I have always wanted to go to Japan, it is (or was) the top of my bucket list of places to travel. I can’t really pin point why. I studied the language at secondary school for a couple of years and got progressively worse at it after the first year where we spent most of our time learning origami. Before that I used to rush home from primary school to watch Astro Boy and Battle of the Planets, both are Japanese animae. So maybe it started there and got stuck in my subconscious.
Now, I love the contrast of tradition and modern, zen gardens and technology, geisha and cosplay, there is a beautiful balance to everything Japanese.
Have you travelled with miss Z overseas before – if so where else have you been?
No this was our first adventure overseas. We have been on a few ‘flying’ holidays within Australia. Noosa a couple of times with the grandparents and Zara has been to Sydney with her dad. Japan was a whole new adventure. Luckily at 7.5 years old she is a great age for travelling.
How did you prepare Miss Z for Japan and the cultural etiquette – any tips?
Oh dear, I don’t think I prepared her well at all. I hadn’t realised just how obsessed she was with natural disasters just before I planned this holiday so when I told her she burst into tears, thinking I was taking her off to die in a tsunami or volcano eruption! We had a long road ahead of us. Every time anyone mentioned going to Japan she got a massive scowl on her face and wouldn’t talk about it. Thankfully she has a wonderful teacher who helped turn things around and a love for ‘EJ12 Girl Hero’ books. One of these books is set in Japan! I didn’t get to prepare her at all for cultural etiquette but did get her excited about going and that was an achievement in itself.
What was the highlight of your trip?
The entire trip was a highlight, we were so lucky, the weather was lovely, the people we met were friendly and we got to experience so much, of course there were the neon lights of Tokyo and shrines by my favourite things include but are not limited to:
Seeing the cherry blossoms, they are my favourite flower/tree and were a massive reason to go in April. You really can’t imagine how spectacular they are until you see them with your own eyes.
Everything about staying in Hakone, I do prefer getting out of major cities when travelling. I loved seeing Mt Fuji in all its glory, visiting the Hakone open air museum which was a fabulous experience for both adults and children, they have a number of interactive installations for kids to climb in and on to keep them occupied while parents can take the time to appreciate the other sculptures. Going to Kowakien Yunessun the hot springs water park is something I probably wouldn’t have done if I hadn’t been travelling with miss Z but it was brilliant.
Getting to see a real ‘maiko’, an apprentice geisha girl in the ‘wild’ was a treat as they are quite an endangered species so again we were super lucky.
Any funny stories or cultural faux-pas you can share with my readers?
Hmmm miss Z is a creative little spirit and this shows through in what she wears, every single day of our trip she wore a brightly coloured tutu paired with a bright purple cat beanie. After dinner on the first night she was approached by a young Japanese woman saying ‘oh, kawaii, kawaii’ and gestured for me to take a picture of her with Miss Z. This wasn’t the only time a complete stranger wanted a photo of her because she was so ‘kawaii’. We found out this means cute!
Most people know about sushi rolls, however what was your favourite dish?
I was interested to learn that sushi is traditionally a food for special occasions and celebrations, it isn’t something Japanese people eat every day. We did have a few meals of beautiful fresh sushi but my favourite was okonomiyake (Japanese pancake). We had the opportunity to go out on a boat cruise where you got to cook your own okonomiyake for dinner. It was fun and delicious! Miss Z would say raman noodles in broth were her favourite and they came a pretty close second for me too, I love noodles!
What advice would you give to families thinking of travelling to Japan?
Go, if you get the opportunity you must go! Its amazing, there is something for everyone of all tastes, adults and children alike. Plan ahead and work out where you want to go so you can maximise your time. We found it very safe and easy to navigate around. I was nervous to start with given English is not spoken by many, but with technology these days it breaks down many barriers.
What is your must pack item you take with your (other than your camera)?
Besides spare camera batteries and the charger. I would have to say Sunglasses, comfortable shoes, a good moisturiser and layers. I know that isn’t just one item but I cant live without my sunnies and when travelling its easy not to drink enough water and get really dry skin. As a bit of a cold fish layer upon layer is very important, and a jacket. Who am I kidding, I would pack the kitchen sink if I could. The only problem is that then I would have to carry it!
Do you think miss Z has caught the travel bug like us – If so, what’s next on both of your bucket list?
I think miss Z is much more open to, and excited about travelling now. On the last day of our holiday she wrote me a lovely note thanking me for taking her to japan and hoped we could book another flight one day….the possibilities are endless. She wants to go back to japan but I am thinking somewhere European!
Thanks Jo & Miss Z for sharing your trip to Japan with Travellingfrenchies.com – love the cat beanie she is very Kwaii –
Based in Melbourne ? If so please contact Jo at titchy kid for any photography needs – she is awesome!
Planning a trip to Japan – here are some more blogs with posts on Japan that will you might find useful:
Journeys of the Fabulist