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Digital Nomad Life Month 94

Month Ninety-Four was an incredible month of travel and I had to pinch myself that I finally actually made it to Japan!

We traveled to four countries in month ninety-four but most of the month was spent in Japan and it has been as incredible as I hoped it would be, although sometimes frustrating at times too. It is definitely different than anywhere else I have ever been.

The month began in Nepal with two nights in the ancient city of Patan where we visited some important historical sites and stayed in a wonderful guesthouse.

Boudnanth Stupa

And then the long journey to Japan began. 

There are no direct flights from Kathmandu to Tokyo and we didn’t want to spend 20+ hours to get there with transit times (I can’t sleep on planes or in airports) so we ended up taking our time and spending a night and day in Bangkok where I got my final filling done, and a night in Manila near the airport, before finally arriving in Japan.

This was actually cheaper than the other flights we saw with horrible connections (even including our two nights’ accommodation!) and it allowed us to get into Tokyo without being total wrecks from long flights and lack of sleep. 

Arashiyama temple

The rest of the month we spent in wonderful Japan and despite having some issues with the food (I don’t like ramen and don’t eat pork, so sue me), it has been a really, really great month.

We spent three nights in Tokyo during peak Sakura (cherry blossom) season and it was absolutely magical, despite the crowds. From there we hopped over to Hakone for more cherry blossoms, our first onsen experience, and we even got a peek at Mount Fuji.

Tokyo temple

Next up was lovely Kanazawa for two nights of temples and gardens, bucolic Shirikawa-go on a half-day trip, and the mountain city Takayama for three nights.

We allotted six nights for charming Kyoto and I am so glad we did because we loved exploring all the incredible historic sites and temples there. 

From Kyoto, we headed down to Hiroshima for a couple of nights to learn more about the devastating bombing and to explore nearby Miyajima Island, Nara for two nights to explore the historic sites and pat some friendly (but aggressive) deer, and Osaka for two nights to sample all the delicious food the city is known for.

We spent the last five nights of the month hiking the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage trail from Nachi to Takijiri-oji and it was an absolute highlight of our time in the country.

Now onto the stats!

Hongu torii gate

Countries Visited: Nepal, Thailand, Philippines, Japan

Places Visited:

  • Nepal: Bandipur, Patan
  • Thailand: Bangkok
  • Philippines: Manila
  • Japan: Tokyo, Hakone, Kanazawa, Shirikawa-go, Takayama, Kyoto, Hiroshima, Miyajima Island, Nara, Osaka, Kiikatsuura, Takata, Koguchi, Hongu, Yunomine Onsen, Chikatsuya, Takahara

National and State Parks, Monuments, and UNESCO Sites: Kathmandu Valley UNESCO World Heritage Site, Monuments of Ancient Kyoto UNESCO World Heritage Site, Shirikawa-go UNESCO World Heritage Site, Hiroshima Genbaku Dome UNESCO World Heritage Site, Itsukushima Shrine UNESCO World Heritage Site, Monuments of Ancient Nara UNESCO World Heritage Site, The Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Japan selfie

Islands Visited: Miyajima Island in Japan.

Days on the Road: 31 days.

Best Meals: Mango sticky rice in Bangkok; crispy butter pie sandwiches and egg sandwiches from Lawson in Japan (we ate ALOT!); croffle with strawberry and cream in Shirikawa-go; soba noodles in broth with edible wild greens; udon noodles in broth with tempura prawns; Margherita pizza with locally smoked cheese from 808 Monsmare in Hakone; shrimp and ginger gyoza from Moshimoya in Kyoto; green salad with salmon, egg, and edamame with fresh bread from Sir Thomas Lipton in Kyoto; Fish and chips from Molly Malone’s in Hiroshima; fried oysters and oysters gratin on Miyajima Island; Kushiage in Osaka; Souffle pancakes from A Happy Pancake in Osaka; incredible set meals and bento boxes on the Kumano Kodo especially the Kaiseki meal at Kiri-no-Sato Takahara Lodge.

Souffle pancakes

Worst Meals: Fried chicken from konbinis (convenience stores) with layer of fat; gloopy takoyaki street food in Kyoto; sour plum-filled onigiri.

Best Craft Beer: Hiroshima Lemon Ale from Miyajima Beer on Miyajima Island; Limited Milk Stout from Yamato Brewery in Nara.


