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Travel Highlights 2019

My second year at japan-guide.com was very busy, with many videos shot and edited for our Youtube channel , as well as a few reports written during the cherry blossom and autumn color season. These projects required a lot of travelling (possibly the most I have ever done in my life) around the country, and although each trip was pretty unique, some were definitely more memorable than others. Here are my top ten travel highlights for 2019:

#10: Autumn color season report in Nasu

My first autumn color report for this year was around Mount Nasu in Tochigi Prefecture, and allowed me to view some very pretty fall colors (although not quite at peak) on the mountain. Strong and cold winds made the hike to the summit very difficult, but made the viewing of the colors from the top extremely rewarding..

#9: Filming at a high end sushi restaurant

For the first food related video, we decided to focus on sushi, and in order to show what a fancy sushi restaurant here in Japan looks like, we had the opportunity to film at Sushi Shin in Tokyo. Not only were the staff very friendly and welcoming, the food was truly outstanding!

#8: Visiting an oyster farm in Miyagi Prefecture

When I heard that I would be visiting an oyster farm in Miyagi for an article about the prefecture's seafood and local specialties, I was slightly nervous, as I usually do not eat oysters. However, after trying a freshly picked one, I was shocked by its deliciousness and I ended up eating 12 of them. This trip definitely reconciled me with oysters.

#7: Filming at Okunoin in Koyasan

For our latest video in Koyasan, we had the chance to film the grounds of Okunoin, where the mausoleum of Kobo Daishi (the founder of Shingon Buddhism) is located. Seeing the Shojingu Procession (where monks deliver food to Kobo Daishi), was for me the highlight of our day on the mountain.

#6: Making my own kaisendon in Miyagi Prefecture

During my trip in Miyagi Prefecture, I got to visit the Shiogama Seafood Wholesale Market, and make my own kaisendon (bowl of rice topped with sashimi). This meant I could walk around the various fish and seafood shops and choose my own toppings as well as their quantity. Let's just say the end result did not disappoint.

#5: Sengankei Valley in Toyama Prefecture

Our video about 5 Cycling Tours in Toyama Prefecture saw us travelling all around the prefecture to visit some scenic spots off the typical tourist route. On the first day of the shoot we headed to Nissekiji Temple, near the town of Kamiichi, and we were blown away by the natural beauty of its grounds. The Sengankei Valley located behind the temple, with its vivid green moss covering its grounds, had a surreal atmosphere to it and became my favorite spot of the trip.

#4: Roadtrip in Kyushu

This year also marked my second time on the island of Kyushu, as we went on a three day road trip from the onsen town of Beppu all the way to Kumamoto. Along the way we stopped by Mount Aso, and the scenery there felt like out of this world. The highlight was the Kuju Flower Park, with its huge fields of vivid and colorful flowers in the foreground of the beautiful Kuju Mountains.

#3: Morning waterfall meditation in Mitake

When we stayed in a pilgrim's lodge for our Side Trip to Mount Mitake video, we were offered the chance to participate in a morning waterfall meditation ritual. The process involved us having to wake up at dawn, walk through the forest like the mountain pilgrims would (meaning no talking and no looking back), before arriving at the waterfall in the woods. There, we received the instructions for the ritual and I got to watch and film Sam going under the freezing waterfall while being half naked.

#2: Exploring the Kiso Valley

One of my first projects this year was the Kiso Valley video filming. The stay at the very old minshuku in the middle of the mountain post town of Tsumago was definitely a highlight, as well as the grasshoppers presented to us for dinner, which Sam and I had never eaten before (very tasty if you manage to go over the aspect).

#1: Nara Park in the morning

In order to film the Top 5 Things to Do in Nara video, I stayed one night near Nara Park during the cherry blossom season, and decided to explore the area very early in the morning, before the buses of tourists would arrive. Walking around the magnificient park, with only a few locals doing their morning exercises here and there, felt like I had the whole area just to myself, and allowed me to rediscover Nara in a different light.