Japan Honeymoon

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During this quarantine, I am feeling very nostalgic of travel in general but mostly of traveling and seeing my husband! If you haven’t read, we are in different parts of the world: I am in Mexico and he is in Rome. It got me reminiscing on our Japan honeymoon, our very first alone time 24/7 x 2, which made me realize I could spend the rest of my life with this human being.

Yup, lucky to figure that out AFTER the wedding, right?

Why a travel company for our honeymoon?

My reasons for choosing Michi Travel Japan for our honeymoon in Japan:

  • I wanted luxury for our honeymoon as it is a once in a lifetime trip
  • It had to be tailor made and private (no group tours)
  • I wanted a whole honeymoon package
  • Leaving the itinerary in the hands of experts was a must with all the wedding planning and work I had
  • I saw an article on Conde Nast that they had arranged the trip to Kyoto for Shoba Narayan
  • They answered fast, honestly and the price was reasonable (they are expensive as they do luxury itineraries to Japan)
Honeymoon Japan with black egg hello kitty

Why Japan for our honeymoon?

If you are like me and are planning the perfect honeymoon, you’ve probably gone through multiple honeymoon destinations guides and unforgettable honeymoon posts. Let me make it easier, chose something you both will love, not the picture perfect honeymoon.

I love Japanese food. LOVE IT. If you gave me a choice I would most likely always chose sushi (nigiris only) and sake. My favorite condiment/sauce is Yuzu Kosho, which is made from chilies and yuzu, a Japanese citrus. In Mexico City, I can rate Japanese food as well as any food critic. I have my list and on it was the following entry:

Culinary trip through Japan

If that wasn’t enough for choosing Japan as our honeymoon destination, my husband loves manga, his favorite hero is Goku and he is a geeky (but cute) collector of toys! So, Japan it was for our honeymoon.

Culinary honeymoon japan

Two-week Japan honeymoon itinerary

After some back and forth with Chisato, we got our itinerary and budget. I say some, but it actually took us about 40 emails to get all the details, payment, flights, activities, etc. We had some free days as a couple to explore and some days with private tours. It was the perfect combination for us of sightseeing and downtime, ending with some time on an island.

  • 2.5 days on Tokyo (counting the half day of our arrival)
  • 1 day in Hakone
  • 2 days in Takayama with day tour to Shirakawago and Gokayama
  • 3 days Kyoto
  • 1 day travel to Okinawa
  • 2 days Taketomi Jima
  • 1 day travel to Tokyo
  • 1 day Tokyo

We had breakfast for every day included (except the last day in Tokyo because our flight left too early for breakfast) and some dinners included as well.

Our Japan tours were great, full of history, architecture, culture, and fun lessons of Japan.

After Japan, we were flying via Moscow to London. I was giving a lecture at a genetics conference at the Wellcome Genome Campus in Hinxton. So we were spending a day in Hinxton and two days in London before flying home.

Essentially, we flew around the world for our honeymoon!

Flights

I had about 140,000 miles I had been saving for about 5 years on United. I had been saving them exactly for something like a honeymoon to Japan. With these I got two economy tickets flying Mexico-San Francisco-Tokyo and then London-Newark-Mexico. These were upgraded to premium economy for free as I had status on United. So I only paid for taxes and ended up spending about $700 USD in total for two tickets. Bonus: We could check in two bags each.

For our flights from Tokyo to London, we flew to Moscow with Aeroflot. I did not particularly enjoy our flight, even our check-in process took a long time as we had to pay for extra baggage for this part and they printed our receipt on the oldest printer available with dot matrix paper.

Dot matrix paper printed for our check on our journey around the world
Dot matrix paper, yes we got those huge papers.

Two Week Japan Honeymoon

Day 1: Tokyo

We arrived to Tokyo at 15:30, a bit exhausted but very excited. We didn’t have to figure out transportation as it had already been arranged. Complete relaxation was what we needed.

We left our bags at our hotel, Cerulean Tower Tokyu right in the Shibuya district. I believe that to avoid jet lag you must always do your activities as if you had always been in that time zone you are now. The phrases “for me it would be x hour back home” do not exist. We were in Japan and it was dinner time, so we walked to the famous Shibuya Crossing.

It truly was a sight, sort of Broadway on steroids. More lights, more people. We had to stop at Hachiko’s statue and my husband got a picture. I had to admit I didn’t know who Hachiko was.

