I flew into Haneda airport early on a Saturday morning. Mel met me there and led the way back to her aunt and uncle’s house, where she was staying that summer after some time volunteering on an organic farm. I stayed with her in Tokyo a few days, and then ventured out on my own to Kyoto and Osaka.
Onsen in the mountains
One of my best memories from this trip was going to onsen in the mountains of Hakone. Mel and I went to Hakone Yuryo which is set privately against a forest. While switching between saunas and hot, warm, and ice-cold baths, you’re also walking around naked in the forest (practically), while breathing in fresh air and looking out into misty mountains. It was so serene I cried.
I used the JR Pass to travel to Kyoto, where I stayed a few nights in a shared airbnb. My hosts were very social with the guests, throwing takoyaki-making parties each night, and sharing Japanese snacks and drinks. I was quite jet lagged at this stage and remember heading out at 5am one day and walking all around Kyoto, visiting temples, the Arashiyama Bamboo Forest, and walking for miles in a monsoon.
Caught in a monsoon
Arashiyama Bamboo Forest
I stayed in Osaka just one night, visiting the touristy Dotonbori area, eating street food, and wandering through neon-lit arcades (obviously imagining that I was in Lost in Translation the whole time).
I went during a really hot, humid time of year with lots of rain, so next time I’ll pick a better month. But the food alone is worth a trip any time of year. Before leaving, we made sure to pick up ingredients to throw our own okonomiyaki party back in London.