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View Full Version : Japan and TDR Report: Sept 2010 (updated through Day 4!)


bekkiz
10-07-2010, 04:09 PM
Hi everyone! We had an amazing through Japan in September, and I know how helpful it was to read other people's experiences, so it's only right to "give back" so to speak :)

It will probably take me a while to post everything, but I'll get to the Disney stuff ASAP, as that's the most important, right ;) :rotfl: We also don't have all of our pictures posted yet, so I'll include links as my DH processes and posts them.

Who are we, and where did we go?

My father used to work in Japan, but hasn't had a chance to go back to visit in quite some time, so he was our tour guide. My DH and I, my sister, brother and cousin made up the party.

Our basic itinerary:

Sept 11/12: Depart Seattle, arrive at Narita
Sept 12-16: Tokyo, at The Prince Park Tower Tokyo (http://www.princehotels.com/en/parktower/) . We spent Sept 15th at the Tokyo Disney Resort
Sept 16-18: Osaka, at Hotel New Otani Osaka (http://www.osaka.newotani.co.jp/english/) . Spent the 17th in Kyoto
Sept 18th: Stayed with friends in Yufuin
Sept 19th: Yufuin, at http://www.hanayoshi.co.jp/
Sept 20th: Fly from ***uoka to Narita and then on to Seattle

I'll give links to the posts as I write them :)

Day One/Two (http://www.disboards.com/showpost.php?p=38518044&postcount=4)
Day Three (http://www.disboards.com/showpost.php?p=38531990&postcount=9)
Day Four (http://www.disboards.com/showpost.php?p=38564975&postcount=10)

Pictures up through Day Four (http://www.adamlyon.com/gallery/v/Vacations/japan_2010/)

General Transportation Info


We bought the JR "Green Car" pass through a travel agency stateside. It is much cheaper to buy them in advance, especially if you were going to do a lot of traveling, as we were. If you are just planning to stay in Tokyo, I'm pretty sure it's not worth it. But add in a trip to and from Kyoto, and it may save you money to get the pass. Also, we went with the whole JR line as opposed to JR East (which I think is the most popular) since we were headed down to the southern island of Kyushu. I'll talk more about the shinkansen (bullet trains) when we get to it in the report, but let me just say it is a FABULOUS way to travel. Arnold Schwarzenegger was in town at the same time we were talking to Japan about buying some for the high speed lines that are a pipe dream in California. All we could say was, YES PLEASE!

We also bought some daily subway passes while in Tokyo since the JR lines don't always go exactly where you need to get to! We had some trouble figuring out how to buy them through the machines, but eventually made it work.

As a whole, the subways, trains and ferries we traveled on were very easy to navigate and ride. There were a lot of helpful English signs. I had been a little nervous about this part, but really, it was a breeze.

voleball
10-07-2010, 11:15 PM
Cool! I'm originally from F U K U O K A and I love Yufuin! Can't wait to hear your story!!!

bekkiz
10-07-2010, 11:54 PM
Miscellaneous Odds and Ends

We ordered a lot of Yen ahead of time through Wells Fargo foreign currency exchange. It had one of the best exchange rates I could find, and I knew that cash was going to be important. We went through it all, and then used an ATM at a post office in Osaka

We rented two cell phones and a "pocket" wifi device through Rentafone Japan (http://www.rentafonejapan.com/). As we were leaving our twins home with the grandmas, I wanted to be sure to always have a way for them to get in touch with me. Also, it was helpful when we were trying to get in touch with our local friends. We split up a few times, and again, it was just nice to be able to keep in contact. The pocket wifi device was really cool! When you turn it on, it provides a good wifi signal to up to five devices nearby. My sister and cousin used their iPhones with it, and we even had internet connectivity on the bullet train! The price was pretty reasonable and it could not have been easier to arrange.

bekkiz
10-08-2010, 04:26 PM
Day One (or two? Crossing the International dateline has a way of messing with you! :rotfl: )

We flew from Seattle direct to Narita. It's 10.5 hours heading west, and it was honestly pretty quick. We were on United in Economy+, and had a really easy flight. I don't think any of us slept for too long, but when we landed, we all felt pretty good!