We visited Shibuya109 and bought some hand towels as I had read that we would need them. My husband would air dry and jean dry his hands, but for me they were very useful! We tried to find Seibu Shibuya, a cheap conveyor belt sushi on the 8th floor of Seibu Department Store. There was a waiting time of about 40 minutes and we were starving so we went to another sushi on the same floor. It wasn’t great, but it was good.

Tip: buy some cute hand towels and carry with you.

Day 2: Tokyo

After a delicious breakfast, our guide, Reiko, met us at the lobby 9:30am. She took us through public transportation to Tsukiji Market. It truly is amazing to see a market this big and organized! We have many markets in Mexico but they seem a bit more chaotic than this one. I was very excited to get some Japanese knives, and I did buy one for my mom!

Reiko took us through the Meguro River to a beautiful bridge to see the sakuras, or cherry blossom trees! Had I mentioned that when we arrived they had recently declared that sakura season had started in Tokyo?

Then we moved on to the East Garden of the Imperial Palace. We walked around the garden enjoying the sakuras, taking pictures and somewhat being hurried because we had a tea ceremony at noon. Japanese people are very punctual, unlike Latinos.

The sakura’s were in full bloom in Tokyo!

The tea ceremony was private and so much fun! We saw a tea master prepare traditional tea and had the explanation in real time. Then I got to prepare the tea with my husband explaining the steps for me. Then we switched. The tea master had a lot of fun with us trying to remember the steps and guiding each other. In the beginning we were quiet and solemn, but then we realized we could also laugh and have fun!

For lunch we had ramen, or as Humberto calls it, Goku soup. Inside Tokyo Station there is a huge food court with restaurants and shops. Reiko took us to the ramen place she loves and it was absolutely delicious!

Tea Ceremony

Then we went to Meiji Jingu shrine and learned how to clean ourselves before entering the shrine as well as praying. We left a tablet with our wishes for that year and our marriage. I love the spirituality of the Japanese and how inclusive it is to everyone.

We saw some Japenese people dressed up! And then rushed through Harajaku to our sushi reservation.

We went to a Michelin Star sushi restaurant, Sushi Masuda. It was incredibly delicious and amazing to have dinner at the bar and get served by an amazing chef! It is sadly now permanently closed. Every bite of sushi was expertly chosen, the rice perfectly cooked and seasoned. The o-toro was one of the best I’ve had in my life. My husband and I enjoyed every plate, except for something that seemed like an undercooked egg with fish essence.

Day 3: Cooking Class and Akihabara

Chisato met us in the lobby and gifted us some sake cups. I love the Japanese way of looking after every single detail, and gift giving! She escorted us to our cooking class in the home of Miyuki. I think cooking together is always one of the best honeymoon activities.

We made chicken teriyaki dinner, with vegetables, miso soup and egg omelette. The hardest was getting the Japanese omelette right. It takes a lot of patience to do layer by layer and roll it perfectly, and doing it with chopsticks! Miyuki was a great teacher and it was a ton of fun to cook with my husband, and compete a little on who made the prettiest omelette! We got to eat afterwards, of course!

After our class we headed to Akihabara for my gamer and manga fan. On the way, we found Bandai’s headquarters and took a look. If you are like me and have no idea what Bandai is, they make tons of toys, especially for manga and anime characters. It has a small museum of all the toys Bandai has produced along the years and Humberto was happy looking at them and then taking pictures with the life size Goku outside. If you have a die hard fan and are in the Taito area, head here.

In Akihabara we did explore the smaller shops, gaming areas, toy shops, bought some stickers, but my husband spent most of his time in Yodobashi Akiba. It is a HUGE electronics and other gadgets store right at the metro station. We spent all of our time on the 6th floor (of 9) and this is how my husband left the store. I made him leave all the boxes in our hotel. If you have a lovely nerd like I do, you understand this is like telling them to leave their kidney behind.

Day 4: Hakone

At 8am, our guide Reiko and a driver met us and drove us to Hakone. My husband enjoyed the very luxurious Toyota van. We had a full day in Hakone with lots to see and do!

Our first stop was the Hakone Shrine. Truly beautiful in the middle of a forest. To reach it we had to climb stairs surrounded by trees to get to the clearing where the shrine is. Reiko took us to a fertility tree and had us touch it as it provided easy childbirth! Fingers crossed for when the time comes.

