It’s been over four years since we visited Japan, the trip of our dreams, and we can’t stop talking about it. We’ve since been on many other amazing adventures, but we all agree that our visit to Japan was one of the most magical family vacations we’ve ever been on.
We sampled unique foods, slept in a ryokan, did our best to try and speak some Japanese and learned about as many of the local customs and cultural differences that we could. We spent every moment of each day transfixed and fascinated by everything we saw, experienced and tasted. We left knowing that this was a place we’d find our way back to…
I’m not sure if our visit to Japan fell during a sweet spot in the boy’s lives when they were still very open to new experiences and travel with the parents, but we all wholeheartedly embraced every aspect of our visit
The kids are older now and it’s harder to get them excited (at least about traveling with us), but back then we discovered that one way to get them engaged was to bring a “friend” and by friend I mean a Batman Lego figurine I happened to find in my bag while waiting to board the airplane.
On a whim I decided to take a photo of our stow-a-way Batman atop our little one’s Batman suitcase, and from that moment on, he became our constant companion. The boys loved posing him in different situations, costumes and locations and he became the mascot of our trip.
At times we wondered if posing him in certain places might be disrespectful, and we did our best to gauge the situation. We noticed that Hello Kitty was prominently featured everywhere we went, even in places that felt more sacred, and so took our cues from local culture.
Batman Goes to Japan
Thanks to jet lag Batman was up with the sun, and so were we, but with a view this spectacular we were hardly complaining. Our room was on the 43rd floor of the Park Hyatt Tokyo, which is located in Shinjuku’s second tallest building.
Like many visitors to Tokyo we made a trip to the famous Tsukiji Fish Market. We spent the morning exploring all the different offerings, fish of course, but also spices, dried goods, vegetables, flowers, housewares and more.
After seeing all that fresh fish for sale we were eager to try some ourselves. We found a small sushi restaurant within the fish market where we sampled exotic flavors including urchin and roe.
Located in the Asakusa district the Senso-ji Temple is Tokyo’s oldest temple. The approach leading up to the entrance of the temple is called Nakamise-dori and it is lined with souvenir shops selling everything you could ever imagine.
The Temple itself is beautiful and surrounded by many other places of interest, but this is a very popular tourist destination and with more than 30 million visitors each year you can expect it to be extremely crowded.
The Meiji Shrine is located adjacent to Yoyogi Park in Shibuya. Built in 1920 the Meiji Shrine is dedicated to the deified spirits of Emperor Meiji and his wife, Empress Shōken.
Once you’ve visited the shrine take some time to explore the surrounding gardens, which have many things to see as well including, a tea garden, royal fishing ponds, and the largest Otorii Gate in Japan.
We loved our visit to the food stalls within Ueno Park and with so many unique and delicious options we were hard pressed to decide.
We ate everything from corn on the cob and onigiri to octopus and yakisoba before running out of money. Keep in mind that many places in Japan don’t take debit or credit cards.
The Bentendo Temple is located on an island in Shinobazu pond within Ueno Park and is dedicated to the Goddess of good fortune wealth, music and knowledge.
Also Within Ueno Park is the face of what was once a very large statue of Buddha. This is the second great Buddha to stand in this spot, the first was destroyed in an 1647 earthquake.
In 1923 the second one was also heavily damaged in an earthquake. With the exception of the face the rest of the statue was melted down to make weapons during WWII.
Springtime in Japan is breathtaking. The branches are bursting with millions of fluffy pink and white cherry blossoms.
As many as two million people come to see the blossoms each year. This activity is called Hanami which literally translates to “flower viewing” and is a popular activity both during the day and at night.
Famous for the literally thousands of vermilion torii gates, which line it’s pathways, Fushimi Inari-Taisha, is one of the 80,000 Shinto shrines throughout Japan.
The walk to the top of Inari Mountain takes around two hours and while it is a steady climb it’s not terribly difficult. Along the way there are a few places to stop and get a bite to eat or a drink.
