Travel Japan | Nara, Hiroshima, Itsukushima

In the second installment our Japan series, I'll be sharing about several day trips out to the following cities: Nara, Hiroshima, and Itsukushima (Miyajima). As mentioned in our previous post in Kyoto, Kyoto was our central location and lodging for 5-6 days as we explored different cities that were within 1-2 hours from our destinations. This was only made possible with the efficient transportation system in Japan, and having the 14 day JR pass was a must! We were pleasantly surprised how much money we saved, since we actually stayed for 10 days in Japan, yet we saved more than 50% of transportation costs with the pass. Here are some of the places we explored and recommend for your future trip to these cities!

Nara Park

One surprising thing I noticed about my husband was how excited he was to visit all the animal parks and cafes in Japan. Nara Park was no exception since it is known for the vast number of deer. They are certainly not timid  in approaching people, hoping visitors have a treat to offer. The park is quite vast, and the city overall is worth a day to explore its rich history since it was the first permanent capital of Japan. 

Itsukushima Shrine

This iconic torii gate  is known to be one of the most popular attractions and was ranked as one of Japan's three best views. My husband and I originally intended to visit during our first trip to Japan, so we were excited that we were able to this time around.  Itsukushima is an island located less than an hour away from Hiroshima, and makes for a great half day trip. Despite the larger crowd in the afternoon, there is a spot for everyone to enjoy this breathtaking view.

Mount Misen

Since my husband and I wanted to see the torii gate during the high tide, we decided to make the hike up to Mount Misen. We took the Momijidani course, which became quite an adventure since the hike was relatively steep and filled with stairs. However, it was well worth the trek since the summit offered a spectacular view of the Seto Inland Sea. 

Hiroshima Peace Memorial

A place not to be missed in Hiroshima. The area is noticeably distinct from the downtown area with spacious walking areas filled with trees and lawns, and the A-Bomb Dome served as a tangible reminder of the devastating past. The museum is highly recommended, and was both informative yet heart-wrenching to learn how events following the atomic bomb shaped the country's people and those who remained.

Shukkei-en Garden

A petite garden in Hiroshima where we met a fellow photographer, Nari, who was also appreciating the budding cherry blossoms! We enjoyed the little path along the park where one can enjoy many mini vignettes of traditional aesthetics. It is also a popular location for evening sakura hanami. 

Shintenchi Micchan
Hiroshima-style Okonomiyaki

This restaurant was recommended by Nari as an ideal location for Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki. Most people might be familiar with the Osaka-style, and what's unique about Hiroshima is the base of the savory pancake is a thin crepe that is then layered with different ingredients, such as cabbage and agedama. It is then finished with a generous mound of yakisoba noodles, pork belly, and egg. After hiking more than ten miles, this dinner definitely hit the spot!

Travel | New York

As featured on Cottage Hill

My husband and I recently celebrated four sweet years of marriage by exploring New York City for the first time. We spent most of our time in Manhattan, either walking in the streets of the city or wandering through pockets of lush nature. 

For many years, I was especially enamored by the ethereal beauty of autumn in the east coast, which soon became an item on my bucket list. My husband and I thus spent one of the mornings walking through Central Park, taking in the changing foliage. We loved how peaceful it was, and felt as though we had the park to ourselves! 

New York is an incredible city filled with romance and timeless pieces. There is something about the city that sets itself apart for its rich history and iconic buildings, and we loved every moment we spent there - from lingering in the cafe or taking in the cityscape at the High Line. My husband and I were so grateful to make memories there together, and is a destination we will look forward to visiting again in the future!

Recounting 2017

As this year came and went, and I want to take this opportunity to be a bit more introspective and recount the many, many things to be thankful for this past year. As some express this through the #2017bestnine, I thought to do something that is a little different. As many say, the nine squares do not quite do justice the many events that happen in one year, so I hope to share a little more than nine images, and a share a few words too for myself to look back on the years to come. 

If you have been following me for a while, I want to thank you for going through this journey with me thus far. Photography helped me to see a lot of things about myself that I would not have known  - and the challenges that I'm sure many of you share and are intimately aware. However, it has been a beautiful way to being able to document many milestones, celebrations, and the everyday. I am so grateful for the new relationships that have cultivated, or ongoing relationships that have grown. 

Weddings, Inspiration Shoots, and Workshops

In 2017, I had the honor of photographing weddings for several clients, and am reminded of what a privilege it is to document the day when two individuals become one. In addition, it was also a delight to collaborate with vendor friends to put together an bridal inspiration shoot. I was excited to fulfill my goal of attending a workshop with none other than Jeremy Chou, whom I admired for some time. 

Travels to Israel, Orlando, and New York

This past year was filled with extraordinary and unexpected travels. My husband and I visited Israel with our church, and were overwhelmed (in a good way) of the rich history laden in that land. It was also amazing to witness the events that took place in the Bible with our own eyes, an experience that is too good to pass. The constant, joyful fellowship with brothers and sisters were ever sweet.

I also unexpectedly took a trip with my mother, father, and sister to Orlando, Florida. Funnily enough, I often boast to friends and colleagues to have never visited a city in the USA east of Las Vegas. Well, that's thrown out the window! Although the trip was short, I was grateful to have spent time with my parents in a place nearly every child wants to go to - Disney World and Universal Studios. 

Another unexpected trip this year was when my husband and I spent our fourth year anniversary in New York. To put it simply, it was a dream and cannot wait to visit again!

Celebrations & The Everyday

2017 was also no short of celebrations, from friends becoming first time mothers, to my mother's 60th birthday. This season was one to remember, as each day is truly a gift , either the first breaths of life or the resilience through age. The everyday should not be taken for granted, from the morning ritual of making coffee, to visiting the local gems that I get to call home.