We visited the Hakone Checkpoint which was an important checkpoint during the Edo Period for the Tokaido, the highway that connected Kyoto and Tokyo. Here we visited a small shop that makes Yosegi Zaiku, beautiful mosaic woodwork. We got to see the master working and showing us the different puzzle boxes and how to open them! The Karakuri Museum in front of the shops is worth visiting for the interactive exhibits. It was a ton of fun to figure out the secret ways to open drawers and other secret compartments with my husband!

Hakone Checkpoint
Honeymoon fun!

After the fun there we went on a boat ride on Lake Ashi and up the ropeway to Owakudani Volcanic Vent. We didn’t get to see Mt. Fuji as the skies weren’t clear but it was beautiful, nevertheless. It was very interesting to see the piping going from the volcano vent to the onsens, thermal baths. They sell blackened eggs here, which are boiled eggs with the steam from the volcano. Reiko got us some and I’m sorry to say I wasn’t brave enough to try them! They smelled an awful lot like sulfur!

Our last stop of the day was the Hakone Open Air Museum. It was truly an experience visiting all the exhibits and larger than life statues, from artists like Takao Tsuchida, Niki de Saint Phalle, Rodin, Picasso, and Miró. The only thing I didn’t like was that there was one interactive textile playground by Toshiko Horiuchi MacAdam and it was only for children. They should make playgrounds for adults, too!

Lake Ashi Honeymoon Boatride, Japan

Finally, the day was over and we got to see our first ryokan. A ryokan is a traditional Japanese hotel with tatami-matted rooms, thermal baths and yukata’s (or traditional Japanese wear that is less formal than a kimono). We stayed at the Kai Sengokuhara and had our very own onsen in the room. It was incredible! Because of my husband’s tattoos we couldn’t get couple’s massages or visit a public onsen, so our tour company found a hotel with a private one. We had slippers for the hotel, slippers for the room, slippers for the terrace, slippers for the bathroom AND some for the toilet.

One of the things I love the most of Japanese hotels is that they give you clothes for the hotel and pajamas. They are the softest and most comfortable thing I’ve worn. We probably wore the wrong one for dinner more than once!

We had kaiseki cuisine dinner and breakfast included. It was truly an experience. Every dish was expertly presented and delicious. I would not be able to choose my favorite dish (my husband will say the meat) and they wrote congratulations for your wedding in Spanish! Every detail is catered to, even activities for relaxation, like Tenugui towel painting. Service was exceptional as is everywhere in Japan.

Day 5: Travel day!

This day we discovered there is an amazing service among Japanese hotels called Takkyubin. This service sends your luggage to your next hotel. We were spending two days in Takayama and then moving on to Kyoto so we sent our big suitcases all the way to Kyoto, yes days in advance from our check-inn date!

So armed with only one small suitcase we set out to catch our Shinkansen to Nagoya and then a train to Takayama.

Through our train window we finally saw Mt. Fuji!

Once arriving to Takayama, we headed directly to I-cafe Takayama for their complimentary service in sending our small luggage to our hotel and set out to explore.

The weather wasn’t nice at all, kit was rainy and cold and we definitely hadn’t come prepared. When we were planning April honeymoon destinations, we clearly did not think about freezing. We went to Takayama Jinya and Takayama Old Town. When it got dark and colder, we hid inside a liquor store on Kamisannomachi Street that also had a bar and drank some sake. Had dinner at the restaurant crossing their indoor patio and headed to the hotel.

Takayama Japan Honeymoon
Takayama Old City

Day 6: Gokayama and Shirakawago

The next day our guide, Masako, took us to the small market in Takayama and I found fresh Yuzu Kosho! On one of the first stalls, I saw a jar with something green inside and I asked Masako to ask. The nice old lady selling it was so happy a foreigner had recognized yuzu kosho and very proud of her product, she had made it herself! I bought two small jars and I wish I had some right now!

Then we set out to Gokayama and Shirakawago. Two UNESCO world heritage sites with Gassho-style homes. They were incredibly beautiful and Gokayama had snow. The thatched roofs and wooden floors did not keep any heat in, and without shoes, we were freezing!

Shirakawago

On our way there we passed through tunnels and my husband and I had started playing the game where you hold your breath until you exit the tunnel, until we realized we were in one of Japan’s longest tunnels! It was 11km long and the fourth largest.

We had a traditional paper making class which was a lot of fun and we made some postcards. I love paper, stationary, and notebooks, so Japan was my heaven! I collect notebooks from different places I visit, I have some traditional paper ones from Bhutan and now from Japan.

