Egg Seats?

Can you guess what this is? The second picture tells the tail – it’s hardboiled egg shaped seats near Owakudani. The hot springs are used to hardboil the eggs and turns them black in the process.

Karaoke!

While it’s now a worldwide phenomena, having a night out with friends to sing popular songs got it’s start on the streets of Tokyo. You can find Karaoke places with private rooms and English songs in Shinjuku.

Mitsukoshi Flagship

The flagship store of department store chain, Mitsukoshi, is a landmark in the Nihonbashi area of Tokyo. Did you know they started out as a kimono fabric vendor in 1673?

The Brush Shop

There are so many specialty stores in Japan. Little shops are in all areas of Tokyo that specialize in just one type of product. Here is a photo of a brush shop near Asakusa.

Standout Woman

Niki de Saint Phalle’s colorful piece stands out against the vibrant green hills of Hakone. See this, and more, at the Hakone Open Air Museum.

Kimono Forest

This unusual display of Japanese textiles can be found in the Arashiyama station in western Kyoto. Originally a temporary display, it is now permanent and includes hundreds of different patterns displayed in clear, plexiglass housing. Designed to reflect the nearby bamboo forest, these fabrics are lit from within in the evening to create a beautiful path of color.

Department Store Dining? Sure!!

When in doubt about where to eat; head to the nearest department store. They all have multiple restaurants, usually located on one or two floors at the top of the store. This guide to the dining options at the Takashimaya in Kyoto also lets you know which ones have an English menu. You’ll often find restaurant guides like this in popular places (stores,stations).

Holy Shrine

OK, not your typical Japanese shrine, but for the avid shopper, one of your first and last stops on a trip to Japan. Eight floors of magnificent goods, delicious food, quirky designs and elegant traditional products – what more could a shopper need.

Daimonji on the Hill

The large Dai symbol on the eastern hills of Kyoto, is lit on fire every summer during the Daimonji (Gozan no Okuribi), and can be seen from part of the Philosophers Path (near Ginkaku-ji).

The Center of the Universe

This map points to Kyoto as the center of the universe, and when we’re there, we feel like it is too! Of course, since it’s on the Takashimaya department store, it’s even more apropos.

Food Excellence – Hot Chocolate

The Japanese are obsessive about food quality and one of the joys of travel in Japan is the amazingly fresh ingredients and the overall quality of the food at every level. We love chocolate so we’re always on the lookout for a great chocolate desert or special item. Now leading our list for best hot chocolate in the world is the SUPERB cup of hot cocoa prepared by the Four Seasons Marunouchi in Tokyo. Made with Valrhona chocolate, it comes perfectly prepared with a selection of enhancements neatly arrayed on a tray – white chocolate curls, whipped cream and the tiniest little marshmallows ever. For a special treat – we always make it a point to stop into their quiet, 7th floor lounge (right next to Tokyo station) to warm up and relax whenever I’m passing through Tokyo.

Conveyor Belt Sushi Anyone?!

Conveyor Belt (Kaiten) sushi is a form of fast food in Japan. This location, at Kyoto Station shows the different types of sushi on the multi-colored plates used to keep track of how much you ate so your bill can be calculated.

Getting on the Gondola

Taking the Gondola ride to Owakudani Hot Springs in Hakone is one of the many family fun activities in this tourist destination. This video shows one of the cars coming up to the boarding area.