The Japan Chronicles List

Everything.  That's what I wanted to do when I first came to Japan as a study abroad student.  If you asked me what I wanted to see at that time, I would have told you everything.  I did a lot and saw a lot of Japan during that time, had an incredible experience and don't regret any second of it.  At the same time, if I had been more focused at that time and the beginning of my return here I could have done even more.

That's what this list is all about.  These are some of the major things I want to get done while I'm living in Japan.  I have also broken these down into three categories of Do, Learn and See.  I wanted to make sure I had 5 main goals for each of these categories to make sure I could get the most out of this incredible opportunity.  As I complete these tasks I will strike a line through it and provide the date and a link to the post covering it.  Hopefully more stuff will be added to the list as time goes on as well.

Some of these tasks I've felt it necessary to include a description so you can get a better idea of what it is I'm working at.  I will mark these items on my list and include one at the bottom.  I also am including a planned writing section which will list the upcoming topics coming up in my blog.  This way, you can see what I'm going to write about in the future and keep an eye out for places or topics you want to read about.  The things on the list I will update when I finish the post writing about it.  For the planned writing section, I will try to update it once a week.  I hope this will further refocus my efforts on making the most out of my life in Japan and have plenty of more awesome adventures to share.


  • Shikoku Henro*
  • Running in Japan:
    • Short Local Race
    • Long Local Race
    • Fuji Half-Marathon*
    • Tokyo Marathon*
  • The Grand Traverse*
  • Participate in Japan's Winter*
  • Other Forms of Work*


  • Japanese:
    • JLPT 4*
    • JLPT 3*
    • JLPT 2*
    • JLPT 1*
    • Kanji: 0/2,000*
    • Vocab: 0/10,000*
  • Japanese Cooking
  • The Ukiyo-e Process*
  • More about Tea / Sake*
  • Japanese Gardening*


  • Himeji Castle*
  • All Regions of Japan:*
    • Hokkaido*
    • Tōhoku*
    • Chūbu*
    • Kinki*
    • Chūgoku*
    • Shikoku*
    • Kyūshū*
    • Okinawa*
  • The Top 3's:*
    • Three Views*
    • New Three Views*
    • Three Famous Castles*
    • Three Great Mountain Castles*
    • Three Great Flatland Mountain Castles*
    • Three Famous Gardens*
    • Three Famous Mountains*
    • Three Sacred Grounds*
    • Three Famous Big Buddhas*
    • Three Great Festivals*
    • Three Great Festivals of Tōhoku*
    • Three Great Festivals of Kyoto*
    • Three Great Hot Springs*
    • Three Famous Springs*
    • Three Old Springs*
    • Three Baths of Fuso*
    • Three Great Night Views*
    • New Three Great Night Views*
    • Three Holy Places of Ōshū*
    • Three Great Inari Shrines*
    • Three Great Tenjin Shrines*
    • Three Great Hachiman Shrines*
    • Three Great Torii*
    • Three Hidden Regions*
    • Three Caves*
    • Three Sake Towns*
    • Three Chinatowns*
  • Japan's Neighbors*
  • Small Town + Traditional Japan*

Planned Writings:

