A^2 Trip to Japan - 2018

October 31, 2018
vacation travel remote work Japan

Views of Tokyo Tower

An old view of a new Tokyo Tower

This is a bit of a recap for my wife and I’s trip to Japan in the summer of 2018. I figured I’d write some of it down before it turned to a blur! Our goal for this vacation was to have enough time to appreciate everyday Japan. We also were taking a late honeymoon and celebrated our one year wedding anniversary in Japan. This trip was made possible by wedding “gifts” from family and friends through Wanderable at https://wanderable.com/hm/swanspoon. We really appreciated the monetary help for airfare, fancy meals, sake, arcades, and general fun. We are soo thankful that we had the support to make the trip more special than we could have made it alone!


A^2 Shoes visiting Kobe

The general trip timeline began on Sept. 6th as we flew from Portland, Oregon on Delta directly to Narita Airport. We stayed in Tokyo from Sept. 7th to the 19th in the Akasaka neighborhood, then took a Shinkansen (bullet train) down to Osaka, where we stayed from Sept. 20th through Oct. 3rd. Then we traveled by local trains to the Otsu and stayed on the edge of Lake Biwa. From there we rode the train into Kyoto to explore for a day. Finally, the day before the plane home, we traveled on the Shinkansen (bullet train) again to Tokyo, transferred to local trains to head to Narita for our stay at a simple hotel near the airport and be ready for our flight home to Portland on Oct. 8th. In each place we stayed, we explored nearby areas and towns, such as Kobe, Yamazaki, Tokyo’s Ikebukuro, Mitaka and Odaiba, for example. This strategy gave us a safe ‘home base’ at our hotels, and then we could explore as we liked.




Sept 7th, 2018 -> Sept 19th, 2018

Kitchen in our Apt in Tokyo

Kitchen in our Apt in Tokyo

MOXY Osaka Honmachi:


Sept 20th, 2018 -> Oct 3rd, 2018

The Moxy Hotel Lobby

The Moxy Hotel Lobby

Lake Biwa Otsu Prince Hotel, Otsu:


Oct 3, 2018 -> Oct 7, 2018

View from Prince Hotel room over lake Biwa

Beautiful views from the Prince Hotel room of Lake Biwa.

Hotel Nikko, Narita:


Oct 7, 2018 -> Oct 8, 2018

View from Narita Hotel

View from Narita Hotel Window

Favorite Sites & Photos!

General Gallery: https://www.icloud.com/sharedalbum/#B0oGrq0zwGNirz7 Here’s our curated photo gallery, with some of our favorite sites and scenes captured over our month-long adventure. We also wanted to highlight just a few of the memorable attractions we visited. Maybe they’ll even inspire your own trip to Japan!

Tokyo Megaweb: This is a museum/showroom run by Toyota, featuring different aspects of their automotive history and technology developments, located on the island of Odaiba. All kinds of car photos

Diver City: Also located on Odaiba, this is best known for the life-size Gundam that towers over the mall. Inside the mall features the Gundam Base, a shop/display of Gundam models, a great place for mecha nerds.

Sunshine City: Located in Tokyo’s Ikebukuro, it is a mega shopping district complete with a Pokemon Center, aquarium, planetarium, restaurants and so, so many shops.

Studio Ghibli Museum: Grown into the trees of Inokashira Park, the museum is designed to both transport visitors into the world of Ghibli while celebrating the art of animation in general. A worthwhile place for young and old fans alike, there are nods to much of the studio’s movies built into the stain glass, signs and rooftop garden. Be sure to plan ahead for this one and buy your tickets in advance.

Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan: One of the largest aquariums in the world, it is best known for the whale sharks and towering tanks, the biggest tank is over 9 meters deep, 34 meters long. The aquarium features sea life from the Pacific Rim, from the seals of Monteray Bay to coral of the Great Barrier Reef. Our many aquarium photos

Suntory Yamazaki Distillery: For whisk(e)y fans, this is a trip for the senses. Explore the museum’s tasting room to try elements of famous whiskies or you can splurge like we did for some awardwinning sips of aged whiskies. And there’s plenty to appreciate in the museum’s depictions of the passion of building a brand now sought around the world for its distintive approach.

Kyoto Train Museum: If you like trains, even just a little, this museum is the place to be. Not only does it document the eveolution of trains in Japan, it also highlights the different cars, technology and culture that’s sprung up around transportation. There’s a lot of interactive features for all ages, along with some great rooftop views of southwest Kyoto. Our Train Museum Gallery


Top Japanese Phrases

Firstly - don’t be afraid to ask, there are many English speakers in Japan especially so among younger generations, and many signs in many languages from around the world. Mastering Japanese is not essential for many activities. I did not have a lot of time to learn the language before hand, and I knew I’d be learning as I went. It’s important to try to learn enough to accomplish basic tasks, but also to be respectful and show you are making an effort. Here are the phrases from my notebook I worked on the most, and used the most while I was in Japan. This is not a text book perfect set of translations - because more study would be needed to get beyond these basic uses, but you will be understood with the below phrases. My best advice if you haven’t pursued a more complete study, is to learn some basics and watch what the local people do and say, if they say thank you during an activity, do the same. I’d love to learn more so that my next trip I can speak more confidently, which I’ll be starting with Duolingo to study up and go from there.

YouTubers to Watch

If you are considering going - give these and other videos by them a watch. Many videos will cover topics, locations, fun ideas and things to do, and help get you prepared for your trip!

Simon and Martina

Abroad in Japan

Paolo from Tokyo

Rachel and Jun