Thursday, February 16, 2017

National Geographic's Top 10 list

As we prepared for our trip, here was another site we studied. We covered 6 out of 10 items on National Geographic's list.

1.  Visit Kyoto’s Ancient Sites  The most iconic remnant of the city’s imperial past is the outrageously gilded Kinkakuji.

Yes, we went to Kyoto and found this temple and stood and took pictures of it for an hour. It was beautiful! And yes, this is our actual photo, not the website photo. We couldn't have taken a bad picture if we tried. The temple and the grounds and the water were stunning. 

2.  Overnight in a Temple  Nope, not on our to-to list. 

3.  Gallery Hop on "Art Island"
Picturesque Naoshima in the Seto Inland Sea is a standout on Japan’s contemporary art scene.

Yes, we did this! The 3 pictures above piqued our interest on the website and were inspiring enough to get us to this island. It was (sort of) on our way to Hiroshima. Not really on our way, but in the same general geographical area of Japan. We took a bullet train, a regular train, a ferry, a city bus and a hike. Worth it! Here our own pictures to prove that we were there. And these art installations were so random that it was fascinating. This gourd is huge and it just sits out on a random pier. 

4. Ski Niseko
This small ski resort town in Hokkaido boasts the finest powder in the country.
Well, we didn't go skiing. It wasn't on our travel agenda. But we were in the area, and we did see a LOT of snow on the Island of Hokkaido and we watched some skiing demonstrations.  Close enough?

5. Experience Traditional Accommodation
The gentle scent of tatami, the understated elegance of the interiors, the meticulous service, the outdoor hot spring baths, the multi-course meal of local seasonal produce, the calming silence—all combine to make a night at a traditional Japanese inn, or ryokan, an unforgettable experience.
Yes, we stayed in a traditional Resort. Except for sleeping on the floor, it was amazing! Every detail was beautiful and the dining hall experience was unforgettable. We were even given traditional Japanese footwear to wear when we were out and about in the resort, as our outdoor shoes were unacceptable once we entered the hotel room. The food was definitely traditional. I wish I had taken pictures of the beauty of the dining options overall, but instead I found myself taking pictures of the quite different than American food options. Different, but delicious. 

6. Soak in a Natural Hot Spring
There is something quintessentially Japanese about getting naked for a soak with strangers. In fact, the Japanese have been using communal onsen, or natural hot spring waters, to relax and heal for centuries. 

There was a communal hot springs bath in the resort we stayed in. They are definitely beautiful but we opted out. While planning this trip, we read the word 'Onsen' quite often regarding the hotels. We thought it meant resort. The word is often associated with an Inn or Resort near a hot springs, so we kept using the word, thinking we were talking about our hotel. We were actually talking about the communal bathing option AT the resort. So, . . . . no. No thanks. As we walked by the entrance (segregated areas) we did realize they were used by many people and all ages, though they were all seemingly Japanese. The experience didn't seem to freak anyone else out except us (the Americans). 

7. Explore Tokyo’s Old East Side
Sensoji, a Buddhist temple in Asakusa, is about as touristy as it gets in Tokyo.
Yes, we visited. Asakusa. And yes, it was about as touristy as it gets. 

8. Hike the Northern Alps
No. Would have been cool to do, but we were traveling during the winter. 

9. Tour Hiroshima’s Peace Memorial Park and Museum
Dedicated to victims of the atomic bombing of August 6, 1945, the Peace Memorial Park and Museum are poignant and moving monuments to the horrors of nuclear weapons.
Hiroshima was much too far for us to travel on our schedule, but thanks to the bullet train that zipped us across the country so fast, we were able to pull it off. I'm so glad we did. 

10. Sample the "B-Grade Gourmet
Japan is known for fine cuisine like sushi, tempura, and kaiseki, but its low-cost culinary underbelly (“B-grade gourmet,” as the Japanese call it) is just as mouth watering. The king of the B, ramen noodles, are ubiquitous, filling, and something of a national obsession
YES!! Our favorite bowl of ramen noodles was at a non-descript cafe on a cold night, right outside the train station in Muroran. Probably our favorite meal our whole trip!! I wish I would have taken a picture. It would still make out mouths water. Obviously it is nothing like American Ramen noodles. 

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