In January, I got a random phone call from my good friend from my sorority, Paige, who was backpacking through Asia, asking me to meet her in Tokyo in a few weeks to have some fun for a few days in mainland Japan. Ummm.... let me take 2 seconds to think about that - YES! #thanksnate #axo #sistasfolife
I hopped on a quick 3 hour flight over to Tokyo and met up with Paige at the Narita Airport after her red eye over from the Philippines. #longlostfriends #lettheshenanigansbegin! Lucky for us, my friend Kazunobu who lives in Tokyo, texted me to see what we were up to for the day, and offered to pick us up and drive us around #score!
Checked into our hostel, and we were ready to eat! Kazu started off our fun day by taking us to one of his favorite restaurants for lunch, Isen Honten. This place was delicious! #oishi It has been around for 80 years and it's to see why after tasting the food. They're known for their tonkatsu, panko-fried pork cutlets and is the birthplace of the tonkatsu sandwich. People say the tonkatsu here is so tender that you are able to cut it with chopsticks. #ibelieveit Kazu recommended the pork sirloin cutlets and these were SO. DAMN. GOOD! Honestly, me writing this blog 4 months later, my mouth still waters when I think about them. If you visit Tokyo - you need to eat here. #thankskazu #welcometojapanpaige
It's that time of year again - Sakura in Okinawa! Sakura (cherry blossoms) blooms in Okinawa first before the rest of Japan, usually around end of January / beginning of February. Read all about the meaning of Sakura in Japan in my blog from last year here.
We started our Saturday Sakura viewing in north Okinawa at Mount Yaedake. From the foot of the winding road to the top, more than 7,000 Ryukyu Kanhi Zakura or Hikan Zakura ("Taiwan Cherry"), the Okinawan cherry variety originating in Taiwan and southern China, colors the mountain bright pink. We were a little early in the season but still got to see a decent amount of cherry blossoms :)
What is a yukata? And how is it different from a kimono? A yukata (浴衣) is a Japanese garment, a casual summer kimono usually made of cotton or synthetic fabric, and unlined.
Yukata literally means bathing cloth, and was traditionally worn after bathing in a communal bath or onsen, functioning as a quick way to cover the body and absorb remaining moisture. It is also a typical garment and dress code for guests staying at a ryokan (traditional Japanese inn). Nowadays, yukatas are increasingly popular and worn more during the hot summer months (vs. a hot kimono). People wear them to summer festivals and events like hanabi (fireworks), and bon-odori festivals. In Okinawa, they're usually worn from around May to October (since it's hot here most the year).
Younger people normally wear brighter, more colorful yukatas with bolder patterns (as with the kimono), while the older generation normally wears duller, more subdued patterns and colors like dark blue with a geometric design. The men's yukatas are also darker and more subdued, usually just a solid color.
On a nice Sunday in January, Nate and I decided to go check out some more sites around the Onna area. We visited Cape Manzamo, one of the most photographed, iconic spots on Okinawa by locals and tourists alike. In the 18th century, Sho Kei, a Ryukyuan King, said that the top of the cliff was like a field big enough for 10,000 people to sit. So the way it's written in Japanese kanji form, is for Manzamo to reflect this saying: 万 (Man - 10,000) 座 (Za - to sit) 毛 (Mo - field). The English translation is Cape Manzamo or Cape Manza.
This rock looks similar to an elephants trunk in my opinion and offers great views of the East China Sea.
For the last part of our trip, we decided to visit central Vietnam, the city of Hoi An. It is a charming, delightful riverside town with history dating back to 2200 years, once considered the best port city for trade by Chinese and Japanese merchants. The Old Town still contains over 800 historical buildings including Japanese merchant houses, Chinese temples, and ancient tea warehouses. Now the streets are also littered with boutique hotels, lounge bars, tourist shops, and a ton of tailor shops. At night, the city lights up by lanterns, with people mingling and gathering along the river, adding a relaxed vibe to this laid back town. On the way to visit the historic town of Hoi An, we made a quick stop at Marble Mountain after flying into the Da Nang airport.
Megan Bond - AUTHOR
Just a girl raised in California and loved exploring Southeast Asia with my husband! We're back in the States but still exploring the world as much as we can!