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Aussie Wendy
04-19-2012, 05:49 PM
We (me, hubby and for part of the time our 20 year old daughter) have recently returned from 2 weeks in Japan. Had a lot of fun but it was challenging at times-mostly because of the language differences when things went wrong. For those of you who plan to travel to Japan and don’t want to troll through a whole trip report, here are some up front thoughts and tips for future travellers. I am attempting to minimise duplication of info already provided by Lurkyloo and others. For those of you who want to cut straight to the report skip the following and follow the links at the end.

1. As others say you don’t need to read or speak Japanese to enjoy Japan (especially if only going to the Disney resort and Tokyo). Elsewhere while you don’t need it, it would make life easier for shopping in supermarkets, reading train and bus info etc. We managed OK without it but see below, it would have made life a bit easier sometimes if we could have read some basic Katakana. Speaking-wise using simple words and sign language you can generally get your point across. We found everyone, even in the tourist info offices, have very limited English. The major buses and trains do put up the destination and the next stop in English which is wonderful but at the station it can still be confusing with the myriad types of trains, making sure you get on the right one that you bought your ticket for. Many restaurants have picture menus but we sometimes ended up in places where they didn’t and then had little idea what we were ordering! It was all part of the experience and no big deal. Some minor examples-our first foray into a supermarket (we had self contained accommodation in Kyoto) we came home with butter and margarine instead of margarine and cheese (we have discovered cheese is VERY expensive in Japan and limited range for sale). In Tokyo we bought what looked like the milk we bought in Kyoto and ended up with liquid yoghurt. We caught the wrong train to reach Hikone-despite my noting all the warnings on-line, and paid an expensive “top-up” fare.

Our main problem was the day we were to catch a train to Kanazawa on the west coast. Bad weather closed down train lines but there were significant delays with this info being posted on the boards so it looked like trains were still running. No information was posted anywhere in English-info in Japanese was being scrolled under the boards but not sure how much they were being told either-there were lots of confused faces. You had to queue in incredibly long JR desk lines to find out what was going on/re-schedule your tickets. Finally around 4pm (3rd time for the day in queues) we were told all lines were down til the next day and we had to find emergency accommodation for the night. The tourist office staff seemed to struggle to understand our request for lists of possible hotels and when asked-after a lot of sign language-referred us to a Japanese speaking, Japanese keyboard internet centre which was not much help-there seemed to be none in the station (we were using free wifi or cables in hotels so didn’t have access everywhere). Anyway we found a hotel in the end & cancelled our accom. in Kanazawa. All the people we encountered I must add, were incredibly nice and tried always very hard to help. TIP: If travelling around a lot learn some basic Japanese and/or take a translation book with you.

2. Beware of transport delays and cancellations cf above. From around 11am that day various lines were progressively shut down including the Kansai airport line from about 2pm til the next day. Unlike here in Brisbane when there’s a problem, I did not see that JR were putting on extra buses to the airport as an alternative but not needing them I could be wrong. The shinkansen to Tokyo started running again, I think it was later that afternoon. Tip: build in some fat in your travel plans. I would now never schedule a trip from Osaka back to Tokyo the same day as a flight home and would know alternatives if one form of transport was down- what to do, where to go to find alternatives. Dealing with problems in a foreign language is a major drama! Many lines were significantly delayed 3 days earlier due to the weather too, so I suspect this is not an uncommon event and we were there in the relatively “stable” weather pattern of April.
Postscript-I have since looked it up and this was the worst storm in the area since 1959 with all flights cancelled til the next day as well and four casualties with building collapses in smaller towns. I have been told by locals posting elsewhere that this was an unusual event to be so widespread. Still worth appreciating things like this can happen.

3. On the topic of travel, on buses and trains the next station always appeared in English as well as Japanese on the boards inside the carriage/bus and was announced in English though sometimes on the buses delays made it unclear if it was the stop it had stopped at or the next one coming up so we got off at the wrong stop sometimes. The major trains were very clear though we found on a brief trip on the trains in Osaka they were less foreign-tourist friendly compared to Kyoto. Directions to sights from bus stops in Kyoto were not sign posted unlike train exits. Machines dispensing tickets are at all stations and have an English button which steps you through and labels everything in English making them very easy to use.

Due to the delay issue we paid extra for a reserved seat to Kanazawa (we did not have a JR pass as for what we did it was dearer). Because our train-the second scheduled for the day- happened to actually be the first one running they allowed it to jam full of people-I guess understandable but the reserved carriages were so full of “non-reserved” people crowding the aisles and entry you couldn’t get on. It was the classic Delhi scramble as we literally forced our way on board elbowing people and being so thankful we had minimal luggage. Sometime later we and others-forcibly pushed our way to our seats and were able to sit down. Our train to Tokyo-which we also reserved as it seemed easier to know which carriage to go to, time of arrival printed on ticket etc, rather than taking pot luck, was half empty and a totally different experience! We however, didn’t find Tokyo trains/subway too crazy (well no different to peak hours in any city). TIP: I would consider it worth the extra $ (if no JR Pass) or effort (if hold JR pass) to reserve a seat-even if for later the same day as it does make it easier unless you are a single person travelling light. Also if you don’t hold a JR Rail Pass and intend travelling around the Kansai region consider getting a JR West Rail pass (Kansai Pass) for 1, 2, 3 or 4 days. The 1 day pass is worth it even just for the express train from the airport to Kyoto.

4. As people say-many places do not accept credit cards. We used cash a lot but whilst our bank advised they would all be chip and pin, we found where we did use a credit card it was swipe and signature and only once using a pin and never a chip. We never ended up using an ATM but others on assorted websites give advice in this regard eg only some accept foreign cards (such as Citibank).

5. Our “Travel sim” for mobile phone calls worked but only on one of our newer phones (Nokia E71).

6. We found western toilet options everywhere we went, always with paper, running water and often soap and sometimes antiseptic wash as well. Disney has antiseptic wash as well as soap in all toilets. All were very clean. Many in department stores, major tourist venues etc had hand dryers (Dyson style now popular here in Aus). The Japanese still do carry their little hand towels with them but only once or twice at temples did we find we needed something with which to dry our hands. Many toilet seats were heated (luxury!) and where not, like in our machiya, they have fuzzy toilet seat covers instead.

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My hubby wouldn’t let me buy one eg from Tokyu Hands or Passport to bring home. I thought it a great idea for winter nights! We were also impressed many fast food outlets, even MacDonalds (yes we succumbed), had a hand basin and soap in the corner of the store for hand washing.

7. The food was excellent, always served tongue burning hot and most often cooked while you wait, even in tiny hole-in-the-wall type places. We did find when eating in restaurants that as a meal was ready it was served, so if my hubby (most often) ordered a simpler meal than my daughter and I he got his and had eaten it by the time my and my daughter’s were served-not the concept of serve all persons at once as we have in the west but it meant food was wonderfully hot. We also almost always were given iced water automatically as they do in the US (or serve yourself in café style places) and often wet towels or wipes. Food was also very cheap. We were eating main meals at converted Aus$6-$7-mostly bowls of ramen or udon or Japanese curry (I have become an addict-its mild compared to Indian or Thai but I love the flavours) or pasta. Tempura and rice and other seafood/meaty mains were often still only $10-12. Packets of ready made sandwiches in 7-11 type stores (Lawsons were the nicest) and department store food hall basements were normally ¥300-350 (Aus$3.50-4). Add drinks and crisps and/or a cake or tart (should have taken a pic but didn’t-Lawsons chocolate tarts were very, very yummy) and lunches/light dinners were $8-$10/person. Italian cafes and restaurants were everywhere-I think of Japan I think Italian now. Perhaps because pasta resembles noodles. It was always very good.

8. On the topic of water (well we were some sentences ago), we are on rain water tanks at home and find Brisbane and surrounding areas water intolerable. The water in Kyoto and across the south and west was like drinking our rain water-tasted good and didn’t upset our stomachs as changing water often does for us. Tokyo wasn’t as good but still wasn’t bad. Meant we saved money on not buying bottled water.

That’s all I can think of for now. Onto the trip report. Advance apologies food porn is limited-as always we simply forget or the pics came out too bad. I am doing this out of order since it is the Disboards after all-and starting with our last 2 days at Disney Sea and Disneyland then I will double back to Kyoto, Kanazawa and Tokyo.

Day 1 Travel Day (http://www.disboards.com/showthread.php?p=44658699#post44658699)
Day 2 Kyoto Southern Higashiyama Part 1 (http://www.disboards.com/showthread.php?p=44670294#post44670294)
Day 2 Cont. (http://www.disboards.com/showthread.php?p=44670323#post44670323)
Day 3 Arashiyama and Kinkakuji (http://www.disboards.com/showthread.php?p=44704807#post44704807)
Day 4 Hikone and Kiyomizu light-up (http://www.disboards.com/showthread.php?p=44712365#post44712365)
Day 5 Nara (http://www.disboards.com/showthread.php?p=44725795#post44725795)
Day 5 Nara continued (http://www.disboards.com/showthread.php?p=44725848#post44725848)
Day 6 Kyoto-Fushimi-Inari, Ginkakuji, Shoren-in light-up (http://www.disboards.com/showthread.php?p=44726390#post44726390) in 3 parts
Day 7 We leave Kyoto-NOT (http://www.disboards.com/showthread.php?p=44778940#post44778940)
Day 8 Kanazawa at last (http://www.disboards.com/showthread.php?p=44798706#post44798706)
Day 9 In and around Kanazawa (http://www.disboards.com/showthread.php?p=44811225#post44811225)
Day 10 Off to Tokyo (http://www.disboards.com/showthread.php?p=44846055#post44846055)
Day 11 In Tokyo-cherry blossom!
Day 12 Sunday in Tokyo and off to Disney (http://www.disboards.com/showthread.php?p=44846145#post44846145)
Day 13 Disney Sea part 1 (http://www.disboards.com/showthread.php?p=44641772#post44641772)
Day 13 Part 2 DisneySea cont (http://www.disboards.com/showthread.php?p=44642271#post44642271).
Part 3 Disneysea (http://www.disboards.com/showthread.php?p=44642557#post44642557)
Day 14 Disneyland Part 1 (http://www.disboards.com/showthread.php?p=44653717#post44653717)
Day 14 Disneyland Part 2 (http://www.disboards.com/showthread.php?p=44653774#post44653774)
Day 14 Disneyland part 3 to home (http://www.disboards.com/showthread.php?p=44653849#post44653849)

Aussie Wendy
04-19-2012, 07:30 PM
Monday 9 April Disneysea: morning

Despite checking calendars just before we left, found out last night Disneysea was opening at 9am not 10 so set alarm for 6.30 (since not wrote yesterdays yet-we are staying at the Sheraton Tokyo Grande, a Disney Resort Official Hotel). Nice having breakfast supplies in our fridge bought from a bakery at Ikspiari last night – delicious even if cold, quiche and chocolate pastries later, we caught the monorail (love the Mickey windows and handholds!)

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and got to the queue around 8.15. Quite short and not too long behind us when we were let in at 9am. Park predictions were low (17,000) and over the day it seemed to be so. They had a band playing and lots of characters out (some more unusual) but we had to pack a lot in-no time to stop! Well maybe just for one or two..

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and off to Mysterious Island. The crowds either first go here or to Tower of Terror in American Waterfront but we are not fans of the latter so this made the decision easy. Some pics along the way:

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Mysterious Island
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It was a walk on to popular Journey to the Centre of the Earth (JTCE). This was a great ride-not too swirly for those squeamish of us. Unfortunately you don’t get all the extra story overlays with announcements in Japanese. Lovely theming of going down a mine-with mine smells-then a slow ride past crystal caverns and a mushroom forest with exotic insect life before there’s an earthquake and the car is forced off route, nearly struck by lightning, enters the heart of a volcano, is attacked by a great monster and then you make your escape on the wave of an eruption -some swerves in the dark, upwards and shoot out into daylight with a freefall-style steep drop to conclude and yes I screamed (the whole ride reminded me a lot of Splash actually-if you can ride that, ride this).

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Walked on to nearby 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, which makes you think its a submarine style ride.

External loading area.

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Walk on was so fast we had little time to check out Capt’n Nemo’s offices but as always with Disney, the detail was staggering. Aboard the submarine craft the ride goes through areas such as a ships’ graveyard and a giant squid which you escape by electrifying the craft but it drains your power. You can operate searchlights to pick out detail. We had side seats but as others recommend, the front seat was definitely the best view. There are a lot of funny details but you would need to re-ride several times to pick things out. After the squid encounter you sink deeper and find the remains of Atlantis (hence the ruins outside flanking the mountain and paintings in Fortress Explorations) and alien life-forms (rather cute! and link well to Indy Crystal Skull ride across in the Lost Delta). The aliens use the undersea crystals you have seen for power and they provide power to allow your craft to rise up and out of the ocean. This ride was a lot better than the Nemo submarine ride in Disneyland. As the pics show the Mysterious Island itself has wonderful sci fi theming straight out of Jules Verne, on the side of the volcano with vents steaming away and occasional eruptions above.

