Traveling to Japan – How the Journey Began

by Leila on April 5, 2013

Traveling to Japan



Traveling to Tokyo is something I did often as a kid. While many of my friends went to summer camp I often spent a chunk of my summers in Japan. I had no idea then how fortunate I was. I’m half Japanese and my ethnicity has molded me in many ways and so did traveling to Tokyo as often as I did.

I have family that lives in Tokyo, Japan that I hadn’t seen for over 15 years. The last trip I took to Japan was when I was a teenager and I was there for almost two months. At that time I thought I would move to Japan when I turned 18 and live there for a few years. I even planned on getting a job with one of the international airlines so I could travel back and forth from Japan to the US.

Then life happens, things change and time slips away. The things we were sure we would do changes as does our interests.

I don’t regret staying in the states but I do regret not making visiting Japan a priority. I allowed over 15 years to pass between visits. Life, at times, has been more than difficult especially since I was a single Mom for so long with two kids… one of which has special health needs.

Traveling internationally with kids is difficult to say the least. Traveling with a child with special health needs and life threatening food allergies makes things a little more complicated. But, I want my kids to experience Japan and I hate feeling like my kids can’t do something because of their health.

When my Dad planned his trip to Japan this year he invited me to come with him. Actually, I think I invited myself! I was very excited but also had a huge amount of guilt being away from my kids.

I realized if I am able to go to Japan and familiarize myself with everything again it will make it so much easier to plan a trip with the rest of my family. That may seem like a lame justification. However, going to another country and not knowing how to modify our trip to make it safe for my daughter petrified me from planning it.

And, of course, there have been the tsunami and radiation concerns these past two years that delayed bringing them.

On top of all of that I also needed to realize I do not need to have an excuse to make time for myself. I haven’t had a vacation of my own since becoming a Mom. Yes, I’ve been fortunate to have some amazing travel opportunities from my blog, with the kids and friends/family but those are still an amount of work involved.

This was also the first time in many years since my Dad and I have spent a lot of time together. I honestly can’t remember the last time we traveled just us… if ever. Again… time is a tricky thing and so is life.

We booked the trip in January and the trip was here before I knew it!

Finally… Traveling to Japan Again

The flight from Los Angeles to Tokyo is a long one. I had my backpack loaded up with my MacBook, Kindle Fire and iPad. I tossed in a couple books and notebooks. I figured all that time without distractions from the kids would result in some extra writing and wrapping up projects.

When we got settled into our seats my Dad looked at me and said, “Yes! This is where I catch up on movies! If you time it right you can watch five of them.”

Every time someone speaks over the intercom on the airplane it pauses your screen. Each time the pilot or flight attendant started to speak my Dad would make a frustrated face. They were cutting into his movie time! It was funny watching him get so upset.

I don’t watch a lot of TV or Movies and when I do I tend to multitask. I think this makes my sweetie crazy because I will miss things or he will say “Watch this part!” if my attention is diverted. The night before I left we watched Wreck it Ralph and I painted my nails and my daughter’s nails the whole time. I heard the whole story but I can’t tell you in exact detail what some of the scene looked like. Basically, it’s rare for me to just relax and watch something.

I ended up spending 12 hours enjoying movies and reading. It was glorious. The flight is long, your body gets sore sitting that long and the food sucks… but the silver lining is that it felt like a mini vacation to just be able to chill out.

Sure, spending 12 hours on a patio overlooking the beach would have been much better but I will take what I can!

Important or Obscure things to mention about International Flights:

* If you sit at the back of the plane you may not get a choice in food. We were just handed what was left. Twice they had to scrounge to find my Dad a snack. The food was terrible… Bring your own food but no liquids!

* If you sit next to a guy who speaks no english, picks his nose and wipes it on his pants constantly and sleeps with his head rested on a pillow on the seat in front of him while drooling do NOT stop trying to take pictures of this. I tried to be sneaky but the pictures didn’t come out and I was worried he would wake up a fling a boogie at me. It’s truly my only regret. It would have almost been worth the boogie flinging.

* If you are the type of person to do what I listed above on a plane do NOT sit next to me. I will document it in greater detail if I am ever put in that situation again. hehehe

* Accept before going on a plane that there may be babies or children and traveling with kids is much harder on them than you. Yes, they can be loud but I found captain drooling nose picker next to me much more annoying than the baby who cried a few times in flight. Making loud passive aggressive remarks, whining about it and complaining doesn’t change this fact… it just makes you look like a jerk. Even if other jerks agree. There is this wonderful thing called technology – use your earplugs and cut those kids some slack.

* Stretch often, bring a donut neck pillow and don’t be afraid to look like a weirdo and stretch in your chair.

