Kyoto, Japan


If you follow me on Instagram, you probably know by now that I absolutely adored my time in Kyoto last weekend. In the week before I left I was feeling really overwhelmed with everything going on – I felt like I didn’t have enough time to keep up with anything, let alone plan a vacation, and I wasn’t sure how my trip was going to turn out. Of course, I needn’t have worried. Japan is a wonderful place, and my time in Kyoto was magic in all kinds of little ways. The city itself was so welcoming. It’s small enough not to be overwhelming but big enough to offer hundreds of beautiful temples, shrines and other attractions. The people are so friendly and helpful. It’s easy to navigate and the whole city is pretty walkable.

I was really only in Japan for four nights, but it really stretched out and felt like so much longer. I had some amazing sushi, and even befriended one of the sushi chefs – before I left, he hand-carved an intricate design into a bamboo leaf using an enormous knife the size of a small sword and gave it to me as a gift. I went on one of the most gorgeous hikes of my life, on one of the hottest days I can remember, through an old, old forest that made me feel tiny and grateful in the best possible way. One day, I spotted a wild monkey eating only ten feet from where I was standing, and the next day I held hands with a monkey (for approximately 1 second while feeding it a banana) at a monkey park. In both cases, the monkeys lived wild in the forests, but at the monkey park there is a bit more supervision, and a cage for humans only (!!) that you can enter to feed the monkeys who otherwise run totally wild. I was lucky enough to see some truly stunning temples and shrines and actually have some pretty spiritual experiences there. I made new friends from all over the world (but funnily enough, mostly from Canada!) and also enjoyed myself so much just wandering around on my own.

It was absolutely the perfect trip, exactly when I needed it. I came home feeling re-energized and excited about living abroad. It was a great reminder of exactly why I chose to come live in Korea in the first place – precisely so that I could do things like go to Japan for a long weekend and a less than 200 dollar flight. It reminded me that I love to travel alone and that I am totally capable of anything I set my mind to. It made me feel inspired and alive, as all good trips should. Most of all, it made me feel calm, which means it was the perfect vacation. There was no pressure and no stress, just lovely sights, a gorgeous river, a cozy downtown, breezy rooftops, friendly people, delicious food, huge old trees, lots of bright orange, and lots of smiles. I hope to go back to Japan and the beautiful Kyoto some time very soon.


  • Ganko Sushi: where I befriended the amazing chefs, right near Sanjo bridge
  • Sitting by the Sanjo bridge on the river bank: lots of locals and ex-pats gather down here by this bridge! I had drinks (bought at the convenience store right around the corner) down here and appreciated the water every night I was in Kyoto.
  • Fushimi-Inari Shrine: probably my favourite part of my trip to Kyoto. I hiked all the way to the top even though I was exhausted and sweating more than I have in recent memory, it was totally worth it just for the hike back down. On my way down the late-afternoon light was filtering perfectly through the trees and I saw barely another living person most of the way. And then I saw a monkey. It was magic.
  • Gion: I stayed at a hostel in this area (called A-Yado Hostel) and I absolutely loved the whole neighbourhood. It’s so quiet and feels so old and mysterious, with lots of tiny little alleys and a river running through it.
  • Arashiyama, for the monkey park and the bamboo grove. I really liked the nearby Tenryu-ji Temple also, but I preferred touring the gardens to the actual temple itself.
  • Tokasaikan: I didn’t actually eat at this Chinese restaurant, but went to it because it’s right on the river and looked like it had a gorgeous rooftop patio. I went for drinks up there twice and fell in love with the atmosphere and the view, as well as the ride up on the oldest elevator in Japan!

Tokyo, Japan


What a whirlwind weekend! Our time in Tokyo was vibrant and magic, wild and crazy, and full of hilarious stories. At the time, there were some stressful moments, but looking back on it now a few days later, I can see how funny our adventures really were. You're only young once, right? Might as well stay out until 4AM dancing in Tokyo while you can.

We were all in agreement that we loved the atmosphere in Tokyo. It felt fresh and fun, so full to the brim with interesting things to do and see. In our experience, Japanese people were so friendly and kind, always ready to smile back at us tourists and give us a hand if we needed help. We had universally positive experiences with all the locals we met, which was refreshing and made us feel comfortable right away. In Busan, I find that the locals don't go out of their way to be friendly – though many are, definitely! And as there are relatively few foreigners in Korea, you can sometimes feel like an anomaly or an outsider. Tokyo is obviously an enormous, buzzing, metropolitan hub so it was great to feel like we fit right in.

The energy of the city was amazing. Throughout our time there, we just kept gushing about the atmosphere and the magic we found there. We stumbled onto a rooftop terrace decked out with fairy lights and playing nonstop Disney princess songs through the loudspeakers. We wandered the busy streets of Harajuku that were crazy, yes, but also beautiful and fun. We befriended a worker at the fish market who invited us to hop on the back of his cart and he drove us to a great lunch spot by weaving through the crowds of tourists. We admired the way people dressed in Tokyo: gorgeous, simple, and classic. I loved the ivy-covered buildings everywhere you looked. I loved the abundance of neon lights, and the endless number of restaurants, cafes and convenience stores. We adored the enormous trees everywhere, but especially in the gorgeous Yoyogi park where they make a beautiful canopy overhead. We saw beautiful temples and some lovely traditional weddings taking place at them. We drank Japanese beer while people-watching at the busy Shibuya crossing. We discovered an Earth Day festival filled with stalls selling beautiful handmade, natural goods. We bought multicoloured things at Daiso. And we just walked up and down streets just taking it all in.

