Japan

21 days in Japan. We toured this country the most out of the four and it was one of our favorites. Our journey here began with an unintended early arrival to Osaka (not planned on the itinerary) due to the MERS incident going on in Seoul at the time. We spent the majority of time in Osaka, Kyoto, and Tokyo and used our JR pass very liberally to travel everywhere else in between. 

Day one in Osaka was beyond gorgeous. Clear blue skies and wonderfully warm weather. We visited the aquarium, stopped by Osaka Castle and the park around it and finished the day at an excellent hole in the wall sushi place. Unfortunately, it rained the rest of our time in Osaka but still, we enjoyed the shopping and eating despite the rain.

We then went to Kyoto where we stayed for almost ten days. Kyoto is really pretty but I gotta say, I was pretty templed out by the end of our trip there. There's tons of temples and shrines to visit and each has its own separate history. Out of all the temples, the Golden Pavilion was our favorite. We also visited Arashiyama where the famous bamboo grove and monkey feeding place is. What really impressed me in Kyoto was just how integral the nature setting was in Japan and we could see that everywhere. Whereas Hong Kong or Tokyo were a sea of concrete and glass, Kyoto made room for greenery to grow. The hardest part about Kyoto though was the nightlife, things tended to close pretty early and if we wanted to eat out late, that was difficult to find, even for American places like Mcdonald's.

During our last half of Kyoto, we activated the JR pass and traveled up and down the countryside. We visit Miyajima Island where the Itsukushima Shrine is. It was all very accessible and free (even the ferry) thanks to the JR pass. On the way back to Kyoto we stopped by Hiroshima and the Atomic Bomb Dome. For dinner, we decided to try out Kobe beef in Kobe and my God, it was probably the best meat I ever had in my life. We went to a more "reasonably" priced Kobe beef place - which comes out to about $100 USD for two people. We loved it so that much that we ended up going there a second time.

We also hopped on over to the Shimanami Kaido (also known as the Nishiseto Expressway) which is an expressway that spans over nine islands and 60 kilometers. You can rent a bike there for about $5 USD and bike the entire length of the expressway. We only biked a third of it but even with that, the bike ride was beautiful. The entire ride is peaceful and passes through the countryside of Japan. Each bridge is of different construction and architecturally beautiful in its own way.