Day 7: Travel to Kyoto and Samurai Class

We traveled again via Nagoya to Kyoto. Once in Kyoto we headed out to our Samurai Class at Samurai Kenbu Theatre.

This class started with a presentation of different kenbu performances and an explanation of how they were used. Then we got a lesson on sword and fan usage by the samurai, and learned a Kenbu routine. We got to present in front of the whole class. It was so much fun!

Samurai classes one of the best honeymoon activities

Day 8: Kyoto

Very early we headed with our guide, Miho, to Arashiyama. We had a rickshaw ride before tourists could flock to the area and so we enjoyed a very beautiful morning. Our rickshaw driver could speak some Italian and took amazing pictures of us in the bamboo forest. It is a strange experience being pulled by a human while you are enjoying the breeze and scenery. Our driver told us is a very fancy and expensive restaurant he wishes one day to afford.

My advice: head out to Arashiyama early to really enjoy the beauty and serenity of the bamboo garden and the area. By around 9am there were already flocks of people in the area!

The beautiful gardens of Tenryuji Temple are worth a visit. Don’t just visit and take pictures, sit down, breathe a bit, and enjoy the temples in a spiritual way as well. The beautiful Kinkakuji Temple, or Golden Temple, even from afar shines bright as the sun rays caress it.

Hirano Shrine was lost amidst a cloud of sakuras in full bloom. It was incredibly beautiful. I could have lost myself in this fairy tale place and I almost did, but I was pulled back by our lovely guide. We were heading to a historical townhouse of Machiya architecture. We talked and had tea with the owner and explored the rooms. It is very interesting how minimalist Japanese homes are, with super thin doorways and walls. I wondered how they dealt with the cold, and they used to have stone heaters. It’s wonderful to see the culture first-hand in a traditional home.

Cherry blossom season

In Gion we got to wear Kimono’s! First we got to chose the color of the kimono, the belt, and even the accessories. It didn’t stop there, I was also given a new hairdo that went with the kimono. I had first rejected the makeover, but the ladies insisted, probably thinking that I could not possibly go outside with my unruly curly hair.

My husband and I, followed by our guide, walked around Gion and Higashiyama. Miho taking our pictures. It was wonderful, even walking around with the uncomfortable traditional wooden sandals (at least we got some two-toed socks, because it was cold).

I totally recommend this very touristy activity: wear your kimonos proudly!

Kimonos during in Kyoto

Day 9: Free Day Kyoto

Michi travel advised to go to either Osaka or Nara but we decided to spend the day in Kyoto, instead.

Nijo Castle, with the supposed nightingale floors, you could hear a whole orchestra as we walked around the castle. The paintings on the walls and multiple rooms were amazing to visit. The gardens are also immense and beautifully kept.

On our way back to our hotel, Kyoto Hotel Okura, we found this small little restaurant. It had traditional Japanese cuisine and a whole lunch meal menu. I wish I could find the name or where it was, I remember exactly it was around the castle. My husband has good eye for small mom and pop restaurants. If anyone knows the name, let me know, when I got back to Kyoto I want to eat there again! It was one of the best meals during our honeymoon in Japan.

Best restaurant during our holidays in Japan
Amazing restaurant I can’t seem to find again! Do you recognize it?

The rest of the day we spent it shopping in the are near our hotel. There are different shopping arcades which just seem like covered pedestrian streets full of shops. Two of these are Teramachi Kyogoku and Sanjo Meitengai. They are must sees for shopping, eating, and souvenirs!

My husband here played traditional arcade games to win toys, and he did! After a couple of tries, the people who work there came around and helped him a bit. They even cheered with him when he won a toy!

Day 10: Travel to Taketomi

Finally, we were heading to the small island of Taketomi in Okinawa. We were ready for our Japan beach holiday!

We sent our luggage with takkyubin service to our hotel in Tokyo and headed for the airport with carry-on only. The last part of our honeymoon in Japan was starting.

We flew to Ishigaki Island, a big resort island in Okinawa, and headed to get a taxi for the port to get on a ferry to Taketomi. I had chosen Taketomi because it is a small island with traditional houses and very few visitors. We wanted a more relaxed and honeymoon experience than a big resort.

