I’m Going to Japan for the 2nd Time, or Is it the First?

Japan, Travel

In June, the Bells are going to Japan! Before I go any further with this post, I need help settling a marital dispute.

We have passed through Japan a dozen times going from Southeast Asia to America. On one of those trips, we had a long delay and the airline put us up at a hotel overnight. Kristi insists that we have not been to Japan; I beg to differ. Here was our experience in Japan and you tell me who is right.

  • We got stamps in our passports.
  • We experienced Japanese efficiency when they transported a plane-load of people to the hotel and did the check-in in a matter of minutes.
  • I ate a series of mysterious yet delicious things on the dinner and breakfast buffets.
  • Our hotel room toilet had more technology than the Space Shuttle.
  • The “bed” consisted of a mat on the ground.
  • I drank a Japanese beer.

And if that isn’t strong enough evidence, I’ll leave you with this: Kristi talked to a robot.

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I rest my case. Please render your verdict in the comments section.



This trip will be longer than one night unless we get black-out drunk, cause an international incident, and get deported on day one. We will have about 25 days in the island nation and will do most of the first time highlights like Tokyo, Kyoto, the Nakasendo Trail, and Hiroshima. We haven’t done a lot of planning yet so we are open to suggestions.

I am both excited and apprehensive about this trip. Japan is one of those places I’ve wanted to see since I started traveling but going for longer than one night hasn’t worked out. I’m interested to see what I am sure will be a beautiful country with a fascinating culture.

I’m apprehensive because when I look at prices I experience something akin to sticker shock but worse, like price panic. Evidently, you can stay in a closet in Tokyo for the same price as a luxury suite on the beach in Thailand. With some luck, the airline will mess up again and give us one night accommodation which should save us a small fortune. ◊

Have we been to Japan?

Do you have any recommendations?



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Currently living in Kaohsiung, Taiwan. I travel, write, take photos, and stalk street cats. ~ planetbell1@gmail.com

31 thoughts on “I’m Going to Japan for the 2nd Time, or Is it the First?”

  1. I think you are both right! Technically yes you were in Japan but realistically you had only an overnights get stay and therefore did not experience much and therefore it feels as though you weren’t there yet!!

    Yup the prices are hard to stomach especially for those of us living in SE Asia! But I’m betting you can find authentic cheap ER eats and also that it will be totally worth it!! Enjoy!!


    • A hung jurist. Kristi will like your answer 🙂

      I like to eat at cheap places with locals so that will be fun. In Singapore recently I found the food courts with the immigrant workers and ate great food. Thanks for the vote!

  2. Hmmmm, you have passport stamps, but no pictures? If YOU didn’t take pictures, you weren’t there. Friends from Alaska went skiing in Japan this winter and had an amazing time. I’m looking forward to seeing it through your lens.

    • Oh, good point. I didn’t take any photos. I never thought of it that way. I need to apologize to Kristi and admit defeat 😦

  3. Ray Mulcahy says:

    We think you have been there but surely not enough! Have a great time, we are hoping to get there some day to see the cranes.

  4. Adventures in Kevin's World says:

    I vote for it being the first time. Basically just staying at an airport hotel is not really seeing a place. Plus, isn’t it sooo much more exciting to go somewhere for the FIRST time?

  5. I think because you stayed overnight, ate some local food, and got the stamps to prove it, then yes, you’ve been to Japan. But as Peta said it doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve really seen or explored the country.

    I am so, so jealous that you two are going for 25 days. The longest I’ve stayed there was maybe 8-10 days. Japan is pricey compared to Southeast Asia, that’s for sure, but in my experience it was nowhere near as expensive as Australia (especially when it comes to meals).

    You can eat very well on the cheap if you go to places like Kyoto’s Nishiki Market and even convenience stores like FamilyMart. I swear the beef curry udon and uni spaghetti in tomato cream sauce there was restaurant-quality!

    If you have time and want to go somewhere cooler (Japan gets hot and humid in the summer), I’d recommend Hokkaido. It feels so different from the rest of Japan and is sort of like America in some respects. The fields there are much bigger, it’s wilder and more sparsely populated, and the main city (Sapporo) is laid out on a grid plan. Also, the dairy there is superb.

    • I like cheap eats and simple places. We will probably try and get rooms with fridges and microwaves for beef curry udon from Family Mart. Thanks for the tip.

      I’ll look into Sapporo. I could really use some cool weather right about now. I’m melting.

