A side-trip to Ise, off the beaten path in Japan

I mentioned this a few times before, but my recent trip to Japan’s Kansai region marked my second time in that region. The first time, I was flying solo, so I definitely wanted Sidney to see some of my favorite spots and show her why I fell in love with Japan. This included revisiting Kyoto and Nara. For myself though, this post about ‘keeping the same country fresh’ inspired me to try something different and look a bit deeper to see if I missed something amazing.

My research stage before a trip involves a lot of trailing off, which lets my mind wander. Are there good onsens nearby? No dice. Maybe cool monkeys? Too far north. Then I remembered a story I read about the completion of a Shinto shrine in Japan last year. Is that nearby? Turns out, it was only an hour away from Nara, or two hours if Japanese transportation still completely baffles you.

The river crosses the entrance to the Grand Shrine.
The river crosses the entrance to the Grand Shrine.

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My First Couchsurfing Experience

About five years ago, a very good friend of mine told me about this wonderful trip she was about to take: Six months across Asia, mostly couchsurfing. Naturally, I worried about her safety, but wished her the best. Six months passed and everything went without a hitch as my curiosity grew. My preconceptions of the ‘dangerous world’ were thrown into question. Although I already had an account, it was time to actually give couchsurfing a try.

I'm ready to go!
I’m ready to go!

[For those of you who are not part of the 5.5 million strong membership, here is a brief. Couchsurfing is a community of people who are curious of travelers from all over the world and offer their home, (or sometimes, literally their couch) as accommodation, free of charge. The idea is that the host will get an enriching experience from meeting a new person and in turn, the ‘surfer’ will get to meet a local as a cultural exchange. The terms are completely arranged person to person. Many serve as hosts while in their home country, and are surfers while abroad.] Read more