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Blogs from: Japan

Ancient Tunnel of Light – Fushimi Inari – Kyoto, Japan


Photo of the Day – Ancient Tunnel of Light – Fushimi Inari – Kyoto, Japan

A first visit to Kyoto always involves spending a few days moving all over the city exploring the wondrous Japanese temples and shrines. If you are even slightly into photography, the famous Fushimi Inari shrine can not be missed! At the shrine you will find long tunnels composed of vibrant orange Torri that seem to span forever into the distance. Check it out!

Ancient Tunnel of Light - Fushimi Inari - Kyoto, Japan

Packed Streets in Harajuku – Harajuku, Tokyo, Japan


Photo of the Day – Packed Streets in Harajuku – Harajuku, Tokyo, Japan

Harajuku is a very interesting neighborhood in Tokyo that is seemingly always packed with young Japanese shopping in the various boutiques along the streets. This street in particular is Takeshita. This is an awesome place to get a quick sense of Japanese culture and young Japanese fashion. You can also venture over to Omotesando for more world renowned and upscale fashion.

Packed Streets in Harajuku - Harajuku, Tokyo, Japan

The Silent Golden Pavilion – Kyoto, Japan


Photo of the Day – The Silent Golden Pavilion – Kyoto, Japan

The Golden Pavilion is regarded by many to be one of the top tourist attractions in all of Japan. While the scene of the silent golden structure across the zen-like pond is certainly beautiful, it definitely is not one of the Top 100 places on the planet to visit. Honestly, it doesn’t even belong on a Top 250 places list. It just doesn’t fit into any of the three criteria – massive scale, intricately detailed and/or seriously old.

The Golden Temple is symbolic in a strange way for me. It is a reminder that finding the unbelievable and fascinating in Japan is not as simple as paying an admission fee and snapping pictures of a globally renowned tourist attraction for 15 minutes. Japan’s true beauty lies in it’s unique and beautifully different culture which is sewn deeply into every member of their predominantly homogenous society.

Japan should absolutely be at the top of everyone’s travel lists, however don’t get lost searching for physical wonders of the world (there are 0 AbsoluteVisits in Japan). Plan your trip around diving deep into Japanese culture and you will undoubtedly walk away with the trip of a lifetime.

The Silent Golden Pavilion - Kyoto, Japan

What Does Sushi Look Like? – Tsukiji Fish Market – Tokyo, Japan


Photo of the Day – What Does Sushi Look Like? – Tsukiji Fish Market – Tokyo, Japan

Summer has finally made its way to Chicago and you can feel the hot and sunny weather injecting an infectious energy into the city. Everyone is excited to put the cold hibernation months behind us and to once again remember why we all call this amazing city home. From the beach to summer festivals to bar patios – all of us have a plan to get outside and enjoy Chicago today.

Undoubtedly there will be a number of Chicagoans including one of the endless number of BYOB sushi restaurants into their evening agenda today. When I’m out eating sushi with friends I often wonder if anyone at the table knows where Tuna – the most popular Sushi fish – comes from. Of course everyone knows that a Tuna is a fish that swims in the ocean, but I’d bet that most of the people latching onto a piece of a spicy tuna roll with their wooden chopsticks know that the tuna component came from a several hundred pound fish!

Today’s photo comes from the worlds largest fish market located in Tokyo, Japan – Tsukiji Fish Market. Will and I woke up around 4am one morning back in 2010 to watch the daily tuna auction. What we found was absolutely incredible. We were standing in the middle of a huge warehouse of massive tuna that were being auctioned off for thousands of dollars each before our eyes. This place is a definite must do on any trip to Tokyo.

What Does Sushi Look Like? - Tsukiji Fish Market - Tokyo, Japan

Japanese Baseball Beer Distribution – Tokyo, Japan


Photo of the Day – Japanese Baseball Beer Distribution – Tokyo, Japan

I’m heading out the door in a few minutes to join some friends at Wrigley Field to watch my first Cubs baseball game of the year. Keeping with the spirit of the day, I thought it only made sense to post a baseball picture from halfway around the globe.

Two years ago Will and I found ourselves in Tokyo during the Japanese baseball season. Our childhood memories of watching Mr. Baseball left us very curious about how different attending a game would be in Japan vs. back home in the states. Without any trouble we scored tickets to the Japanese equivalent of the New York Yankees – the Yomiuri Giants – and made our way inside of the massive Tokyo Dome.

