The first thing many travel books like to point out is that countries you are visiting are not monolithic – one area will have certain traits, while another will be almost completely different in foods, personality, priorities. Some of this is that some “country” borders are very arbitrary, not taking into account geographic differences. And some appear to be because of long-reaching traditions or outlooks that have changed in some areas while staying the same elsewhere.

In the case of planning our trip, we didn’t want it to be city to city to city with a focus on being in the newest and modern accommodation – we mixed it up, even if it meant bouncing from an apartment to a hotel to something else.

The photos from above are our first place in Kyoto – the lovely Kinse Inn, which is a 200 year old building which is a pile of history. In some cases, you want to advocate for a business you thought the world should know about – in this case, they’re getting such great business over the years, we were the ones lucky enough to get slotted in.

Besides the clearly wonderful look of the place, was a sense of serenity and quiet within this area that just really slows down the intense pace of the trip. Kyoto is still a city, but the streets and wards were just bundled with all sorts of neat historic callbacks.

Kyoto and the surrounding area have a lot of space for the shrines, and so when we went to them, you got a real eyeful:

The differences have been delightful, to be sure.


Rachel and I are very strong-willed, independent people – neither of us is with the other because we have to be, or because we’ve suppressed or tamped down our own identities in favor of the other. This works great for things like being able to find things to do that we are looking forward to, but it also means we argue. We argue a lot, although who knows if the percentage is more or less than any other couples out there.

This is a very intense trip – 24 days of travel, with a half-dozen points to “hit” in a single day in many cases, and a lot of walking, arranging and preparation in a country where neither of us can be considered meaningfully competent in the native language. That means in many cases, it’s just the two of us, in a strange place, with our different styles.

Just like the hardest part of a mountain climb might not be the walking but keeping your entire party together and in check, the difficulty of three weeks of intense activity is our notable (and delightful) differences working together to achieve a fulfilling, enjoyable trip.

This is not the first large-scale project we’ve tackled together – the documentary we shot and produced was equally a case of finding strengths and working over differences to get a great end-project together. We got through that and the result was, in my opinion, something really special.

This is the same – the list we’re checking off and the quality of those items has been utterly terrific. We pulled into Kyoto with a new world of experiences to have, and a lost bag on the bullet train. After we worked through this problem, we went shopping – for candy, for a replacement part for my Fitbit, and along the way we stopped off for odd donuts and a gift for our host. Together, we touch all these things, and together we bring out the best in each other.

We discussed an interesting aspect to all this for myself – I’ve really wanted to come here for 20 years, and so I’d kind of built up this whole pile of expectations and list items inside my mind, parallel to the life I lived, and when we got here, it was a huge jumbly emotion pile for me as I was reconciling these half-buried dream-points with the realistic logistics of going from place to place and getting a chance to experience everything we’re finding, both planned and unplanned. It means that occasionally, I’ve crashed, and occasionally, I’ve wanted to do things way beyond a realistic way to push a person. If Rachel wasn’t here, also providing input and support, I suspect I’d spend half the trip never sleeping and half the rest of the time passed out face-down in a nice place I’d rented, getting nothing out of it. I’m more balanced with the two of us together on it, and the friction we get working together produces a fine experience, indeed.

I’ve written this little side-bar because there’s a real propensity in travel diaries like this to focus on the best, the greatest, the smoothest moments. There’s rough moments! But when the dust settles and you realize you couldn’t imagine anyone else standing there in the middle of a strange land and a million new potential paths and experiences – it’s all worth it.

On Blogging on Vacation

I never use the word “blog” anywhere in my normal online writing, but it applies here because “blogging” is an idea and an activity people use as a shorthand for “I will share every detail I can about something I’m doing”. It wasn’t a sufficient enough term for some people so we have “liveblogging”, “___blogging” (about the thing you’re blogging about) and all the rest.

We’ve set off on a 24 day journey here, in a strange new country and with a lot of moving parts. We’re now about 5 days in, and the cascade of things we’re doing that are being checked off the “to do” list is fantastic – cafes, shopping, walking, exploring, not saying “no” and dropping into “why not”. There’s very little in the way of doors and signs we’re going to be wondering about afterwards, and where they led or what they meant.