It was now around 10am and we hotfooted it across to the Lost Delta (sampling some caramel popcorn from Mermaid Lagoon en route-for those who don’t know each land in DisneySea has different flavoured popcorn-sweet or savoury at ¥300/box unless you buy a big souvy tub to hang around your neck and for which you can get refills).

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Note the number of the plane.

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Indiana Jones Temple

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Indiana Jones had a wait time of 40mins so we fastpassed and spent the intervening time exploring some of the Arabian Coast and riding Sinbad.

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He grunts!

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Genie Flowers

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Entry to Sinbad

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As others have commented this ride captured my heart-I loved the music (Compass of Your Heart), I loved the story, I loved Chandhu the little tiger. It is classic animatronic characters viewed from a moving boat like It’s a Small World (with a much less annoying score). Whilst in Japanese it’s easy to follow what is going on and the settings are luscious and as always with Disney, amusing. The Arabian Coast itself reminds me of Morocco at Epcot with passageways and courtyards and sound effects.

Some shots from inside the ride.

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Back we went to the Lost Delta and straight into Indiana bypassing all the queued people (is it just me that feels like royalty when riding with a FP in big queued rides?) but with only a quick glance available for the laboratories and other theming. FP mixes in close to loading the ride vehicles. This is a similar ride to Anaheim but we thought the crystal additions worked well. Good ride as always.

Continued next post

Aussie Wendy
04-19-2012, 08:22 PM
Continued.

Hunger was calling and nearby Yukutan Grill was quiet but the meal was only so so (¥2470 for 3 with 2 drinks). The meat was not that nice – the chicken very fatty and my pork very chewy though the Mexican rice was nice. This ended up being our worst meal our whole trip.

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The theming for the area being in an archeological dig was good though. Nearby Raging Spirits roller coaster was down til after lunch for some reason.
This whole area reminded us of parts of Animal Kingdom at WDW.

My husband wanted a boat ride so we caught the boat from the shantytown here around to Mediterranean Harbour. You can’t ride it all the way back-you have to get off. I walked us over to American Waterfront thinking we might be in time to queue up for the renown Big Band Beat show but there was no 12.30 show today. (Read your program correctly Wendy! You could get English programs from guest services but I made do with the Japanese version I picked up at the gates and my daughter with her high school Japanese was able to translate the show titles for us while we queued that morning.) So we took the opportunity to look around this New York City themed area and explored SS Columbia (should have had lunch here in the Teddy Roosevelt Lounge-the table service Dining Room being out of our price bracket). There are two streets-a posher shopping street and a seedier area under the bridge and near the docks-both with the usual level of amusing detail and great atmosphere that leaves Streets of America at DHS for dead. The electric trolleys that run to Port Discovery were having a temporary glitch though. I understand that if you are a fan of Tower of Terror the storyline here is very different and clever though the ride is similar. There are links to the story all over the park.

The SS Columbia

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Promenading

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A Titanic moment

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Inside heading up to the SS Columbia dining room

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View form the deck

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Side view of the Tower of Terror

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We however strolled back to Mediterranean Harbour and queued 15 mins for a gondola ride since due to an upset stomach my daughter missed an authentic one in Venice on a holiday several years ago. Fun-they even sang (excellent voice!) under the concrete bridges as they do in Venice. Whilst small this area feels just like parts of Venice did.

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My daughter then demanded strawberry popcorn which required a trip over to Port Discovery and my hubby and I had a Mickey bar each before walking back over the Florentine Ponte Vecchio to find a seat to watch the Mythica show in Mediterranean Harbour.

Hubby found the concrete steps too hard with a dodgy back and stood at the back but my daughter and I settled down for about 20 mins. Some people had queued for the last hour but there really was no need. Mythica was fantastic-loved the floats, the energy, the music. Can’t believe how high the extension pillars could go on the boats and incorporated lots of mythical creatures (unicorn, phoenix, dragon, hydra) as well as Disney favourites like Mickey and Minnie, Goofy, Pluto and the chipmunks (the Japanese appear to love them). On a side note we did find that the Japanese don’t do the princesses nearly as much as in the US-as not lovers of the princesses we found this a good thing-but interesting to note. A selection of pics

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We now should have explored the fortress in daylight however instead we made our way back to Port Discovery via Cape Cod-the home of Duffy and Shellie May. A small area, this was very pretty and more pics were required of course. I caved and bought a mini Duffy.

Cape Cod village

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Shellie May's House ( think)

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Celebrating Spring

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A rabbit-(I have no idea of her name?)

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A mini Duffy saying goodbye to his home for the long trip back to Aus

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Continued next post.

Aussie Wendy
04-19-2012, 08:49 PM
continued part 3

Port Discovery had more steam punk style theming. We rode Aquatopia-more fun than I expected as boats are controlled by a computer and go every which way.

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Stormrider was next-a rather old-style simulation ride where you are launching a rocket to break up a typhoon and it all goes horribly wrong. Star Tours in 3D has ruined us! However if here for the first time I would still ride once.



Still had to fit in Mermaid Lagoon so off we went. Lovely theming again here. But first some pics I missed earlier:

In American Waterfront where they are doing the special Mickey and Duffy Spring Voyage show we missed.

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A view of Med. Harbour since don't think have included one so far
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On the Arabian Coast the genie gets a bear too
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Only had about a 15min wait for Mermaid Theatre and the story of Ariel-Japanese style (where she stays in the sea). Told with an actor and puppets, including many aerial stunts, this was an excellent show. Interestingly the songs were in English but the dialogue in Japanese. We didn’t feel the need for an English translation device though I have read you can get them. Afterwards we explored this wonderful “undersea” world. The rides are mostly for children though there are swirling teacups (the whirlpool), Jumping Jellyfish that looked fun as you rise and fall in a carriage gently and Blowfish Balloon Race-a suspended carriage roundabout ride. Ariel’s playground is also not to be missed for adults too including her room of treasures with lots of fun surprises-watch out for the one way mirror and sharks.

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Sebatians Calypso Kitchen (pizza emphasis)
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There are also two rides outside-a small roller coaster (like the one in Toontown) and Skuttles Scooters that was closed for refurbishment.

It was getting dark. We had earlier picked up another FP for JTCE so we set off to use it before eating but no need, standby was less than 20 mins. Enjoyed the ride again and then back to Cape Cod as we fancied the menu. No show was on while we were there but we enjoyed the quiet and our burgers and fries were excellent (tried chicken, beef and fish respectively, total ¥1820 for 2 “sets” with fries and a drink and my stand alone fish burger). I bought a chocolate mousse in a souvenir china Easter cup for desert (¥600).

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Then we headed out to explore the Fortress. My daughter and I especially had a ball here-lots of passageways and battlements and towers with interesting things to find though I was disappointed the chamber of planets was closed. Lots more brilliant photo ops but a bit dark unfortunately.

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We were still here when Fantasmic was almost ready (8.00pm) so stayed to watch. Though “behind” the set could still see a lot of the show and there were so many differences to make it almost a different show to the US. My husband and daughter are not big fans of the US ones though thought the Anaheim version better than WDW. This was better again especially as many images were beamed onto inflated balloons on board boats rather than onto water that we found in the US moved too much with the wind to see properly. If we return I would make the effort to watch from the front. We stayed for the fireworks-very short and low key as I had read -and then explored the last of this area including the boat that creaked as you walked below decks and I am sure had a lot more to discover if only we had the time!!!

http://i1203.photobucket.com/albums/bb390/gecko290/Japan%20April%202012/IMG_2184.jpg

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Now we had to hustle and did a walk through of the entire park to see it in its evening finery.
Med Harbour
http://i1203.photobucket.com/albums/bb390/gecko290/Japan%20April%202012/IMG_2170.jpg

SS Columbus
http://i1203.photobucket.com/albums/bb390/gecko290/Japan%20April%202012/IMG_2164.jpg

Indy's Temple at night
http://i1203.photobucket.com/albums/bb390/gecko290/Japan%20April%202012/IMG_2210.jpg

Raging Spirits roller coaster
http://i1203.photobucket.com/albums/bb390/gecko290/Japan%20April%202012/IMG_2212.jpg

The rest of the family was starting to lag but fitted in another ride on Sinbad and a ride on the carousel (double decker-up top of course!). It was very quiet and a walk-on to any ride if you had the energy to race around the park. We exited around 9.50, 10 mins before closure-totally exhausted but exhilarated and whilst it might sound like it, it did not feel like a rushed day at all.

http://i1203.photobucket.com/albums/bb390/gecko290/Japan%20April%202012/IMG_2233.jpg

Lurkeyloo’s report as well as Jack’s over at Allears (from 2008) has some excellent descriptions and photos of the park if anyone is interested. Those in the know will note we missed the special Mickey and Duffy Spring Voyage Show that was held in 3 variations in 3 different ports twice a day when we were there- had every good intention of catching at least part of one performance but failed. People were queuing for ages to see these and with so much to see with just one day in a new park it just didn’t happen. There’s always future trips and new shows! I have been trying to find a Youtube of them though to see what we missed. Judging by the other shows the standard would be superb.

Tomorrow Disneyland for 2/3 day.

battymum
04-20-2012, 01:04 AM
Thanks so much AussieWendy -

Fantastic Photos - looks like one day is not enough!!

Looking forward to the rest of your TR. :)

battymum
04-20-2012, 01:22 AM
I have so many questions, I am considering Japan next April.

Weather??

Crowds?

I dont know if you have been following my thread on the Aussie board - due to school holidays, we cannot travel until Wed 10th of April, prime Cherry Blossom time is the first week in April, :( I am hoping to spend the first few days in Tokyo central - do you think there will be Cherry Blossom festivities still going after the 10th - we will then move to the Disney area on the 15th to avoid weekend crowds. Did you spend time in the parks in Tokyo?

PrincessInOz
04-20-2012, 02:15 AM
Dang! Just noticed this now.

Subbing in and will come back and read later.

battymum
04-20-2012, 06:45 AM
I'm just too impatient for the rest of the TR. :hyper::hyper:

Did you stay at the Sheraton for the whole time in Tokyo? I have been looking for accommodation for our family of five, looks like anywhere in central Tokyo would require two rooms - but we can all fit in one at the Sheraton, (might be a bit :crowded:) but that is looking like the most economical option.

Will it be easy enough to travel to the main sites in the rest of the city from there? :moped:, :drive:

Aussie Wendy
04-20-2012, 06:11 PM
Battiemum hi
I had seen your post quicky on the Aus board and planned to add a few things that I had researched before we went but didn't have time.

Onto your questions-the Sheraton was good-consistent with others and you will not find anywhere I doubt, as spacious in Tokyo itself-maybe if you found a self contained apartment but our machiya in Kyoto was also tiny. Though we would fit 3 in the double bedded Sheraton room, I booked online through a wotif.com special and when we arrived they had placed a third single bed in the room which we didn't need but you would. We still had plenty of space compared to what we had been getting! though a bit squishy to sit around the small table and 2 chairs so yes it will be a bit squishy for 5 of you but prob your best bet. I have just checked our pics and can't believe we never took a pic looking from the door down the room which would have shown it so well-bugger bugger! I thought we had.

Weather-we had the gamut-warm and sunny (T shirt and jeans weather) and we got unexpectedly quite sunburnt, sunny but cold (light jacket), freezing (thicker jacket-I was pleased I took it with us-you will see us in it in the pics I put up as I double back to the start-but we are from Qld), torrential rain/blizzardy. Kyoto weather think Melbourne-it can be sunny and warm when you head out sightseeing and pouring rain and freezing a few hours later. I knew Kanazawa on the west coast could be cold and they have had a heavy long winter with snow only a few days earlier (hence in part train cancellations). Tokyo was more moderate-warm but mild in the sun, coming in cool late afternoon. So depending on where you plan to go definately layers and maybe one light and one medium jacket (a pain but we just carried it over our arms on planes etc). Try and pack light-you will no doubt be lugging cases on public transport and there are lots of long corridors and escalators and in hotels relatively small lifts. More importantly there isn't the space in the rooms to put lots of luggage. We always had some hanging space and hangers and every hotel seemed to have coin operated laundries so washing and drying was easy (being at the end of the trip we didn't need one then not sure if the Sheraton did.)

Cherry blossom season was a bit late this year due to weather. Only a few were just opening in Kyoto when were there but by the time we got to Tokyo (7th 8th) Ueno Park and Asakusa were out in full. Its a double barreled sword really though-you have never seen so many people as cherry blossom time. I mean wall to wall. We never got to Sensoji temple-the approach was too packed cheek to jowl. We visited Ueno first-got there around 9am and it was getting busy but walkable-thankful we did-later it would have been impossible-so catching the start or the end of the season might not be a bad thing. Japan Guide (an invaluable website) gives special cherry blossom updates so you will be able to check before you go what's happening where and pick the best place to go to see them even if its the later blooming varieties. You may be too late if its early next year or in time if more like this year.