1. Senso-ji / 2. Hozzuki Festival / 3. Kamakura History + Intro / 4. 5 Great Temples / Engaku-ji / 5. Kencho-ji / 6. Jufuku-ji / 7. Ueno Lotus Pond / 8. Iwakuni History + Intro / 9. Iwakuni / 10. Miyajima History + Intro / 11. Miyajima / 12. Hiroshima History, Intro + Castle / 13. Hiroshima A-Bomb History, Info + Things / 14. Sunshine City Aquarium / 15. Ukiyo-e Museum / 16. Sri Lanka Festival / 17. Moon Viewing / 18. Vietnam / Thai / Nepal Festival / 19. Showa Park Disc Golf / 20. Hatsudai Festival / 21. Sport's Day / 22. Indian Festival / 23. Hokkaido Festival / 24. Jimba-Takao / 25. Fall / 26. Koshu Kaido / 27. Hakone Intro / Hakone Yumoto / 28. Hakone Yumoto Festival / 29. Kamakura Zen Temple 4 / 30. Kamakura Zen Temple 5 / 31. Hakone / 32. Thanksgiving / 33. Yokohama History + Intro / 34. Yokohama / 35. Junkadelic / 36. Birthday / 37. Marathon Day / 38. Christmas Cards / 39. Christmas Illuminations / 40. Total Lunar Eclipse / 41. Christmas / 42. New Year's / 43. Hakone Ekiden / 44. Nanakusa / 45. Winter / 46. Setsubun / 47. Hokkaido History + Intro / 48. Otaru History + Intro / 49. Otaru Snow Festival / 50. Sapporo History + Intro / 51. Sapporo / 52. Sapporo Snow Festival / 53. Hokkaido Food / 54. Valentine's Day / 55. Yebisu Day / 56. Konosu Hina Matsuri / 57. Ume / 58. Hanami / 59. Chidori ga Fuchi Boats / 60. Blacow Burger / 61. Odaiba History + Intro / 62. Odaiba Gundam + Oktoberfest / 63. Meiji Jingu Spring Festival / 64. Kamakura Azaela Trip / 65. Matsushima / 66. Sendai / 67. Hiraizumi History + Intro / 68. Motsu-en / 69. Chuson-ji / 70. Sagamihara Koinobori / 71. Kuraeyami Matsuri / 72. Thai Festival / 73. Sky Tree Town / 74. Sanja Matsuri / 75. Goldfish Festival / 76. Laos Festival / 77. Andes Festival / 78. Kamakura Hydrangea Trip / 79. Jimba-Takao 2 / 80. Liver Sashimi / 81. Solamachi / Planetarium / 82. Tanabata / Zojo-ji / 83. Niigata History + Intro / 84. Niigata / 85. Murakami History + Intro / 86. Murakami / 87. Sumidagawa Festival / 88. Toro Festival / 89. Nokogiriyama / 90. US Embassy Festival / 91. Yosakoi Festival / 92. Koenji Awa Odori / 93. Vietnamese Festival / 94. Hatsudai Festivals / 95. Indian Festival / 96. Tokyo Train Station Re-Opening / 97. Rurouni Kenshin Movie


Shikoku Henro:
The Shikoku Henro is a more than 1,000 year old, 1,300 km (800 mile) pilgrimage around the island of Shikoku with 88 temples following the path of Japan's most famous saint, Kōbō Daishi.  The distance, history and spiritual / religious meaning behind this pilgrimage make it Japan's ultimate trek.  Also with going through many of the major cities in Shikoku, besides trying to catch the unique festivals that Shikoku has to offer, this has to be the best way to see Shikoku I think.  Since first learning about it, this was one of the things I felt I really had to try while in Japan.

Fuji Half-Marathon: A half-marathon challenge finished by racing up only Japan's most famous and tallest mountain.

Tokyo Marathon: A marathon race around many of the famous landmarks in Tokyo.  90,000 race every year and a lottery is needed for tickets because of its popularity.

The Grand Traverse: Set in Japan's largest national park in the very middle of Hokkaido, the Daisetsuzan Grand Traverse is one of the great hikes in Japan.  A five day hike over many of the mountains in the mountain chain of this national park, it has some of the most remote hiking and a real opportunity to get away from it all and see Japan's nature.

Participate in Japan's Winter: Living in Tokyo means a severely limited amount of snow.  However, Japan itself has many famous winter areas, world class slopes and is the host of 2 winter Olympics.  I hope to go to some of these places, do some winter hiking in snow, get back to some snowboarding and enjoy the winter atmosphere in Japan.

Other Forms of Work: I've enjoyed all of the teaching that I've done while living in Japan.  It's been an incredibly opportunity to learn more about Japan and Japanese society through my work in Japan's public education system.  Being able to help students and see their growth and success with the language has been some of my more satisfying moments while living in Japan.  I'd also like to make a chance for myself to be able to work on different projects, fields or work in addition to the teaching I've been doing.  If it's writing articles, editing, turning this blog into something more or some other interesting work, I'd be happy to try something different and I'll be looking into opportunities to do so.

