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Wanderlust in Japan and Elsewhere

By Cindy Boatman July 14, 2023 Travel

My partner and I just experienced an amazing first trip to Japan, sharing part of it with family. To be honest, a visit to Japan had never been on the bucket list. That changed with a grandson’s six-month deployment to the U.S. Marine base in Okinawa.

Okinawa comprises several islands at the southern end of Japan and enjoys a sub-tropical climate. It resembles the Caribbean with its white beaches and beautiful blue-green ocean water. Island hopping is popular, but we enjoyed spending time at our beach resort and exploring Okinawa’s Main Island (Okinawa Honto).

Okinawa is appealing to many ages and vacation styles; one can be as busy or chill as desired. Experiencing the culture, relaxing on the beach, shopping, and touring historical sights are among the many options. Everyone in our group, especially the two youngest grands, enjoyed our excursion to the Okinawa Expo Park and Churaumi Aquarium.

Also cool, Okinawa is one of the world’s “Blue Zones” as identified by author Dan Buettner with the help of the National Geographic Society. Okinawans are famous for their longevity, and reports show that for every 100,000 inhabitants, Okinawa has 68 centenarians.

Kyoto Bliss

Before connecting with family to travel to Okinawa, my partner and I enjoyed a busy week exploring some of the mainland. Hands-down, our favorite city among those visited is Kyoto, which is surrounded by beautiful mountains. Kyoto served as the capital of Japan (home of the emperor) from 794 to 1868 and offers both modern and age-old cultural sights and experiences.

Kyoto was a joy to explore, and it was also the perfect home base for day-trips via bullet train to Osaka, Hiroshima, and Miyajima Island. Although the city is home to over 1.4 million people, it has a friendly smaller town vibe. One can enjoy its modern aspects or immerse oneself in historical palaces, temples, shrines, and zin gardens.

And, possibly, glimpse a modern Geiko (Geisha) or Maiko (apprentice) in the evening atmosphere of the historical Gion district.

We also spent time in Tokyo, our city of arrival and departure. From our hotel balcony, we enjoyed a breathtaking view of the Sumida River flanked on each side by the amazing Tokyo skyline. A day-trip to the Mt. Fugi area, where the tallest mountain in Japan momentarily peaked through the clouds to say hello, was also memorable.

Should You Visit Japan if You Have the Opportunity?

Absolutely, but fair warning, it can be an expensive trip! To save money, avoid visiting during the peak seasons of early spring (cherry blossoms) and fall (autumnal color). Late spring is a sweet spot just before the hot and rainy summer season arrives. Winter provides the best opportunities for viewing Mt. Fugi.

A Japan Rail (JR) Pass can also be a fast, economical way to travel between cities using bullet trains. Luckily, Japan offers accommodations in many styles and price ranges, as are its food offerings. The street food scene is a great way to enjoy good (and interesting) food, while saving money. Foodies should be sure to plan a visit to Osaka, also known as Japan’s street food capital.

Of course, all of Japan is a culinary extravaganza! Tempura, sushi, sashimi, udon, ramen, just to name a few options. Matcha tea (and ice cream) are also among favorites. Full disclosure: Japanese cuisine is not my partner’s jam, but he did like Teppanyaki (with quality Kobe beef), and the plethora of sweet shops!

Japan is also known as a safe and friendly place to travel, even if traveling solo. Though English is not widely spoken, we managed just fine. Personally, I’m sold on modern Japanese toilets with all the bells and whistles (not to be confused with the traditional hole in the ground style)!

Japan Rekindled My Love of Foreign Travel

My love of foreign travel bloomed in my late 40s when I took my first trip to Italy. Traveling solo, I joined a group in Florence for a food and wine tour of Tuscany. Full of inspiration, I took a second trip two years later, joining a group walking tour of the Amalfi Coast region. For me, Italy lived up to its image as portrayed in one of my favorite summer reads, Under the Tuscan Sun.

My love of foreign travel was further fueled by a trip with my partner to the Swiss Alps. But for the past 11 years, my travel has been mostly domestic, with an occasional trip to Toronto to visit family. I kept yearning to schedule another trip to Italy, but life compromises and then the pandemic happened.

When I finally began planning my third trip to Italy, the opportunity to travel to Japan presented itself. No complaints or regrets about the interruption; the experience was priceless. It also rekindled my love of foreign travel, and now I’m resuming making plans for that trip to explore Northern Italy.

Travel: What I Know for Sure

No doubt, I inherited the wanderlust gene. Travel of all kinds, especially foreign travel, continues to prove itself as an important element of living my best life. If you’ve never considered foreign (or domestic) travel, or if you’ve been on a travel hiatus, I hope this post provides a bit of inspiration.

Here are a few valuable insights I’ve gained through travel.

I’ve learned that (travel):

  • Satisfies my love of and need for adventure.
  • Grows my mind and broadens my worldwide perspective.
  • Reveals I can travel solo and still enjoy myself.
  • Creates a special bond when sharing a beautiful destination with someone else.
  • Provides living proof we have more in common than not.
  • Learning a few keywords or phrases of the native language promotes goodwill.
  • Locals appreciate your learning about and respecting their customs and culture.
  • Group tours provide a fun opportunity to make new friends who share a love of travel.
  • Life is too short to spend it all at home.

So, get busy planning and booking that trip, and may all your travel adventures be safe and happy!

Please Join in the Conversation:

How has travel enhanced your life? What is your favorite foreign (or domestic) destination visited? Why?

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The Author

Cindy Boatman is excited to share her research and personal insights, hoping to help others live their best lives as they age. She is retired, pursing her dream to write, enjoying nature, travel, and her grandkids. She completed a 200-hour yoga teacher training certification program in 2020.

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