Provided you avoid Spring Break and Golden Week (google the dates for next year-Spring Break finished 8 April this year and Golden Week was right at the end of the month into early May) April is a quiet time for the parks. Weekends are always busier of course so weekdays are best. Def. need 2 days for Disney Sea. Disneyland whatever you usually spend-one to two days. Disneyland apparently is always busier than Disneysea. As always make judicious use of FP, get the kids up early and get to the parks early because like the US the first 2-3 hours are very quiet so good to hit the popular rides and spend the busy time having a rest at the hotel or watching the shows which are especially good at the Tokyo parks. Buy a monorail multiday pass to save $ for the days you stay-I didn't realise til we arrived you can buy 3 or 4 day passes. At Y250/ride a 3 day pass for Y1100 is worth it (a 2 day is Y800). You need to catch the monorail to get to Ikspiari and the parks but can walk from the monorail station to the Sheraton-its literally across the road 5 mins (the driveway is up a bit of a hill and they also have a bus from the monorail if you did need it). The hotel had an outdoor pool that was not open early April and also an indoor one we never explored (no time). The foyer have wifi and free computers for internet and a table with PSP games and a big screen TV area. Several places to eat-the buffet breaky looked good but dear (I think we worked out aorund Aus$33) -if you scored a booking with breaky included that I know some people have in the past it would be good value. Ikspiari has LOTS of places to eat. We ate at Beckers burgers in Tokyo and there is a branch at Ikspiari and they are very good (and not just burgers). Ikspiari Kitchen we ate at is like a food hall but you find a seat first then go order-lots of choices and it was an excellent meal. There is a small supermarket just opposite that where you can buy breakfast/snack supplies-prices were dearer than in Tokyo itself but alright. Also some very good bakery/pastry shops where we bought some supplies from-they were excellent.

We thought if we came again would be tempting to stay at the Sheraton near the parks and just catch the train/subway into Tokyo for sightseeing (catch JR train 1 stop to Shin-Kiba then change to subway Yurakucho line total 390Y one way depending on where in Tokyo city going or catch the JR train (one change of lines) into Tokyo station Y380.) It is only about a 40 min trip from the Sheraton and took 30-40 mins to get around within Tokyo anyway depending on where we were going. The limousine bus to the airport was excellent-lose your luggage, not have to worry about getting on and off trains and subway with it, no worry about train line cancellations due to winds (Lurkyloo reported happens) and Y2400 per adult.

Have to go..will return with other thoughts etc anon!

vettegirl
04-20-2012, 09:02 PM
Great reviews and pictures. Next time we go to Japan I plan on spending a day at DisneySea. It was closed last year when we were there due to the earthquake so we went to Tokyo DL instead for the day.

Aussie Wendy
04-21-2012, 05:57 AM
Tuesday 10 April Day 14 Disneyland.

We had to pack first and not having handy food to eat figured we would pick something up in the park (bad mistake!) We checked out and left our bags with the bellhop and got over to Disneyland on the monorail just before 9am opening. Queues were much longer here. Entry to Main Street is through ‘World Bazaar’ which is undercover (makes sense with the weather here).

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We took the long way as “have” to walk through the castle the first time and then doubled back to the right hand side of Fantasyland for Pooh’s Hunny Hunt. Got there 9.15 and 40 min standby that got longer by the minute. We queued for FP with a return time of 11.15-12.15. This was my choice over rushing to Monsters Inc as the film and ride has never appealed and riding it in the dark with flashlights and some additional montages instead just didn’t sound that much better though I know everyone raves. We next rode Peter Pan, 5 min wait, but it seemed much jerkier unlike the US rides that I found detracted from it a bit, though it is still one of my fave’s. Next Haunted Mansion. This had several different things happening compared to the US rides like protruding heads from portraits-it was very good. Wished we could have understood the lengthy Japanese spiel at the end after the ghost hitches a lift though.

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I would then have liked to do some more short rides whilst the park was relatively quiet (around 10.15ish now) but I had family dying of hunger so we tried to find some easy snack type food nearby to keep us going-all we could find was not yet open restaurants and popcorn. Had a hungering for a hot dog really and saw people eating them. Should have headed back to World Bazaar but for some strange reason on the way swerved right into Critter Country and the closer parts of Adventureland. Amazed that people were already lining up along the parade route though it didn’t start til 11.30am. In the end my daughter got a smoked chicken leg that she said was quite good and me and hubby had a Mickey shaped steamed pork and chicken teriyaki bun each (each item ¥400) -

http://i1203.photobucket.com/albums/bb390/gecko290/Japan%20April%202012/IMG_2245.jpg

I liked the fact the pork filled his ears and the chicken his face! We had a quick look around and decided the Tiki room in Japanese would be too hard unless we got a translation device and the jokes on the Jungle Cruise would be lost on us-queues for the latter were growing too. Pirates was closed for refurb for a month. I should have picked up a FP for Splash Mountain but just wasn’t organised today –and really it was meant to be a walk around and look at the differences day.

Here's the Tiki Room and an Easter Stitch.
http://i1203.photobucket.com/albums/bb390/gecko290/Japan%20April%202012/IMG_2246.jpg

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Heading back towards Fantasyland for our Pooh ride we saw no queues for Cinderella’s fairytale hall inside the castle so nipped in. Lovely walk-through viewing the story of Cinderella in miniature dioramas all made in different materials-metal, clay, paper etc. Also her throne room with photo opps on her chair!

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View from the Fantasyland side of the castle-the door to the right and steps is the exit from the Cinderella walk through

http://i1203.photobucket.com/albums/bb390/gecko290/Japan%20April%202012/IMG_2257.jpg

Snow White and 7 Easter eggs?

http://i1203.photobucket.com/albums/bb390/gecko290/Japan%20April%202012/IMG_2248.jpg

Came out and indulged in some honey popcorn (yum)-queues for Pooh were now around 60 mins standby. We walked in with our FP, though a longer FP queue than normal, they join you early so you also get to appreciate Christopher Robin’s garden and shed and the internal storybook pages. The ride was fantastic. They really ought to replace Anaheim’s with it. It just has a ton of extra elements that makes it very good-bouncing on the spot, whirling about, a cannon that goes off in your face with the smell of burnt honey... If we had longer I would have loved to have ridden it at least twice.

http://i1203.photobucket.com/albums/bb390/gecko290/Japan%20April%202012/IMG_2259.jpg


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to be continued next post

Aussie Wendy
04-21-2012, 06:16 AM
We got out and because the parade starts the other side of Fantasyland and curves around to Toontown we were in time. Hubby even nabbed a proper seat behind those seated on the ground. I found a place on the ground a few rows back. We were very entertained by the cast members-they had this song and cute actions - that EVERYONE in the crowd did and this wonderful deep-almost sinister- Japanese voice calling out instructions and Happy Easter (you had to be there). The Parade when it reached us around 12 noon was great-good bouncy music, big colourful floats, lots of different characters like Winnie the Pooh, Toy Story, A Bugs Life, 3 Little Pigs, Alice in Wonderland, Huey, Dewey and Luey, Monsters Inc, Stitch, and Mickey of course (he changed costumes and floats). Every character in Japan seems to have a girlfriend or boyfriend-Stitch, Duffy, rabbits, Donald and Daisy, Mickey and Minnie.

Here is a selection of pics.
http://i1203.photobucket.com/albums/bb390/gecko290/Japan%20April%202012/IMG_2271.jpg

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And Its A Small World Clock en route to lunch telling us it was 12.15.

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After the parade we headed into the Queen of Hearts Banquet Hall for lunch. Very efficient process given its size and lovely décor. I was just starting to feel a little “off” and as much as I would have liked a souvenir heart dish with cake for desert felt like I couldn’t face another sweet thing so passed it by. The unbirthday cakes were popular. My hubby and I got the crumbed fish and vegies and my daughter soup and salad. It was very good. I also love the ginger ale they sell throughout Japan as a soft drink option-not like our ginger ale-bit gingery, bit lemonadish.

http://i1203.photobucket.com/albums/bb390/gecko290/Japan%20April%202012/IMG_2302.jpg

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Some more Easter egg characters around Fantasyland

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View from the balcony before descending the steps of the castle (sorry missed this earlier).

http://i1203.photobucket.com/albums/bb390/gecko290/Japan%20April%202012/IMG_2255.jpg

continued next post

Aussie Wendy
04-21-2012, 06:31 AM
Feeling full we sat and watched Mickey’s Philharmagic after dinner (with only a 10 min wait). Forgotten how good this is as missed it last US park trip. When we came out we thought we would have a wander through Toontown and walk clockwise around the park. Throughout the day we kept spotting the Easter egg characters-there was a competition with a map you could do-easy or expert level and receive a prize. We found so many I think we should have entered but being all in Japanese and only having 2/3 of a day figured it would be too hard.

I have posted some-here's a couple more

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http://i1203.photobucket.com/albums/bb390/gecko290/Japan%20April%202012/IMG_8074.jpg

Toontown contained much the same items as the US (Roger Rabbits Cartoon Spin was closed for maintenance) but I liked the layout-more spacious with room to move and Mickey and Minnie’s houses and Donald’s Boat tucked down a side lane.

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This blew smoke whenever anyone purchased from the vending machine-but pic snapped too late.
http://i1203.photobucket.com/albums/bb390/gecko290/Japan%20April%202012/IMG_2243.jpg

On our way towards Tomorrowland they were filling the theatre for One Man’s Dream II so we nipped in. In busier times entrance is only by ballot. This is one of Disney’s singing and dancing spectaculars and started with B & W Mickey, then various excerpts including a Jungle Book song and dance with Louie, Its A Bugs Life flea circus, Maleficent and Claude Follo from Hunchback villain’s piece with red cloaked monks and wonderfully creepy spiders, Sleeping Beauty, Peter Pan and a grand Hollywood spectacular with Mickey in top hat and tails.

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After this finished we continued through Tomorrowland where Star Tours is closed for the big 3D additions. Space Mountain was only a 30min queue. Not as popular here at all so be a good opportunity for those who like to ride it. I was feeling seedy so definitely no (and also reluctantly knew no go for Splash Mountain.) Buzz had long queues. We did some shopping in World Bazaar and sat a bit for me before checking out the lake in Westernland. They had operating canoes-never seen them in action in the US-not even sure if they still have them now but they were always closed in our 1980’s visits. Would have been fun to have a go but no time left. Also looked longingly at Tom Sawyer Island from afar (and picked up a map-neat souvenir). You could see how the Splash queues wind around outside through obviously themed areas-darn it! I have read that it is very good with extras compared to the US parks.

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A character you don't often see coming off meet and greets.
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But it was time for us to leave and catch the limousine bus out to the airport for our evening flight home.

On the way out:

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It was good having a look at this version of Disney and definitely had much the same park “feel” to it despite the Japanese language differences. One to remember!
The rest of the day was typical. The bus trip went smoothly and an easier way to get to the airport without messing about with multiple trains and worrying about them being cancelled due to winds! (¥2400 per adult). It only took an hour and that included circling around the Disney Resort Hotels. At the airport we could check our bag through and explore. There were tons of great places to eat and shop -I love Narita airport! (LAX could learn something). I was feeling better but wanted something plain to eat – lots of places had sandwiches and I had a delicious crispy ham and cheese baguette and a cup of hot (black) tea. Perfect. My daughter indulged in a huge bowl of soba noodles and there were lots of other options-traditional Japanese ramen and udon, curries, sushi and shashami, salads, pastas, meats and rice, pizza and burgers. Bought some chocolates and biscuits for work gifts (and found even cheaper ones once we passed through immigration into the boarding area).

The flight was not full so we had a row of 4 sets between 3 of us-nice as gave us a little room to stretch out. We were in the first half of economy. Further back I noticed a few lucky people had 1 to 4 to lie down and sleep. We didn’t order any food knowing being an overnighter we wouldn’t want anything (and only a 7 hr trip) but we did prebook an ipad so could watch movies (ticked off The Kings Speech and Hugo). As the general drop down TV viewing was not working for half the trip this was good as none of us sleep on planes. However there was a glitch to start with as there was some medical emergency on board just after we were loaded and a long wait on the tarmac whilst a doc and the captain ran to and fro. Eventually a family with a young child were escorted off the plane but of course had to wait for their baggage to be unloaded. Not sure what the problem was, I presume the child was ill. So an hour late we set off. For us it meant we had less time to hang about Cairns airport waiting for our connecting flight to the Gold Coast (which was not til 11am) but there were passengers stressing out with immediate connecting fights south. Immigration was super fast but customs took forever with long queues backing up (I kept thinking of our Russian dude from Kansai complaining). Cairns airport doesn’t offer a lot of options but we found a café for toasties and coffee and an hour later were able to lose our baggage and go through to the domestic departures where there were a lot more options for eating and sitting. The rest of the flight went smoothly and in no time we were picking up our car from long term parking where our daughter had parked it, collected our pup (well old dog really) from a friend’s where he had been as usual spoilt to bits and manicured, clipped and washed, and home safe and sound.

This was our loot from our entire trip (including gifts) (not the black dog-he is my daughters mascot and goes on every hols with her).