I did so much walking this month and was averaging 30,000 steps a day for at least a week. I did a few actual hikes too:

  • Mount Misen trail on Miyajima Island in Japan 5 miles
  • Kumano Kodo trail from Kumano Nachi Taisha to Ukegawa 18.5 miles over two days
  • Kumano Kodo trail from Hosshinmon-oji to Kumano Hongu Taisha 4.4miles
  • Kumano Kodo trail from Kobiri Toge to Chikatsuya 5 miles
  • Kumano Kodo trail from Chikatsuya to Takijiri-oji 8.7 miles over 1.5 days

Kumano Kodo hiking

Watching: Wellmania (I LOVED this show!!), Four Good Days, Beef (also addictive).

Reading: Sea of Tranquility by Emily St Mandel.

New Posts: Somehow I managed to write two entirely new posts this month while traveling. I finally wrote about our time really off the beaten path on the Pacific Coast of Colombia last year – Why You Shouldn’t Miss El Valle on Colombia’s Pacific Coast, and I also wrote about one of my new favorite Thai islands – Why You Shouldn’t Just Visit Koh Kradan on a Day Trip.


Exploring Patan and Boudhanath

Rather than go back to Kathmandu for our last couple of nights in Nepal, we decided to spend them in nearby Patan instead and it was a great choice. Patan is home to a more impressive Durbar Square than Kathmandu and a number of other important temples and historic sites.


We enjoyed visiting these as well as where we stayed, at a wonderful homestay in a traditional Newari House. We also spent half a day meeting a friend for lunch and exploring the impressive Boudhanath Stupa which is possibly the largest Buddhist Stupa in the world.

Finally Getting To Japan

Japan has been at the top of my list of places to visit for a long time but I always put it off because I was scared about how expensive it is. We were planning to go for a couple of weeks in April 2020 but as you know, that didn’t happen.

Nachi Waterfall

So, it was really a dream to spend a month there and I know that I definitely want to return to see more of this beautiful and unique country in the future.

Sakura Season in Japan

I love all spring flowers but cherry blossoms, along with jacarandas and daffodils, are my absolute favorite so we were really lucky to be in Tokyo, Hakone, and Kanazawa in peak cherry blossom (sakura) season.

Meguro River sakura at night

It was crowded but not as bad as I thought it would be. We loved seeing sakura in Ueno Park, along the Meguro River (especially when it was all lit up at night!), and around Chidorigafuchi Moat in Tokyo, dotted all over the mountains around town in Hakone, and along the river and around Kanazawa Castle and Kenroku-en Gardens in Kanazawa.

I absolutely loved seeing Sakura everywhere and I can’t think of a more beautiful thing to experience in Japan, although I do want to travel to Japan during autumn for the colors then to compare.

Tokyo sakura

Hot Springs and Mount Fuji Spotting in Hakone

A lot of people visit Hakone on a day trip but I am so pleased we had two nights there because it allowed us to slow down and enjoy the town center and spend a leisurely half-day soaking in the excellent Tenzan Onsen, as well as doing the Round Course where you travel by train, gondola, cable car, and “pirate” ship to see the main sights in the area.

Hakone cherry blossoms

Also, despite it not being common to see Mount Fuji outside of the winter months (it is usually covered by clouds in spring) we did get a glimpse when the clouds cleared for about a half hour. Very exciting!

Exploring Lovely Kanazawa

I enjoyed our two nights in Kanazawa, even more so because it was peak season for sakura during our visit. The sublime Kenroku-en Garden had free admission for the week we were there for sakura viewing and it was great to be able to see the gardens in the daytime and also lit up at night.

Kenrokuen Garden

Other Kanazawa highlights were touring the Ninja Temple where we got to see all the trapdoors and hidden passages, admiring the cherry blossoms along the river pathway, and wandering around the Naga-machi and Higashi-Chaya Districts.

Kanazawa Castle

Learning About Hida Culture and History at Shirakawa-go and Hida Folk Village

We spent half a day in the UNESCO-listed mountain village of Shirakawa-go which is known for its traditional gassho-zukuri farmhouses. It is a beautiful little village and although it’s pretty touristy, we enjoyed wandering around and exploring.

Shirakawago houses

I also visited the Gassho Zukuri Minkaen Outdoor Museum which gave me more information about the history and what everyday life was like in the village in the past (it was hard).

In Takayama, I went to the Hida Folk Village which also has traditional gassho-zukuri farmhouses and was similar but better than the outdoor museum I went to in Shirikawa-go. 


I Love Kyoto!

Kyoto may be one of the most well-known and tourist-filled places in Japan but it is popular for a reason, and we absolutely loved our six nights there. The city is steeped in history and has countless temples, shrines, and gardens to explore. Bullet trains in Kyoto offer a fast and efficient way to travel between the different districts of the city, making it easier for tourists to see all that Kyoto has to offer.    