Once our plane arrived, we set out to get a taxi and I tried explaining where we were headed. “Taketomi ferry” I said multiple times and even showed him the written instructions our tour company had given us in Japanese. After a long taxi ride where my husband and I kept wondering if we were headed the right way we arrived at this building. I was unsure but got out of the taxi, telling my husband to stay inside while I checked. Maybe this was where we bought our tickets?

Our taxi drove us to a police station!

Turns out it was a police station! I walk in and once the initial shock resided, I asked if anyone spoke English. A very nice officer came outside and explained to our taxi driver where we were headed. The driver could not stop apologizing for the mistake. My husband and I just laughed.

Once on Taketomi, our hotel picked us up and drove us through the only “highway” that circumvented the island and then into an unpaved street that went through fields where butterflies were flying around. Finally we got to our second and last ryokan, Hoshinoya Taketomi Jima.

I have no words for the peaceful oasis this hotel is. Our hotel room was really a villa with walls surrounding it and a small sand garden to maintain privacy. The hotel provides flashlights as the town has no public illumination and the hotel has only ambience lighting. Again no paved roads to preserve the feeling of Taketomi and provide a safe haven for the butterflies that flocked in the center garden. It was the perfect setting for our honeymoon in Japan.

It gets dark in Taketomi!

Day 11 and 12: Taketomi

We had three main activities for our days in Taketomi.

  • Snorkeling
  • Biking through Taketomi
  • Tour of Iriomote and Yubu Island

Beautifully clear, and a bit chilly, waters welcomed us as we snorkeled. We were the only ones in the tour and boat but Humberto still had to wear a full wet suit because of his tattoos.

Once back we borrowed some bikes from the hotel and headed out to explore the island. We signed some forms that included our responsibilities as bikers: no drinking and biking, and do not stay out past sunset. I had grabbed one of the flashlights from the room, Humberto admonishing me because I was exaggerating and we didn’t need it. The iPhone flashlight was enough, he said. Besides, we were returning before sunset.

We biked to Nishi Pier and I had planned to see at least part of the sunset from here. (Which is why I had prepared with the flashlight ;)).

Then we drove through town and stopped at a little cafe filled with locals to try some food and drinks. We ordered the most delicious Hibiscus Beer from Orion and some snacks. Our order got lost and pushed back, so the men at the table next to us were so nice, they communicated with our waiter and gave us some of their awamori to toast with them. We were on honeymoon time, so no rush. We had so much fun at this little cafe!

As we were enjoying our drinks, it got dark outside. We could still see a little as we headed in the direction of our hotel. Once we arrived at the unpaved road you couldn’t even see your hand in front of your eyes! Despite the darkness, I was able to see a crab crossing the street.

Humberto and I could not stop laughing. The flashlight came in handy as we biked back, me with one each hand barely holding the handles as in one I had the flashlight. It was one of the most enjoyable and memorable moments of our honeymoon. You have no idea how beautiful the night sky looked and I was just filled with pure love as we rickety raced back in the darkness. It is my favorite honeymoon story.

Japan Honeymoon sunset Taketomi island

The next day we went on a Iriomote. We did not understand anything during our boat tour, only that we had to get out and see a tree, then get back on. This part reminded me of Veracruz, Mexico.

To cross from Iriomote to Yubu we rode a water buffalo. Yubu is a whole island dedicated to a botanical garden. Our driver was amazing. He took out his Sanshin and began playing and singing. This definitely made our tour worth it!

In our hotel we had the three different types of dinner available: in the restaurant very elegant Okinawa-French fusion, in-room dining and a barbecue in our little garden. We loved being able to enjoy the delicious food in our very own bubble as a newly-wed couple!

I still dream with Japanese ryokans!

Taketomi Hotel

Day 13 and 14: Tokyo

We traveled most of day 13 but on the last day in Tokyo we went to Senso-ji Temple and Nakimase Shopping Street. There were tons and tons of people in the shopping street and I was looking for a samue to use back home. We found some beautiful ones in Fujigoromo and even bought some for our puppies! Maybe ridiculous, but look how cute!

samues for dogs

We again went back to Yodobashi Akiba, with the assurance Humberto wasn’t going to buy more toys. We had already filled two suitcases! He, of course, bought two more.

Day 15: Bye Japan

Thank you for an amazing honeymoon, Japan!

I want to go back and visit now the northern part of Japan, visit Osaka, Sapporo and Mt. Fuji! Two weeks is not nearly enough to see everything Japan has to offer!

Honeymoon Japan

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