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Aussie Wendy
04-21-2012, 05:56 PM
Wed 28 March Day 1 Travel Day

I had scored cheap business class airfares to Kansai airport (near Osaka) with Jetstar from the Gold Coast. As we live on the outskirts of Brisbane with no public transport getting to this airport is not much more difficult than getting to Brisbane’s. Our daughter was unable to join us for the first few days due to Uni commitments so we ended up hiring a car for 24 hours that my husband collected on Tuesday after work and we drove it one way down to the airport Wednesday morning ($60) which meant she was able to drive our car down and park in long-stay when she left on the Sunday. (The train and bus combo didn’t get in early enough Sundays-OT note there are limited transport options to get from Brissie to the GC though several private mini buses if you want to get from Brisbane airport to GC hotels!)

Everything went smoothly-we didn’t have to get up at a disgusting hour, were driving against the peak hour traffic and got to the airport in a bit over an hour. Checked our one bag in and headed through bag checks. Lots of places to eat in this part of the airport but much more limited (and dear) once you go through immigration to the final international departure area so texted this info thorugh to our daughter who will no doubt want breaky Sunday having come straight from a party Sat night!

We found business class on Jetstar to be in many ways similar to economy on the “good” airlines like Singapore and Maylasian though the seats were wider with a bit more tilt. We were offered complimentary champagne or orange juice and hot towels immediately and given bottles of water after take-off (which we didn’t get-had to buy bottled water in economy on the way home unlike my “good” airlines -note). Lunch was served early, only about an hour after take-off and sorry I didn’t take pics of this or the seats (realised I should have!) The meal was excellent-prob best plane meal I have had (but I have never travelled business class before. I had pork braised in dashi broth, mirrin and sake with rice and veg which was so good and hubby had a Japanese curry and rice. I loved the fact the tray had a linen tablecloth and silver cutlery. We got handed our iPads for entertainment next with a reasonable selection of new and classic movies and some TV but nowhere near the range you get on the “major” international airlines. Desert was offered at the same time-choice of cheese and fruit platter or a very yummy passionfruit cheesecake. The disadvantage of iPads rather than in seat entertainment is when you eat you have to try and put them somewhere (eg on your lap under the tray) and ditto when getting up to go to the loo. Its about a 9 hour flight to Osaka from Coolangatta but we did in in just over 8hrs. We didn’t have a window seat unfortunately-we had 2 of the three middle seats. I had an elderly Japanese lady next to me who needed a lot of help working her iPad. It was a bit of a bumpy flight but not too bad. We were served a light meal before landing-stirfry noodles that were very good (or I think a chicken and rice dish) and icecream.

We landed about 45 mins ahead of schedule and at the same time as several other planeloads so immigration was long-not quite as bad as our 2005 wait at Heathrow with elderly parents or Attaturk at Istanbul last year that takes the prize so far. (:offtopic: They move parents with young children to the front of the queues-why don’t they ever offer this assistance to the obviously very elderly. I think they need it even more-my mum nearly collapsed in 2005). We were however highly entertained by this big Russian dude. He was with his family and he went off his rocker-he started yelling out first, then he jumped out of the queue and went to find an official and started abusing them in broken English about how incompetent they all were, how there was all these guys doing nothing in baggage claims and only 5 booths open at immigration, how they were fools, on and on. They ended up taking him away and I thought they’ve arrested him, but no, he came back and for an hour continued to roam around the area remonstrating with all and sundry, waving hands and arms about and snapping photos on his phone right, left and centre despite the large NO PHOTO signs everywhere. If it had been Australia I am sure he would have been arrested and he and his family sent back. When his family finally reached the booths he walked across the front and joined them. I give the Japanese 10/10 for forbearance on this one!

Finally we were out and met with a guy with a sign with our name to take us down to the MK Shuttle which we had arranged to get us to our little machiya in Kyoto. We had about another 40 min wait til our minibus was ready to leave. It was jammed full but we had a good conversation with a nice local boy studying his PhD in anthropology at Kyoto University who spent 6 months per year on field trips in Syria and Egypt and could also speak and write fluent French and Arabic.

Our bus was met in a little street by Acco, the owner of the Machiya we had rented. Machiya are traditional wooden townhouses, tiny with shop fronts that faced the road and living quarters behind and above and in Kyoto many have been restored and renovated. Ours was down a tiny lane off one of the main streets leading up to Kiyomizu-dera (temple) in the Southern Higashiyama district. It was very cold after Brissie and though it was by now around 11pm Acco took her time to show us all around the machiya, how to work all the zillions of heaters in all the rooms and give us sightseeing info.

We fell instantly in love with the place despite the steep stairs up to our bedroom (meaning a steep trip to the loo downstairs during the night) and the tatami room. We chose the western bedroom-our daughter would have a futon on the tatami when she arrived and we crashed snug under a pile of quilts.

PrincessInOz
04-21-2012, 06:05 PM
Finally catching up on all your wonderful details in the TR. It sounds like you had a great time in TDL.

I'm really interested to read this....after our trip to HK, my DS now has the aim to see all 5 castles. I think my job as a parent is now complete. :rotfl:

zanzibar138
04-21-2012, 11:50 PM
I loved reading the Disney part of your TR - looking forward to the rest of it! And good to know about Jetstar too!

Aussie Wendy
04-22-2012, 01:38 AM
Vettegirl-thanks. Sorry you had to miss Disneysea-it is well worth a future trip. I don't think they had any damage to both parks but were being cautious. It must have been a crazy time to be there. It is all back to normal now on the surface in Tokyo but like any disaster our hearts went out to all those who suffered and I know some families are still concerned of radiation effects though everything scientific we read was reassuring.

Aussie Wendy
04-22-2012, 01:44 AM
Princess in Oz I still have to duck over and read your HK trip report-its on my list! and we decided last year that we definately would have to now do them all! I agree-you have succeeded in one of the most important parental duties!! Not Disney but my daughter met her list which was go to every Australian state before she turned 18 (after we had several road trips in her primary years)-now she has every Disney castle and every continent in her lifetime on her list (not quite as Disnutty as me-I failed but she's coming round!)

BelleBway
04-22-2012, 11:39 PM
Enjoying reading this while sitting at LAX waiting for my connecting flight home from Tokyo. *sniff*. This was my 4th trip to Japan and TDR and I had a fabulous time. Now I need to find a way to get back, lol. Anyway, your TR is helping me relive my own memories.

Took a ton of photos and will be writing a travel blog for my website as soon as I can get organized and stuff.

Aussie Wendy
04-23-2012, 12:03 AM
Day 2 Thursday 29 March Kyoto

We woke up to a beautiful sunny day and decided to head out and explore and find breakfast along the way but first here are some pics of our little home for 6 nights.

Outside
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Dining area
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Little garden outside the dining area
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Hubby being good doing the dishes in the little kitchen (he is goodlike that!)
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The upstairs tatami room (and me stuffing my face with desert goodies as usual)
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Our western bedroom
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Those steep stairs
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The 'wet' room with a proper deep Japanese bath
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We wandered up towards Kiyomizu-dera and down Sannenzakka and Ninenzakka stairs-the tour buses were just starting to arrive! But few shops were open yet and the windy lanes were quiet. We were captivated by the old wooden shopfronts and the network of lanes and tourist shops reminded us somewhat of the Plaka area in Athens.

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We chose not to enter the temple as we were hungry and figured it would take a couple of hours but here's a pic from the terrace outside looking towards the Kyoto Tower (we were going to get very sick of the sight of that on Tuesday- the day we were meant to travel to Kanazawa!)

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and a plum tree (we are pretty sure not cherry)
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Instead we continued wandering north arriving at Maruyama park. A hop across the road to a convenient Lawson and we took a brunch of sandwiches, cakes (I tried my first Lawson’s chocolate tart-became a favourite) and lemon tea back to the park and found a bench to sit and eat our definitely not traditional but we liked it, first breakfast in Japan. The park was full of tarps set out by locals ready for hanami-the cherry blossom festival but all the trees were still only in bud and looked a few days off. (Our bus friend had told us you set your tarp out to mark your spot days in advance and no-one touches it-its respected its “your” spot).

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Some food stalls were already setting up in anticipation. We then doubled back to Kodaji Temple. I had picked this from descriptions on the web as sounding like a nice small temple with elements common to many like a moss garden and a raked zen garden. We loved it. It was all I hoped for and more. It was established in 1605 by a noblewomen in memory of her late husband Toyotomi Hideyoshi and financed by his shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu. We experienced our first time of removing shoes to walk into the main hall or Hojo. This had pretty shoji screens with dragon motifs (no pics allowed). We sat for a while enjoying the raked garden which has a pattern of stones like a dragon encircling it before putting our shoes back on and walking past the pond and the Kaisan-do dedicated to the memory of the founding priest and up the “dragon corridor” to Otama-ya the memorial hall enshrining the noblewomen and her husband which contained beautiful lacquer work. The walk back down was through a small bamboo forest. I was amused to see workmen and women sweeping the moss clean of leaves with little straw brooms.

Here are some pics
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I liked these- not sure what they are-need my Dad's input (or some clever gardener on here)

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oops put of pic allowance-to be continued.

Aussie Wendy
04-23-2012, 12:14 AM
Cont day 2

This was the Ryogen Kannon next door, 24m high built to honour the Japanese dead in WW2.
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Outside were several interesting shrines. In this one the Temmangu Ox-will bear your sufferings for you and take your ailments away-hubby giving it a go rubbing it all over he has so many ailments!

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Toyotomi Hideyoshi and Kita-no-Mandokoro-wishing for a happy marriage and peace

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We continued wandering north along the roads-lots of rickshaws were about now pulled by enthusiastic youths in the same outfits with unusual two- toed shoes-we noticed they managed to most often persuade young girls or couples to have a go! Up and down the hills-a hard way to earn a living especially when two plump westerners jump on board! Since my hubby is one of those unadventurous types “you don’t want to waste money on that” we did not share the fun :(

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Form a shop that sells them on the web as didn't get a close up there
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We passed Chion-in and its huge San-mon (temple gate)-largest wooden gate in Japan.
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Also a large camphor tree outside Shoren-in (where we would be back later for light-up)

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We ended up at Nanzenji complex of temples and I was on a mission to find Nanzenji Oko-no-in-reported by Lonely Planet as up a valley behind the aquaduct so off I set. I found it easy but quite a steep hike upwards and very pretty and peaceful with a small waterfall in a gorge and a small open shrine and several alters in caves. Wooded steps led off up through the forest and I believe you can hike 5km or so to the top of Mt Daimonji that way.

The aquaduct crosses the grounds and still has water in it.
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Hunger was calling so we started walking back along Nioman-dori beside Lake Biwa canal (the zoo was on the other side and sounded busy with children as it was still spring break for many).

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I am embarrassed to say we stumbled first across a MacDonalds-we were very hungry, we were tired and it was there! We had very good special “American burger” with egg “sets” with fries and coke and I was impressed by a washbasin and soap in the corner to wash hands rather than have to muck about in the toilets. Thus fortified but failing totally in eating Japanese, we embarked onwards seeking a bus stop. Passed the huge torii marking the entrance to Heian Shrine

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and found our bus stop. Very tired and sore feet later and via a trip to a supermarket Fresco to buy supplies for the week (fun in itself though this was where I made my butter and cheese muddle but we did buy milk! and ready made chicken and rice dishes to heat up plus lots of other yummy stuff we couldn’t resist) we collapsed in our tatami room with tea and biccies and did some interneting (free wifi) back home.

Since it was such nice weather we went out for a wander again this evening after dinner at home -ended up all the way near Maruyama Park and Yasaka shrine looking very pretty with all the lanterns lit at night. Discovered several temples are doing evening light-up-linked to hanami including Kiyomizu and Shoren-in another small pretty temple. From Yasaka the glitz of downtown Gion and Karawamachi pulled so we wandered along the busy shopping streets, over the river and past department stores and lots of souvenir stores and found a quiet canal off the main drag before finding our way home to our quiet little hideaway.

Some evening pics

Yasaka shrine
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PrincessInOz
04-23-2012, 12:57 AM
Kyoto looks gorgeous. Love where you were staying. :thumbsup2

battymum
04-23-2012, 03:56 AM
Love it!!! :love: It looks like so beautiful.

Where did you find the place your accommodation - would it fit 3 teens in the tatami room? - they dont need too much room, or are there others slightly bigger.

Aussie Wendy
04-23-2012, 06:56 AM
I rented the place through the private accommodation website VRBO which I haven't seen much mention of here in Aus but seems popular in the US. Acco Nomura owned it and was wonderful and so helpful before and during the rental. Yes it would sleep 5-there were 3 futon available for use in the tatami room and the double in the western bedroom. It would be a bit of a squeeze as apart from around the dining table there's not a lot of places to sit if the tatami room is full of futons (though nice to laze on and watch TV with DVDs which is in there-and of course Japanese style you are meant to roll your futon up during the day-we were too lazy).

It was very handy with a bus stop and 7-11s and a full supermarket quite close by and is in a lovely touristy shopping area near all the best temples if you ask me! Also the Keihan railway statin was in walkable distance. Other stuff I might not have mentioned- we had free wifi access, a washing machine with built-in dryer (and a small drying line outside) and 2 pushbikes you could use. Cost us 16,000Y per night for 2 and 2000Y extra for each night that our daughter was there which was about on par with what prices we were getting for hotels-a little deareer than some but being able to cook for ourselves saved $. We loved it and would highly recommend.