  6. Oh I’ll just park myself right in the middle and say you’re both right, chuckle. You can drink a Japanese beer or sleep on a mat any place, but the toilet no. That maybe, just maybe, just barely qualifies you as having been to Japan. It took me until the last day on my most recent visit to finally press some of those buttons. I did not regret it. Japanese efficiency at its best. So the toilet and Kristi talking to a robot. They count. But no you haven’t been to Japan, not really. It’s so much more than toilets and robots! But I know you know that.
    Street food my friend. It’s delicious and won’t break the bank.
    Also in Kyoto flush out a little bar/restaurant called Romance down an alley in Gion (I can give detailed directions if you want them) where you will get a set menu dinner for Y1200 each – a plate with meat or fish/salad/noodles or something like, plus two or three side dishes, plus a small dessert. Really good food, non-touristy, locals only pretty much. It only seats 7. The food is delicious. BUT – smoking is allowed in there.
    We had an airbandb in Kyoto. Will ask Don what it cost, but it saved on food since we made our own breakfasts and often a sandwich for lunch as well. Anyway I’m sure you’ve figured out that really food is the least of it. It’s the transportation, accommodation, and entrance fees that cost.
    Have a great time. It’s sooooo worth the expense.

  7. Jealous. I’ve been wanting to go to Japan – FOREVERRRR. Looking forward to the updates – and I’m with your wife, on the bet, but whatever! Have fun!

  8. I have never been in Japan…never…so you have certainly been there more than me. A very exciting destination, I am a little envious and will be keen to see how you get on 🙂

    • I’ve passed through the airport so many times that I have a sense of the efficiency and vibe of the country but I’m excited to see if for real. You’ve been so many places I’m surprised you haven’t been there yet.

  9. Can you write it on the list of countries you’ve been to? Yes. Have you really visited Japan? No. Like a few others, I’m coming down right in the middle on this one. Am I envious not only of your destination but of the amount of time you have to spend there? Resounding yes!

    • I’m happy to have an extended time there for sure. We have to stop there anyway on the way to America so it makes sense. I’m excited to read about your trip to Bhutan!

  10. You certainly have been to Japan! I would, because I count taking a connecting flight even without leaving the airport having been to a country :). Enjoy your stay in Japan and the food. A colleague just returned from holiday in Japan and can’t stop talking of the food.

    • You have a very generous definition of a place visit and I like it!

      I am going to eat my body weight in noodles!

  11. Well I think technically you have been to Japan but just a sniff of what it has to offer. We went to Tokyo for four days so also just a taste. Yes very expensive but the most efficient, polite and orderly places we have ever visited. Have a fabulous time!

    • Efficient, polite and orderly. I live in a very polite place but not so orderly or efficient. This might be a shock to the system!

  12. Mike and I were recently counting up countries we’ve visited and made the “must have stayed overnight” rule. My vote is that you’ve been to Japan. 25 Days! Lucky you, that will be great. Can’t wait to hear the tales.

    • Yes, a vote for me! I think staying overnight counts. Looking forward to so many days there but I’ve never been anywhere so clean and organized so not sure how I’ll cope.

  13. You have definitely been to Japan, albeit a short visit. In our family, if we have a meal there, we count it as being there. And you had meals, an overnight stay, and a long list of experiences, very Japanese experiences like the space shuttle toilet and the robot. Fun post, Jeff. And have fun on your upcoming longer adventure.

  14. If you pass through Customs then you have been to a country. You may not have seen much of the country, but definitely you’ve been. Now for the great experience. Have a great trip.

  15. Jing says:

    I hope you enjoy your long trip to Japan. It is a unique country. I just returned several weeks ago. Are you planning to work in Japan in the future or just traveling?

    Here is my take while living in Japan:

    Japan is very small. The roads are very narrow and recently there have been a lot of car accidents due to elder people driving and crashing. The narrow roads does not help.

    Japan is clean. It is very hard to find garbage cans in public because Japanese people do not eat outside while walking. I usually have a bag handy to put away my garbage.

    Get yourself a Suica train card

    Unique Japanese food…
    I recommend YAKITORI ! It is unhealthy but taste sooo delicious.

    I recommend the city of Sendai… (where the earthquake happened) it has got a lot of Japanese history. During the Edo period, it was home to samurais of Japan. Also their annual festival is quite fun. So yes… plan a stay in Sendai. 🙂

    There is a lot to see Japan. I really hope you enjoy it! Have a good trip. 🙂

    • Hello Jing, Thank you for the detailed tips and information. That is a good tip on the garbage bag. I noticed on Google street view that the roads looked really narrow. I’ll certainly give yakitori a try – looks amazing.

      I would not rule out living in Japan in the future, but for now we are happy in Thailand. Thanks again for the great tips!

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