JLPT: The JLPT stands for Japanese Language Proficiency Test and is the official test for Japanese language ability.  There are 5 levels with 5 being the lowest and 1 the highest, somewhere around business or native level.

JLPT4: 1500 Vocabulary / 300 Kanji

JLPT3: 3750 Vocabulary / 650 Kanji

JLPT2: 6000 Vocabulary / 1000 Kanji

JLPT1: 10,000 Vocabulary / 2000 Kanji.

Kanji: Kanji known is based on a new study method and not all of the Kanji that I currently know.

Vocab: Vocabulary known is based on a new study method and not all of the vocabulary that I currently know.

The Ukiyo-e Process: Ukiyo-e are Japan's traditional woodblock prints.  I'd like to learn the whole woodblock making process and make a few well-done prints in Japan if it's possible.

More About Tea / Sake: Tea and sake are pretty synonymous with Japan as far as drinks go, but I know little about both.  I'd like to learn the process that goes to making both, find new types of both that I enjoy and be able to distinguish quality for both.

Japanese Gardening: Japanese gardening takes gardening to a whole other level.  All over Japan, yards and public spaces are filled with well-manicured plants, flowers and trees.  All throughout the year, places are filled with color from the different blossoming seasons and it seems like almost everyone has at least a houseplant or two.  I hope to grow a few herbs and flowers while here and learn more about growing and gardening.  Of course, Japan is also world famous for its zen gardens, dry gardens, wet gardens and landscape gardens.  I hope to learn more about garden design and the various elements that make up it while I'm here as well.

Himeji Castle: Himeji Castle is Japan's most famous castle.  If you've seen a white castle in any samurai film, it's probably this one.  Nicknamed "White Egret Castle" or "White Heron Castle," it has always been famous for its beauty and is one of the last remaining original castles.  Actually, the first time I saw a picture of this castle was the first time I felt I really wanted to go to Japan.  Ironically, it also might be the most difficult to complete on this list.  It's undergoing renovations until 2015 and while it's still open, I don't want to see it until all of it is visible.

All Regions of Japan: Besides the 47 prefectures that make up Japan, Japan is made up of and often distinguished from its other parts by region.  There are 9 distinct regions, with each of them having their own famous spots, cities and culture.  In fact, sometimes the region is a more used identifier for things than what prefecture it is in.  Being in Tokyo, I live in the Kantō region.  So that one is automatically off the list, but there are still 8 more to see.  I think seeing all of the regions is important to get a good feel and knowledge of all of Japan.

Hokkaido: The wilds of Japan.  The northernmost of Japan's 4 main islands, it wasn't even heavily populated by main-land Japan until a government directive in 1869.  The colder climate, large swathes of nature and home to the Ainu, the indigenous people of Hokkaido who shared a somewhat similar tragic history as the Native Americans in the Americas makes it one of the few places left in Japan where real adventure can be found.
Prefectures: Hokkaido

Tōhoku: The northern part of the main island of Honshu, Tōhoku still retains a lot of the traditional culture and way of life that has left many other more completely modernized parts of Japan.  Considered remote throughout Japan's history where losing clans retreated into, some of the best festivals in Japan and a lot of traditional charm make Tōhoku well worth a visit, especially after what the region has faced with the earthquake and tsunami in 2011.
Prefectures: Aomori, Iwate, Miyagi, Akita, Yamagata, Fukushima

Chūbu: This is the region in between the famous Kantō and Kinki regions.  It's famous as a mountainous region.  As you can guess, Mt. Fuji is in this region as well as the Southern Alps, Japan's tallest mountain range.  The north of the region is also mountainous and has the most snowfall of anywhere in Japan.  It's not all mountains though, as Chūbu has the famous Nagoya and Niigata.
Prefectures: Niigata, Toyama, Ishikawa, Fukui, Yamanashi, Nagano, Gifu, Shizuoka, Aichi