VRBO had a number of self contained places in Kyoto to check out though - some of which might be more roomier thoughthis is Japan! and I presume probably ones in Tokyo too if you were interested.

Aussie Wendy
04-23-2012, 06:59 AM
and yes 3 teens would comfortably fit in the tatami room and probably take it over as their own! leaving you and your partner to sit quietly round the table downstairs with a cuppa/or a glass of sake or wine (wine and beer were dear) before departing to your own quiet bedroom.

battymum
04-23-2012, 07:56 AM
Thanks - off to check VRBO now! :thumbsup2

I am still early stages of research - but your TR is giving me so much inspiration!!popcorn::

Its so annoying that all of the hotel searches wont let you book further than three months out - I cant even compare this years prices as April has now passed (well almost) so I have no idea whether I will be able to get reasonably priced accommodation for our family - which is what the whole trip depends upon.

I love reviews on the Dis - I feel they are a little more honest and reliable than Trip Advisor. :thumbsup2

Aussie Wendy
04-24-2012, 06:45 AM
Yes I found it hard only being able to find out and book 3 months out-at first I wondered what on earth was the issue and was it cherry blossom season? (which it was and that didn't help but it was mostly the 3 month thing). I still like TA too-eg often helpful to find out what is and isn't in a room, and get a sense-certainly can tell if somewhere is considered awful by a lot of people. It hasn't ever sent us wrong-but for places where the Disboarders go then yes Dissers are very reliable!

Good luck with your plotting and costings-it is certainly a different experience and we found it very enjoyable as the Trip report shows. I had pages covered with scribblings of places and prices for April but sorry they were ditched once I locked places down through Feb. so can't refer to them to give you any clues. We did find business hotels cheaper and though didn't have large rooms still worked out cheapish to book a twin bed room for us (bigger beds-watch that if you stay at other than the big international chains-doubles are often semi-doubles-not much bigger than a single so we always booked a twin bed-also often bit bigger room) and a single room for our daughter. In Kanazawa paid around $100/night for us and $56/night for daughter though if your teens are happy on futons a triple Japanese tatami room that sleeps 3 for them and twin bed for you would be cheaper option poss. I just worked figures based on prices they had published when I was looking and for trial costing presumed they wouldn't change much by season-and they didn't seem to-up a bit for eg Golden Week and prices from last year to this I seem to recall did not increase so it was a pretty good guide.

simzac
04-24-2012, 07:23 PM
What a terrific TR. And fantastic photos to go along with it. Thank you very much. I still want to get to TDR, just keeps getting harder with each passing year. Threads like this one can at least keep me abreast on how beautiful this park is. Glad you and your family had a great time.

Aussie Wendy
04-26-2012, 06:04 AM
Day 3 Friday 30 March

It wasn’t as warm as yesterday today but the cloud cover burnt off for a while in the middle of the day. We set off around 8.30 after breakfast and caught the bus all the way around to Shijo Omiya station (bought a one day pass on board-good value at ¥500). Nice way to see some more of the city and hubby was plotting the route as we went on the map on board matching the Japanese characters but they announced and scrolled in English each stop ahead. Found the Kei***u electric railway line and hopped on the very cute ‘Randen’ to Arashiyama. The white gloved conductors in their smart grey uniforms were so formal-you can see the guy in the pic looking at me taking a pic thinking “Not again”.

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This railway was like a tram and a nice ride to the small town on the western outskirts of Kyoto. We found Arashiyama had a lot of character but tired ourselves out wandering around without seeing the infamous world heritage Todoji temple and gardens. This was because we walked from the station down to the river to look at the Togetsukyo Bridge (Moon Crossing Bridge) and then along the riverbank deciding the steep hill opposite leading up to the monkey park was too much effort. (Think we might have overdone it a tad yesterday!!)

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Instead we entered Kameyama-koen and went up to the lookout where we saw the Saga romantic train travelling through to Kameoka.

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Noticed especially here how different the woods smell in Japan-strong Asian spice smell. Met a group of gorgeous young kids (looked like a child care centre group) on a picnic who chorused "ohaiyo gozaimasu" to us as we almost got lost amongst the paths but found our way down to the bamboo groves.

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Here there were lots of tourists but most disappeared as we wandered northwards along narrow back roads, past fields and houses, towards the cluster of temples. I bought an ornament of my Chinese zodiac sign (with a bell-plan to hang on the Xmas tree) in a little shop along the way and further along in the Saga-Toriimoto preserved street area also bought very pretty notelets for gifts (turned out cheaper than we saw elsewhere).

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A roadside shrine

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We chose to enter Gioji out of the several temples on offer. This is a tiny temple with a thatched roof nestled in the woods with a beautiful moss garden. It was named for a dancer in the Heain period, Gio, who committed herself here as a nun when she was 21 when her love for a chieftain was spurned. It was quiet and tranquil and very pretty.

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We wandered back along towards the main town and made the decision we were too tired and templed out to visit Todojai. Guidebooks recommend hiring a bike to explore Arashiyama and having explored the town now that makes a lot of sense. We saw plenty of people doing just that (and getting temporarily lost!) Back by the train station we bought steaming bowls of udon noodles in broth that we ate with chopsticks plus much slurping-of course - on a tray on our knees (and we didn’t take a picture!!! Too hungry I guess).

We then caught the train back into Kyoto but changed trains to the other branch line up to Kitanohaku-baicho station where we hopped on a bus to Kinkakuji. Followed other tourists milling around (“which way do we go”-they really need some signs from key bus stops!) to the infamous “gold” temple. We liked this temple the least-the gold was stunning but otherwise it was very crowded, very regimented and seemed very commercialised. We stopped to look at one or two key spots in the garden and made our way out. Here are some obligatory shots!

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I nearly forgot the close up of the phoenix on top

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Pretty screens on one of the sub-temples or halls.
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Another bus took us to the start of the Philosopher’s Path (after abandoning us in the underground of a major station interchange for like 30 mins. We had thought yaay we scored seats but after beeing off-loaded and waiting and waiting our replacement bus was already quite full so it was back to standing and hanging on-sigh!) I thought a stroll would decide if it would be a good place to bring our daughter to on Monday as it was on her “possible” list. It would be stunning when cherry blossoms were out but they were still in bud. Being by now late afternoon, it was a nice quiet stroll (our legs had had a bit of a rest on the bus…not) with some very attractive houses and cafes and woods along the way. 2km or so later and a bus near the end took us home again (yes seats) for another nice dinner in (spaghetti).

Aussie Wendy
04-26-2012, 06:43 AM
Thanks Simzac-makes it easier living a bit closer than you. In fact I worked out if we keep getting airfares as we have its cheaper than a trip to LA. I really needed longer to check out all of Disneyland-we skipped so much, as well as Disneysea. A week just at TDR might not be out of the question in the future again for us! but trips always compete with new destinations and places. I love that there is so much variety between all the Disney resorts to enjoy and explore -so many things the same and different!

Aussie Wendy
04-26-2012, 05:45 PM
Day 4 Sat 31 March

Not as successful a day. When I woke up and it was raining that should have been a sign to turn over and spend the morning sleeping in. But I had plans-I had always wanted to see a Japanese castle. Himeji was under wraps for a major renovation but an hour away was Hikone-another “national treasure” castle in a lakeside town and one of only 12 castles in Japan that still have their original keep. In defence it was barely drizzling when we left. Big mistake 1. At the station found the ticket machines-tick, checked the price to our destination-tick, got the ticket and our change-tick, checked the platform guide-tick? Dinng that should have been a cross. I sail onto the platform and we wait-but the train I had in my notes-a JR Tokaido special rapid-did not appear. Other trains on the “Tokaido” line did however. Our train to Kanazawa for Tuesday also did. That should have been a clue. I was concerned no trains matched my notes or times. I ran up and down the platform but there were no clues or train maps in English and after 40 mins when a train to Nagoya appeared and I knew that was at least the right direction on we hopped. Big mistake no 2. Not long after getting on I had the sinking feeling-we’ve made a mistake and was at least partly relieved when after interminable Japanese scrolling, in English the word Maibara come up. Along comes the gloved conductor-very polite bowing to the carriage. We offered our tickets – “we got on the wrong train” I say pitifully. He looks confused, he frowns, he shakes his head, he pulls out his calculator and does lots of calculating and produces a ticket, Graham hands over several of our precious ¥1000 notes, and he bows and leaves. But the train didn’t look anything like a shinkasen!! Luckily I knew we had to get off at Maibara. This is a tiny draughty station, the rain is bucketing down and it is freezing-guess who didn’t bring her warm coat today-Big Mistake 3. Paranoid now-how do we know which train to catch to double back to Hikone? Trains pull in going back the other way but what if they are express and skip it-or worse a “forbidden” expensive train again? Up the stairs to the men at the exit. We hand over our combined tickets “Hikone?” They point out around the corner. There are signs to what appears to be a local train line but the entrance is undergoing major rebuilding work in the pouring rain. It doesn’t look right. Back inside and we find ticket machines to local destinations so we buy our tickets to Hikone and back through the turnstyles-the friendly guards point downstairs to the platform we arrived on. At last when what appears to be an older-style train pulls up I ask the conductor who conveniently hops off-Hikone? He smiles and waves us on board. 5 mins later and we have arrived-finally!

Outside it is bucketing down, in the heated TIC which is packed with tourists escaping the weather a little lady rushes up handing us a map to the town. Not to be defeated on go raincoats, up go the brollys and off we set, taking heart from the fact in front of us several obvious Japanese tourists are getting drenched but have the same intent-to the castle!

First this unusual turtle sculpture is outside-not sure what it all means.

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The approach is really enchanting with a double moat and the white turreted walls and watchtowers. However I quickly realise the difficulties in juggling a bag, a brolly and a camera with numb fingers whilst endeavouring not to get anything soaked. Hubby trudges on ahead oblivious to my wanting to stop and look and take a pic. Dinng. Low battery coupled with the cold-well I won’t be taking any pics today-should have brought the spare batteries. Big Mistake 4. I managed to squeeze one out with lots of removing and putting back in the batteries.

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The castle is very good. We only bought the entrance to the castle rather than a combo ticket to the garden as well. In different weather I would have included this as it sounded good but not today. There were English info signs and brochures explaining various things we saw which were helpful. We went inside what I think was the Tenbin-Yagura –a long corridor over the entrance bridge which crosses the dry moat. If under attack the bridge could be quickly demolished. This is a pic of the sexy green slippers we had to wear inside here.

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The demolishable bridge
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Next we made our way up to the main 3 story keep. We loved the old timbers and curved beams inside (curved as stronger against the weight of snow). Very steep stairs linked the floors. There are hidden rooms accessed through the panelling inside the gables-no idea what for (you can’t go in just see the entrance) and covered openings for weapons that can’t be seen from outside as they are plastered over but from inside are only a light cover to break away and fire at the enemy.

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Like the way the gables all cross each other

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You can just see the double moats here and in the background, the grey is huge Lake Biwa.

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There were lots of other structures in the complex too but it really was too wet to be enjoyable and the rain by now had soaked the bottom of our jeans and was creeping steadily upwards. We left accompanied to the great bell ringing out the hour to the townspeople below

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and exited a different way via the plum garden where some flowers were out.

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There was even a ‘yakata-bune’ Japanese boat on the moat though who would pay for a ride in weather such as this I am not sure!

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Trudging back to the train station skipping the restored historical street area as it was the wrong direction for the train station, we got wetter and wetter. A pair of drowned rats boarded the correct train to Kyoto and bus for home. Ironically the rain had stopped and it was drying out-if I had left our expedition til after lunch it would have been a very different day! As it was a long hot soak in the Japanese bath, hot tea and toasted sammies and we were new people.

It fined up so much (though stayed very cold) that on dusk we walked up to Kiymoizu-dera and paid to visit the temple for hanami light-up. Only parts of the complex were open at night but it was very pretty and perhaps not as crowded as by day. Hard to take pics without a tripod though-Princess in Oz would have been in her element especially with the reflecting pond.

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Afterwards we browsed the shopping streets nearby sampling free green tea and rice flour and bean paste sweets that are popular in Kyoto-every other shop sells beautifully wrapped boxes-not overly fussed though, very sweet. Amazed today and every day by the number of Japanese eating icecream by the way-no matter how cold it is-and there are a plethora of icecream shops everywhere.

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Then home to bed-it is great to be in a mob of tourists and able to suddenly turn off, down our little lane, into a dramatically contrast quiet.

PrincessInOz
04-27-2012, 03:46 AM
WOW! I can see I'm going to have to plan a trip for my tripod to go to Japan sooner rather than later.

A whole week at TDL??? Hmmm......

Aussie Wendy
04-27-2012, 09:21 PM
Double hmmm-I think you should start scheming!! Some places had no tripod signs-like I think Kinkakuji (the golden temple) but by day you don't need it and I think Shoren-in light-up (piccies still to come). Evening light-ups are only around cherry blossom and autumn foliage times and vary between temples.

Aussie Wendy
04-28-2012, 02:11 AM
Day 5 Sun 1 April
Fine start to the day-so different to yesterday. Had a slow start and at Kyoto Station had a look around. It’s very modern and open. Could see most of Kyoto city from the sky garden up top.