Highlights were walking the Philosopher’s Path between Ginkaku-ji and Nanzen-ji, seeing the incredible Kinkaku-ji (Golden Pavillion) and Kiyomizu-dera temples, eating delicious food at the bustling Nishiki Market, catching some late-season sakura at Maruyama Park, wandering around the historic streets of Higashiyama and Gion, and hiking up a mountain through endless red torii gates at Fushimi Inari Taisha.

Golden Temple

A Perfect Morning in Arashiyama

While in Kyoto we also spent a day on the outskirts of the city in the mountainous Arashiyama district. There are so many incredible temples in Arashiyama and I really enjoyed the gardens of Jojakko-ji and Tenryu-ji, and the 1200 unique statues at Otagi Nenbutsu-ji. The walk through a quiet, traditional neighborhood on the way to Otagi Nenbutsu-ji and along the river were big highlights too.

Otagi Nenbutsuji Temple

We also went to the Arashiyima Monkey Park which was enjoyable, and the Arashiyama Bamboo Forest which was pretty but not worth the attention and crowds that it gets. We got there at 9 am and there were already quite a few people there although the crowds weren’t terrible, but when we went past it again around 12pm it was absolutely rammed with people.


An Action-Packed Day Trip To Miyajima Island

I enjoyed Hiroshima a lot more than I thought I would – it’s a beautiful city that has emerged from the carnage after the bombing in 1945, but the highlight of my time in the area was taking a day trip to nearby Miyajima Island. I absolutely adored this gorgeous island!

Floating torii gate

We hiked the forested trail up Mount Misen to the viewpoint at the top, saw the famous “floating” torii gate, visited one of my favorite temples in Japan – the mountain temple of Daishoin with its cave temple and pathway of statues with red knitted woolly hats, ate delicious fried and gratin local oysters and Momiji Manju maple cakes, sampled local beers at Miyajima Brewery, and made friends with the local tame deer.

Miyajima Island is a must-visit in my opinion and deserves more than an hour or two of your time.

Daishoin Temple

Mini Pigs and Delicious Food in Osaka

Osaka was all about eating, wandering the neon-lit streets at night, and cuddling micropigs. Osaka was my favorite city for food and during our time there I ate Kushiage (various seafood, meat and vegetables on sticks that have been crumbed and deep-fried), shrimp and chicken gyoza, cheese tarts, and decadent souffle pancakes with cream and berries. It was all so good!

Osaka at night

We also really enjoyed wandering around the neon wonderland of Dotobori and Shinsekai in the evenings, and our private session at Mipig Cafe with two adorable micropigs who cuddled up on our laps. 

Hiking the Kumano Kodo Pilgrimage Trail

The second multiday hike of our trip this year was the five-day Kumano Kodo pilgrimage trail on the Kii Peninsula. It is one of only two UNESCO World Heritage-listed pilgrimage trails in the world (the other is the Camino de Santiago in Spain) and its forested trails link mountain villages with important temples and shrines.

Temple stairs Hongu

The whole experience of hiking this trail was one of the big highlights of the past five months of travel – the hiking itself, our interactions with locals and other travelers, the beautiful temples, the bucolic villages, the relaxing onsen, the wonderful accommodations, and the excellent food. It was all so, so great.

Yunomine Onsen

A Wonderful Stay and Impromptu Sake Party in Takahara

On our last night on the trail we splurged and stayed at the luxurious but down-to-earth Kiri-no-Sato Takahara Lodge – a beautiful lodge with epic views out over the mountains and to the village below. This would usually be way out of our budget traveler’s price range but I am so glad we did it because it was my favorite place we stayed on our whole trip.

Our room had gorgeous views and we watched the sunset from our terrace while sipping on housemade plum wine, soaked in the onsen that also had mountain views, and enjoyed a delicious breakfast in the morning.

Takahara view

But the multi-course Kaiseki dinner that featured local and foraged produce, followed by a sake party with the staff and a couple of other guests after dinner was the highlight.

We were very lucky that we happened to visit on the night that the sake supplier to the restaurant was staying and he was very generous with his sake supply. I tried so many different ones including a sparkling one, which was my favorite, as well as making some new friends. It was a night I will always remember and our best night in Japan.


A Stressful Intro To Japan

Our arrival into Japan ended up being a very stressful experience as we had a two-hour wait to go through immigration and then we had to literally run to catch the last train from Narita into Tokyo. We caught it with a minute to spare.

I didn’t realize how far out of the city Narita Airport is either – it is so far! We had to catch two trains and it took over 90 minutes to get to Shinjuku where we were staying. We didn’t end up getting to our hotel until midnight and I was absolutely exhausted from the whole process. I hope leaving the country won’t be so stressful.

