This is my travel diary for the trip Jan and I took to London with Richard and Patty Ohara in October 2018. Our trip is focused on Nara with a couple days in Tokyo at the end and a day trip to Kyoto. 

This post is still being written and edited!


Day 1 and 2 - Travel from Madison to Nara Japan

Left Madison about 6:30 in the morning for our connecting flight in Detroit. Nonstop from Detroit to Narita Airport left a little late at about 12:30. It was a 13 hour flight! Got caught up on some reading (Graham Green - Ministry of Fear and Francis Fukuyama's new book on Identity).

No problems with arrival and getting to our hotel - Nikki Narita - at about 3:00. Stayed up till 6:00 to get a good night's sleep before our train trip to Tokyo, Kyoto, and then Nara.


Hotel Nikko Narita lobby




















Day 3 - Narita Airport to Nara

We met our friends Richard and Patty at the hotel for breakfast than took the train from Narita airport to the Tokyo train station. From there we got the bullet train to Kyoto. Getting the right tickets was a bit confusing. Several people were very helpful and we worked it all out. Several hours later we were in Kyoto.

We stored our luggage in several lockers and took a bus to one of the many famous temples in Kyoto. Very beautiful and interesting. Lots of women in kimonos. The temple was very crowded. But the crowds were nothing compared to how packed the bus was that we took back to the train station. I was jammed in by people on all sides and couldn't move any direction. The next stop people just forced themselves on even though the bus was packed.

Retrieved our luggage (after a little adventure) and got the train to Nara. From Nara train station we took a taxi to our Airbnb.




Day 4 - First day on the Yamanobe-no-Michi Trail

Rich and I met our guide, Taka, at the train station and took a train from Nara to Tenri. We walked up a long covered shopping street and past the Tenri University. It was raining and rained on and off all day.

Our first attraction was the Isonokami Jingu Shrine. This is a Shinto shrine. As with most of the larger shrines and temples we saw, there is a tremendous amount of history and rich stories about its past. One odd part of the shrine was the many chickens that lived at there. Apparently they are sacred and not eaten.



The Yamanobe-no-michi Trail 

(Adapted from

The Yamanobe-no-michi Trail (山辺の道) is an ancient road in Nara Prefecture and the oldest road mentioned in Japanese records. Today, it is a pleasant hiking trail through rural landscape, connecting multiple shrines, temples and other sites of interest. The most popular section stretches approximately eleven kilometers from Omiwa Shrine in Sakurai City to Isonokami Shrine in Tenri City, from where the trail continues northwards to Nara City.

The Yamanobe-no-michi is predominantly a dirt trail, but sometimes becomes paved as it meanders through small villages. There are a couple of short, steep hills, but apart from that the trail is gentle and generally suitable for average walkers wearing sports or walking shoes. As well as a few public toilets, vending machines and fruit and vegetable stalls interspersed along the trail, there are also frequent signs that give directions in Japanese, English, Korean and Chinese.

At the northern end of the trail's most popular section stands Isonokami Shrine, surrounded by trees. It used to be the family shrine of the Mononobe Clan, a leading, conservative clan during the early stages of Japanese history that was ultimately defeated by its more progressive rivals. The shrine still stores some of the clan's ancient weapons, but they are not put on public display. A few kilometers south stands Yatogi Shrine, a tranquil, small shrine notable for its thatched roof.
The rural views afforded along the following section of the trail are beautifully at odds with the also impressive views of the urbanized basin below. Chogakuji Temple is a historic temple located halfway along the trail's most popular section. Formerly a powerful temple covering a large area and housing a small army, today's complex has some interesting features including the oldest wooden bell tower gate in Japan and a picturesque, small Japanese garden.

Not far south of Chogakuji Temple lies the largest of multiple huge, ancient tombs with keyhole-shaped mounds (kofun) found in the area. This particular one is over 400 meters long and 200 meters wide and is said to be the tomb of Emperor Sujin, one of Japan's earliest emperors.
Further along the trail lies Hibara Shrine which is considered the predecessor of the Ise Shrines. The shrine notably displays a very old style of triple torii gate that is rarely seen anywhere else. Hibara Shrine is an auxiliary shrine of nearby Omiwa Shrine at the southern trailhead. One of the oldest, if not the oldest shrine in Japan, Omiwa Shrine is dedicated to Mount Miwa behind it.

Saki offerings at Shinto shrine


Day 5 - Yamanobe-no-Michi Trail

We met Taka, at the train station and took a train from Nara to ….


Day 6 - Yamanobe-no-Michi Trail

We met a new guide -- Keno -- at the train station and took the bus to (1/2 of Nara Michi trail)



Day 6 - Yamanobe-no-Michi Trail

We met a new guide -- Keno -- at the train station and took the bus to (1/2 of Nara Michi trail)



Shinyakushi-ji Temple


Day 7 - In Nara with Jan while Richard and Patty went to fire festival in a nearby town.

Visited: Todai-ji Temple with largest bronze buddha in the world. Also visited Kōfuku-ji museum of national treasures.

Met Rich and Patty for dinner at a restaurant near the train station.



Day 8 - On Yamanobe-no-michi trail

Met a new guide -- Mr. Kobe -- at the train station and took the train from Nara to Miwa. 

Saw another Buddhist Temple (find name)



Day 9 - In Nara with Jan while Richard and Patty did last segment of the Nara Michi trail

Met a new guide -- Mr. Kobe -- at the train station and took the train from Nara to Miwa. 

Saw another Buddhist Temple (find name)



Jan at mechanical toy museum in Nara


Day 10 - In Nara with Jan while Richard and Patty did last segment of the Nara Michi trail

Jan and I walked around the Naramichi neighborhood of Nara. This is an older neighborhood with residential and commercial buildings. We visited a small mechanical toy museum. We also went to a sake tasting at the local sake brewery.



Day 11 - Tour of sites in ______ with Richard

Richard and I took the train to _____. It took three separate train legs and about an hour. There we rented small scooters and set off to see several sites. These included:

  • (add temples and shrines)



Day 12 - Left Nara for Tokyo

Jan and I took the train from Nara to Kyoto and then the bullet train to Tokyo. A quick taxi ride took us to our hotel near the Imperial Palace. Visited the Tokyo Museum of Modern Art. There was a special exhibit of Swedish designer _____.

Day 13 -  Tokyo

Jan and I explored the Ueno area of Tokyo for most of the day. Visited the National Museum and walked through Ueno park. We then walked through the Ameyoko market. This is many blocks long and is filled with small vendors. We got around by subway which was easier than expected. We bought a two day pass at our hotel. Used the Tokyo subway app to figure out what lines to take and what stations to get off at. All the stations have alpha-numeric designations (e.g. G16) in addition to names. Finished the day with a good dinner at a local restaurant a 10 minute walk from our hotel.


Japan Trip Diary

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