Image may contain: textWe’ve mostly furnished our new apartment by now – just missing some decorative items to fill up the ample white space on our walls. We’re having our first real housewarming in a few weeks, and although the space isn’t quite big enough to hold the ~fancy dinner party~ of my dreams, I think it’ll be quite an upgrade from our old apartment.

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There are a lot of upgrades about our new life – new job, new apartment, wedding planning…! Boston is pretty nice too, especially in the summer. It’s so clean! But, with all its dirty subways and tiny apartments, there’s just something about New York that can’t be replaced. Everyone works a little harder, walks a little faster, and is a bit more ambitious in New York (probably because it’s a rat-race) – and for all the people who hate it, I love the rat-race. There’s just so much culture in New York that can’t be replicated anywhere else. Maybe it’s going to college in a very diverse city (Philadelphia) and then immediately working in New York, but coming to Boston was a bit of a culture shock. I thought most places in the Northeast were similar, but even though MA is extremely liberal, I can’t shake the startling feeling that Boston feels eerily similar to some parts of Georgia in how diverse (aka: not) the experiences/food/weekend plans/people are. Someone asked me to describe Boston in one word, and “clean” just about sums it up perfectly, in terms of everything. But, it has the best academic network in the world, and is headquarters to a great company (wink), so we will be perfectly satisfied these few years. Plus, that’s what traveling is for! I suppose this explains why we weren’t willing to fully commit to buying a house here, even though it makes financial sense for the 5.78 years we’ll be in Boston.

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One of our bookshelves is tastefully decorated with Pokémon knick-knacks that we (mostly M) picked up during our time in Japan, and reminds us daily of M’s favorite part of our Asia travel this summer. He planned all of our Japan travel, so my memory may be a bit fuzzy when blogging!

Tokyo, Japan

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vending machines for everything
We flew in from Hong Kong to Tokyo. Japan is a very expensive country; if it were up to me, I would’ve stuck with SE Asia + Hong Kong for both the experiences and for how cheap everything was! But M loves Japanese culture, so we had to compromise 😉 The first order of business was ordering the J Rail Pass many months before we actually traveled to Japan, which was around $251 for a week (for only foreigners), but worth it if you’re planning on traveling from Tokyo to Kyoto within the week. The pass works on all JR railways, but many internal subways in Tokyo (and there are a LOT) aren’t JR. Take out cash/coin to pay for the subways, they don’t take credit cards!

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owl cafe! Where I discovered my fear of owls. Maybe we should’ve gone to the dog cafe instead.
As expected, Tokyo was very efficient and the people very polite. For how efficient the subway systems are though, it’s a HUGE city so going from one place to another takes forever! We visited Shibuya (the “busiest crosswalk in the world” was a bit of a disappointment since we beat rush hour), and spent way too much time in Akihabra. We spent way too much money on slot machines and little trinkets. And M was sooo happy, it made me so happy as well (even though I don’t understand his love of little useless pokemon trinkets!).

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Gashapon machines
We rented a wi-fi portal for $5 a day, but there was public wifi almost everywhere so it was generally not needed. One night we had dinner in Shimbashi (where the “working people” eat) and picked a random place with no English menus and chefs who didn’t speak anything but Japanese. That was probably my favorite night.

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We returned to Tokyo on our last night as well, since we had to fly out of Tokyo. We met up with an old college friend and visited Harujuku!

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moomin cafe

conveyor belt sushi in Shibuya

Tokyo is expensive, so we stayed in a pod hostel for the nights we were here (it was still the most expensive lodging during our entire trip at $41 a night). But, in true Japanese fashion, they were super clean.

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so many games everywhere
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reunited after college!

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our Ryokan

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M loved this place. It’s very close to Tokyo and is basically a floating island with temples everywhere where romantic couples go to on a date. It’s a beach town but we didn’t really partake in the beach. We did have really good late-night fast food though, which was $3 but gourmet (see photos!) We stayed at a traditional ryokan with a kind man called “King Kong” and a giant hot spring onsen.

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our $3 “fast food” meal
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Hot springs town! We didn’t stay at one of the famous onsens since they were hundreds of dollars a night, but we did get a day pass for a private onsen and stayed at a ryokan. The second day, we took 7 modes of transportation to visit Lake Ashi and the volcanoes.

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famous volcanic eggs that are supposed to add 7 years to your life. We also had delicious japanese BBQ!

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after taking multiple cable cars and a car over a volcano, we arrived at lake ashi! 

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My favorite part of Kyoto was Arashiyama, where the bamboo forest is located. Otherwise, there are hundreds, perhaps thousands, of all types of shrines everywhere from all centuries. We didn’t see a geisha, just many Japanese tourists dressed up as geishas. Some areas have been overrun by tourists and tourist shops, especially in Gion, but I’m glad we visited. As my Japanese friend said, Kyoto “makes her proud to be Japanese”, and for that, I loved it. We stayed in a small hotel near Nishiki Market (which is not a night market, but a delicious food market)

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bamboo forest

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each of these shrines, plus the large ones that we walked through, were donated by Japanese businesses for good fortune. Although everyone takes pictures here, be warned – it’s a long hike up the mountain, and there are plenty of Inari shrines everywhere so don’t get stuck taking photos in the beginning where all the tourists crowd!

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We took a day trip from Kyoto to visit the deer. There were also shrines, as usual (this was the capital of Japan once), and we visited an ancient Japanese toy shop. The deer are cute but super aggressive.

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Overall, this was not a budget trip at all – but we went to four different cities, ate delicious Japanese food every single day (I stopped taking photos eventually because everything was so good!), and visited so many cool places. Plus it helped that we had a wonderful, fun time even though it was jam-packed!

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