Besides the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, there wasn’t much in Hiroshima of interest to us, so on Saturday we went on an excursion to Itsukushima Island, a short train ride along the coast to the southwest. Itsukushima Island is popularly known as Miyajima, which translated means “Shrine Island.” We scooted over to the JR Ferry … Continue reading


We left Kyoto on Friday for Hiroshima, a port city near the southwestern end of Honshu, the largest of the four main islands that make up Japan. Hiroshima’s sister city in the United States is Honolulu, symbolically linking the beginning and end of the Pacific theater of World War II. In Hiroshima city, we had … Continue reading

The Last Samurai

For our final day in Kyoto, we decided to visit the main tourist attraction, Kinkaku-ji, the Zen Buddhist Temple of the Golden Pavilion. The original Golden Pavilion was created in 1408, but it was burnt to the ground by a mad monk in 1950. A reproduction was built in 1955, complete with gold leaf covering … Continue reading

Memoirs of a Geisha

Memoirs of a Geisha

After leaving the Inari Shrine, we visited the Rengeō-in Buddhist temple, commonly known as Sanjusangendo, a short distance to the north. “Sanjūsan-gen-dō” translates to “33-interval-temple” which relates to the building’s architecture of 34 columns, creating 33 intervening spaces. The number 33 has special significance with regard to the goddess Kannon, to whom this temple is … Continue reading

The Shrining

Sunday, April 15th, was a travel day. It was raining in the morning and when we tried to arrange for a taxi to the train station we were told that road closures due to the Spring Festival meant no cabs would pick up on our side of town. Fortunately, our landlord, Hiroto, graciously offered to … Continue reading

Spring Festival

Our purpose for coming to Takayama was to attend the Spring Matsuri, one of two festivals held each year: the Spring Festival, every April 14-15, and the Autumn Festival, every October 9-10. Dale had read that there could be as many as 200,000 visitors for this event which is why we booked everything in advance. … Continue reading


The city of Takayama is located in Gifu Prefecture in Japan’s Northern Alps, a little less than 200 miles WNW of Tokyo, although by going to Nagoya first we traveled a little over 300 miles by train to get here. Takayama’s sister city in the USA is Denver, Colorado, but it should be Jacksonville, Florida. … Continue reading

Getting to Takayama

Getting to Takayama

The afternoon of Monday, April 9, we flew from Hanoi to Tokyo on the same plane as Bob and Annie, arriving late and discovering to our dismay a long line to clear immigration at Haneda International Airport. Finally clearing customs around 11:00 p.m., we made our way to an airport hotel, grabbed a bite just … Continue reading

Northern Highlands

Northern Highlands

We spent Thursday night, April 5, in Sa Pa, established by the French in the 1920s as a get-away in highlands. The weather was beautiful when we pulled into town in the late afternoon after our visit to Na Luong village, but the fog quickly enveloped us, foreshadowing a cold front. We had planned to … Continue reading

Halong Bay

After a night in Hanoi, we caught a seaplane Monday morning for a 3-day, 2-night cruise in Halong Bay. The flight from Hanoi took us over bustling Haiphong harbor and out into the Gulf of Tonkin, then over the 2,000 islands peppering Halong Bay, yet another UNESCO World Heritage Site. In Halong harbor, we boarded … Continue reading

Chay Lap

Sunday was April Fools’ Day and today the joke was on us. Once again, Vietnam Airlines unilaterally rescheduled our flight. But it was problematic this time because the rescheduled flight from Dong Hoi to Hanoi would have made it impossible for us to catch our upcoming cruise in Halong Bay, so Loc arranged for a … Continue reading

Hang Én There

Hang Én There

Our purpose for driving to this remote part of Vietnam was to go caving in one of the world’s most beautiful karst systems at Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Our base was Chay Lap Farmstay for two nights, sandwiching one of our hikes, an overnight camping trek to Hang Én … Continue reading

Huế to Go Ho

Huế to Go Ho

We didn’t spend much time at all in the city of Hue, choosing instead to visit sites in the surrounding area. Our first destination was the old Thanh Toan bridge, but as we walked from the parking area, we crossed paths with a wedding party and they seemed happy to have us tag along (at … Continue reading