A Night in a Temple at Koyasan (高野山)

I wasn’t really sure what to expect when signing up for a night high in the mountains near Osaka in a traditional Buddhist Temple. Kris and Becky had both expressed an interest in doing this, and I’m never one to turn down a new experience, so here we are. 

At the door we are greeted by a monk. I wish I could say he was all dressed in traditional orange monk robes, giving off an ethereal peace and reminding me what dedication truly is. In all actuality, he seemed like a completely normal, everyday dude. His non-conforming plain grey t-shirt and brown sandals simply state that this man enjoys being comfortable in his time off. He greets us kindly and shows us in.   Continue reading

Here I Come, ‘Nam

By the time this posts, I’ll already be in Vietnam. Truthfully, I’ve done a ton of traveling as of late, and have many stories to share with you. That said, I’ve left for a 10 day excursion to Vietnam, and frankly, the plan is to avoid the internet at all cost. I’m even trying this rare thing called “not going on facebook.” I know, journey will be long and challenging. I can do it.  Continue reading

Momma Hakuba

When pulling into our hostel in Hakuba, skeptical doesn’t even begin to describe what I’m feeling. Imagine a little wooden house with signs advertising a bar/restaurant combo in flickering neon lights. No mention of there being a guesthouse. To make matters more interesting, there doesn’t seem to be anyone home. Kris and I take one look at each other and pull out our phones in search of another hostel to stay at. Just as we agree on a new place to check, the “open” sign flicks on.  Continue reading

Nagano’s Snow Monkey Park

Despite the apparent lack of snow, I decided the Snow Monkey Park in Nagano might be worth a visit. You know those pictures of monkeys bathing in hot springs with snow in their fur? Yea, those are taken at this place. We drove up some pretty windy, random roads in an effort to find this place. As we pulled up to the gates, Kris and I noticed that there was a 500yen fee to even get into the parking area. We debated turning around for about one minute, when, right on cue, a monkey strolls up and sits in the drive. Sold. We pulled our coins out faster than you can say “Nagano Monkey Snow Park.”  Continue reading

Blue Lakes and Fireflies

Lake Aokiko is nestled just south of Hakuba and is by far one of the most beautiful lakes I’ve ever seen. What makes this lake so amazing is the rich, teal color of the water. It’s a snow-melt fed lake that is one of the purist lakes in all of Japan. Nothing with a motor is allowed out on this lake, preserving it’s crystal clear state. The locals also believe that the water is so cold it will stop your heart. Although, in the summer time, it’s the perfect temperature for swimming, so don’t let that deter you.  Continue reading

Hakuba in The Off-Season: Summer

Summer vacation has finally began! It was a long time coming, with many days of hard work, but it’s such a relief to have some time off! What does one do with time off? Well, this girl gets in her car and drives, drives, drives.

I drove about 6 hours northeast to Hakuba, famous for hosting the downhill ski event in the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics. Hakuba means “white horse” as those who first came saw the mountains and thought of a white horse. It’s a small village that for most of the year is fairly quiet. However, come winter it is normally crawling with ski and snowboard enthusiasts from all over the world. My travel buddy, Kris, and I decided to try out this winter wonderland in the summer to see what we could see.  Continue reading

Matsushima- Still Afloat

If you’re staying in Sendai, a quick day trip could be to Matsushima. It’s definitely worth the small change and 30 minutes it takes to get there. Matsushima (meaning “pine island”) is coveted as one of the top 3 scenic views in Japan. Kris and I were slightly concerned as we knew that this area had been affected by the tsunami. To our great relief, it was still (mostly) in tact.  Continue reading