As 2019 comes to an end, we’re looking back and it’s been such an eventful year.
Our relationship started in the beginning of the year and throughout these 12 months, we’ve been able to grow as individuals, travelers, and as a couple. From meeting the parents to exploring cultures halfway across the globe, we’ve been able to accomplish a lot of firsts in just 2019 alone.
First Trip to Okinawa
It wouldn’t be right if this list didn’t start with where it all began!
Our small group of friends started 2019 with a New Years trip to Okinawa. We stayed in Japan’s tropical island for a total of 5 days and each day held its own unique memory. We did everything you could possibly do, from scuba diving at a remote island to visiting UNESCO sites and taking a drive to visit one of the biggest aquariums in the world.
When they say that travel brings people together, that was definitely the case for this trip. Prior to the trip, Tomomi had one close friend going on this trip (wasn’t me), and had only met the rest of us once in a large summer BBQ party, where we didn’t talk much. By the end of this trip, this small travel group became some of Tomomi’s best friends in Tokyo.
Cherry Blossom Festival at Hirosaki Castle Park
Sakura festivals are huge in Japan and we decided to celebrate it in Tomomi’s hometown. Growing up in Hirosaki, the Cherry Blossom Festival at Hirosaki Park is an event that Tomomi has been attending for as long as she can remember.
Although not known too well by foreigners, the festival at Hirosaki is famous among Japanese people and it’s not hard to see why. The flowers are absolutely beautiful and the whole park is covered in pink! Out of the 3 days we spent in Hirosaki, we went to the festival for 3 days.
Oh yeah this was also the time when I met Tomomi’s parents for the first time. I don’t think it went too bad.
Our First Ryokan Experience in Nikko
Tomomi wanted to go for a drive and I wanted to go to a ryokan, so a ryokan in Nikko was the solution! Tomomi did some research and found a nice looking ryokan called Honke Bankyu and it was absolutely amazing to say the least.
The ryokan we stayed at was located next to a river. It had an amazing view of the river from our hotel room and the private outdoor onsen, where you can take a bath while immersed in nature.
The ryokan served dinner as well and the dining hall was across the river, which you can access only through the ryokan’s private bridge!
It’s going to be hard to top this ryokan experience.
And the food? Absolutely phenomenal.
First International Trip
We went on our first international trip to Seoul, South Korea, where it was Tomomi’s turn to meet my mom. Meeting the parents for the first time is never easy, especially when it’s in a different country and speaking different languages but… I think she nailed it.
Besides meeting my mom, we were able to do some exploring in the short time that we were there. I lived in Seoul as a kid and for a brief time after college, so it felt nice to show Tomomi around the city of my childhood.
First trip to Disneyland
When I went over to Tomomi’s apartment for the first time, I instantly knew that we would be going to Tokyo Disney this year.
Her room is FULL(and I mean FULL) of Disney goods and merchandises that she’s collected since birth. From slippers to kitchenware to DVDs, I’d say about 50% of the room came from a Disney factory.
Also being a fan of Disney myself(but on a different scale), I was pretty excited for this trip as well. Back in Southern California, my university was 30 minutes away from Disneyland so I had an annual pass for 2 years(sponsored by paid for with student loans).
Tokyo Disney can get really crowded, so both of us spent our vacation days so that we could make this trip on a weekday, when it’s not so crowded.
Tomomi couldn’t stop smiling the whole day and I could tell that this was a dream come true for her, which in turn brought smiles to my face 🙂
Our First Trip to Europe
This was not something we expected to do this year. To us, Europe was one of those places that we saw ourselves visiting in several years.
We made the decision during the early summer months, about 4-5 months before the trip, but it felt like a spontaneous decision nonetheless. We were looking up plane tickets to various places in Europe, just for fun, and found an unusually cheap one to Athens. We decided to go to Athens, then and there(spontaneous yes?).
Although our trip was only 1 week long, we wanted to get a taste of several places so we booked a ferry to check out Mykonos and Santorini. Europe is such a different world to us and we want to go back to experience more in the future!
Our Second Trip to Okinawa
Winter has come, so we decided to escape the cold by escaping back to the tropical island where 2019 started for us.
I was originally planning on going with just two of my friends to enter a dance competition that was being held by the beach. Tomomi and another friend happened to be free that weekend and decided to tag along as well(spontaneous yes?).
The competition isn’t a big event or anything, but it was held at the beach and… that’s pretty rare, especially for a breaking competition. The water was super clear and it sucked that we couldn’t go in the water(too many jellyfish).
All good memories are made in Okinawa.
Competition result? Let’s not talk about it.
Dancing at the beach!
Our First Christmas
It’s December and Christmas is in full effect. Although Japan doesn’t celebrate christmas too much, there are places here and there where there’s Christmas decorations and events.
One of those places is the Christmas Market at the Yokohama Brick House. In between the two famous brick houses, they set up a long road illuminated by Christmas lights and food vendors lined up on both sides. At the end of the road is a huge Christmas tree with a bell to ring in the front .
It truly felt like a wonderful Christmas night.
What were your favorite moments of 2019?