Kinki: Kantō and Kinki are definitely the two most famous regions and this is where most tourists will go to.  Kyoto itself makes Kinki a must visit, but there's plenty more than Kyoto.  Nara in Kinki was also a historic capital of Japan.  Osaka and Kobe are also in the Kinki region making this a place I definitely want to visit as much as I can.
Prefectures: Mie, Shiga, Kyoto, Osaka, Hyogo, Nara, Wakayama

Chūgoku: The western edge of the island Honshu, its name's meaning of "Middle Country" refers to its proximity to the old capital Kyoto and not its geographical location.  Hiroshima is the famous city here and there are other famous castle towns and Miyajima, the sacred island with one of Japan's "Top 3" views and arguably the most famous one.
Prefectures: Tottori, Shimane, Okayama, Hiroshima, Yamaguchi

Shikoku: Shikoku is one of the other 4 main islands of Japan, found in the middle of the Inland Sea.  Throughout its history, it was always seen as remote.  In fact, bridges hadn't even connected to the island from Honshu until 25 years ago.  As such, it still remains relatively untouched and a great way to see Japan as how it was.  The island is also home to the famous pilgrimage I talked about earlier.

Kyūshū: The south-western most of Japan's 4 main islands, Kyūshū's proximity to other countries has given it a history of being one of the few places open to foreign contact throughout its history.  This and its sub-tropical climate make its culture a bit different and more historically global than many other places in Japan.  Here is where the preferred drink is shochu and not sake, contains some of Japan's most famous pottery styles that have Korean influence and historical areas for foreign residents that aren't to be found anywhere else in Japan.  The famous cities are Fukuoka, Nagasaki, Kumamoto and Kagoshima.
Prefectures: Fukuoka, Saga, Nagasaki, Kumamoto, Ōita, Miyazaki, Kagoshima

Okinawa: Okinawa is the most culturally unique and different than that of the rest of Japan.  These tropical islands were once the Ryūkyū Kingdom before being annexed by Japan.  This combined with their location and proximity to other countries has created quite a mix of cultures in forming Okinawan culture.  This separation from Japan goes even further when they were forced to face the brunt of the American attacks in World War II and misled by their protectors during the defense leading to some resentment that somewhat continues to this day, especially since the majority of American forces and bases are stationed in Okinawa.  This is the spot to go to for tropical life, great beaches and clear ocean.
Prefectures: Okinawa

The Top 3's: The Top 3's are lists of the best places fitting in a certain category throughout the whole of Japan.  These have been written about and added to throughout the centuries from various writers and make for an interesting guide to try and go to the places Japanese feel are the best of their country.  These lists help provide a no-brainer for places I'd hope to visit while here.  I have written about the Top 3's a bit in my Tanabata post found here (8th paragraph down).

Three Views: Amanohashidate, Kyoto / Matsushima, Miyagi / Miyajima, Hiroshima

New Three Views: Onuma, Hokkaido / Miho no Matsubara, Shizuoka / Yaba Valley, Ōita

Three Famous Castles: 
Nagoya Castle, Aichi / Osaka Castle, Osaka / Kumamoto Castle, Kumamoto

Three Great Mountain Castles: 
Iwamura Castle, Gifu / Takatori Castle, Nara / Bitchū Matsuyama Castle, Okayama

Three Great Flatland Mountain Castles: 
Tsuyama Castle, Okayama / Himeji Castle, Hyogo / Matsuyama Castle, Ehime

Three Famous Gardens: Kairakuen, Ibaraki / Kenrokuen, Ishikawa / Kōrakuen, Okayama

Three Famous Mountains: 
Mt. Fuji, Shizuoka + Yamanashi / Mt. Haku, Ishikawa + Gifu / Mt. Tate, Toyama

Three Sacred Grounds: 
Mt. Koya, Wakayama / Mt. Hiei, Kyoto + Shiga / Mt. Osore, Aomori

Three Famous Big Buddhas: Todai-ji, Nara / Kotokuin, Kamakura / Daibutsu-ji, Toyama

