7 Ways I’m Going [More] Green in 2018

Over the past few years, living sustainably and responsibly has been increasingly important to me. I’ve developed a lifestyle with sustainable and eco-friendly habits that is comfortable, but this year I want to do more. I want to push myself out of my comfort zone. Living an earth-friendly lifestyle isn’t always convenient or easy, but it’s worthwhile. So, here are the ways I’ll be striving to be “greener” in 2018. Continue reading

Know Before You Go: Public Transportation in Japan

Public transportation in Japan (especially in Tokyo) can be very intimidating, and for good reason! The largest city in the world, plus the language barrier makes for a pretty daunting situation. But despite this, traveling via shinkansen, subway, train, and bus is pretty easy as long as you know some crucial things. Here’s my advice for navigating public transportation in Japan. Continue reading

Resolutions for 2018

I’ve never been a fan of “New Year’s Resolutions.”

I very rarely make them. And the few times I have, I definitely did not follow through with them. But for some reason this new year has me reflecting a lot on the improvements I would like to make in my life. I came up with a few resolutions I’d like to share with y’all, because hey isn’t accountability key? And accountability doesn’t get much more serious than publicizing your resolutions on your personal website.

A few of my resolutions relate to travel, but as y’all know I’m a traveler among other things. This isn’t my only identity, it’s not the only thing this blog is about, and my world doesn’t revolve around it (most of the time haha). Along with travel tips and itineraries, this blog also focuses on responsible and intentional living. My resolutions reflect a mixture of all these topics, so without further ado, here they are.

Continue reading

Goshuin: Japan’s Most Unique Souvenir

I learned about goshuin completely by chance. I was doing some trip planning/research on the r/JapanTravel subreddit when I came across someone asking about them. After reading the thread explaining this tradition I knew it was something I wanted to do during our visit to Japan. I’m so glad I learned of goshuin before we departed because they’re not very well known amongst Western travelers and not really advertised.

So, what are goshuin?

Goshuin translates to “honorable red stamp,” and the goshuinchō is the little book in which you can collect these stamps.

My goshuinchō

The origins of goshuin are thought to date back to sometime around the Nara Period (710-794), when they were given to worshippers as a kind of proof showing the owner had been to worship at the local shrine/temple.

Nowadays, you can pay around 300 yen (approximately 3USD) for a stamp and can purchase a book anywhere in the range of 1,000-3,000 yen (approximately 9-25USD).

The goshuin has several parts. There will be an actual stamp in a red that resembles the vermilion red of the shrines and temples. Around that, a monk with expert calligraphy skills will write the name of the temple/shrine, as well as the date of your visit, and sometimes words of blessing or a Buddhist sutra.

Fushimi Inari goshuin on left, Kōfuku-ji on right

Here are some important things to know about collecting goshuin.

1. If you intend on collecting goshuin during your trip, you should probably buy a goshuinchō (book) at the first opportunity you get so you don’t miss out on any of the shrines or temples you visit.

The monks will not give you goshuin in any old book either since the goshuinchō has thick pages specifically designed to not allow the ink to bleed through the paper.

Different shrines and temples will provide different book designs. I bought mine at Sensō-ji in Tokyo, which had about three different designs as choices. As I made more goshuin stops, I noticed that different shrines and temples had different book designs. Some are even very specific to their location, such as the goshuinchō at Tōdai-ji in Nara, which are adorned with the iconic Nara deer.

Goshuinchō at Tōdai-ji in Nara. Beautiful and unique, but also twice the price of the one I purchased at Sensō-ji

2. The temples don’t advertise the goshuin in English, so you probably won’t find it if you’re not specifically looking for it.

Some things to look for in your mission for goshuin include: people standing in line holding books, monks sitting behind a counter doing calligraphy in books, goshuinchō for sale on display, or if you have an eye for Kanji you can look out for signs with these phrases:

  • 御朱印所
  • 朱印所
  • 納経所
  • 授与所
  • 社務所

3. If you can’t find the goshuin in a particular temple, don’t be afraid to ask where it is!

Just ask someone “Goshuin wa dokodesu ka?” (pronounced “go-shu-in wa doh-koh-des kah?”)

4. If there are a lot of people, you may have to wait.

They’ll give you a number which will be called upon completion. When we went to Ginkaku-ji in Kyoto, they had a poorly placed sign informing visitors to drop off their goshuinchō before visiting the temple because of the high volume of books and visitors that go through the process there. The sign was placed where it’s easier to find when you’re already exiting, so we didn’t see it. By the time we were ready to leave the temple and found the goshuin counter by the exit, it was a 30-minute wait to get your book done. Alternatively, you can pay the same amount for a premade stamped and calligraphed paper that you can just take immediately.

At most temples I was able to just give my book to the monk and he would do my goshuin on the spot.

5. If a temple is particularly high traffic, they may only provide you with the aforementioned premade stamped and calligraphed paper.

