An image of fireworks in the sky with the many buildings of Tokyo all around. Tokyo Tower is in the center of this image.

Temples, Soba, and Bags, Oh My! Celebrating New Year’s in Japan

3!..2!…1! Happy Pretend-the-world-isn’t-burning-down-around-us-Day! Happy New Year! Midnight strikes! Cue the kiss, or awkward “Do we hug, or high five? Or…” with your buddies that you may not be on intimate terms with. Go in for that hug! Be bold! It’s a new you, baby. And whether you’re breaking out of your shell over the New … Read more

Sensoji Temple at Night with lit up laterns in front of it.

Sensoji Temple: History, Food, and Amazing Festivals

Sensoji isn’t the just oldest temple in Tokyo. It’s actually much older than Tokyo itself.  The temple drew crowds when Tokyo was a sleepy fishing village. It’s still popular today, despite the many attractions Tokyo offers.  The skyscrapers in the area dwarf the main hall, distinctive gates, and five-story pagoda. Don’t be put off by … Read more

Kinkakuji The Golden Pavilion in Kyoto - Shot from afar with the pond and trees surrounding it.

Kinkakuji: Tourist Trap or Treasure?

The key to enjoying Kinkakuji (aka The Golden Pavilion) is to get there early and adjust your expectations. Is Kinkakuji Worth Visiting? Out of all sights to see in Kyoto, the glittering walls of Kinkakuji evokes the greatest expectations—and unfortunately, often leads to the greatest disappointments. Kinkakuji was not intended to be a temple. The … Read more

Kiyomizudera Temple at Dusk, with people on the veranda.

Kiyomizudera Temple: Kyoto’s Finest Temple

Photos of Kiyomizudera always show the temple’s signature wooden verandah, constructed in the Edo period, framed by sakura or maple leaves—the temple is incredibly popular in spring and autumn. A temple this size is rarely seen outside of Tokyo and Osaka. Kiyomizudera’s many corners conceal hidden surprises. Atmosphere Despite its status as one of Kyoto’s … Read more

Ginkaku-ji The Silver Pavilion in Kyoto surrounded by trees and pond.

Ginkaku-Ji: The “Silver” Pavilion

Ginkaku-ji (Silver Pavillion) is often associated with the similarly named Kinkaku-ji (Golden Pavilion). Kin means gold, and gin means silver. Like Kinkaku-ji, Ginkaku-ji was first the retirement villa of a shogun, later converted into a Buddhist temple. Both have the focus of a beautiful pavilion beside a pond. The similarities stop there. Ginkaku-Ji:  Silver Doesn’t … Read more