In the fall of 2005, we were contemplating a spring 2006 vacation in the Bahamas, when Jess stumbled upon a special fare to inaugurate United Airlines' new flights to Kansai International Airport in Japan. We couldn't turn down such a great opportunity, so we quickly bought the tickets and started planning. After a bit of research, we decide to limit ourselves to central Honshu, Japan's main island, due to time constraints and the relatively high cost of travel in Japan. Tokyo was a must-see, of course, as were Kyoto (especially after Jess heard about the Golden Temple) and Osaka (once Jer heard about the aquarium). A friend living in Tokyo suggested that we take a day trip to Himeji, which houses one of Japan's most famous castles, and another friend recommended a day trip to Nara, another historic capital and home of the Giant Buddha.
Japan was amazing, with juxtapositions of ancient and modern, Eastern and Western, everywhere we looked. It was a little disorienting and humbling to be unable to read street signs, food labels in convenience stores or pretty much anything (even things written in English were often somewhat garbled), but everyone seemed very willing to help us as best they could. Generally, the people we encountered were friendly but reserved, though Jess's hair and the small stuffed corgi peeking out of her bag were great icebreakers. We saw many beautiful sights, ate much tasty food (and a few things best described as acquired tastes) and generally had a great adventure.