* The trip TO Japan isn’t so bad as far as adjusting to the time difference goes. We left around noon and a looooong plane ride later we landed in time for dinner! On the way back sleep as much as you can because you will lose a day. I like to say that it was like a wibbly wobbly timey wimey plane of stuff and I time traveled leaving at 5pm in Tokyo and arrived in the morning in California.

* Why do so many people cut in line going ON an airline? There is a huge line already for the previous groups waiting to board so if you are in the final group then go to the back of the line instead of crowding the ticket checker and cutting everyone that has been standing there. It’s not Disneyland with rigid line policies, chances are you will get away with it without anyone saying anything but courtesy is just good for humans.

Sadly, on both flights, I only saw Americans cut lines like this. There was a couple who was behind us on our flight home and they got out of line and walked up to the front and basically elbowed their way in. I heard the guy say “This line is ridiculous!” … No one is going to stop anyone from doing this or throw you in Airport Jail (is there one?!) for acting like a tool but… yeah. Don’t be a traveling tool.

We left on a Sunday and came home the following Monday. We lost a day and gained a day somewhere along the way. Since I cannot possibly wrap up my entire Japan experience or what I have reflected on since then I am going to write many posts on various topics over the next couple of weeks. Have a question or something you want to hear more about? Let me know and I will do what I can to answer it! Here is a little glimpse at our trip…

Traveling to Japan


Traveling to Japan - Nikko


Traveling to Japan

Traveling to Japan

Traveling to Japan

I will be covering the following things in upcoming posts:

Planning a Trip to Japan
What to see in Tokyo
Nikko, Japan
Restrooms in Japan – It’s an Experience of its Own!
Ueno Park
Public Transportation in Japan as a Foreigner
Traveling to Japan – Tips on Etiquette
Sakura aka Cherry Blossoms – The Beauty of Spring in Japan
Korean BBQ in Japan
Japanese Breakfast
Why 7-Elevens in Japan are Amazing
Food Allergies in Japan
Tokyo Giants – Why Japanese Baseball is insanely Exciting
Japanese Baths and Onsen/Public Bathing
Culture Differences between the USA and Japan
Akihabara – A Tech Geeks and Shoppers Paradise
Harajuku – A Subculture and World of Fashion of its own
Sushi and Sashimi in Japan
Bento – Cute Lunches and Rad Stuff to put Stuff in
Bicycle Culture in Japan – How Moms in Japan Roll
Drinking Coffee in Japan… Like a Boss
Traditional Japanese Desserts
Taking Your Shoes off in Japan – For Homes and some Restaurants

I will update this list with links as I add the posts :) Yikes, I better get writing!

Also, if you follow me on Instagram you can see many pics on there. I will be adding an album of pics from Japan on my Facebook page as well.

Thank you to everyone who was following along on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook on my trip. I loved getting all the feedback and making so many people feel like they were a part of it!

About Leila DontSpeakWhinese

Leila, aka The Ninja, is the advocate for all things not whining. Parenting is fun when everyone stops b*tching! She is the Mom of a big blended family of four awesome kids. They ninja kick through life together. Oh and she is a total jackass.

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Xenia April 5, 2013 at 6:28 pm

I really really enjoyed your pictures on Instagram! I grew up on Guam (my Chamorro grandpa proudly speaks Japanese he learned during WWII) and was always envious of friends that vacationed in Japan. I still haven’t been and hope that one day I can make it out there with my family. Can’t wait for your other posts!
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Leila April 5, 2013 at 10:00 pm

Thanks, woman! The response to my pics and updates has been wonderful :) I never thought about how other countries would vacation in Japan! I hope you make it one day soon :D


Arbine April 5, 2013 at 9:12 pm

Can’t wait to see more of your posts and pictures! My family and I are currently planning our first trip to Tokyo this summer. :)


Leila April 5, 2013 at 9:58 pm

How exciting!!!!! How long are you going for? I’m happy to help with any tips :D


Jenny F April 8, 2013 at 7:16 pm

Japan is on my bucket list! I have a younger cousin who planned our trip years ago, and we just havent made it happen! Thank you so much for the inspiration!

Stopping by via the #UBP13, love the name of your blog, and I will be back for sure! Have a great week!
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Alyssa April 9, 2013 at 7:56 am

So looking forward to the rest of your posts on Japan! I’ll be needing them when boyfriend and I leave for our trip around the world. :) It was great to meet you at the Twitter Party last night!


Alison April 9, 2013 at 2:05 pm

I love the airplane tips! Those are spot-on. Last time I flew back from China there was a dad struggling to keep his baby from crying. The poor baby cried most of the flight and the dad looked so stressed out. Luckily people were mostly ver nice to him (although I wonder if they would have been so nice had he been a woman, since people expect more from moms than dads in that arena, I feel)
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