Getting out of the car at Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Summer Family Hikes

Getting out of the car at Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Are you a windshield tourist? That’s what they call the many visitors to Great Smoky Mountains National Park who simply traverse the park’s famous 30-plus mile Newfound Gap Road through the park and don’t get out of the car much, if at all.

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Shopping in Tokyo’s ‘Kitchentown’ and other delights to wrap up a great trip
Kitchentown in Tokyo

Shopping in Tokyo’s ‘Kitchentown’ and other delights to wrap up a great trip

There’s shop after shop of kitchen wares—ceramic sake cups, wooden bowls for miso soup, colorful bowls for rice, all varieties of chop sticks and of course hand-made Japanese knives that will be engraved on the spot with your name in Japanese. And everything is a bargain!

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What for dinner in Tokyo? How about 14 courses, small but delicious?
Chef Kenichiro Ooe of Park Hyatt Tokyo

What for dinner in Tokyo? How about 14 courses, small but delicious?

If you think a 14-course dinner might be a little much to handle, come sample Chef Kenichiro Ooe’s fare at Kozue on the 40th floor of the Park Hyatt Tokyo with stellar views of the city.

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School in heart of Hiroshima is a memorial and a symbol of peace
Miko and Amber at the Honkawa Elementary School museum in Hiroshima

School in heart of Hiroshima is a memorial and a symbol of peace

The Honkawa Elementary School is in the heart of Hiroshima and when the Atomic Bomb was dropped on August 6, 1945, all but one of the 420 students and teachers perished. Today is a again a bustling school and a memorial to those who died.

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Finding real books and bookstores on your family trips
Daunt books, London

Finding real books and bookstores on your family trips

I know a lot of kids don’t even read “real” books anymore. Everyone is all about interactive books kids can read on tablets with all sorts of fun features. But there’s still something to be said for stopping in at a local bookstore — or a national park visitor center — and browsing their collection of children’s books.

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Exploring Japanese pop culture at the International Manga Museum in Kyoto
Kids designing manga on computers

Exploring Japanese pop culture at the International Manga Museum in Kyoto

These aren’t just any comics. These are the enormously popular and traditional Manga, the basis for Anime, at the Kyoto International Manga Museum which is run by Kyoto Seika University and the Kyoto City Government. The University teaches aspiring Manga artists and writers in its design and fine arts department.

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Visiting a traditional Japanese Ryokan — not your ordinary hotel
Akemi Nishimura at her Hiiragiya Ryokan in Kyoto

Visiting a traditional Japanese Ryokan — not your ordinary hotel

Welcome to the traditional Japanese Riokan. There are these hotels all around Japan, some in the mountains, which offer the chance to try the Japanese hot springs baths called onseng

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Touring Kyoto with locals and on bikes: seeing more than temples
Wacky scarecrows guard a rice paddy in Kyoto

Touring Kyoto with locals and on bikes: seeing more than temples

Kyoto is famous for its Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples. This morning, we’re cycling a 14-mile loop with Kyoto Cycling Tour Project with stops at the Golden Pavilion and Ryoanji Temple with its world-famous rock garden – two of the city’s and Japan’s top tourist attractions.

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Cruise follies, foibles, TMI, TLI and unexpected discoveries
A squid greets us in Hakodate, Japan

Cruise follies, foibles, TMI, TLI and unexpected discoveries

All in all it was a great cruise on the Diamond Princess, stopping in ports we had never heard of in northern Japan and even in Russia, thanks to somebody named Jones (more on that later). But no cruise is complete without its follies and unexpected discoveries.

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Kids have a different take on cultural exchanges aboard cruises
The captain of the Diamond Princess and his family

Kids have a different take on cultural exchanges aboard cruises

Listen up parents -- if you thought the educational part of cruising was only seeing historic and cultural sites, you were wrong. It seems much more cultural exchange happens right on board at the kids’ and teen club, kids say.

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