Canal in Japan

Eating Out in Japan

I really struggled the first half of my time in Japan with the food. Japanese food has a big focus on pork (which I don’t eat), raw meat and fish (not a massive fan), ramen (I don’t like it), and fatty meat (I just can’t), so I struggled to find restaurants serving food I could eat and enjoy. 

What made it worse was that so many places in smaller towns and cities would close really early and then the ones actually open for dinner would be fully booked. We spent an hour walking around Takayama trying to find somewhere to eat before giving up and going to McDonald’s. 

I think this problem was exacerbated because we were traveling during cherry blossom season which is one of the busiest travel times, along with there being a shortage of hospitality workers in the aftermath of the pandemic.

Luckily things got much better on the food front after our initial disappointment and I ended up having some absolutely outstanding dishes during my time in Japan, especially during our Kumano Kodo hike and in Osaka.

Kyoto street

Weather in Japan

Ha! I know I always complain about the weather in my lowlights but I really was surprised how cold it still was for most of our time in Japan. Also, in Kanazawa, the wind was bitterly cold, and in Tokyo, Kyoto, Nara, Takayama, and the first day of the Kumano Kodo we had some rain.

I tried not to dwell on the bad weather and we still had a wonderful time in Japan – we were lucky we weren’t traveling so fast that we couldn’t rearrange a few plans so that the rain didn’t put us out too much.

Tattoo Discrimination at Onsens in Japan

I was really looking forward to soaking in all the onsen (hot springs) in Japan but there are so many that still don’t allow you to soak in public pools if you have a tattoo, even a tiny little one like mine that I could cover. I missed out on so many really nice-looking onsen and spent hours trying to find out which ones would allow me entry. 

Tattoos were historically associated with the Japanese Mafia but it seems crazy that people with tattoos are still being discriminated against in Japan today when so many people globally have tattoos these days. I hope this is one archaic custom that changes soon.

Katsuura shrine

Dealing With a Hurt Foot Just Before Our Hike

After mostly cold weather in Japan, I hadn’t worn my sandals for a few weeks until I could finally break them out on a sunny day in Nara. I ended up walking 25,000 steps that day including with my heavy bags traveling between Nara and Osaka, and unfortunately, my feet weren’t used to them anymore and I really hurt the arch on my left foot.

We went out for dinner in Shinsekai and it got to the point when we were walking around (I had changed back into my hiking boots at this point) and there was such intense pain in the arch of my foot that I couldn’t put weight on it. This was only three days before we were starting the Kumano Kodo trail so I was very worried.

I woke up the next day and it was a bit better but I still had to limp, the day after was the same, and then I started hiking. On the first day on the trail, my foot was really sore again by the end of the day, but by day five it was completely better.

It was a massive relief to still be able to do the hike because for a while there I didn’t think it would be possible.

Philosophers Path Kyoto


A lot of these costs are my half with Toby paying the other half. I also don’t include international flights in my recaps.

Total: USD$2813

I was expecting this month to be around $3000 so I’m not mad about this. I’m actually surprised at how little I spent on food and activities (I spent less on food this month than last month when I was in Nepal!), and transport wasn’t bad either.

Accommodation was the biggest splurge but a few of the nights included meals as well. Overall, Japan has been a bit cheaper than I expected it to be which is a pleasant surprise.

Accommodation $1076

Ouch, but that’s Japan for you. We actually did get a number of great deals then splurged on a few nights too. Also, I usually average at least a week of unpaid stays a month due to staying with friends and family, work covering my accommodation, housesitting, and free camping, and this is the first month for a while where I paid for accommodation for every night of the month.

My 31 nights of paid accommodation for the month consisted of two nights at a homestay in Patan, one night at a hotel in Bangkok, one night at a homestay in Manila, three nights at a capsule hotel in Tokyo, two nights in a double capsule in a dorm at a hostel in Hakone, two nights in a double capsule in a dorm at a hostel in Kanazawa, three nights at a guesthouse in Takahara, four nights at a Ryokan (traditional Japanese Inn) in Kyoto, two nights in a private room in a hostel in Kyoto, two nights in a private room at a hostel in Hiroshima, two nights at a guesthouse in Nara, two nights in a private room at a hostel in Osaka, one night at a Ryokan in Kii Katsuura, one night at a Ryokan in Takata, one night in a private room at a hostel in Yunomine Onsen, one night in a private cabin in Chikatsuya, and one night at a luxury lodge in Takahara.

I had no nights of unpaid accommodation this month.

Takahara blossoms

Food and Drink $774

Much lower than I thought it would be thanks to eating a number of meals, particularly breakfast, at konbinis.