Tofukuji Temple is the oldest and largest Zen temple in Japan and there is a different type of garden represented on each side of the building. I would love to come back one day too see the autumn leaves for which it is so well known for.
It’s no surprise that Kinkaku-ji Temple is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Japan. Not only is it located in a beautiful setting, but the top two floors of the building are covered in gold leaf.
There are more than 5.5 million vending machines in Japan. That’s one vending machine per every 23 people. Most of them sell drinks, but you can buy just about anything from them, including bread.
As we often do when traveling with the boys we visited the zoo. We had a nice afternoon and saw quite a few animals that we’ve never seen in any western zoos.
Kit Kat bars are the number one candy in Japan. The name Kit Kat sounds very similar to a Japanese saying, “Kitto Katsu” or “Kitto Katto,” which is a good luck term meaning “you will surely win” and it is often said to students before a big exam. The Kit Kat bar is so popular that a Kit Kat shop was opened in the Tokyo department store Seibu.
Batman joined us for all our activities throughout the trip, from getting some shut-eye and doing our laundry to riding the subway, eating traditional foods, drinking sake and swimming in the hotel pool.
What do you do to keep your kids engaged while traveling? Have you ever brought along a “friend?” Let me know in the comments below. If you’re interested in learning more about our adventures in Japan you can read about them in these other posts:
Japan Tips For First Time Visitors
Japan Adventures in Cuisine
Japan Three days in Kyoto
Japan Tokyo No Wasabi Kudasai
Japan Kawaii Means Cute & Other Japanese Cultural Phenomena
Japan Tokyo A City of Many Contrasts
Japan Experiencing Hanami
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Your trip to Japan looks quite comprehensive. The ‘batman’ is very well travelled. I love the shrines, especially your prespective looking down the row of gates at Fushimi Inari-Taisha.
We did well considering we only had 10 full days, but I definitely want to find my way back!
SeasonedTravelr, aka Jessica
What an incredibly adorable idea! Makes for some great photos, too. I’m absolutely dying to visit Japan… those cherry blossoms are the stuff of dreams! And don’t get me started with the food… Thanks for sharing your awesome trip! #farawayfiles
Thank you! It was a whim, but worked so well the entire trip! Funny enough the next time we vacationed people wondered where Batman was… Japan is an absolute dream destination!
what a wonderful trip! and cool pics with Batman:) #farawayfiles
Thank you! It was an amazing trip!
I love your Batman pics, so funny! What a fantastic trip to take your boys on. I’m looking forward to taking my boys on further flung adventures. I love that the Japanese have a word for blossom admiring. #farawayfiles
Thank you! It was such a fantastic adventure! Our boys are still talking about it. The blossom viewing was one of the most magical travel moments we’ve ever had. At the end of the season they fall from the trees like snow.
Erin Gustafson | Oregon Girl Around the World
Haha! Awesomesauce. “I only work in black. Or very dark grey.” We love Lego Batman! Although I think my older teens might be mortified by my suggestion that we take our along. What a dreamy trip for you all. Would LOVE to do Japan. Someday! Thanks for sharing your fabulous photos and upbeat energy with #FarawayFiles. Cheers from Denmark.
I’m pretty sure my teen would be mortified now, but this was years ago, so it worked wonders! These days we can hardly get him to stay in the same room. Ha ha! It was such a dreamy trip I hope to return sooner than later.
Awesome way of getting your kids engaged and excited in the trip! My brother just got back from Japan a couple of weeks ago and he went to a few of the same places that you guys did. I’m so jealous, Japan is on my bucket list now. #FarawayFiles
Thanks! They really loved this activity. Japan is truly magical I hope you make it there someday.
We took a school teddy bear which belonged to my teacher sister in law on a 6 month trip around South America. We photographed him everywhere and sent pictures back to her to share with her class. ‘Teddy on tour’!! Oh wow Japan. It looks so fascinating and is getting ever closer to the top of my travel wish list. This post really gives a lovely flavour of what to expect (without without batman!!)
