Denver to Tokyo Trip

Trip to Tokyo

Travelling is one of my very favorite things to do. Any time we get a chance, we’re looking up flights, Airbnb’s, and strategizing about when we can take some time off work to go see the world.

Many not know this about me, but I’m the oldest of five kids. Full siblings, my parents are still married five kids. Wild, right?! Anyway, my youngest brother was born when I was fourteen, so there was basically always a baby or toddler in the house while I was growing up. This meant that travelling was difficult – logistically, of course, but can you imagine buying SEVEN plane tickets? Yikes!

Even though we managed some wonderful domestic trips all across the country, my heart was set on the whole world. I would fantasize about seeing the Eiffel Tower (still on my list, BTW), visiting European beaches, going to Africa and India, and soaking up all the different ways to live.

When I finally got the age where this was even a remote possibility (for me this was after I got married at age 24), I was a nanny and my husband was in school. We had NO money, and I was SO impatient. I had already waited my whole life for this. When would it happen?

Finally, after getting on our feet financially and saving up enough for a trip, we did it. And we haven’t stopped.

Our ‘pie in the sky’ trip was always Tokyo. It was SO different. SO unique. SO far way. And we just wanted to go. It’s amazing, when you want something and work towards it, sometimes it happens 😊 Just like that, we found some amazing ticket prices, an awesome AirBnB, and we were off.

The trip from Denver to Tokyo was long. Like, 22 hours long on the way home. Rough.

I’ll be frank with you – I had some culture shock when we first arrived. I knew Japanese culture was different from American culture, but I didn’t really understand how different.

Here are a couple of examples:

The first restaurant we went to had no English speakers or English menus. It was also cafeteria style in the sense that you just grabbed what you wanted to eat. I had NO idea what I was grabbing, and ended up with an egg that I thought was cooked, but was actually not cooked at all. I was so hungry after our long trip, and I had purchased a raw egg. I almost started crying.

The other element that threw me was how extremely quiet Tokyo is. Everyone is quiet in public spaces, and no one makes eye contact. Not American at all. I never realized how loud we are.

In fact, I had a very physical reaction to the silence. We were on a train, packed full, and it was so quiet you could hear a pin drop. It was so surreal to me, being pushed up against all these strangers in a foreign country with the train itself making the only sound. I knew if I made eye contact with Kyle, I would start laughing with no sign of stopping. I just looked at my feet until we got off the train and hoped he didn’t try to get my attention.

Eventually I came to really like this aspect of Japanese culture, but at first I was absolutely disoriented.

We loved taking the train – once we started to figure it out 😊 So efficient and easy to get around. We also came to love the food – fresh raw fish and rice and ramen all day every day!

Usually a fan of the road less traveled, we try to avoid the tourist traps. But we gladly jumped in to one: The Robot Restaurant.

Another highlight? Visiting Kamakara. That’s where the Giant Buddah is! And there was a lovely main street with little shops and restaurants we loved.

What we learned: Get out of Tokyo and into the country if you can! Stay as long as you can – there’s a learning curve for Tokyo, and by the time we really fell in love, it was time to leave. And don’t expect anyone to speak English! While many restaurants have English menus, the two languages are SO different that many people don’t speak a word of it.

We can’t wait to go back, honestly. We just have to knock a few more places off the list, first 😉

Melissa Hirsch Photography is a Denver wedding photographer specializing in unique, artistic wedding photos in Colorado and Worldwide.


  1. Emily Moore

    I’m sorry that your trip got off to a rough start, but I’m glad it got better and you were able to enjoy it! I’ve always been curious about visiting Tokyo, but I think I’d be too overwhelmed. It’s nice to know even though you had some serious culture shock, you started to fall in love with it by the end! Thank you so much for sharing!


  2. Lynn Marie

    My brother moved to Tokyo 15 years ago and had the same culture shock you mentioned. He always mentions how LOUD Americans are when he comes back here to visit. I loved reading this blog and love your photos. Makes me want to jump on a place and go visit my brother in Japan.


  3. Sarah Holladay

    What an incredible trip!! I hear you on avoiding the tourist traps, but the robot restaurant looks like it was totally worth it. 😉


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