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The deadly serious look (double entendre intended!) on Gideon’s face has me a bit concerned that he enjoyed our samurai class a bit too much
The deadly serious look (double entendre intended!) on Gideon’s face has me a bit concerned that he enjoyed our samurai class a bit too much

Adventure Awaits! NPH and the Fam in Japan

Scenic hikes, hi-tech light shows, sumo matches and samurai lessons!

Neil Patrick Harris is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Wondercade. In his spare time he also acts — fairly well, too, as his Tony and Emmy Awards can attest.

February 14, 2024 2:20 pm

 In Partnership with Japan National Tourism Organization

Neil, David and the kids went to JAPAN! This article highlights the adventurous, well, adventures they got into in Japan. Click here for another article where you’ll live vicariously through a drool-inducing culinary crawl; click here for another spotlighting what they learned about the country’s rich culture, long history and time-honored traditions.

What better place to find adventure than in Japan?! David, the kids and I spent 16 days criss-crossing the country. And while we spent some time in cars, I have to say…the trains in Japan are dreamy. I love them. Super punctual and soooo quiet. No one talking above a whisper, or blasting music from their iPhone speakers like they do in NYC. And, oh em gee, so clean! Truly, you don’t know the meaning of clean ‘til you’re in Japan, where you could eat a steak dinner atop any floor or surface. I mean, don’t, because, gross, but places are just that tidy.

On the nicest train we’ve ever been on, with the iconic Mt. Fuji visible from the window, Harper’s gaze remains squarely on her iPad. Gotta respect the girl’s focus.

After landing at Haneda Airport and arriving at our hotel, we hit the road immediately the next morning (well, after we all took long, hot showers and I pounded what might have been a dozen canned coffees from one of the country’s famous and omnipresent vending machines) for an 8 a.m. sumo wrestling training. These sumo wrestlers…they’re huge. Massive. And yet there was a true zen calm to them, as well — until it came time for them to collide and grapple. Fun fact: sumo is Japan’s national sport, started out as an ancient Shinto ritual, and has been around for 1,500 years. That’s like…10 times older than the NFL. American sports are whippersnappers compared to this heavy (literally) hitter. But these men are revered superstars, I could have watched them all day. I did worry about their knees, though. And their hair buns. Both made me anxious.

I’ve seen men wearing next to nothing grapple before, but it was nothing like this. Sumo wrestling is a feat of strength, balance and supreme athleticism.

Our next stop was a big one for me, considering how much you know I adore immersive experiences: teamLab Planets Tokyo is over 100,000 square feet of art installations — I won’t spoil it too much, but let’s just say, you can’t wear shoes and they advise wearing shorts because you’ll be walking knee-deep in water at some point. Elsewhere, you’ll be surrounded in a digital floating flower garden of 13,000 orchids; later, in a pointillism-inspired light show, you walk through a 360-degree space of glowing crystals and wonder if you’re in actual heaven or not. This Japanese artistry and technology are something else, and the immersion here was a complete chef’s kiss.

Trippy, strange and totally AMAZING! Among the art at teamLab Planets Tokyo.

Oh, and speaking of samurai, we were lucky enough to channel them at a class where we dressed up like the ancient warriors and learned kendo, a traditional Japanese martial art that uses bamboo swords. We learned basic moves, strikes and blocks. I’m a badass now, basically.

We had the best time at the sumo match. And blended in nicely, don’t you think? See if you can spot me and David.

Feeling fearsome (and a little sore) we then boarded the high-speed Shinkansen bullet train for our final stop: glorious Kyoto.

There, we wandered the backstreets of the Gion district, where we met even more geisha; the next morning, we walked down the iconic Arashiyama Bamboo Grove. (Even more iconic? We somehow managed to snap a family pic with zero passersby in the background. It’s that one at the tippy top of this email. Gorge, no? Vacation win.) The adventuring didn’t end there, though. Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine: we followed a three-mile-long trail covered by 1,000 vividly vermillion torii gates through a deep wooded forest that ultimately led to the giant shrine honoring Inari, the Shinto god of rice. (Also, big fan of all the fox statues scattered about. They’re said to be avatars for Inari. Also they’re super cute.)

All in all? Enough adventure to last a lifetime. (Except not, because I wanna go back ASAP.)

The Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine, where 1,000 gates wind through the woods, is an awe-inspiring, magical place

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