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Purchased a JR Kansai West Pass for the day’s expeditions and caught the train to Nara and then the bus that was waiting outside to Nara-koen-the park where all the temples are. The deer are everywhere once you get close-lots and lots of them getting in the way of people and traffic.

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So cute but note this sign:

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We hopped off at the stop for the most famous temple Todai-ji and after sampling some grilled dango (rice balls) topped with sweet soy sauce

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we entered past the Nandaimon gate with the huge fierce guardians (carved in C13th)

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and then to the Daibatsu-den Hall which houses Japan’s largest bronze Buddha (contains 130kg of gold).

It is believed that its construction was ordered by the emperor as a talisman to protect the town against smallpox. The building is also the world’s oldest wooden building though this building dating from 1692 is only 2/3 size of the original temple.


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We skipped the pillar which has a hole in it which is said to be the same size as the Daibutsu’s nostril. If you can squeeze through supposedly you will be granted enlightenment in your next reincarnation-popular with little kids and a HUGE queue.

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This ugly dude is actually meant to be good and takes away your ailments if you rub the corresponding part of the body-everyone must have knee issues as the knees and feet were rubbed shiny! (also of course all you could reach!)

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Aussie Wendy
04-28-2012, 02:39 AM
continued

Back amongst the deer was hilarious. The deer have learnt to bow for food and as I stopped to take a picture I feel a tug-and there is a deer with his nose buried in my bag seeing if there is anything tasty in it. I didn’t end up getting that perfect shot! They do sell special food you can buy to feed the deer with. We walked up a path through the woods to the Nigatsudo Hall with views of Nara from its balcony. Found a convenient park bench nearby to eat the sandwiches I had packed and finally tried a tin of hot coffee from a vending machine opposite-not very hot and a bit too sweet but not bad, and warming as the sun had gone in and it was getting chilly.

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We congratulated ourselves on avoiding the deer as a lone deer crept up on a couple sitting not too far away and after snuffling in the women’s hair several times as she kept making shoeing motions and trying to steal their lunch they escaped sandwiches in hand. The deer didn’t notice us and we got to eat in peace.

We moved on around to Kasaga Taisha shrine and the rain bucketed down-out came our trusty brollies and we sheltered under some big trees so stayed quite dry. This shrine is dedicated to the diety responsible for protection of the city and is in the woods with the approach lined with 100’s of stone lanterns-very atmospheric in the gloom.

Doing the obligatory washing of hands (skipped the washing of mouth) as part of the ritual before you pray at a shrine. Instead of the usual dragon this had a deer.
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At a nearby shrine a family circles it three times ringing the bell each time to call the gods-the kids were killing themselves laughing.

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Continued making our way and I took a path that I figured led in the general direction to cut across the park to the Ukimi-do-a gazebo built over the Sagi (Heron) pond which looked scenic on websites. The path deteriorated into a muddy track and we popped out on a hillside bereft of people (and deer) which I thought was pretty neat in busy Nara.

Where is everybody?
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Just across the road however was my pond. There was a marriage ceremony happening so we didn’t walk out but did take some shots of the bride and groom on the gazebo and by the pond. The sun was now out again and it was lovely and warm.

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We strolled back towards town past the Kofuguji Pagoda, the tallest in Japan

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and through a little shopping arcade.

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Consensus-we really liked Nara. It was a nice size and a nice “feel” to it. We had a mission however-to reach Kansai airport and meet our daughter’s plane.

We caught the train into Osaka and I decided we had time to detour into Dotonbori and have a quick look at the canal and shops and grab an early dinner. Wrong. We discovered later we walked out the wrong side of the station-it was a maze of covered arcade shopping-with lanes leading right and left-noisy, chaotic and confusing. Help! Escaping we headed back towards the station and found a tiny Japanese ramen café where we bought a steaming bowl each and some tempura vegetables that came cold and you dipped in the hot broth to eat (I presume-problem was then the tempura coating dropped off. Maybe someone wiser in Japanese food traditions can explain to me). Anyway it was mighty good. Back on the train and we arrived at the Kansai airport 10 mins after our daughter-she was just thinking “where are they”? She should be used to us-always late! But she had cleared customs in 20 mins unlike our huge wait. With our new knowledge it was the easiest thing in the world to go and get her a Kansai pass at the JR counter (open til 11pm at the airport), catch the train and then the bus and a short walk to “home”. She instantly fell in love with our little house-why am I only here for a day she wailed. Soon had her futon made-up and we all hit the sack.

PrincessInOz
04-28-2012, 04:07 AM
*sigh* Yes. Sooner rather than later, I think. I just don't know when.

Your shots are lovely. Makes me wish I were there.

Aussie Wendy
04-28-2012, 07:08 AM
Mon 2 April A very long packed day

Had to hit the sightseeing trail early today with lots to pack in for our daughter’s one full day in Kyoto. Luckily it was one of those beautiful sunny days-and my sunburnt nose from Thurs/Fri was feeling very scared-hence I walked around with a scarf wrapped over it looking ridiculous half the day. (We hadn’t got around to trying to find suntan lotion at a chemist after the weather turned bad but even yesterday in between rain I had managed to get it more burnt. DH would say its because its so long and pointy however…).

First stop for the day was Fushimi Inari, a couple of train stops south. We walked to the Keihan railway station by the river.

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Fushimi Inari is an important Shinto shrine established in the 700’s but its famous for its thousands of vermilion torii gates which lead up into the hill behind the main buildings. It is the head shrine of 30,000 shrines across Japan dedicated to Inari, the Shinto God of rice. Foxes are said to be Inari’s messengers hence all the fox statues (the fox is a sacred, somewhat mysterious figure capable of possessing humans-favoured point of entry under the fingernails so beware). Often the fox has a key in its mouth which is the key for the rice granary. It was very impressive especially going early when there were less visitors (also apparently going at dusk is very atmospheric).

Looking back down towards the station

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Looking back to the main entrance to the shrine

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A Buddhist priest hurrying along (we saw him later holding a service)

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First we had to visit a sub shrine Azuma maro, the shrine for success in studies and my daughter fulfilled the ritual (purify, ring bell to get their attention, deep bow twice, clap twice, bow again, ask your request, bow again and back away reverently) asking the god for success in honours this year.

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Then we headed up to the point where there are two dense parallel gates called Senbon Torii. All the tori along the way are donated by individuals and companies with the donors name and date-start at 400,000 yen ($5000) for a small one. We saw one being repainted.

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We didn’t hike all the way up-lots more to do in the day but were amused by this notice-

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unfortunately even though I ate a banana to encourage them we saw no monkeys! There are also lots of cats about. For those into video games it was while hiking at Fushimi-Inari supposedly that the idea of foxes in red bibs flying through gates inspired Miyamoto to create Starfox.

Nearby

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A non fox fountain
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Even the train station has its fox
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PrincessInOz
04-28-2012, 04:22 PM
Beautiful pictures at the shrine. I wondered if they shot some scenes from Memoirs of a Geisha at the Senbon Torii. It's probably my imagination but it sure reminds me of that movie.

Thanks for sharing. Looks like you all had a great time there. Eagerly waiting for the next installment.

Aussie Wendy
04-29-2012, 02:50 AM
Princess in Oz I gather Memoirs was filmed in quite a few spots we went to
including Kiyomizu-dera Temple, Fushimi Inari Shrine, the bamboo forest in Arashiyama and the geisha district of Gion so probably yes. Glad you are enjoying the posts-its a dilemma - do I post pics on my FB, trip report here-or read your trip report on HK!

PrincessInOz
04-29-2012, 02:56 AM
Princess in Oz I gather Memoirs was filmed in quite a few spots we went to
including Kiyomizu-dera Temple, Fushimi Inari Shrine, the bamboo forest in Arashiyama and the geisha district of Gion so probably yes. Glad you are enjoying the posts-its a dilemma - do I post pics on my FB, trip report here-or read your trip report on HK!

No contest. Post pictures in your trip report...HERE! :thumbsup2

Aussie Wendy
04-29-2012, 03:29 AM
continuing Monday
Fair-welling the shrine complex with the purchase of some little bits and pieces from the many stalls we caught the train to its northernmost station Demachi-Yanagi and a bus to Ginkakuji and the Philosophers Path. This area was busy as we expected but we really enjoyed the temple and our daughter really enjoyed her first experience of a Buddhist temple. It means “silver pavilion” but one story goes that the the shogun (Yoshimasa) who built it as a retreat from civil war modelling it on his grandad’s Kinkakuji ran out of money to pay for the silver. It was converted to a Zen temple after he died. It was in his time though that the culture that included the elaborate tea ceremony, flower arranging, noh theatre and poetry became popular. There are pretty ponds, a moss garden and a dry sand garden.

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What happens when it rains?
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View from the top of the garden
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Afterwards we wandered along the Philosophers Path (named for a philosopher Nishida Kitaro who walked along it meditating to nearby Kyoto University every day). Still no cherry blossom yet but getting close! Discovered the canal (which links to Lake Biwa –where we near at Hikone Sat) contains large fish and turtles.

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DD found one blossom out
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We detoured to visit Honen-in and discovered it was one of the few times a year visitors could enter so DD and I went in. DD especially was most impressed as we could wander around the entire complex-through the book lined library, through rooms with beautiful painted sliding doors and panels (they had girls there to explain various items but all in Japanese), into guest rooms with openings to contemplate the inner gardens, etc. Very peaceful and beautiful. I love the way the wood floors in all these temples (where there are not tatami mats) is polished smooth by the thousands of feet over the decades. Here are an assortment of pics where we were able to take them. DD was also surprised at the richness and gaudiness of the worship areas-she expected being Buddhist it would be more restrained but these were rich in gold and ornamentation which I had noticed at other temples too.

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The inner garden
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Back on the Philosophers Path and our stomachs were grumbling. A restaurant nearby that had western furniture looked appealing and we had an excellent meal. DD’s vegetable spaghetti had these weird whispy fishy smelling shavings on top that curled in the steam like they were alive- Katsuobushi the internet informs us (we think)-dried fermented tuna and chirimen (little wormy things with eyes-dried anchovies). DH had good old spag bog-looked good and I finally had my pork tongatsu with curry and rice.

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PrincessInOz
04-29-2012, 03:41 AM
Really really loving the pictures in your TR. Thanks for sharing.

I've been sharing your pics with my DH and he's really interested to go visit Japan. So, I'm glad to be using your TR to add to the interest.

Aussie Wendy
04-29-2012, 06:59 AM
Thoroughly sated we continued on and found our way to the final shrine off the path I had noted-Otoyo-jinja which has cute koma nezumi (stone shrine guardians in the form of rats). They are because rats saved an important Shinto deity from a forest fire. There are also some bird and other guardians, to guard against evil. How cute are they!

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We bussed from here back to the path leading towards Kiyomizudera. DH called into Fresco supermarket for more supplies and DD and I wended our way up the hill stopping to shop and watch girls dressed as geishas posing for pics.

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A couple more of the outside parts of Kiyomizu

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We both bought some traditional Japanese teacups and observed the quality and price of teacup sets increased as you climbed the hill. DD declared she was too tired to explore Kiyomizudera and we headed home for some tea and toasted sandwiches as we didn’t want a big meal after our filling lunch.

Tonight we were visiting Shoren-in, another smaller temple that was only open for a few nights for light-up. This was the temple with the huge camphor trees I had taken a pic of earlier. This turned out to be one of our best decisions. This was so peaceful and beautiful. We caught a bus part of the way and on finding our way to the temple stumbled across yet another pretty little canal.

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At the temple we sat on the tatami for some time in the main hojo looking out at the changing fairy lights on the garden that looked like fireflies then explored the rest of the garden, past the pond, and up to the backlit bamboo forest with views out to Kyoto. It was very romantic.

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Need to photoshop the light out of this one
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Aussie Wendy
04-29-2012, 07:03 AM
After the temple we strolled down through the various back streets and found ourselves in Maruyama Park where the younger gen had decided it was time to start partying early. The centrepiece weeping cherry tree was almost but not quite, out.

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We sat for a while and watched amused that shoes were removed before sitting on a tarp and DD especially noted that the same drinking games were being played as they play everywhere else. From here it was out through Yasaka shrine, another look at the lanterns, and into Gion where we spotted several geisha rushing to their appointments (far too fast at night for more than a blurry pic). We also discovered our our pretty canal again, Shirakawa and guess what, some early flowering cherry trees were out attracting the crowds. Several photos later and it really was time to call this incredibly full day done.

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We spent far too long in the cold for DD trying to get a shot of this heron.

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So we got one of us too.

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battymum
04-29-2012, 07:22 AM
Everything looks so pretty - like postcards - love the photo in the bamboo forest looking at the moon!!