There are two things that stick out to me about the experience. First, if you walk into the stadium with an open beer in your hand they politely hand you a cup to pour your beer into and allow you to continue onto your seats. I’d try this out at Wrigley today and report back, but something tells me that the experience wouldn’t be quite the same :)

The second thing I vividly remember is how the beer was distributed to fans at their seats in the stadium. Beer was sold almost exclusively by young Japanese women walking from aisle to aisle with kegs of beer strapped on their back. While the process was highly efficient and even pleasing to the eyes at times, I wouldn’t even think about trading it for the “Cold Beer Here!!” (read that with your deepest beer man voice possible) experience we have back here in the states.

Go Cubs!

Japanese Baseball Beer Distribution - Tokyo, Japan

A High School Kids Dream – Vending Machine Beer – Kyoto, Japan


Photo of the Day – A High School Kids Dream – Vending Machine Beer – Kyoto, Japan

Frequently while traveling we see something and can’t help ourselves from laughing when thinking about the scene in the context of where we come from. Things that are in perfect balance where you are presently at would almost certainly not work back at home.

One of the best examples of this I can think of is found in Japan. The Japanese have very liberal alcohol sales and consumption laws, going as far as to allow alcohol to be sold in normal vending machines on the street. These are not super high tech machines that scan your ID or take pictures of your face to determine your age. Simply pop in a few coins, select your alcohol of choice and a can pops out of the machine for your immediate consumption. Voila!

Will and I found this machine while traveling through Kyoto back in 2010. Of course we couldn’t resist and each picked up a Chu-Hi (3 from the left on the bottom row) to accompany us on our walk through the historic streets of Kyoto.

Any thoughts on how these would fare on the streets in America?

A High School Kids Dream - Vending Machine Beer - Kyoto, Japan

Dried Japanese Shrimp – Ameya Yokocho Market – Tokyo, Japan


Photo of the Day – Dried Japanese Shrimp – Ameya Yokocho Market – Tokyo, Japan

Two years ago I was in Tokyo celebrating the winter holidays with my family. The night before Christmas the whole family ventured off to a bustling market off of the Yamanote line called Ameya Yokocho to do a little shopping.

Our mission at the market was to buy the best food possible for Christmas dinner with our extended family the next day. Back home in the states this would have us searching for a big ham, mashed potatoes, eggnog and apple pie. Things were a bit different in Tokyo, we were on the lookout for Uni (Sea Urchin), Raw Tuna (for sashimi of course) and these dried shrimp that you see in the picture.

You might wonder what we used the dried shrimp for. Turns out they make an excellent addition to any salad, providing a delicious salty taste similar to a sardine but much milder.

How many shrimp do you think are sitting on the tray in the picture?

Dried Japanese Shrimp - Ameya Yokocho Market - Tokyo, Japan

Geisha Hunting – Kyoto, Japan


Photo of the Day – Geisha Hunting – Kyoto, Japan

No trip to Kyoto, Japan, is complete without spotting a real life Geisha in public. Geisha are traditional, female Japanese entertainers who are instantly recognizable with their distinct white makeup and elaborate kimonos. Most likely you will not naturally run into a Geisha in Kyoto. Coming face to face with these ancient cultural icons requires embarking on a bit of a paparazzi mission.

You need to learn where they typically hang out. Research what time of the day they are in transit, requiring them to be out on the street in plain view. Like all hunting, you will need to exercise extreme patience. You’re hard work will likely pay off, but there is certainly no guarantee.

I spotted this group of Geisha briskly walking out of one building quickly into the privacy of a black sedan. Without hesitation I held down the shutter release and snapped off five pictures per second for what felt like a split second. As their car sped away I quickly flipped through the array of images on my camera and there they were, the elusive ghosts had been caught and captured!

Geisha Hunting - Kyoto, Japan

Aji – Horse Mackerel – Tsukiji Fish Market – Tokyo, Japan


Photo of the Day – Aji – Horse Mackerel – Tsukiji Fish Market – Tokyo, Japan

Where is the best sushi in the world? Tokyo

Where is the best sushi in Tokyo? Tsukiji Fish Market

Where is the best sushi in the Tsukiji Fish Market? Sushi Dai Restaurant

What is the best piece of sushi at Sushi Dai? Aji

What is the absolute best sushi on the planet? Aji from Sushi Dai at the Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo, Japan

Aji - Horse Mackerel - Tsukiji Fish Market - Tokyo, Japan

Japanese Train Conductor – Tokyo Metro – Tokyo, Japan


Photo of the Day – Japanese Train Conductor – Tokyo Metro – Tokyo, Japan

Japan is a spectacularly fascinating country to visit, however there is not a single Top 100 Place in the entire country. On the surface you would think this would make it not attractive as a travel destination, however, experiencing Top 100 Places is certainly not the only reason to travel. Japan should be a high priority on your travel list because of the unique and quite simply amazing culture that the Japanese live in.

