they thought at that moment.
Or like that other time, when an elderly gentleman saw Milla walking proudly with his kimono, and to give her some sweets he had in the shopping bags…
perhaps he, too, fascinated by this Western girl, respectful about Japanese traditions.
As I always say, respect the traditions of the countries you are going to visit.
In Japan you always greet, don’t stop until they don’t;
don’t try passing the money directly from your hands to other people (the money must be put in the bowls);
don’t blow your nose in a noisy way, and these are just some examples, but are nothing more than rules of good manners.
And anyway you are traveling, open yourself to the World. And let yourself be surprised by the World.