Well rested and ready to start the vacation, we arrive in Tokyo in what felt like no time. With printed itineraries in hand, it was off to our hotel to drop our bags before our first stop, Ginza. We thought that the hustle and bustle of shopping and people would be a great introduction for our little ones to get immersed in the culture that Japan had to offer. With only some necessary updates and storefronts, Ginza was exactly how I remembered it. The kids were overwhelmed with people, cars, and the non-stop foot traffic that surrounded them. With wide eyes, and closed mouths, they took in the sights and sounds that were foreign to them as my wife and I smiled and remembered growing up not far from here. Our itinerary was quickly thrown off course when we realized that we had spent a few hours longer than planned exploring shops and picking on traditional Japanese food. As the sun began to set on this beautiful spring evening, the lights of Ginza wowed the entire family like it was our first time seeing them, despite being used to the New York nightlife.

Over the next several days, we reconnected with distant relatives and schoolmates that I thought I’d never see again. We visited their homes, ate in local restaurants, and watched my children play with theirs as the buzz of vacation wore off and Japan began to feel more like home. Traveling to Japan was a big decision to make, but we knew that it was the right choice, and best trip we could have planned.

During week two of the trip, we spend much of our time outside, making the trip to Nagano, just as my oldest demanded. We also toured much of the area that was stuck by the Earthquake and Tsunami, noticing the extreme changes that had taken place and conjured up emotions knowing that so many people were affected throughout Japan when it struck. While our children didn’t seem to grasp the severity of change that we saw in Chosi, the rest of our family was shocked by the devastation that remained over a year after the tragedy.

We realized that spending time with old friends and family was more important that making sure we got to the last few destinations on our itinerary, and spent the final two days of our trip back in Tokyo, making sure we saw Akasaka and Chiyoda before departing for our return to the United States.

Traveling to Japan was the best vacation decision our family has ever made, and it created a well of memories for our children, who are already begging to go back next year. While we might have to postpone our return for a few years, it certainly won’t be another three decades before making my way back to Japan. The entire journey was amazing, from the private jet charter flight to laughing with old friends, it was a trip for the ages.