The only one at which I had this experience was Kinkaku-ji in Kyoto. For the same price as the rest of the goshuin, I received a looseleaf goshuin paper which I’ll have to glue into my book later.

6. Not all temples give goshuin.

I never encountered one that doesn’t but I have read about several sprinkled around Japan that don’t.

7. There are a few rules of etiquette around goshuin. 

Use only proper goshuinchō books. Prepare the exact amount of money beforehand. And remember, you aren’t buying goshuin, but receiving it so it’s respectful to be polite and use some phrases such as:

Goshuin o onegai shimasu.” (“go-shu-in o o-neh-guy she-moss”) which means “I would like a goshuin please.”

Arigatou gozaimasu.” (“ah-ree-gah-toh go-zye-moss”) which means “Thank you very much.”

8. Your goshuinchō is proof of your temple visits. Therefore, it belongs to you and no one else.

For this reason, it should not be given as a gift.

9. Don’t use your goshuinchō for other stamps.

These books are strictly for goshuin. You may get a stern lecture from a monk if you use your book for any other non-religious, tourist stamps you may encounter during your travels.

Two of my favorite goshuin pages. Tōdai-ji goshuin on left and Hakone Shrine on right

Happy goshuin-ing friends!

For more posts about my adventures in Japan, check out my Japan index page for more content.

2017: My Year in Review

What a year it has been!

We made good use out of our weekends and work trips to travel for a total of 47 days this year. That’s pretty good considering we both work full-time jobs with only 10 days of vacation per year! Here’s what my year looked like…

Here are some of my highlights of this year of travel:

Ringing in the New Year in Banff, Canada

Visiting home for the first time in two years

Exploring Chicago with Matthew

Experiencing the Climate March in Washington DC

Walking across the Brooklyn Bridge

Hiking to the top of Fushimi Inari

I can’t wait to see where 2018 takes us! All I know for sure is I will be going to Yosemite in late April before a work trip to Lake Tahoe, and Mexico City in May. My parents will be joining us on our annual Christmas adventure this year, and we haven’t decided on a location yet, but we’ve got some potential locations in mind. My mom wants to go to New Zealand, and I’m trying to convince everyone we should go to Chile. I guess we’ll see!

Cheers to a wonderful year of wanderlust! May your 2018 be full of adventures and fun!

Big Bend Day Trips

When Matt and I were planning our trip out to Big Bend National Park, we knew we wanted to knock out some other attractions in the area because hey, when in west Texas right? This region of Texas is so remote, and there are so many little gems to be discovered out there, so we decided to tack some on to our itinerary. Here are some towns and attractions we visited which would make great Big Bend day trips! Continue reading

Chicago CityPASS: Worth It?

This post contains affiliate links, meaning if you book or buy something through one of these links, I may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you! Read my full disclosure policy here.

Chicago CityPASSWhen Matt and I found cheap airfare from Houston to Chicago earlier this year, we decided to do a long weekend trip to the Windy City. We wanted to get the most out of the trip, but we didn’t want to have to do an insane amount planning. I came across the Chicago CityPASS and decided to give it a try, just for this one trip. I had no idea if it would be worth it, but hey, on paper (or I guess computer screen?) it all looked good. We took the leap and purchased our passes online. Here’s how our experience with the Chicago CityPASS went. Continue reading

The 1,000 Likes Giveaway!

I recently reached a very exciting milestone…

The idea for Around the World in Katy Days came to me after we returned from our Icelandic honeymoon. Many of our friends saw photos of our adventures and were inspired to visit Iceland. I started writing blog posts about our itinerary, trip budget, and favorite activities so I could link my friends to those instead of reiterating the same thing to different people through a series of texts and messages. When I started my blog, I never expected many people other than my friends would read it. But 18 months later I am astounded by the response this website and page have received!

And because I am so excited about it, I’m having an AMAZING 1,000 likes giveaway to celebrate! The winner will receive a gorgeous painted globe from one of my favorite Etsy sellers, Blush Design Company.

I love Blush Design Company because they’re a company with a purpose. Cassie and PJ, the faces behind Blush, are passionate about serving couples who crave adventure and live big lives together. They share their journey with others and hope to inspire others to follow their dreams. They are also passionate supporters of The Sparrow Fund, an organization that supports families through the process of international and domestic adoption, and even donate a portion of their proceeds to this amazing nonprofit.

[And if y’all don’t already know, I love when people find and support their causes with their unique, personal gifts. LOVE. IT.]

A big, Texas-sized thank you to everyone who enjoys following my journeys around the world! Y’all are amazing, beautiful, wonderful people and I wish you could all win!

To enter in this giveaway, complete the tasks in the Rafflecopter form below to earn entries. The giveaway will end at midnight CST on December 14th, 2017. A winner will be randomly selected and notified on December 15th, 2017. If the winner does not respond within 24 hours, a new winner will be randomly chosen.

Best of luck to you all!
a Rafflecopter giveaway