The line at immigration was long. They have little signs that say "30 minutes from this point" etc, and I think we waited for about 45. People, heed my warning...go to the bathroom BEFORE getting into the immigration line. It was a looonnnnggg 45 minutes :scared: Also, I filled out the forms in green pen because that's all I had with me, and it didn't say on the form itself. Don't do that. I had to frantically fill out another one in black.

Our bags were waiting for us when we got to the baggage claim, and we were on our way. First stop was the Airport Limo counter to pick up our tickets. The bus was going to drop us off right at the hotel--score!

Next we headed downstairs to exchange the vouchers for the JR Pass. This took a while because we also booked all of our seats for the longer train rides and we had a lot of legs to figure out! The folks there were very helpful about finding the best trains though.

Oh yes, and I forgot to mention...it was HOT and humid, so standing outside for 15 minutes waiting for our bus was a little rough. But the bus came, it had air conditioning and we were really happy we didn't have to navigate the subway in our airplane lagged frame of mind.

It was so exciting to drive past the Tokyo Disney Resort on our way out! We also drove right past my dad's old office building. The traffic was pretty bad, but I think it still only took about an hour and a half to get to our hotel, The Prince Park Tower. It's right next to Shiba park and about two stops away from Roppongi. We liked the location a lot. The rooms were really nicely appointed and ours had a great view of Tokyo Tower. We loved all of the funny toiletries provided. I couldn't figure out what one of them us, but it turned out to be a headband of all things!

My dad really wanted to go to a particular restaurant that apparently has been a mainstay of the area since the 60's. He had eaten there many times, Seryna (http://www.seryna.co.jp/en/restaurants/honten/index.html) . It was quite an adventure to try to eat there after such a long "day." We ordered some kind of set meal, and the first two dishes presented (kind of like appetizers) were not big hits to the less adventurous among us. They both involved sea urchin which I think is a very acquired taste! However, the main courses of the meal were awesome, deep fried crab and shabu shabu (beef and veggies quickly cooked in a big pot of flavored broth on your table). I apparently was gushing over the crab, but I think I was a little delirious :)

We some how rolled ourselves back on the subway and to the hotel, all of us ready for some good sleep!

ChrisFL
10-08-2010, 06:18 PM
good info so far, can't wait to read more :)

sdfamily
10-09-2010, 10:52 AM
Enjoying your report! Can't wait to hear more.

Can you tell me more about the pocket wifi device? I don't see it on their website.

Thanks!

bekkiz
10-09-2010, 11:22 PM
Enjoying your report! Can't wait to hear more.

Can you tell me more about the pocket wifi device? I don't see it on their website.

Thanks!

No problem, it's apparently a new product for them. After I reserved our phones, I got an email from them offering me the wifi device. It was the same price/ week as the phone.

voleball
10-09-2010, 11:47 PM
some info on pocket WIFI device.
http://www.ismashphone.com/2009/11/pocket-wifi-router-by-emobile-hooks-your-iphone-to-the-internet.html

bekkiz
10-10-2010, 12:00 AM
Day Three or Wow, is that an ugly turtle or what!?

We let ourselves have a laid back morning to recover from the travel day before. We headed up to the restaurant at the top of the hotel for an American style breakfast buffet. Totally delicious, but they had the weirdest thing--vinegar drink? You mixed a flavored vinegar either milk or juice. None of us were brave enough to try it :rolleyes: There was a little sign calling it "healthy drink." We also saw the vinegar later at a department store, so I guess it's a trendy thing. Comfortably full, we headed out into the BLAZING Tokyo sun.

Our hotel had a shuttle that would take us directly to Hamamatsucho Station (vs. hopping on the closest subway and taking it two stops). We gave it a shot, but didn't use it again the rest of the time we were there. As I mentioned above, even though the subway ticket machines were in English, it took us a number of tries to find the one day pass in the menu system. I'm sure we were standing out like sore thumbs in the busy station!