One major cultural difference that you will immediately observe on a visit to Japan is people’s extreme work ethic and devotion to their jobs. Everyone takes their jobs extremely seriously and executes their responsibilities as if the entire country’s functioning is dependent on their success.

Go to a McDonald’s in America and notice how slow, rude, and sloppy the workers can be (full disclosure – I love McDonald’s, eat it multiple times a week, and sometimes the service is actually okay). At McDonald’s in Japan, the employees will treat you almost as if you are the second coming, welcoming you into the restaurant with a loud welcome – “Irasshaimase!”, practically bowing to you when you claim your greasy tray of fries and sending you off with a chorus of thank yous from practically everyone on the clock.

There are many examples of this Japanese cultural phenomenon. All of the cabbies wear full suits, white gloves and are extremely courteous. Accidentally walk out of a store before being handed your 1 YEN (penny) worth of change and you will quickly see store employees chasing you down the street trying to deliver your 1 YEN to you as if you left your first child on the counter.

The guy in the photo below definitely takes his train platform watch job very seriously. I found him in the basement of Roppongi subway station in central Tokyo where he was standing in a fixed position for hours methodically guiding every train into and out of the station. His job appeared rather boring, unimportant and unnecessary to me, but he carried it out with a level of seriousness and focus that would make you believe that all of the thousands of trains running around the country depended on him.

Japanese Train Conductor - Tokyo Metro - Tokyo, Japan
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The Top 100 Places in the World
1 Great Wall of China
2 Pyramids of Egypt
3 Machu Picchu
4 Serengeti Migration
5 Galapagos Islands
6 Grand Canyon
7 Angkor Temples
8 Antarctica Cruise
9 Taj Mahal
10 Iguazu Falls
11 Amazon Rain Forest
12 Great Barrier Reef
13 Bora Bora
14 Victoria Falls
15 Bagan
16 Petra
17 Potala Palace
18 Karnak
19 Mt Everest
20 Cappadocia
21 St Peters Basilica
22 Fjords of Norway
23 Jerusalem Old City
24 Burj Khalifa
25 Borobudur
26 Forbidden City
27 Kashmir Valley
28 Li River Cruise
29 Ladakh
30 Alhambra
31 Louvre Museum
32 Perito Moreno Glac.
33 Banaue Terraces
34 Colosseum of Rome
35 Easter Island
36 Venice Canals/Alleys
37 Kathmandu Valley
38 Wat Phra Kaew
39 Yellowstone NP
40 Pompeii
41 Rio Panoramic View
42 Palace of Versailles
43 Dubrovnik
44 Golden Temple
45 St. Basils Cathedral
46 Vatican Museum
47 Florence Cityscape
48 Acropolis
49 Amalfi Coast Drive
50 Kremlin
51 Hong Kong View
52 TerraCotta Warriors
53 Mezquita Cordoba
54 Chichen Itza
55 Damascus Old City
56 Shwedagon Stupa
57 Sahara Desert
58 Mont St Michel
59 St. Marks Square
60 Egyptian Museum
61 Hagia Sophia
62 Angel Falls
63 Delphi
64 Teotihuacan
65 Baalbek
66 Banff NP
67 Santorini
68 Matterhorn
69 New York Skyline
70 Neuschwanstein
71 Chartres Cathedral
72 British Museum
73 Prague Old Town
74 Burj al Arab
75 Yangtze River Cruise
76 Yosemite NP
77 Hermitage Museum
78 Torres del Paine
79 Chambord Chateau
80 Lijiang
81 Portofino
82 Great Ocean Road
83 Tongariro Alpine
84 Las Vegas Strip
85 Tikal
86 Topkapi Palace
87 Sydney Opera House
88 Eiffel Tower
89 Luxor Temple
90 Kerala Backwaters
91 Golden Gate Bridge
92 Cinque Terre
93 Metropolitan Mus
94 Uffizi Gallery
95 Ayers Rock
96 Cliffs of Moher
97 Pacific Coast Hwy
98 Shanghai Skyline
99 Glacier Bay NP
100 Wulingyuan
Cappadocia  Cappadocia, Turkey
Top 100 by Name Top 100 on a Map
Top 100 by Country Top 100 by Continent