Our Family Trip to Tokyo & Nozowa Onsen in Japan

erin busbee family trip to tokyo japan, picture of the street and outside sega building


Our Trip to Japan

What an epic adventure!
And, I only pull out ‘epic’ for the big guns.
I had NO idea what we were doing.
Truly…my husband planned everything.
I also didn’t know how the kids would handle this trip.
Taking two kids, 4 and 7 year, isn’t the norm on an aggressive, international trip.
(And, frankly if it were just Chris and I, it still would have been aggressive.)

But, my kiddos did GREAT. I mean… I am one proud momma.

Was there a time when Elizabeth passed out at dinner, and then peed her pants, and all over the restaurant booth?
Yes. Yes, there was.
Did she pee again while sleeping on the plane, drenching her seat? 
(Thank goodness I brought extra clothes in the carry on.)

Did our daughter’s reservation mysteriously disappear on the way home?
Did we all have at least one meltdown?

BUT… And, this is a BIG BUT… it was an experience we will all remember forever.
(Well, maybe not Elizabeth since she’s only 4.)


city streets in tokyo with a view of the stunning sky tower

The buddhist temple senso-ji in tokyo japan


We hopped on ASA Airlines (awesome airline, by the way) and flew 14 hours from Houston to Tokyo direct.
Our hotel was called the Okura.
It was where Chris stayed with his dad a few decades earlier.
I’m pretty sure the decor hasn’t changed since the 80’s, but it was reasonably priced at around $300 per night.
Reasonable? You ask…
I know it doesn’t sound like it…until you hear The Marriott was $675 per night!
And… it just goes up from there.


erin busbee fashion and lifestyle blogger in tokyo japan with her daughter

the crazy fish market in tokyo japan, what to do in tokyo, places to see before you die

the senso-ji temple in tokyo japan

erin busbee husband and children at senso-ji temple in tokyo japan

giant panda eating bamboo at the tokyo ueno zoo


What We Did

To get a feel for the city, we took a double decker bus tour.
This is one of my favorite things to do in a big city!

We walked around the fish market, and saw crazy stuff like octopus, dried squid, and unidentifiable sea creatures.

We also went to the “Ueno Zoo” in Tokyo, where we saw a GIANT PANDA!!
I was so thrilled to see this beautiful and ridiculously adorable creature chomping away on bamboo.
The Tokyo “Ueno” Zoo touts its program to preserve and grow the panda population.

We also stopped by to see the spectacular Senso-Ji Buddhist temple, which is where I got some blog pictures.
You may recall this blog post or this one featuring faux leather leggings.

picture of the bullet train in tokyo japan

Nozawa Onsen

We took the “Hokuriku” bullet train from Tokyo to Iiyama Train Station.
This train is AWESOME. Goes 250 miles per hour and is quiet as a mouse.

Next, we jumped on a bus to Nozawa Onsen (about 1:45 minute bus ride).
Nozawa Onsen is a mountain village outside of Nagano.
I was pretty surprised we had to walk with all of our bags and the kids to the hotel.
It reminded me of my college backpacking days. Except now I’m old with two kids and I don’t really want to do that.
Anywho, my husband who is incredibly resourceful managed to find out where the hotel was… even though everything is in JAPANESE.
Imagine that? We are in Japan, and all of the signs are in Japanese!! 😉 





We skied two days while we were there.
The Japanese mountains are known for amazing powder. 
However, we had unseasonably warm weather, and it actually poured on us one day.
Ever have that happen? Pouring while skiing? It was crazy!

No biggie, though, the kids were pretty worn out, and could only handle a few runs anyway.

My ski pants are by Toni Sailor. Shop the brand here.

My jacket is by Nils. Shop more Nils ski jackets here.


teh snow monkey park in japan

the snow monkeys sitting by the hot springs in nozawa onsen japan in the monkey park


Monkey Park

There are snow monkeys here too! 
Monkeys that can survive in extreme cold and snow.
They live close to several hot springs and they use the hot springs to keep their body temperatures warm.

SOOOO… naturally we had to make the extra trek to see these incredible creatures!
It was quite a hike into the forest, and I worried about Elizabeth making it back.
She DID IT, though.
The guide said she’s never seen a 4-year old make it both ways without being carried.

That’s my girl!! Another proud moment.
The monkeys acted like the people were not there. They could have cared less.
They also smelled REAL bad… Good thing we evolved. Well, most of us! 😉


the public bath house, one of several in nozawa onsen, japan



In Nozawa Onsen, there are lots of public “Bath houses.”
This is where you can bath.
The water is said to have healing properties.
Our bath house was supposed to be good for your skin and joints. 
There is a whole ritual you are meant to follow at these baths…
And, I messed it up! 
I took my shoes off in the wrong place.
I didn’t clean up before getting in because I didn’t see the tiny faucet and bar of soap. 
Elizabeth splashed around in the bath, and that is frowned upon.
And, she dunked her hair in the water, and you are not supposed to touch your hair to the water.
Maybe… you can learn from our mistakes! 