Clothing $0

Transport $517.50

  • Bus Dumre to Kathmandu $5.50
  • Taxis in Nepal $16.50
  • Grab in Bangkok $20
  • Airport taxis in Manila $4.50
  • Train from Narita Airport to Shinjuku in Tokyo $20.50
  • Trains in Tokyo $8
  • Bullet train from Tokyo to Kanazawa $101.50
  • Buses in Kanazawa $4.50
  • Bus from Kanazawa to Shirikawa-go to Takayama $40
  • Buses in Takayama $2.50
  • Bus from Takayama to Kyoto $37
  • Trains and buses in Kyoto $21
  • Train from Kyoto to Hiroshima $80
  • Buses and trains in Hiroshima $7.50
  • Return ferry to Miyajima Island $2.50
  • Train from Hiroshima to Osaka $73.50
  • Trains from Osaka to Nara $6
  • Trains from Nara to Osaka $8.50
  • Trains in Osaka $2
  • Bus from Osaka to Kii Tanabe $24
  • Train from Kii Tanabe to Kii Katsuura $12.50
  • Kumano Kodo buses $19.50

Fushimi Inari Shrine

Activities $168.50

  • Boudnanth Stupa in Kathmandu Valley $3
  • Darbar Square in Patan $7.50
  • Golden Temple in Patan $1.50
  • Three-Day Hakone Free Pass $48.50
  • Tenzan Onsen in Hakone $10.50
  • Samurai House in Kanazawa $4
  • Ninja Temple in Kanazawa $7.50
  • Gassho Zukuri Minkaen Outdoor Museum in Shirikawa-go $4.50
  • Cat Cafe entry in Takayama $12 (visited twice)
  • Hida Folk Village in Takayama $5.50
  • Takayama Jinya $3.50
  • Kiyomizu-dera Temple in Kyoto $3.50
  • Kodai-ji Temple in Kyoto $3.50
  • Ginkaku-ji Temple in Kyoto $3.50
  • Arashiyama Monkey Park in Kyoto $4.50
  • Otagi Nenbutsu-ji Temple in Arashiyama $2
  • Jojakko-ji Temple in Arashiyama $3.50
  • Tenryu-ji Temple in Arashiyama $3.50
  • Ninna-ji Temple in Kyoto $3.50
  • Kinkaku-ji Temple (Golden Pavilion) in Kyoto $3.50
  • Peace Memorial Museum in Hiroshima $1.50
  • Todai-ji Temple in Nara $3.50
  • Kasuga Taisha in Nara $3.50
  • Private session with micropigs at Mipig Cafe in Osaka $15
  • Tsubo-yu onsen in Yumonine Onsen $6

Health $64

  • One filling at Dentist in Bangkok $64

Other $167

  • U.S. Phone plan $35
  • Spotify $10.50
  • Toiletries $47.50
  • Laundry $7.50
  • Artwork in Nepal $19
  • Lockers $5.50
  • Kitty magnet $3
  • Kitty hankie $5.50
  • Handbag $32
  • Deer crackers in Nara $1.50

Gate to temple

Website Costs $32

  • Monthly payment for Keysearch $12
  • Website domain renewal for one year $20

Van/RV Costs $14

  • RV insurance for the month $14

Deer in Nara

What’s in Store for Next Month

We still have a few days left in Japan in Osaka and Tokyo where I have a few things I want to see and eat but I am most excited about reuniting with my brother in Tokyo for two days before we fly out. 

Then Toby and I will be winging our way to Hawaii for three nights in Honolulu where we will be staying by the University in Manoa, a new part of Honolulu for me.

I want to of course head to Waikiki Beach during our time there, as well as hike to Manoa Falls, and eat my Hawaii favorites – especially the legendary malasadas at Leonard’s.

And then it is back to Denver for a few days getting our stuff together and catching up with friends and family before driving down to see Toby’s Dad in New Mexico and picking up Brownie the RV.

From there, we will be driving to the Pacific North West for the summer because we are running the glamping at The Gorge again. Along the way we are planning to stop in Pagosa Springs, Durango, Moab, Salt Lake City, and Boise – it’s going to be fun!

Toby has to be there a couple of weeks early for setup but I don’t need to be there until a few days before the first show so I have two wonderful catsits lined up – five days in Portland followed by three days in Bend, so I will be spending the last week of the month in Oregon.

I have only visited both cities on brief visits so I am excited to delve into the food and beer scenes and get a better feel for them as well as hike, get some online ordering and prep work done for the Gorge, apply for my citizenship, and get as many kitty cuddles as I can. I am excited!

To read additional Monthly Recaps, you can find them here

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