Our first stop was Ginza and the Imperial Palace. Did I mention is was hot? (around 93 F, and 75% humidity) and the Imperial Palace is basically a huge gravel parking lot. Well, I mean, the Palace isn't, but the part that people can visit is just a huge gravel parking lot. With no trees or shade. Can you tell that I was really impressed? :rotfl: After peeking over a tall wall and through a fence to sort of kind of see a building, we decided to go on our way. We walked past a big pond/moat and a splash of something caught my eye. It was a turtle! But then it got closer and closer to the wall.....EWWWW it's the creature from the black lagoon. Seriously. This thing is the ugliest turtle ever. Cross a mole and turtle, and this is what you get. Don't believe me?

http://www.adamlyon.com/gallery/d/7387-2/wIMG_4853.jpg

Right? Ew. But, as hideous as the poor thing was, it was at least entertaining, which was not exactly how I'd describe our visit to the Imperial Palace.

We walked up the road a bit, and went to the Sony showroom. 9 floors of techy goodness and it's air-conditioned? Love :lovestruc Of course I walked right past the 3D television and didn't even see it, but there were some pretty cool things in there.

Across the street is the Ginza branch of Mitsukoshi department store. Yep! That Mitsukoshi from Epcot! It is the department store to end all department stores. I could not believe how it just went on and on. Everything was pretty much out of my price range (for example, the 7500 yen hoodie for my toddlers :scared: In the food hall, they had a fruit area with 1000 yen grapes. Yes, people apparently pay over $100 for grapes!!! They were gorgeous, but that is clearly not in my realm of understanding.The food hall was by far my favorite area, simply because of it's vastness. Imagine the prepared food area of a Whole Foods, then make it the size of a large Nordstroms then pack it with people. It was overwhelming but wonderfully amazing.

We had lunch at a "Beer Hall" owned by Lion Beer. It's another old haunt of my dad's. Food was good and pretty straightforward--fried things (shrimp, crab), pasta etc. Cold beer ;)

We found the subway again and headed to Akiahabara, "electric town." This was a hit with the men in the group. Alleys of little booths filled with all kinds of electric components. I have no idea what 95% of the stuff was, but I was throughly impressed with the amount of stuff crammed into such a small space. We also saw our first "maid cafes" and stepped into a Pachinko parlor. I do not think I have ever been anywhere so loud (and I'm been in front of the speakers at hard rock shows!). They try to cover the sound of the metal on metal with even louder metal music. It was intense.

Luckily we had time for a rest before meeting our good friend Yumi for dinner that night. I really needed it! Yumi took us to INAKAYA (http://www.roppongiinakaya.jp/en/) in Roppongi. It's known as a paddle restaurant, where the chef cooks the food on a grill in front of you, then passes it along on a long paddle. Food was super simple, but also super tasty. It's amazing what fresh things cooked over an open flame with just a bit of salt can taste like.

http://www.adamlyon.com/gallery/d/7437-2/wIMG_4900.jpg

Most of the group headed out for Karaoke, but I was still nursing a bad sore throat from before we left, so my DH and I turned in early. It sounded like everyone else had a good time, and we won't mention how late my sister and cousin stayed out. Needless to say...they were hurting the next morning :rotfl:

bekkiz
10-12-2010, 04:22 PM
Day Four....Sumo Wrestlers to High Fashion and all Points in Between

First things first, I spotted a little pastry in the hotel shop that had a koala on it and not only did I eat it, I LOVED it. It was filled with custard. Did I feel guilty about biting the face of off what might be one of the cutest animals in the world? No, not one bit AND I had one the next morning :rotfl:

http://sphotos.ak.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ak-ash2/hs323.ash2/60322_429088078870_750868870_5209396_6100945_n.jpg

Moving right along, we knew we wanted to visit the Tsukiji fish market but knowing the group, getting up for the tuna auction was not going to happen (although considering how late certain members of the group were out, they could have easily been the first in line! :lmao: ). So we settled for the next best thing and headed down to grab some sushi for breakfast and see what pathetic leftovers there were at the market itself.

The area around the actual market was way cool. Huge bins filled with every kind of dried sea creature you could think of, plus raw fish, pickles...way to much to even remember. We ate in a sushi bar that was very friendly and had a nice variety of things to try. We saw some other ones with "Japanese Speakers Only" signs, which while I kind of understand, also seemed a little over the top. After we were done, the market was open to the public. In retrospect, we should have made the effort to get there early because at this point in the day (about 9:30 am), there really wasn't much to see beyond a ton of little trucks and a lot of fish guts.

