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Travel Highlights 2017

2017 was my first year with japan-guide.com and it has gone by quite quickly. Through filming videos for our new YouTube channel, writing reports, researching new locations, or just sightseeing for fun, about 40% of my time was spent on the road. Here are my top 10 travel highlights from 2017:

#10: Sunset from Haneda Airport Terminal 2

I enjoy a good view of the Tokyo skyline, taking a long sunset timelapse, and also watching planes take off. While shooting our Haneda Airport video, I was able to do all three at once from the observation deck of terminal 2.

Tokyo skyline at sunset from Haneda Airport Domestic Terminal Observation Deck

#9: View of Mt. Fuji with Tea Fields

There are many iconic views of Mt. Fuji, but one of the more difficult to find is the one with tea fields in the foreground. It was incredible to finally weave through the fields and capture it for myself while filming our upcoming Kakegawa travel report video which should be published in early 2018.

Mt. Fuji from the tea fields in Kakegawa

#8: Himeji Castle with Sakura

In 2015 the legendary Himeji Castle was re-opened after years of renovation. In 2017 I finally managed to see it for myself, and during the peak of cherry blossom season no less. This was my first time seeing the white fortress up close and was very impressed. With the sakura blossoms framing it beautifully, I found it difficult to stop taking photos.

Recently restored Himeji Castle with sakura

#7: Ainokura Farmhouse Stay

While filming our Toyama travel report video I was able to explore the traditional Japanese farm villiage of Ainokura and stay overnight in one of the farmhouses for the first time. Ainokura was less crowded with tourists than Ogimachi in Shirakawago and sleeping on the tatami floor of one of the farmhouses was a pleasant experience I will never forget.

Ainokura farm village in Toyama

#6: Takayama Matsuri

This autumn I finally made it to the Takayama Matsuri. This was my fifth time visiting Takayama which is famous for its preserved old district, but the timing had never been right until this year to catch its famous festival. The floats, puppet show, and atmosphere provided a very unique and enjoyable Takayama experience.

Takayama matsuri yatai floats

#5: Staying at Hotel Kurobe

The first night of our trip to create the Toyama travel report was spent at Hotel Kurobe which has an amazing view of the Kurobe Gorge. Even better than the view was the incredible multi-course meal and hospitality provided by the friendly staff. You can briefly see a glimpse of what I mean by watching from 3:22 until 3:55 of the Toyama video here.

Hotel Kurobe overlooking the Kurobe Gorge

#4: The Southern Links Golf Club in Okinawa

This past year I was fortunate enough to be able to play golf 24 times. My favorite was The Southern Links Golf Club in Okinawa. The experience of playing holes that were only meters from beautiful cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean was unlike anything else. Of course, I may also prefer this course because I shot my best score there.

A talented and humble videographer about to birdie (or bogey) Hole 7 of the Southern Links Golf Club in Okinawa

#3: Tokunoshima Snorkelling

The tropical island of Tokunoshima is easily the most remote place I have been in Japan. Techinically part of Kagoshima Prefecture, it is closer to Okinawa than mainland Kyushu. In order to properly research the island, naturally we had to test the quality of the snorkelling for ourselves at three of its main beaches. It was a tough task, but somehow we managed.

Aze Prince beach on Tokunoshima Island

#2: Fall Colors Around Lake Towada

Sam and I went to Lake Towada which straddles both Akita and Aomori Prefectures to make a travel report and video highlighting the legendary fall foliage of the Tohoku Region. The colors along the Oirase Stream were among the most vibrant I have seen and the ferry across this unique double caldera lake provided unique photo ops. The second day we went to several observation decks with amazing panoramas to capture some extra b-roll for the video. Overall our time spent filming around Lake Towada was extremely pleasant. You can view the finished video here and Sam's article here.

Amazing fall foliage along the Oirase Stream near Lake Towada

#1: Starry View from Mt. Shirouma

Hiking up Mount Shirouma-dake in the Northern Japan Alps was the second most difficult hike I've ever done. From the trailhead, the vertical ascent to the peak is over 1700m (even more than climbing Mt. Fuji from the 5th station). Joe and I went to make an article and video, and when we finally arrived at the peak on the evening of the first day. We had a strong sense of accomplishment... and sore muscles. After dinner at the lodge, the stars came out. Combined with the unique view of the surrounding peaks above the clouds, it was like we were in another world. I consider the final video one of the best japan-guide.com has made yet. You can view it here and read Joe's article about the hike here.

Starry sky and the Northern Japan Alps from Mt. Shioruma