Must remember to pack warm coats if we go - still a big if -
(was going to write - we dont even own them, but you probably didnt either, being QLD'ers! :thumbsup2)

Did your DD enjoy it - I am worried that, other than Disney, and the Tokyo highlights - it might be a little tiresome for our teens

Aussie Wendy
04-29-2012, 07:12 PM
I did own my coat-bought it in a Myers sale reduced from around $250 to $50 about 20 years ago-DH says-isn't it about time you bought yourself a new one? but we only use it on OS or southern trips and I know how warm it is. You could get by without one in Japan in April if you had another layer on and a lighter jacket-eg a leather or denim or a couple of layers of polar fleece. DH's isn't thick but its wind proof which is more needed. DD's was old-you can see its really too small for her but she has always got by without one-we brought them mainly as we had read snow was predicted for Kanazawa. As it was we missed it by a couple of days.

DD loves traveling so hard to draw conclusions here but all her friends love travelling too so I think your teens would be OK especially if you gave them the opp to spend time trawling the dept stores for clothes and electronics-prob just window shopping not to buy or gaming parlours or let them veg at home some times with their ipads/DS or whatever. If they are into anime especially they would be happy and might like to visit Studio Ghibli in Tokyo. Rather than templing them out I would just select a few key temples and combine with expeditions to the big teenage neon light areas like Teramachi, Ikebukuro and Shibuyu in Tokyo. In Kyoto Kiyomizu Temple has an area you can go down into the dark "into the womb" they would find a laugh and they would like the deer and the huge Buddha at Nara. I guess are they interested in how other people live, seeing new things, trying new food? or do they like to be in their comfort zone-partly depends on their ages. Older teens are thinking about gap years and exploring more than 14 year olds.

PrincessInOz
04-29-2012, 08:05 PM
Another great update and I'm now wondering how on earth we can get our money tree or printing press to work even harder. Need.tons.more.money.to.travel.!

battymum
04-29-2012, 08:25 PM
Looks like the heavier coats are needed if you are out at night?

As for the teens - we have DD17 - who is quite keen to go, but I know, if she gets bored or is not interested, I am the one who will suffer - she doesnt do this to anyone else, but feels like she can whinge and whine to me, - thats what mums are for right? :headache: I have given her the option of staying at home and we will give her money for a later trip - but she doesnt want to miss out - and I still have the hope of being the perfect family!! :lmao: I just dont want her to ruin it for me!!

Then we have twin DS who will be 15 - they are quite easy going and will go along with anything, usually because DD is doing enough whinging for everyone! :rotfl:

I will just have to plan an itinerary that keeps everyone happy!

They are a little set in their ways as far as food goes - but they wont starve and I hope experiences like this will broaden their minds.

PrincessInOz
04-29-2012, 09:14 PM
Looks like the heavier coats are needed if you are out at night?

As for the teens - we have DD17 - who is quite keen to go, but I know, if she gets bored or is not interested, I am the one who will suffer - she doesnt do this to anyone else, but feels like she can whinge and whine to me, - thats what mums are for right? :headache: I have given her the option of staying at home and we will give her money for a later trip - but she doesnt want to miss out - and I still have the hope of being the perfect family!! :lmao: I just dont want her to ruin it for me!!

Then we have twin DS who will be 15 - they are quite easy going and will go along with anything, usually because DD is doing enough whinging for everyone! :rotfl:

I will just have to plan an itinerary that keeps everyone happy!

They are a little set in their ways as far as food goes - but they wont starve and I hope experiences like this will broaden their minds.

BattyMum - After seeing the pictures and the experiences in Wendy's TR, I think that you're making the right choice to go during cherry blossom season next year. Not that you needed any validation from anyone and least of all from a near perfect stranger...but it might not hurt to put it out there.

battymum
04-29-2012, 10:42 PM
PIO

I have decided that we will go on Wed 10th April - this will mean 2days off school, that will be the last days of term 1 - most likely there will be a pupil free on the Friday. This will give us 4 days in Tokyo before hitting the Disney parks on Tuesday the next week. (best to do these midweek apparently).

Will do Disney for 3 (maybe 4:confused3) days, then head to Kyoto for 1 week. Returning on 25/26th April.

The flights for these dates are just coming online and seem to be a lot more than the $1000 pp I was budgeting on :faint:- hopefully they will come down.

Hopefully there will be some late bloomers - the season is hard to predict - and we will still get the atmosphere. :woohoo:

I just have to put it aside and start my planning later as most hotels do not take bookings further than three months out - and I fear I will not be getting the best price on the ones that do. This is really unnerving for me. :eek:

But, I am very inspired by this TR!! ::yes::

PrincessInOz
04-30-2012, 03:45 AM
I'm being inspired too.

Aussie Wendy
05-01-2012, 06:42 AM
Thanks guys-BattyMum you will love it. DD-yes they can be like that-I scored well but she takes after her dad-if she had been like me:rolleyes1 Have you suggested she get on-line at some point in the next 12 months and maybe see if anything grabs her interest that she would like to do/see? (Mine says she trusts me and its all too much effort.)

I read parks mid week are quiet too and we found even Monday was quiet once the schools were back.

I stalked Jetstar airfare deals-they were low and I didn't buy as hadn't got work dates and time off sorted then they went right back up and I waited and I waited and I waited and I paniced (I wanted to get some good accom booked) + got seduced by the business class special for $459 pp (and some extra hours=unexpected extra $ from work to help convince DH) for one way and around $300 plus extras (bag, iPad hire etc) for return. Then of course a week or so later I could have got an economy flight out for $199 and back for $299. This was ex Gold Coast-Brissie never came down quite that cheap. Moral the airfares jumped about all over the place every few months right up to only about 6 weeks out. I routinely over 6 months saw them around $300/leg so keep watching. Japan Air also had $999 deals going quite a bit but you should be able to do it for around $800 once you factor in extras. I presume you are on the Friday Frenzy Jetstar email list?

Aussie Wendy
05-01-2012, 06:47 AM
Just thought-not sure-maybe this is one location where Qld actually gets airfares a bit cheaper than down south? We came back via Cairns though the rub with that was we paid for a bag in the hold and they classed Narita to Cairns as 1 leg and Cairns-GC another as we had to switch to domestic so though cheaper airfare I got 2 x luggage charges for the 1 trip. I found out while I was booking but not impressed-every $ counts!

battymum
05-01-2012, 07:06 AM
I havent been looking for long - and April is still too far away. But I have been plugging in dates for September school hols - just to get an idea - and Jetstar actually comes in dearer than Qantas, and moreso once you add in checked bags and meals ipad etc.

I guess they will put out specials - but unless the price is significantly less - would rather travel Qantas. I hope to use FF points for one ticket.

Although Jetstar flies out of Osaka, so we could take our return flight from there, which I dont think Qantas does -this would suit our itinerary better.

PrincessInOz
05-01-2012, 07:20 AM
I'll share....it's a very small glimmer in my eye at the moment. We have an opportunity to consider being a Japan for the last week in March. I'm not sure how it will work out because that will mean pulling DS out of school for 2 weeks.
Plus I am committed to October 2013 at WDW. So, that printing press will need to be working overtime IF we are to factor in both. :faint:

Aussie Wendy
05-03-2012, 07:14 AM
Day 7 Tues 3 April Who upset the gods??

The plan was take bags to train station and put them in a locker so when we check out DD can choose what else she wants to see in Kyoto in the am and we can catch an afternoon train for the 2 hrs to Kanazawa. When DH read that rain was forecast early he set out around 7am, beating rush hour, and accomplished this part of the plan, arriving back just as the rain drops started falling. Around 2 hrs later, having received our bond back and raving about what a wonderful place our machiya was to Acco, it was bucketing down outside. In our innocence plans were revised to shopping in the covered arcades and Nishiki market downtown and catching an earlier train to Kanazawa. We shivered at the bus stop as it was too walk to wet and gratefully took cover in the arcades. Here is a pic of a kimono I took in a window en route from the bus stop.

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Nishiki market was full of stalls selling weird and wonderful things. The eel stall in particular was so gross-what is it the eels are being stored in? but there were also some delicous bakery and other items.l

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The market has been here for 400 years and some stall owners go back generations. We continued browsing Teramachi and Shin Kyogoku arcades

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We went into the secondhand store “Chicago” that upstairs stocks a wonderful range of kimonos (the store was recommended by Acco and I forgot to take a pic). We weren’t really looking to buy but if you were they had an excellent range, some plainer ones on special from $20 up to $200 for some beautiful fabrics. The undergarment or juban were around $50 and would make pretty summer dressing gowns for home. They also had all of the accessories like obi sashes etc. Outside the rain kept torrenting down and we were cold and tired so headed to the station-which is a very cold, wet, windy place on a bad weather day.

First up we queued at the JR counter for around 40 minutes for tickets for the train only to be told that the next train would not be til 2.00. They usually ran every hour-this should have been a warning-as should have the really long queues! But we booked our tickets and were automatically given reserved seats so as it wasn’t much more I shrugged and we set off to find lunch. Some wet pictures taken from the windows of the Skywalk.

What was going to be our bed for the night if we had only known

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The queues in the Cube and 11th floor Isetan were huge and though guidebooks call them a “food court” it’s just a group of cafes (varying Italian, Japanese noodles, etc) side by side where you queue and sit down inside, some quite expensive. We were in one of those moods where we didn’t fancy anything and couldn’t agree so ended up going down one floor to the ramen restaurants-also turned out to be several in a row but most had picture menus.

Of course after peering inside, the one we fancied only had part of the menu in pictures. Blithely we see advertised a lunchtime “set” deal-OK so after much stuffing about we work out the order of putting in coins, pushing buttons, choosing multiple serves and getting our tickets. Then we queue for a vacant seat. Not too long and the waiter comes to take our ticket and usher us inside-but wait-no, no-much head shaking and gesturing we work out we have ordered the lunchtime “extra” but not the main dish. Back to the machine-and a screed of Japanese-which one?? With pointing inside and more gestures he helps us order 3 bowls of ramen and in we go! The meal was excellent. I had gyoza as the “extra” and DD and DH fried rice.

As always a partly eaten pic-I had downed my gyoza already

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To waste some more time we venture back to the station and discover a maze-like underground shopping mall with lots of alternate casual places to eat.

This was the post box

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Back to the station-lets not get our bags out yet I say, just check (spider sense working over time-thank you). Our train is not showing on the boards but others are. Something that seems important is scrolling across underneath the boards but only in Japanese. There is no-one official around to ask so we queue at JR another 30 mins-the train has been cancelled due to bad weather, many trains have been cancelled including all the shinkasens, the 4pm rapid to Kanazawa might run, we can exchange our tickets for non-reserved for that time.

How to spend another two hours with nowhere to sit in a wet draughty station? We explore Isetan but our hearts aren’t in it and our legs are very tired, getting a bit panicky-should we cancel our prepaid Kanazawa hotel and find accommodation for tonight? or hope for the best?

Found some seats, obviously for bored husbands in the ladies wear section of Isetan and sit for a bit but it is incredibly hot and stuffy so do not last there long. Finally 3.30 and back in the station – trains are showing on the boards, no trains are arriving and there are masses of people and luggage everywhere. JR has queues out the door, that Japanese message is still scrolling and there is a noticeboard all in Japanese. Hey a brief message in English wouldn’t go astray guys? Please?

Luckily the station info desk is quiet and we pop across-all trains are cancelled since lunchtime-so why are they still on the boards? Hang on- as we move away the signs are finally updated. So its off to the Tourist Info Centre for advice on potential hotels for the night and an internet kiosk or café so we can let Kanazawa know but the info desk struggles to understand us. She points to the big Kyoto Tower Hotel across the road and gives us a map of the station area with an internet café marked across the street. We head out into exceedingly squally weather-can’t put the brollys up due to wind.

When we finally find it, the internet café speak no English, you have to join and everything is in Japanese. Where is a Macca’s or Starbucks when you need one? My trusty photocopied map shows a branch of our Kanazawa hotel chain nearby so we head there. They don’t have any vacancies but (this is after much writing and gesturing) they can ring Kanazawa and let them know our booking for this night only needs to be cancelled.

It is now cold and calm and sunny outside-no sign of the rain storms of the day (think Melbourne). No other hotels in the surrounding streets have any vacancies and with despair in our hearts we enter the Kyoto Tower Hotel-yes they have rooms-twice the price we paid for Kanazawa of course but by this stage we didn’t care! 10 mins later and we have somewhere warm and dry to collapse-and we get “free” entry to the Kyoto Tower thrown in. Now we can finally get our bags out of the locker (so thankful we didn’t have to lug luggage around with us all day). Over at the station is chaotic as even the trains out to Kansai Airport are cancelled.

We have a soothing cuppa, rest and around 7pm head up the tower for some pics of Kyoto at night-through rather raindropy windows but very pretty and they have free telescopic sights.

Looking west towards Kiyomizu
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Looking north I think
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Looking south I think
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Looking west
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The dreaded station
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On the way down-Kyoto Tower dude
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We got some simple take-away food (found a Starbucks and a Maccas of course now we didn't need the internet) and crossed over to JR (who are open til 11pm) and booked reserved seat tickets for the second train of the morning (8.30am)-if it is running they say and hit the sack early-but DD had to try out the yukata first.

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Maybe we'll make it to Kanazawa tomorrow?

PrincessInOz
05-03-2012, 07:20 AM
Sounds like an expensive cold and wet day. I'm glad you managed to get some accomodation to spend the night; and I hope you make it out the next day.