Cultural Differences

Part of why you travel is to experience a new culture, and open your eyes to new ways of living.
There were some remarkable differences in Japan that I thought you might like to know about.



Not all Japanese know how to speak English. 
In the smaller village, hardly anyone spoke English. 
Not even a little bit. 
Knowing a few words like Konnichiwa (hello), Arrigato (thank you) and Sayonara (bye)… was a big help!
The kids used these words too!
In terms of ordering food, most restaurants have pictures on the menu, so you just point and nod.



I expected a full bow greeting, like you see in the movies.
The Japanese greet you with more of a head bob rather than full tilt.
Think … “I Dream Of Genie” bob.
And… you will find yourself doing it without even having to think.


What’s Up With the Masks?

Many Japanese people where the surgical masks over their nose and mouths.
I was creeped out by this at first thinking there was some super flu or virus going around…
But, what I found out is they wear masks whenever they get even a small cold.
They do this in order to protect others around them.
It is such a selfless and wonderful act if you think about it…
They wear those silly things, to protect people they don’t even know. 


dried squid in the fish market in tokyo japan

tokyo japan plastic displays of meals waffle house in tokyo

the market near senso-ji temple i tokyo japan, shot of pink, candy-coated banana on a stick



Here’s the skinny on the food…
I probably lost a couple of the holiday LB’s while in Japan cause we had a hard time with the food.
I will eat sushi, as long as it doesn’t actually taste like fish. That eliminates a LOT of stuff out of the gate.
Add to that …traveling with a 4 and 7 year old and what do you get?? A LOT of tempura and rice. 

The only times I’ve LOVED eating rice.. this trip and when I was in Thailand eating mango and sticky rice.
I also LOVED the apples and the ice cream!

Ordering food was easy since most menus have pictures.
I just pointed and nodded. 
They also had plastic molds of meals (see picture above). 


walking through the streets of tokyo japan on a family vacation looking at all the city lights and modern buildings

what to do when you go to tokyo japan, walk through the streets and people watch, check out the modern architecture and see how CLEAN the city is!

tokyo japan sky tower and city scene, what to do in tokyo japan, americans in tokyo, what to see


Super Clean!

Holy hell it’s clean there.
Tokyo makes NYC look like a dump. 
(Sorry, NYC, I still love you!!)
Not even a speck of garbage to be found.
Annnnddd, there are no garbage cans. NONE.
The Japanese are conditioned to bring small bags with them everywhere they go… to keep their garbage in their bags.
They do not throw trash on the ground. 


amazing japanese toilets with built in bidets and seat cleaners, most amazing toilets in the world



If there is one thing I wish we were adopt here in the US, it would be the Japanese toilets. 
Well, the bullet train would be pretty awesome too, but the toilets are also quite special.
Some are self-cleaning.
If they are not self-cleaning, they have a sanitizing spray available to clean the seat.
Almost all toilets have heated seats. You might think that sounds unnecessary and frivolous… until you sit on a heated seat!
They also have a built-in bidet. 
Push a button, and a tube comes out from the back of the potty, and cleans your backside. 
Everyone in our family tried it.
The biggest fan was Elizabeth. She kept saying, “I love that butt cleaner, mommy!”
They even had mommy and me public potties! (see picture above)


casual but polished outfit featuring this dramatic shirt dress by bb dakota in black and white plaid, skinny jeans by rag and bone that are very high rise, and a black turtleneck from nordstrom with weatherproof ugg boots


My Travel Essentials

My travel essentials including these skinny jeans for one! 
Of course they are sold out. 
BUT, this maxi shirtdress is NOT…and it’s on SALE.
I love how casual and yet dramatic this is!!
The black turtleneck is a MUST.

I also wore my puffer coat every day while we were there.
And my Ugg boots. 


Please let me know if you have any questions.
Don’t forget to subscribe to my exclusive newsletter.
Thank you SO much for stopping by!


*Thanks for shopping through my revenue-generating links and supporting my mission to help women with their style. 


Join the Conversation

2 thoughts on “Our Family Trip to Tokyo & Nozowa Onsen in Japan

  1. Thanks for sharing your trip. I was in Tokyo with my 4yo two years ago and noticed the same things. No trash can and immaculate public facilities — even in their subways. It totally puts my hometown, NYC, to shame! I enjoy your blog and your YT channel. Keep up the great content.

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