Did you write about it? If so, I’d love to see the photos. Sounds like an amazing adventure! Thank you! Japan is so fascinating and fascinating and so different than what we are used to.
What a fun way to get your boys excited about traveling, and what a different view point it offers us. Japan through the eyes of Batman haha – and I seriously need to check out the temple with gold leaf floors! That must’ve been awesome! #FarawayFiles
They really loved it! I think they might throttle me now, though then again maybe not? It was pretty fun!
It looks like Batman had a fabulous time in Japan! I love hearing about Japan, it’s one place I would have loved to visit, my older kids began being interested in Japan many years ago and we love the food. My eldest daughter speaks Japanese and I know she will visit one day. I am looking forward to reading the rest of your posts when I have a little more time.
Thank you! So nice to be included in #blogcrush He sure did and so did the rest of us! The food was delicious everywhere we went and a highlight of the trip!
This must be the luckiest Batman figurine ever! How wonderful that a forgotten find kept the kids engaged during the entire trip. Your pictures are gorgeous! Japanese culture has always intrigued me. Now that my kids have come at an age where they’ll appreciate the cultural aspect just as much, I can’t wait to plan a family trip to Japan. Your tips are a source of inspiration. I’m torn between a trip in spring (blossoms) or one in fall (foliage), though. What’s your take? #FarawayFiles
Hmm, now that I’ve been during cherry blossom season I’d love to see the fall foliage, however, if you’ve never been it’s hard to say. I’m guessing both seasons are equally beautiful, however the fall leaves might last longer giving you a bit more flexibility for trip planning… we really loved learning about the cultural difference and participating when appropriate. I know none of us will ever forgot this trip.
Very cool adventure! It’s always been my goal to visit Japan. #BlogCrush
Thank you! I hope you make it there someday! I don’t think you’ll be disappointed!
Trish @ Mum's Gone To
I’m scribbling madly here – making a note of all these fabulous temples that you and Batman visited!
We’re going to be in Japan next Autumn so I will take time to read through all your Japan posts to get some tips.
Oh! I’d love to go back in Autumn! How wonderful! I’ve written a number of posts, but will also look forward to reading about your experiences! It’s high time for us to get back there… this time I’d also love to head south possibly all the way to Okinawa.
Stunning photographs. What a wonderful place to visit, especially in Springtime. #BlogCrush
Thank you very much. It was truly magical.
Japan is one country that is creeping higher and higher on our travel list, it looks incredible. I used to work for a Japanese Bank, but unfortunately never had the chance to go on a business trip. I still can’t make my mind up whether to go in Spring or Autumn.
Love your photos, batman’s a lucky man #farawayfiles
I hope you get to go. I don’t think you can go wrong in either spring or autumn. I definitely want to go back there is so much more I’d like to see and the food was so good!
Great reminder of how cool it is to travel in Japan, your photos are stunning. I unfortunately missed the cherry blossom so I’d really like to go back for that. Looks like batman had a great time too!
Thank you! We truly loved our Japan experience and hope to get back one day. Even though we were viewing them with thousands of other tourists the blossoms were so beautiful it was worth it. The kids are older now, so Batman will probably stay home next time… unless he decides to stowaway again.
What a great idea. Batman looks like he’s had a great time. Your photographs are beautiful , Japan looks stunning!!
Congratulations someone loved this post so much they added it to our #blogcrush linky
Thank you! We loved our adventures in Japan and I’m so honored to be included in the #blogcrush linkup!
What a wonderful story, and one to share with your kids. We just came back from Australia with our two young daughters and it was great. Sometimes the best adventures you have are the ones you get to see through your child’s eyes. The photography in your article is really great. You should contact LEGO directly and see if they are interested in your work. Hope you will have a chance to travel to Japan again in the future (with the kids!)
Thank you! Japan is absolutely on my repeat list, but I’d also love to visit Australia one day…