I woke up early and jet lagged on our first morning in Tokyo – 5am precisely.

Breakfast was still closed but fortunately I brought plenty of American snacks with me 🙂  One of my favorite things to do when I’m in a new city is to get out and walk around. Because it was very early, Tokyo was still asleep and the streets were empty except for an occasional taxi.

I always pictured Tokyo as a Japanese version of Times Square filled with neon lights and crowded subways. And although the energy was certainly present, I felt a sense of calmness and tradition during my days exploring the city. My family and I stayed at the Park Hyatt in Tokyo and woke up to beautiful sunrises each morning and Lost in Translation views at night. From the 40th floor, the streets and people looked like a little city of ants below.

We walked wherever we could and took a taxi to places farther away. Even though Tokyo is known for their elaborate public transportation system, taking the taxi was much easier to get around and the Metro system was difficult to figure out especially when you don’t speak Japanese.

Sushi and Japanese food is one of my favorite cuisines. Some of the best and most authentic experiences are the hole-in-the-wall spots recommended by locals. Sure, hotels are helpful at recommending nice, fine-dining Japanese restaurants but its the small, little, local restaurants that give you a taste of what it feels like to be a local when traveling abroad. Ichiran Ramen was recommended by my photographer and is one of the most popular places to get your ramen fix.  If you’re looking for fresh  and authentic sushi, any of the little restaurants along the Tsuki Fish Market are game.

One of my favorite experiences in Tokyo was the DMM Planets exhibition. This was an incredible art show by TeamLab that played with digital spaces, millions of LED lights, and stunning interactive installations.
We also visited the Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden, Meiji Jingu Shrine, Shinjuku, and Shibuya Crossing.

After spending 3 full days in Tokyo, our family flew to Kyoto and we stayed at the beautiful Four Seasons Hotel. This hotel has one of the most amazing indoor pools so if you happen to be in Kyoto, definitely check it out even if you don’t plan on swimming!

In Kyoto we visited, the iconic Fushimi Inari Shrine and Bamboo Forest. Both places are great for mini photoshoots but the best time to go would be early in the morning (6:30am) as it gets very crowded later in the day. After 2 days in Kyoto, we went back to Tokyo for 1 night and then flew home to San Francisco the following evening.