Recap :: My Trip to Tokyo

Spending two weeks in Japan was an amazing experience, made even more so by the fact that I got to spend it with my husband and family. I used an app called Storehouse to document our travels day by day. I'd work on them on my phone on the train or at the end of the day and post the link to Facebook and Twitter so people could see our adventures, but I wasn't just blowing up all of my social channels with constant photos and updates. Rather than do a day by day recap on the blog, I decided to just link each of the daily stories here for anyone who wants to see some of the highlights from our trip! The photos link to each story, and I also included a small description at the bottom of this post. Enjoy!

Day 1: The Travel. We drove from Little Rock to Houston, flew from Houston to Beijing, and then hopped over from Beijing to Tokyo. It was a really long 30+ hours of traveling, but we saved about 50% on the tickets by doing it this way (worth it!).

Day 2: First Day in Tokyo. We landed in Tokyo around 1 p.m. their time, and thanks to some medically assisted sleep on the plane we were ready to beat jet lag. The goal was to stay up until a decent bedtime, and the city provided the energy we needed. That...and the curry. YUM.

Day 3: Kimonos. After a morning stop to see the famous Shibuya crossing (SO many people), we rented kimonos and made our way to a famous shrine.

Day 4: Conveyor Belt Sushi. It's time to say goodbye to Tokyo for a few days (after a park stroll and an epic toy store) and head to Mito, where my sister lives. We have our first experience with conveyor belt sushi, which is THE BEST.

Day 5: Karaoke. We explored Mito today, including a huge city park, the Art Tower, and a very crazy arcade. It's New Years Eve, so we ended the day with karaoke (because duh).

Day 6: Samurai School. We started our day with a trip to see a samurai school in Mito, then battled the machines with a vending machine restaurant and a pachinko parlor.

Day 7: Hitachi Seaside Park. From LA to Tokyo - we've now seen the Pacific from both sides. This day also has a ferris wheel, so that's how you know it's awesome.

Day 8: Harajuku. After experiencing the bustling streets of Harajuku, we found serenity in a shrine at sundown.

Day 9: Marunouchi. We went shopping in the fantastic Ginza district, explored the grounds of The Imperial Palace, and then watched the bullet trains leave Tokyo station from a rooftop garden.

Day 10: Tsukiji Fish Market. THE freshest fish I've ever had. Ever. It was swimming the last time we saw it. We finished the day up with beer at the Craft Beer Market and some greasy pizza (because why not).

Day 11: Robots. It's basically the future. From Asimo the adorable museum robot to the craziest robot show you'll ever see anywhere, I welcome our machine overlords.

Day 12: Disney. It's the happiest place on earth, and THEN some. Disney Sea is awesome in that you can carry around a stuffed bear as an adult.

Day 13: Yokohama. Our last day, we explored the gorgeous city of Yokohama. Everything about it was cool! Waygu beef, elephant ice cream, and magic tea.

Let's Review :: One Backpack, Two Weeks

I'm back! One backpack, two weeks, 22 pieces of clothing, four flights, five hotels and a whole lot of train rides. Here's the recap on what I packed if you're interested.

So today, I'm going to recap what worked, what didn't, and what I'd change the next time I pack. Thanks to blogging, I've gotten really good at packing over the past couple of years. I've definitely become more thoughtful about what I include in my luggage, how I construct a small capsule wardrobe, and making sure I get the most out of every piece.

Backpack = Awesome Idea:

Okay, so the backpack was an awesome idea. Not only were they small enough that we could fit two into the lockers at train stations (essential on days where we had lapses between check out/check in at hotels), they were SO much easier to walk around with than rolling luggage. The packing cubes were essential for fitting everything, though. I knew exactly what went in which cube, so repacking was a breeze. I would not have wanted to try and repack a backpack every time we moved without them.

The MVP:

This Uniqlo Ultra Light Down was definitely the star! I learned a cute coat was essential, because it was pretty much in every single photo we took. I loved that it stuffed into a bag, too. If I got hot or took it off at restaurants, I'd bag it up and throw it in my daypack. Next time I travel when it's cold, I'll probably pack this coat and then wear a different one on the plane for a little variation.

The Good:

This little bag from Marc by Marc Jacobs was a dream! I ordered it last minute from Shopbop before our trip and had it rush shipped so I'd get it before we left. I highly recommend this bag for travel - it fit everything I needed, including a small point in shoot, sunglasses, wallet, phone, hand sanitizer, etc. I also loved the "secret compartment" aspect. The fold-over flap is the access to the main part of the bag, but the zipper opens and allows you to store things in the lining as well. I stowed my passport and wallet there for a little more security. I definitely recommend traveling with a normal purse over a travel purse. It helps you fit in a little better and not stick out like the tourist you are (although, in Japan, there was no avoiding that).