Three Great Festivals: 
Gion Matsuri, Kyoto / Tenjin Matsuri, Osaka / Kanda + Sannō Matsuri, Tokyo

Three Great Festivals of Tōhoku: 
Nebuta Matsuri, Aomori / Kanto Matsuri, Akita / Tanabata Matsuri, Sendai

Three Great Festivals of Kyoto: Gion Matsuri / Aoi Matsuri / Jidai Matsuri

Three Great Hot Springs: Atami, Shizuoka / Beppu, Ōita / Shirahama, Wakayama

Three Famous Springs: Arima Onsen, Hyogo / Gero Onsen, Gifu / Kusatsu Onsen, Gunma

Three Old Springs: Dogo Onsen, Ehime / Arima Onsen, Hyogo / Shirahama, Wakayama

Three Baths of Fuso: 
Arima Onsen, Hyogo / Yamanaka Onsen, Ishikawa / Kusatsu Onsen, Gunma

Three Great Night Views: 
Hakodate from Mt. Hakodate, Hokkaido / Kobe and Osaka Bay from Mt. Rokkō, Hyogo / Nagasaki from Mt. Inasa, Nagasaki

New Three Great Night Views: 
Kitakyushu from Mt. Sarakurayama, Fukuoka / Nara from Mt. Wakakusayama, Nara / Yamanashi from Fuefuki River Fruit Park, Yamanashi

Three Holy Places of Ōshū: 
Kinkansan, Miyagi / Mt. Osore, Aomori / Dewa Sanzan, Yamagata

Three Great Inari Shrines: 
Fushimi Inari, Kyoto / Toyokawa Inari, Aichi / Saijo Inari, Okayama or Yūtoku Inari Shrine, Saga

Three Great Tenjin Shrines: 
Kitano Tenmangu, Kyoto / Dazaifu Tenmangu, Fukuoka / Hofu Tenmangu, Yamaguchi

Three Great Hachiman Shrines: 
Usa Hachimangu, Ōita / Iwashimizu Hachimangu, Kyoto / Hakozaki Hachimangu, Fukuoka

Three Great Torii: 
Omiwa Shrine, Nara / Itsukushima Shrine, Miyajima, Hiroshima / Kehi Shrine, Fukui

Three Hidden Regions: Shirakawa-go, Gifu / Iya Valley, Tokushima / Shiiba, Miyazaki

Three Caves: Akiyoshi-do, Yamaguchi / Ryuga-do, Kochi / Ryusen-do, Iwate

Three Sake Towns: Fushimi, Kyoto / Nada, Kobe / Saijō, Hiroshima

Three Chinatowns: 
Yokohama, Kanagawa / Shinchi, Nagasaki / Nankinmachi, Kobe, Hyogo

Japan's Neighbors: I also hope to take advantage of this opportunity to not only see, learn and experience more of Japan, but the world as well.  Being on the other side of the world opens up all sorts of new opportunities to travel that would have been too far and too expensive before.  I hope to be able to visit other countries and some famous places on this side of the world while I'm here.  Some places that immediately come to mind are the Great Wall of China, Angkor Wat, the Taj Mahal and the famous nature in New Zealand and the Himalayas.

Small Town + Traditional Japan: I often have heard that Tokyo is not Japan.  At first it's hard to believe that when you arrive to Tokyo and everything is new and completely different than any city you've ever been to before.  Everything bombards the senses with a Japanese feeling.  But as you travel the country a little more, get out of Tokyo a bit and learn more about life, culture and society in Japan you start to realize that the saying is somewhat true.  Tokyo is Japan sure, but it's become international enough to become detached from the Japanese charm or feeling and often becomes more like any other international city than that of other Japanese cities.  This combined with living in Tokyo my whole time here leaves me wanting to spend more time and find more traditional Japan.  I've felt this the most in the small towns that I've gone through in my travels. I hope to spend much more time out of the city exploring neat little spots all over that make up Japan.


  1. Nice post beast. You left off "Attend New Years Eve MMA Event" though

    1. Ha, we'll see. I won't be in Japan for New Year's this year though, so it'll have to wait to see if I do it another year.