The Adventures of Us: A Japan Travel Guide

April 28, 2018

“In life, it’s not where you go – it’s who you travel with,” wrote the cartoonist, Mr. Charles Schulz.

Sarah-Louise Marks and Christopher Phelps have taken this wisdom to heart. Three years ago, the London-based couple turned their passion for exploring and photography into a travel blog and Instagram account, The Adventures of Us, and they haven’t stopped moving since. From the shores of Sri Lanka to the heart of Texas, the stylish duo brings a unique perspective to each destination, showcasing stunning natural landscapes, local culture, hotspot hotels, and quite a few cocktails.

“We’ve always loved traveling together,” says Sarah-Louise, 28, who serves as the group head of social media at Soho House when she’s not on the road. “We have such similar tastes that it’s easy – in fact, we almost get on better when we’re traveling. We get to share the experience, and then share it with the world in our own way.”

Recently, the couple crossed a bucket-list trip off their list: Japan. Beginning with three days in Kyoto, they then spent two days exploring Mount Fuji before heading off to Tokyo.

“We’ve always loved the culture there,” says Sarah-Louise “Every time we’d see an image we’d think, ‘It’s so photogenic. We have to go there.’ So finally, we did.”

But even for two veteran globetrotters, Japan presented some challenges. For a country with some much to offer, enormous amounts of planning and preparation are required. “It’s a complex one, logistically, to plan,” says Christopher, 32, who works as a composer when in London. “We were amazed and overwhelmed by the size of Japan. It’s a massive, amazing country with so much to discover. You’ll always need more time.”

If you’re planning a visit, Sarah-Louise and Christopher were kind enough to share their tips from their recent spring trip.

THE PACKING LIST

Sarah-Louise and Christopher never leave home without their three traveling essentials: a 35mm pocket camera, portable speakers, and plenty of hats (a packing luxury they both have a weakness for). For their trip to Japan, Sarah brought along plenty of dresses for easy, all-in-one outfitting, including the Breanna Polka Dot Wrap Dress and the Faithfull Ruffled Linen Midi. Lightweight layers – including the AMO Drapey Denim Jacket – came in handy for the country’s mild spring. If you’re planning a trip, be sure to take into account everything Japan has to offer. You’ll need sneakers and activewear for hikes, modest clothing for when visiting temples and shrines, and plenty of outfits for evenings out—Tokyo is a city of night owls, so don’t plan to turn in early.

KYOTO

Sarah-Louise and Christopher began their adventure in Kyoto, which served as the capital of Japan for more than 1,000 years. Today, the city is renowned for its beautiful temples and ancient architecture, as well as its thriving food scene.

Where to Stay: Shiki Juraku
“A traditional Japanese ryokan, or guesthouse, Shiki Juraku has a modernist interior and rustic exterior. It’s a beautiful combination, and the team is so warm and welcoming.”

What to See: Daigo-Ji Temple
“This hidden gem is a 40-minute taxi ride from the center of Kyoto. Visiting Daigo-Ji is like coming across a tranquil garden away from the other busy tourist sites.”

Where to Dine: Tempura Matsu
“This is one of the best meals we’ve ever eaten in our lives. This family-run restaurant serves up incredible food, from sashimi to tempura. Ask for a chef’s counter seat to watch the master at work.”

Where to Caffeinate: Wife & Husband Coffee
“Hidden down a little backstreet, you’ll find the sweetest coffee shop serving up freshly ground blends.”

FUJI

From Kyoto, the couple headed to Mount Fuji. The picturesque peak is a favorite among both serious climbers and those who simply want to admire its iconic beauty. Spring is a popular time to visit for those hoping to see another Japanese natural wonder: cherry blossoms.

Where to Stay: Hoshinoya Fuji
“We spent two nights glamping at Hoshinoya Fuji. The concrete cabins offer mind-blowing views of the mountain, and you can enjoy candlelit dinners and s’mores around the bonfire, out under the stars.”


TOKYO

Their top tip for Tokyo? Don’t forget how massive the city is. Japan’s capital is a sprawling metropolis that dwarfs New York City, so budget plenty of time to explore, and research your transportation—“across town” here can be quite the trip.

Where to Stay: Aman Tokyo
“Spread across the top floors of the 38-story Otemachi Tower, the views at this hotel are amazing. Even if you’re not staying overnight, head to the lobby bar on the 33rd floor for a sunset happy hour.”

Where to Shop: Shibuya
“Be sure to spend some time exploring the streets and boutiques of Shibuya, one of Tokyo’s top shopping districts. As the sun begins to dip, the light and atmosphere are electric, and you can find everything from vintage to Chanel.”

Where to Dine: Shima
“Chef Oshima Manabu serves up the finest Japanese Wagyu beef, which he ages himself. He then makes you an incredible steak sandwich to take away with you!”

 Follow Sarah-Louise and Christopher’s next adventure on Instagram @the_adventuresofus.