We barely even scratched Tokyo's surface, and yet I felt like we saw so much in our two days there. It just goes to show how big and beautiful of a city it really is, and how much more there is to discover. I hope to return and visit again, for longer. I think it would be so amazing to live there for a time, just working and exploring the city one adorable restaurant at a time. Maybe for a summer? The more I explore the world, the more time I want to spend exploring and enjoying it. I saw this quote the other day: “If I were really wealthy, I wouldn't buy a mansion, just tiny apartments in every city that I love.” I absolutely agree! The only problem is that list of cities is getting longer and longer. I feel so blessed and grateful to have had these travel experiences so young – what a wonderful “problem” to have!

What We Did:

  • Ate lunch at a sushi restaurant in Tsukiji Fish Market. It was excellent – Emma Stone and Andrew Garfield had once eaten there, as well as the CEO of Amazon! It's a little off the beaten track and has bright orange awnings.
  • Explored Yoyogi Park and visited the Meji Jingu shrine.
  • Wandered around Harajuku on Takeshita Dori street and Ometesando street.
  • Crossed at the Shibuya crossing about ten times!
  • Saw the view from the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building. It's free, and offers great views of Tokyo.
  • Explored Asakusa and saw the Senso-ji temple.

What To Pack For A Weekend Trip To Tokyo

Tokyo PackingRead my other packing guide, What To Pack to Backpack Through Europe here

The Trip: This weekend, I’m spending 2 days in Tokyo, Japan! It’s going to be Spring-like weather, about 18 degrees Celsius both days. I’m travelling with just a purse because I love to travel light and because we’re going to be hitting the ground running from the moment we land on Saturday morning. We don’t want to have to stop to drop our things off at the hostel, so I’m going to be keeping everything I need on my person at all times. 

Great Resources: I was inspired by these packing lists for carry-on travel in both summer and winter. I also love this post about how to pack for a trip in a purse. Lifehack has a few great tips for packing light for a weekend trip. And as always, I am inspired by the philosophy and attitude behind One Bag

The List:


Tokyo Packing 2

Our time in Tokyo is short, and really, 2 days in a city that big and that wonderful is not even close to enough to do it justice. But my friends and I are all of the belief that going even for 2 short days is a million times better than not going at all, so we’re planning to make the most of it. With that in mind, I wanted to bring clothes that are casual and comfortable, and shoes that I know I can walk in. I won’t be having many “costume changes”, but what I’m wearing isn’t the most important thing for me. I care way more about where I can go, and what I can see and take photos of and eat. 

  • Khaki pants
  • Sleeveless top
  • Cardigan
  • Toms

Tokyo Packing 1

And these are the clothes I’ll be packing in my purse: 

  1. Extra t-shirt
  2. Change of underwear 

Tokyo Packing 3

  1. Jacket
  2. Sunglasses
  3. Fabric bag
  4. Purse (what I’ll be packing everything into)


Tokyo Packing 4

I’m keeping things intentionally minimalist on the toiletry front. We arrive Saturday morning in Tokyo and leave late Sunday afternoon, so I actually don’t need a lot. 

  • Mascara
  • Concealer
  • Lip balm
  • Eyeliner
  • Contact case
  • Blush
  • Toothbrush & toothpaste
  • Deodorant (not pictured because I forgot)

Miscellaneous Necessities

Tokyo Packing 5

  1. Wallet
  2. Earphones + iPhone charger 
  3. Granola bar
  4. iPhone for navigating
  5. Notebook + pen
  6. Passport, credit + debit cards, alien registration card, metro card
  7. Japanese yen
  8. Nikon D90 + 35mm f1.8 lens (not pictured because I was using it to take these photos!)

And there you have it! A weekend trip to Tokyo, packed into my purse. When I initially began planning for this trip, I was sure I needed to go out and buy a mid-sized backpack to fit all my stuff properly. But when I sat down and wrote out all the things I would actually need, I realized I could rely on my trusty purse to see me through.

Carry-on travel probably isn’t for everyone, but it has quickly become one of my all-time favourite things. Travelling can be so stressful, but I find that packing light reduces so much of that stress for me. And having less stress leaves me free to be flexible and spontaneous and to focus on other things, like finding the best green tea ice cream in town. 

What do you pack for a weekend trip away? Do you love carry-on travel as much as I do? Do you have any tips for packing light? 

Let me know in the comments below! 

Count Your Blessings

Chances are, today you’re luckier than most.

You probably know where your loved ones are. You don’t have to look for them on the internet.

You can go to the grocery store and buy as much food as you want. You aren’t limited to 5 items at a makeshift outdoor supermarket.

You feel safe. You’re not worried about possible nuclear meltdown.

You’re in the comfort of your own home. You haven’t been evacuated to a shelter, leaving behind most of your posessions.

You’re healthy and happy. You aren’t part of a tragic, ever-growing death toll.

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