Wardrobe Workhorses:

Most worn item was definitely my leggings. I'm not sure I would even pack jeans again - they were uncomfortable and I didn't wear them as much as I thought I would. A slouchy jogger or ankle pant would have been a better choice. For tops, my most worn item was either my white collared shirt or my grey cashmere sweater.

Should've Left at Home:

In my head, the black cape was going to be a wonderful addition to my capsule. It was cozy, warm, and I could wear it around the hotel when we were lounging. In reality, it took up valuable room that could have been used for something else, didn't layer well under a coat, and wasn't that warm as a layering piece. I would have been better off packing another sweater.

Same goes for my blazer. For a work trip or a warmer climate, it would have been an essential layering piece. For Japan, it wasn't warm enough to wear on its own so it often got left behind. A leather jacket would have been a better choice, although much more difficult to travel with.

I've traveled with these Zara flats before, and I packed them to add a dressier element to my wardrobe. The first day I wore them, we walked over 10 miles. My feet were KILLING me by the end of the day. I didn't wear them again, so I wish I'd left them at home and used that space for an extra scarf.

I probably didn't need two skirts, if any. I packed skirts thinking it would add a little variation to my wardrobe, but they were my least worn items. I liked the change but it was often too cold or windy to wear a skirt. On the upside, I enjoyed having the option because the girls in Japan are always dressed to the nines. Many of them wore skirts without tights (I can't imagine! Brr!) so I liked having a dressy item just in case.

What I Wish I'd Packed:

More makeup. Seriously, this sounds crazy, but the Japanese girls were SO CUTE. They were always well put together, with perfect hair and makeup. Having some different eye makeup choices would have made me feel a little less plain.

More color. I ended up packing only two scarves, and more scarves in more colors would have been really nice. Since I wore the same jacket in every photo, scarves and hats would have been the only way to vary my look.

More sweaters. Open layers like cardigans and jackets weren't practical for this trip since I had to wear a coat so often, so a few more sweaters (in something other than black and white) would have been smart. This grey cardigan was my only open layer that I really wore without a coat.

My Ugg boots. I know, I know. For shame. I actually saw a lot of girls commuting in Uggs and I missed how cozy and warm mine were. I wish I'd invested in a pair of short black ones for travel, and I may do so for my next cold weather excursion.

What I Learned:

Overall, this was a great packing experience. I never had that "nothing to wear" feeling and everything in my suitcase seemed to go with everything else. Some things were more practical than others, but for the most part I felt like I had a really solid wardrobe for the trip. The only thing I really needed was more socks (things got sketchy there towards the end). I would absolutely travel using only a backpack again - in fact, I might prefer it. It was just easier to move around. I also need to take my own advice and make sure I pack plenty of tops, take it easy on bottoms.

Tomorrow, I'll be recapping the actual trip and linking to these little stories I made throughout the last two weeks if anyone's interested in what we actually DID while in Japan. The trip was so incredible, I really didn't have time to think that much about what I was wearing, which is exactly the kind of trip you want to be on. So, I do apologize for not documenting daily outfit photos while I was on my trip, but they'd probably be boring anyway compared to what we actually did! If you just can't wait, you can catch up with our travels on Instagram.

What I'm Packing :: Two Weeks in Tokyo

By the time you read this, I'll be en route to Tokyo! We're spending the next two weeks exploring Japan and we're doing it all in a carry on. Woof.

I'm currently packing now and working through the details of what I'm actually going to take (and what will actually fit!) but both my husband and I will be taking two weeks worth of clothes in a large backpack. I chose The North Face Terra 40 for my pack - it fits one large packing cube and one small one (love my packing cubes, couldn't do it without them!), which is what I'll be using to pack all of my clothes. We chose to do backpacks instead of rolling suitcases because we'll be hopping around a lot. Japan doesn't have a lot of space for large bags, especially on the trains, and since we're staying about 4 or 5 different locations throughout our trip, it's easier to haul a backpack.

So far, here's what I've got:

I'm packing lots of shirts that are long enough to wear with leggings and some warm layers that go over anything. The coat is from Uniqlo and packs into a small bag, so it won't take up as much space as a real coat. I'm relying on scarves to add some interest and color to my wardrobe - since I can't take as much, I needed my wardrobe to be really basic. Everything has to go with everything else. These pieces are just a representation of what I'll be packing and not the exact items in all cases, but I spent some time putting together outfits to make sure I could come up with enough. Here's what I've got so far:

So what else? The boots might change - I'm not crazy about how the greys don't match, but they DO match my purse, so I'm torn. If I do swap them out, it'll be for a black leather pair. I'm also planning on packing tights (fleece lined) and extra leggings if they fit, and black & nude camisoles. At a certain point, I'll just be stuffing as much as I can in any extra spaces I may find.

This is going to be an adventure! I don't know if I'll be blogging much from the road, but I'll at least try to document how the packing in a backpack is going! Bon voyage...