How My First Trip to the Land of the Rising Sun Changed My Life

Stop by every two weeks for a new story in Japan: Memories and Encounters’ series. Learn more about Japan from detailed notes I’ve taken directly from my trip journals and recommendations for the best of Japanese culture, art, food, and traditions.


“Japan: Memories and Encounters: A Journal,” transports readers to the Land of the Rising Sun.

In the coming chapters, I share heartwarming Japanese culture and heritage information based on my experiences during two 31-day trips to Japan. My life has been one positive Japanese cultural immersion after another. Enjoy the behind-the-scenes photos from quaint Japanese villages and other beloved national treasures.

Japan is one of the most picturesque and historically rich countries on Earth. From the downtown shopping areas to the coastal towns, the country breathes heritage with an earthy and metropolitan charm. Beach lovers will also find no shortage of sand and sun.

We celebrated our marriage with a wedding reception in Kyoto in May 1993. While visiting with my husband’s family and nearly 20 temples and shrines, we also located (with my father-in-law’s help) a woman my father knew many years ago. We found her contact information in a small phone book from the late 1940s.

Don’t miss this heartwarming story.

The search and outcome, much like our Japanese wedding reception, was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Candid Images

Japan: Memories and Encounters: A Journal provides valuable trip-planning tools and stories from my first trip to Japan.
Japan Memories and Encounters takes you behind the scenes with candid images and stories from our time on the road. We also guide you through planning your Japan trip if one is in your future.
Shown above, Learning Japanese customs was a priority. I immersed myself into everyday life and helped my mother-in-law serve meals.

Follow us on our adventures.

Each chapter offers a look back in time and paints a vivid portrait of Japanese culture, then and now. Use the information to plan sightseeing itineraries you can customize to suit your style. If you go, I assure you’ll find spectacular landscapes, romance, fashion, and culture from coast to coast.

From Fabulous Food to Festivals estimates there are more than 200,000 annual festivals (matsuri) held throughout the year. Approximately 190,000 temples and shrines host the celebrations, according to Japan-talk. “Japan: Memories and Encounters: will guide you with recommendations for the most taste-tempting food and must-see happenings throughout the country.

Japan: Memories and Encounters answers your questions like what to do in Japan, where to eat, and what to eat? Aoi Matsuri is one of the most famous Kyoto festivals. The festival named after Hollyhock leaves is the ideal celebration for travelers who want to experience ancient traditions.
The Aoi Matsuri Festival is a famous annual historical parade held in Kyoto on May 15. Named after the Hollyhock leaves, procession participants walk from the Imperial Palace to the Kamo Shrines. The Aoi Matsuri participants and their costumes are indeed a sight to behold. Photo by Joan Matsui Travel Writer, May 1993.

Don’t leave without a tour of temples and shrines.

Spectacular Gardens and Shopping Areas

Similarly, each of the 47 prefectures is home to an array of enchanting shrines and temples, gardens, restaurants, and shops. A Shabu-Shabu and Tofu restaurant served two of my favorite meals.

Travelers find one-of-a-kind handcrafted pottery, art, Japanese paper, and home goods.

Keep a Journal

Overall, my travels inspired me to keep a detailed journal that years later undeniably led me back to journalism. But, equally, as important, I discovered, Chigirie, (Chigiri-e) a traditional Japanese art and have devoted 25 years to learning and mastering the art. Travel also sparked a renewed interest in photography and set the stage for an exciting travel writing career.

In conclusion, join me again in two weeks as I unveil the first chapter, “Kyoto: The Search Begins.”


Joan Mead-Matsui is a five-time award-winning freelance journalist; travel writer and photographer. She covers news and features’ stories that range from unique travel accessories and products to destinations and attractions. Prior to launching her websites, and, Joan was a full-time freelance content and features writer for print and digital news sources and magazines.

Travel Journalists Bistro is a learning and support group that teaches travel writers the skills they need to become successful travel journalists

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