With this achievement cascade comes all the little bits that annoy – shortcomings in the nature of the WordPress platform, wanting to be both informative and also not have to sweat out every word, and so on. There’s also the intensity of basically a Partnership Boot Camp where if we don’t work out what’s good for the team in the allocation of the day and the energy, there’s going to be trouble ahead in some very nice places indeed. On the whole, we’re doing very well at it, and I’m sure some people seeing a list of what we did in a given day would think we’re talking about the entire trip.


I went on a pretty intense diet change this year to get myself out of a potential health spiral, and had lost something like 25 pounds before getting on the plane here. With the help of my Fitbit, so has begun the next part – walking. When we set up our lists of things we wanted to see (Rachel and I each listed 10 things, which I’m sure we’ll share at some point), I had a general one of “walk 100 miles during the trip”. That turned out to be a very low bar – when we’re walking 10-15 miles every single day at least, 100 miles ends up sounding like “try and take the garbage out to the curb”. Therefore, I set a nice new slightly-unrealistic goal – 262 miles, or the length of 10 marathons. That will be something and it’ll be a nail-biter to June 20th to see if I even come close. And along with this will be the next question in any diet change – can I regulate and enjoy myself food/drink wise in our Japan trip and emerge with weight loss intact and the increased strength? No idea, but if I come out of this thing with all my weight back I’ll have earned that on great food or I’ll have lost it doing same.

Outside of self-improvement, there’s a lot to observe in terms of how space and infrastructure work here in Tokyo. There’s combinations of efficiency (machines outside some restaurants to pre-order and pay for your meal before you sit down) and inefficiency (assigning 2-3 cops to direct traffic next to a truck loading spot). There’s stuff that falls under ideas of “why didn’t everyone do this” (entire buildings are used for unrelated stores and so you get 5 neat things in one place, instead of scattered around) and “why would anyone do this” (the Tsukiji Fish Market has to be the most dangerous thing I’ve been in, in years – imagine you could walk across the track or into the stables at Saratoga Race Track, during a race). I probably should mull more before any major “hot takes”, but the part of me who wanted to see a whole different way of living is definitely getting buckets of what it wanted.


Take these two little guys, which were in a Cat Cafe. (I realize once I’m in a Cat Cafe we’re already in crazyland).  These are… let’s go with slipper dispensers. Press the button and slippers come out the bottom. When you’re done with slippers, you put them into the slots at the top, and they drop in, and I assume (?) are in some way sanitized before eventually being dropped out for the next … slipper user.  Of course, they were too small for my Size 12s and yes, this seems pretty nutty for a country that is perfectly fine with air-drying clothes, but here we are, I operated a slipper dispenser before going into a cat cafe. New experiences: check.


I’ll have more to say soon, I’m sure. Until then – walking, photos and getting really confused as to why anyone would eat a Sake kit-kat.

Morning in Shinjuku

Good morning! I see from the blog that Rachel went ahead and worked on writing up some things before going to bed. I, of course, went face down right after the dinner and walk and got up incredibly early.



Rachel is completely asleep inside, which makes sense, if it’s 7 in the morning. I’ve been up since 6, started to do slight rearrangement of my stuff for walking around, and discovered this nice terrace coming out of our place. Gee, our host, was incredibly nice, and came out for dinner with no warning, and showed us some stuff even though we were basically out of our minds from lack of rest.


The place we’re staying at, this combination music studio and apartment, is a wonder of engineering. The amount of stuff that is in this space and the way that design fits in with feeling both spacious and economic, really makes me like oversized homes even less.

As the fact that I’m awake and talking about Rachel being asleep (and Rachel having written an entry last night while I was asleep) shows, we have slightly different schedules and slightly different ways we do things. The hardest part of us as a couple has always been synchronizing different outlooks into something that we can both work with. But over the years, it’s really become a pretty minor consideration and effort compared to how much we do have in common. For example, we have effortlessly chosen all sorts of places to eat and visit while out here, and on our walks together, the idea of going into further and further interesting fractal experiences as we stumble upon them fills us both with excitement.

This whole trip is a dream of mine. In my late twenties, head agog with anime and Japanese video games, I had this vision of the place that made me want to come and get involved in everything involving the city. Various ranges of finance and opportunity prevented me from doing it all throughout my thirties, and here in my forties I finally visit the country for the first time. This is an incredibly long time coming!


We’ll see how well we balance both writing about what we’re doing and doing it. Here’s to the beginning of a great trip!