From there, we hopped on the subway and headed to Ryōgoku. Every September there is a HUGE Sumo tournament, and we were lucky enough to be there for it. We bought some super cheap nosebleed seats and settled in to watch about an hour of bouts. It was pretty empty, as the morning matches are lower ranked wrestlers. We saw some of the evening matches on TV and the place was packed! It was really neat to see in person, as I think I had a notion about Sumo, but the all the ceremony and tradition around it was totally unexpected. Lots of fun!

Right next to the stadium is the Edo-Tokyo museum that is all about...wait for it....Tokyo (or Edo, as it used to be known). It's a really well done museum with lots of little scenes and artifacts. There was a lot of English signs too, so we felt like we were getting a lot out of it. Apparently, Mitsukoshi, the department store from the day before, has been around since the 1600's. There was a model of how it looked at the beginning.

We grabbed some lunch at an Italian cafe next to the museum. Loved that they gave you origami paper and directions to make some little bugs. My guess is they get a lot of children through there! Food was pretty good too, simple pizza and pasta.

Next on our journey was a visit to Harajuku. As we got off the train, it began POURING. It was the kind of rain you often get in Florida, the big fat rain drops. It would come and go over the next two hours, but luckily, Harajuku being a shopping district, there were lots of little stores to pop into. We were there on a Tuesday, so we missed the huge cosplay display, but we did see a few teenagers all decked out. Plus simply seeing what was for sale gave us a good taste of what it was all about.

The Japanese Democratic Party was having some big election that day, in our hotel of all places, so there was a lot of security around. We just needed to show our room keys and we were good to go, but there was a lot of reporters and cameras around too! It was almost done by the time we made it back to the hotel. We had a short time to rest before meeting some other friends for dinner. I wish I could remember the name of where we went, but I forgot to write it down! Dinner was delicious with lots of veggies and some amazing Kobe steak. The next day was our visit to the Tokyo Disney Resort, so we all headed in early!

voleball
10-20-2010, 10:48 PM
Hoping for more popcorn::

Stellargirl
10-21-2010, 10:26 PM
Looking forward to some more! :cool1:

bekkiz
10-22-2010, 10:29 AM
Thanks guys! Sorry, we're caught in a birthday-anniversary-birthday trifecta right now. I'm hoping to finally get to the Disney visit after this weekend! I'm glad you're enjoying it so far though!

Surroundedbyboys
12-30-2010, 02:14 PM
About the grapes...doesn't 1000 yen equal $12.00usd?
Hope you're coming back to finish your report!

swummyh20
04-20-2011, 04:32 PM
hope you're coming back to finish your report!


agreeeeeeeed!!!!

TayjaDanger
09-28-2011, 12:07 PM
I know it has been a while, but I wanted to drop a quick note. I really enjoyed the TR so far! I would love to read about the rest of your trip, though I bet by now you have moved on for good. :)
I was so intrigued (and by that I mean horrified but interested) in the turtle mole creature that I had to find out what it was. Turns out to be a soft-shelled turtle, one of the "world's ugliest animals," so says a random internet list. I'd never seen one before!

bekkiz
10-08-2011, 09:47 AM
I know, I'm so lame.

I can offer the pictures from TDR
http://adamlyon.com/gallery/v/Vacations/japan_2010/?g2_page=6

And the advice of NOT trying to do both parks in one day. Especially when the one ride you HAVE to go one at Disneyland will break as you walk up to the line and basically ruin the rest of your evening (Pooh)(literally and figuratively)

Aussie Wendy
10-29-2011, 01:11 AM
Where did you go for lunch in Kyoto? (planning a trip March-ish next year hopefully)-looked good...and I had crossed Imperial Palace in Tokyo off list because of reports-now I have to go to see if we can spot one of those turtles!!
Thanks

meryll83
03-11-2012, 01:28 PM
Subbing in the hopes of some more Disney goodness!