We’ve thoroughly enjoyed our time in Japan. It’s now Emily’s favorite country. Jen wants to live here, at least during the warm months. And we all love the food, the nature, the feeling of safety, and the interesting cultural aspects that make Japan unique. Despite the high cost, it’s pretty safe to say we’ll be returning here at some point, provided Fukushima doesn’t make the place uninhabitable with further disasters. At least wind currents don’t blow toward Osaka from there.
I’ve already written a little about how much we liked Habikino, but I have more pictures to show and more stories to tell about some fun activities we did in the region during our 5 week stay. Here are the highlights.
Camping Near Yubara Onsen
About two hours by car from Osaka, past tranquil mountain towns and beautiful scenery lies the quaint town of Yubara, home to one of Japan’s last remaining family (co-ed) nude hot springs. Now before you start thinking anything kinky, realize that public baths are normal and respectable in Japan, and have been a daily practice in some towns for centuries. These days, most hot springs in the cities have had buildings built around them, with rooms to separate men and women, and they charge a fee. As for this particular spring, it’s right next to a serene river, surrounded by mountains, is completely free, and has three natural pools of differing temperatures. And some people do cover up when not in the water.
We actually made this trip twice with a couple different groups because we enjoyed it so much. Both times, we also camped in tents at a nearby campground — a first for our girls who have always wanted to sleep in a tent.
We also visited nearby waterfalls, and on one trip, stopped at the beach on the Japan Sea to play in the sand for a bit. A big thanks to Lawrence for organizing everything associated with these trips and for the stimulating philosophical conversations along the way.
In a neighborhood not too far from Habikino we went to a lantern festival at a local park. They had music, dancing, food, carnival games, and thousands of candle-lit lanterns laid out on the ground to form various words and shapes. We also visited the nearby Buddhist temples and their gardens, and learned that the area used to be one big temple complex. It was a fun local event we were glad we could attend.
One day, we took a trip to downtown Osaka to meet John Bardos, who runs JetSetCitizen.com and who interviewed me a few years ago about our travels and business. He and Motoko showed us around the town, where they’ve spent a lot of time in years past, and we browsed through some shops together while chatting about life. With all the noise and the concrete, I’m reminded again about how much I don’t want to live in a city, but they are fun to visit every once in a while.
Barbecues, Cherry Blossoms, and Go-Carts
Thanks to Lawrence, we had plenty of opportunities to meet new people and make friends with all the barbecues, gatherings at parks, and cherry blossom watching parties he invited us to. It was a lot of fun and always an enjoyable way to spend an afternoon. At one of the parks, there was a go-cart track, and the girls and I enjoyed taking a ride together.
Most of the time, however, we just hung out at “home.” I started a consulting business. Jen and I thought and wrote a lot. The kids got addicted to Minecraft and drawing art on the iPad. And when the weather was warm, we enjoyed taking bike rides together through the rice fields or to Baskin Robbins for a delicious treat.
Now it’s back to Bali, where we’ll be staying for a whole year, minus a few visa runs to neighboring countries. We’re going to miss you Japan, but we’ll take lots of good memories with us on our way. Here are some video clips and more pictures from our time here.
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Your posts about Japan have sold me. It is a country I definitely want to visit. So start looking for villas to rent with an extra bedroom for your mom :) LOL…
It is so fun experiencing the world through your eyes, and that of your family. The girls seem to be so relaxed and happy and excited about all of these new adventures. Did the enjoy the tent experience? Something they want to do again?
I liked camping as a young kid, but these days my idea of roughing it is a motel 6 :)
It’s pretty challenging to find anything in Japan resembling a “villa” like you stayed at in Bali, but you can find small rooms or apartments (and you’ll usually pay more for them than a villa in Bali, too). :) Transportation costs are through the roof, too — it was $100 in highway tolls just to drive 2 hours! Trains aren’t much cheaper.
Yes, the kids loved camping in a tent and they want to do it again. There was a little bathroom with a sink nearby so we had some facilities. I don’t really like to “rough it” for more than a day or so myself, but was glad that someone else was in charge of all the gear and preparations.
Looking forward to when we can return.
That lantern festival was so much fun, everything from seeing the beautiful temples and gardens to playing festival games and eating the delicious food for sale there.
I love that photo with Marie in those white flowers, and the little girl who made that dandelion crown for Marie was so sweet. :)
I’m glad the girls could have a fun camping experience and enjoy the onsen. They sure had fun at the beach digging up “treasures”, and those waterfalls were so beautiful.
Loved our bike rides to Baskin Robbins. :)
Camping? Really? everything else looks fantastic. I think it’s important for the girls to have a camping experience so good for you. Now they can say they did and they don’t have to do it again. I’m just sayin.
Cool, Cool, Cool!
It’s hard not to fall in love with this beautiful country–my second home. After getting your fill of the temples, shrines, castles, and gardens, it’s nice to just kick back and soak it all up. I’m glad you and your family got to do that.
I’m planning my own trip in Japan. From now I have nothing else than my flight tickets. It’s hard to say “ok, we ‘ll only know Osaka area”, and your pictures don’t help.
I love this post. I love being able to experience Japan vicariously through your photos and words. I am glad the girls were able to go camping for the first time! How fun for them.
And I’ll bet you can’t guess what my favorite pictures was. Just take a wild guess.
Hmm… The girls at the beach? Or maybe Aysia at the beach?
I just signed up for your newsletter. I look forward to hearing from you.
The multiple pictures you post are wonderful, I feel like I am really experiencing
the country as it really is. I traveled extensively before I married and had my children.
I loved it, and am looking forward to doing more in the near future.
The house in Bali is beautiful, I am assuming this is a tourist house and not a typical
Bali home, am I correct? If you were to live in Bali full time, what would that type of home look like and cost? You have a beautiful family, thank-you for sharing!
It depends on what you consider “typical” but yes, the villa we’re renting was meant as a vacation rental for tourists, but we negotiated a one year lease. Many places here are willing to do that, and you can find some excellent deals. Price will vary by location, though, and if it’s a nice villa with a full staff, pool and view, you’ll pay a lot more than an equally nice house without those things. I haven’t looked around enough to give a good figure, but check vrbo.com for an idea, and realize you can often negotiate a long-term monthly rate that costs about as much as a short-term weekly rate. Good luck!
Thank-you so much for your gracious reply and information. I am going to check it our right now!!