Japan has always been a dream of mine to visit. I have always heard the nicest things about the country from other friends who had traveled there. I knew I would explore there someday, but just didn’t really know when. Partnering up with All Nippon Airways (ANA) was the perfect opportunity to capitalize on this amazing adventure, and it surely didn’t disappoint. This was the chance to get over to Japan and explore every bit of it I could. Let’s dive into how it all happened.
First things first, I had to plan it all out. I needed to know where, when, and how to get to certain destinations. What was doable? I had to calculate distance, find seasonal activities, the timing – every step of my trip. This is where ANA’s Japan Travel Planner site came into play. The planner allowed me to look up specific locations with surrounding sites to see, activities to do, and even local restaurants to try out. That was a big win for the trip. Knowing that I could pull up the planner and begin mapping out what each destination looked like as a whole, really put my mind at ease. As you can imagine, Japan is so overwhelming for several reasons, but having this security in the planning process helped out quite a bit with managing that stress. I was able to book my flight direct from Los Angeles to Tokyo and even domestically throughout Japan. Once the flights were booked and locations were all mapped out, we were ready to head out. This 12 day journey was going to be one for the books.
It all started with the amazing direct flight from Los Angeles to Tokyo. Typically flights like this aren’t very exciting. You dread the length, being uncomfortable, the sub-par food, and several other reasons. All of this usually resides in the Economy Class section where most of us all fly in! However, this was not the case at all. I was pleasantly surprised with All Nippon Airways’ inflight experience. Honestly, it might be one of the best flights I’ve taken, and I’ve had countless flights all over the world. Here’s why.
The staff was so accommodating and kind. I’ve heard that about Japanese culture in general, and the rumors are true. Nicest people ever! The staff consistently checked on us and wanted us to feel as comfortable as possible. Need more food? Here you go. Need snacks? We have plenty! Need 2 drinks? Why not. So nice!
Now, the next big plus was the spacious seats. That isn’t common in international flights unless you’re in an “upper-class” section, but that isn’t the case for ANA. I had plenty of room between the seat in from of me and my own. Even when the seats reclined! I was still able to eat and work on my laptop without feeling so crunched. Can’t get over how great that felt. With all the space I was actually able to get some decent sleep which can be hard when you’re excited about a new destination, but I felt very refreshed! I mentioned food early and I want to touch again on that. The inflight cuisines were actually really good! Fresh and healthy with the tastiest hot tea. No complaints from me! I loved it.
Once we landed, it was time to get this adventure underway. This was my first time in Japan. Everything was so new for both Cas (my assistant) and I. The city, the lights, sounds, food, all of it. It was one massive place of inspiration. Our journey had begun. We started out by exploring the inner city temples and more well-known tourist attractions. One thing I immediately noticed was how quiet Tokyo was. With how busy the city was and the endless amount of people, you could really only hear footsteps. That blew my mind and also gave me a sense of peacefulness about the place. Another thing I noticed was there was absolutely no trash on the ground. The cleanliness was unreal. Not even a toothpick. I respect that so much. Everyone plays their part in the community to keep it clean. Bravo Japan. So refreshing to see that. The culture was both clean and friendly! How awesome is that? We tried to see a bit of everything from structures, art installations, night markets, and so forth. The list goes on. Though you could explore Tokyo your whole life, we had to keep our trip moving after a long day there.
Next up was Nagano. The snow monkeys were so fun to see! I’m a huge lover of animals, so it was one thing I was super excited to see in person. They were in the onsen too! They were gentle and kind and very accustomed to humans. The forest and mountainside were so stunning as well. I recommend getting out there!
Next, we continued our journey to Mount Fuji! This was another destination that we were eagerly awaiting. We weren’t able to see the mountain at sunrise or sunset, but we did have luck during the day. What an incredible site to see. In hopes for photographing the surfers with Mt. Fuji in the background, it was the wrong time of year and a cold day. But I can imagine that site during the summer! Unreal. Though we didn’t get great visibility of Fuji at the Chureito Pagoda, it was still such an amazing scene to witness. To wrap up our time there, we had some of the best miso soup and tempura at a local restaurant that we’ve ever had in our life. Food in general was just amazing throughout the whole country. Trust me.
After Mt. Fuji we were off to Kyoto. I had heard amazing things about that particular city. It was just that. Amazing. There was such rich culture in that place. I loved the blending of new city structure to old cultural temples with character. We saw all the tourists in their kimonos taking pictures and immersing themselves in the culture. I love that. We saw so much in such a small amount of time there. From very early mornings at the Arashiyama Bamboo Forest to the Fushimi Inari-taisha Shrine, we got to see a bit of everything.
Always try to beat the crowds with sunrise missions, it is worth it! What an incredible place Kyoto was. It was definitely a highlight for me. If I needed to look up something to eat or a site to see, I’d just pull up the Japan Travel Planner on my phone and it was as easy as that. Such a dynamic city with so much variety to see. I’ll definitely be back!
Next on our list was the city of Nara. The famous wild deer park in particular! These little (and big) animals were so amazing to see and interact with. I’m from Texas where deer are skittish and frightened easily so this was such an interesting dynamic for me. I loved it. Feeding the deer with proper deer crackers and petting them was another highlight of the trip.
When the sun went down in the park, we read about a certain ceremony that everyone was gathering for just up the way – the Shuni-e Ceremony. We decided to join. I think it’s so important to immerse yourself in the culture that you’re traveling in, to get a better understanding of their way of life. It’s both humbling and eye opening. We learned that it was the celebration of spring and repentance. Cleanse yourself and pray for a bountiful harvest. No matter what religion you are, it was a time of reflection. I really enjoyed that. Such a powerful moment in time. Interesting fact, they have been running that celebration since the year 750 and haven’t skipped a single time. That is absolutely amazing. Again, bravo Japan.
Last but not least, we set off to Hiroshima to wrap up our trip before heading back to Tokyo. This place had very sensitive remembrance and history for both the Japanese and Americans. It was amazing to see the A-Bomb location and the structure that stood the test of time. The city had rebuilt around it and kept it as a memorial. So humbling and eerie at the same time.
Again, not much time in the city, but we had to head out to the famous Itsukushima Shrine to see this amazing structure. We barely made it in time for sunset, but it was absolutely beautiful. We heard that mid-morning is high tide (in most seasons) and the best time to kayak. We unfortunately couldn’t make it in time to participate but did get to walk around the shrine because of the low tide. Given that it was a Saturday, the place was packed with tourists from all over the world. I’m sure sunrises there during the week is really peaceful. I like crowds sometimes to see the emotions of everyone. You get to see their joy and amazement at the sight of something new. It was beautiful experience for everyone. Can’t wait to go back someday and spend more time there. It was time to head back to Tokyo via our domestic ANA flight before going back home.
Overall the trip was a massive success. The locations we visited, the sites, people, culture, food, and everything else that came with it. Everything was amazing. Reflecting back on the trip as we boarded our flight our flight back to LA, I couldn’t help but think about all the friendly faces, the kindness of others, and how welcoming the country was. Left a smile on my face.
Can’t forget to mention the amazing flight we had back to LA either. Again, the staff was amazing and gracious, the comfortability was next level, and food was of course delicious. What a truly awesome experience from wheels up to wheels down. I couldn’t have asked for a better trip to Japan, and what better way to fly than with All Nippon Airways. If you’re considering a trip to Japan, their Japan Travel Planner is the way to go and I hope you enjoy it as much as we did. Till next time!