Unagi! Were the eels fresh or were they dried?

Aussie Wendy
05-03-2012, 07:27 AM
You are on the ball! They weren't bucket-fresh if you know what I mean but didn't actually look dried - not like some I had seen though so sorry, not sure. What might the yellow goop they were keeping them in be?

PrincessInOz
05-04-2012, 04:44 AM
You are on the ball! They weren't bucket-fresh if you know what I mean but didn't actually look dried - not like some I had seen though so sorry, not sure. What might the yellow goop they were keeping them in be?

I'm not sure. Maybe the preservative?

Aussie Wendy
05-05-2012, 03:03 AM
Wed 4 April Kanazawa!!

The day dawned cold and fine without a breath of wind. DH ducked across to the station and reported no sign of the 7.30 train so with trepidation we checked out and headed across. By 8am lots of people were gathering, trains were zipping to and fro and it looked like all systems were go. We joined the crowd on the platform marked out for our reserved carriage and up pulled the train a few minutes late. But when the doors opened inside was jammed full of people-it starts from Osaka and everyone who missed the train the day before had obviously been allowed to fill the aisles. Undeterred we joined the throng forcing our way on board; DH struggling with the bag-lucky it was just one and DD and I had all the daypacks-being less assertive than us he was one of the last and I feared he’d be left behind. Conductors were running to and fro on the platform urging people through the windows to move down so people could get on.

Over the next hour people jostled their way and found their seats. Nobody much was sitting in the reserved seats-it would be better if they had then stood up when people came to claim them. We finally occupied ours, which were scattered across the carriage but luckily near the entry-I saw some seats stay empty as people couldn’t get to them. Certainly broke every OH&S law in the book; also very thankful we had bought reserved seats or we would never have got on. It turned out some carriages were parting company and going to another destination along the way-would have been scary if in non-reserved we had got stuck on one of them.

Out of the window we passed Lake Biwa sparkling blue with little villages along the shores and later hurtled past pine forests looking pretty iced in snow and snow-bound little villages. On the other side of the mountains it poured with rain. Kanazawa is a small city on the north west coast of Honshu. It was never bombed in WWII and still retains a lot of features of a castle-town. Under the control of the powerful Maeda clan since the 1580’s, its excellent rice production made it very wealthy and the area was renowned for the arts like lacquerware, porcelain, silk dyeing and gold leaf.

Kanazawa station was clean and modern though DD was excited she successfully navigated her first Japanese style loo-(knowing my incompetence I always managed to find western ones). The station was quite impressive-here’s some pics

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The wording is made by little fountains

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We hopped on a bus outside that took us to the downtown area of Katamachi and easily found our hotel, the APA Kanazawa Chuo where they had our booking. I was most impressed that though they said nothing when we were there, on our return they refunded the night we had to cancel in full into our bank account, despite the fact it was a 3-day earlybird no cancellation booking through Expedia. Check-in wasn’t ready (they are sticklers for 3pm in Japan) but we could dump our bags and head out to grab some much needed lunch and explore. There were plenty of places to eat nearby and hunger satisfied we set off first to see if we could get a booking to tour the “ninja” temple the next day. Our whole reason for visiting Kanazawa was because of a child’s book DD and I loved written by a local Brisbane author Kierin Meehan set in Kanazawa with mystical elements ('Hannah's Winter'-also another book with some of the same characters in it 'In the Monkey Forest). The ninja temple was featured in the book and I had since read trip reports on how fascinating people found it.

It’s not really a ninja temple –its proper name is Myoryu-ji-but back then the shogun wouldn’t allow the regional Lords to maintain a standing army on their borders and imposed strict regulations as a way of weakening their control. Kanazawa’s daimyo cleverly built a ring of temples around his city, really military outposts with soldiers as well as priests, so they could be mobilised if an attack occurred. This temple was built with lots of clever defence and escape routes in case of attack.

Anyway it wasn’t too far away across the Saigawa river in the Teramachi District, an area with the narrow winding streets typical of a Japanese castle town and lots of cute little temples. There was snow in some corners still, left over from the bad weather they had had in recent days and the wind was freezing! You could see the snow capped mountains that surround Kanazawa to the east, to the west it’s very near the sea.

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When we finally found the temple (the tourist direction signs pointing not quite the right direction) it was closed to our disappointment with a sign of course in Japanese that we had no hope of understanding. We wandered back admiring some of the little temples .

A little temple we peeked into

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More foxes
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This one had a monk gardening but he ducked and hid behind the door when we snapped the pic!

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We crossed the river again and headed into the Nagamachi District. This was the area once lived in by the samurai and still contains narrow lanes, yellow ochre, tile roofed earth walls, private timber gates and framed by 2 canals.

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There is a restored (and partly moved from elsewhere) samurai house open to the public we went into-like a temple really with its prayer area (so finally could get a pic of a small one-typical other than in size, than ones we saw in temples), tatami flooring, painted fusuma (sliding doors) and views to the landscaped garden.

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Nearby also were a couple of restored houses belonging to the ashigaru or foot soldiers, the lowest ranked soldiers in the samurai class. DD and I found it a bit disconcerting that the guide who kept an eye here kept laughing his head off at us-but we didn’t know why? The houses were quite big compared to what we expected-I guess compared to some of the English medieval lower class houses we have seen but they did show how austere their lives were.

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Aussie Wendy
05-05-2012, 07:15 AM
Continued

We wandered north from here and came across Oyama Shrine, built in the early Meiji period and famous for its stained-glass windows that is a fusion of Japanese and Western architecture.

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Really scary looking guardians here

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Some important dude on a horse with what looks like a pumpkin behind him

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Mix of old and modern sculptures and a garden with bridges- finally one where you could play on them-yaay-so we did!

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From here we popped out at the back of the castle. Kanazawa-jo dates from the 1580’s but the main keep and most of the buildings have been burnt and not rebuilt. They are slowly rebuilding some of the historic buildings but have no plans to rebuild the main keep. It’s built up on a high hill overlooking the town (and those snow capped mountains.) It was getting close to closing time for many of the buildings and since we had been inside Hikone and these were just rebuilds we didn’t go inside but its distinctive white tiles were impressive. It is said these are not only fireproof but if under siege, they could be melted down and cast into bullets.

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How the walls are made
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As we were leaving under the impressive Ishakawa-mon Gate we could see large birds of prey (eagles?) circling over the keep-quite atmospheric.

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We walked back to the hotel-it was now getting on for dusk-and checked in. DD had her own single room here and we had a twin bedded room (because I had read Japanese doubles are mostly semi-doubles, for us westerners not much bigger than a single). It was small but still fitted a desk and small table and chair with the usual step-up wet room style bathroom. We loved it had an openable window so we could get fresh air in the night. This is the view.

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and inside

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We were also enchanted by the origami birds left on the beds-a signature of this hotel (maybe the chain?).

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Dinner tonight we headed into the back streets and found a place I had read about that was recommended – a German style bar with an upstairs restaurant called Pilsen. It was great-German style timbers and beer steins (I KNOW-why didn’t I take any pics? Why haven’t I learnt by now I want all these pics when I get home??).

We sampled some beers (of course) and shared a plate of German style hot potatoes and bacon while waiting for our meals (OK I thought these as side serves might come with the meal-but anyway). As usual DH got his meal first-a very good pizza (German style??) and had finished it whilst we were waiting and waiting but when DD and I meals finally arrived piping hot they were excellent. We both got lamb chops done in some delicious creamy herby sauce and served with a small salad on the side. No pics sorry but they tasted very good. Thanks to the fizz from the beer and all those potatoes couldn’t fit in desert though they had several options I liked the sound of (and can’t remember now-see I should have learnt from Princess in Oz and took a pic of the menu as an aide to others-ah well-guess we’ll have to go back…).

Walked back through Katamachi fascinated by all these slick Japanese youth in black suits handing out “girly club” cards to all the straight-faced Japanese business men. Yes we were in the middle of the club district and guess where all the business hotels were….on the Thursday night it sounded quite lively outside at one stage but it was all perfectly safe and for sightseeing was handy to everything including a swag of great restaurants.

PrincessInOz
05-06-2012, 04:53 AM
DS is reading a series of books by Chris Bradford...The Young Samurai series and the follow up series (Ring series). It is set in 17th Century Japan, with the samurai and ninjas in the castle towns.
Just seeing your pictures reminds me of the series and how cool it would be for DS to go and see one of these towns.

Thanks for sharing.

Aussie Wendy
05-06-2012, 05:33 AM
Your DS might be too old now or the book a bit girly for him-but maybe not. All these wierd things keep happening to them including a young boy who is a ghost and we loved the samurai suit of armour that was in the corner of her host family's shop that puffed smoke-red for danger, yellow other times. The suit in the samurai house looked just how we imagined it. You could always get DS the book out of the library to see-or read it yourself-its a good read! except they are always eating delicious-sounding donuts. Which I forgot to mention-from the Mr Donut chain -and we also sampled quite a few in our 2 days!

Aussie Wendy
05-06-2012, 05:29 PM
Day 9 Thurs 5 April Kanazawa

With only one full day in Kanazawa instead of the two planned had lots to fit in and knew there would be compromises. The day started off with pouring rain so we ducked up the street a few doors to the German Bakery which a local had recommended. (There was also a branch of Seattle’s best coffee in the foyer of our hotel which offered a buffet breakfast-mostly Japanese that looked OK but we didn’t feel like that). Again I so wish I had took pics because this was the best breakfast ever-we shared a mix of creamy quiche, French toast stuffed with melted ham and cheese, giant almond pastry things and something like a danish and lots of good coffee. When we came out the rain had pretty much stopped and the sky looked a bit lighter so we figured we’d risk touring the garden first.

Kenrokuen is ranked as one of Japan’s top 3 gardens. The name means “garden of the 6 sublimities” which means it has all 6 attributes in complimentary pairs-seclusion and spaciousness, artificiality and antiquity, abundant water and broad views. It is rare one garden has all 6. This was the garden of the castle and was finally finished in the Edo period. In winter the branches of the trees are tethered by ropes to prevent the heavy snow breaking them. These had been taken down by the time we were there. There were lots of examples of what we saw everywhere though- of supporting overhanging tree limbs with bamboo posts rather than letting them break off or cutting them off as we do. (We have one big limb on a tree at home I am thinking we should do this to). The water in the gardens was piped many km upstream to fill the streams and ponds before filling the castle moat-considered a feat of engineering when completed in 1632.

The garden of course featured heavily in our book Hannah’s Winter (when they visited before dawn to wake the “dragon”). Here are some pics

The Rainbow Bridge (it glows red after rain-so was pinky as it was drying out when we were there).

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The Kotoji Toro (with its legs one on land, one in water) on Kasumiga-ike Pond (the biggest pond in the garden) with one of the tea houses in the background.

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Karasaki Matsu, a black pine tree planted by the 13th Lord Nariyasu, with a seed brought from the shore of Lake Biwa

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Gankou-bashi Bridge –made from 11 red Tomuro stones laid out to look like geese flying in formation

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The Meiji monument-statue of Prince Yamato Takeru and next to it a memorial to soldiers who died in the civil war of 1877. The statue stays clean as it contains arsenic and tin so birds don’t sit on it.

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Hisago-ike pond and Midori-taki Waterfall

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Just a fountain but famous as the first fountain ever in a Japanese garden and operates on natural water pressure

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Our most important rock in the garden, if you look carefully can you make out the shape of a dragon’s head and rocks curling round like its tail? In the book it comes to life as a dragon and flies away with the spirit of the little boy ghost but they nearly don’t make it as the evil women who wouldn’t let the little boy go free tries to stop them.

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The plum grove.

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After the garden we caught a flat bus to the Ume-no-Hashi Bridge over the Asanogawa River (rebuilt in the traditional style after the original one got washed away).

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This led to the Higashi Cheya (Geisha) District. This area of narrow streets was established as the centre for geisha to entertain wealthy patrons. Still contains operating private chaya (tea houses) but also a lot of restored houses turned into shops and teahouses open to the public.

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There were lots of tour groups here though (mostly ooing and aaing over all the gold leaf products in the speciality shops) so we crossed back over the river and wandered through the Kazue-machi Cheya, where the book was mostly set. Similar in style (but no operating tea houses I think) and even narrower lanes but an area where locals lived and worked so felt more atmospheric to us. Remnants of snow here too-at first we thought it must be ice emptied out then realised it was non melted snow.

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We strolled beside the river (lots of unopened cherry blossom buds) to the Kobashi Bridge and the nearest flat route bus stop.

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(There is also a tourist sightseeing bus that does a circle but it wasn’t convenient for what I wanted to do. A 500Y pass was valid all day on the circle line and all flat route buses in the inner city or flat buses were 100Y per trip). We caught it around to the station so we could buy tickets for Tokyo the next day and then as much as I would have liked to visit the Omichi market-which I figured would be like Nishiki in Kyoto, the troops were tired and just wanted 5 min noodles in a cup for lunch and a rest.

More pics of the station

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It had also started raining again. So we caught the train back to the hotel. I bought a delicious salad tub and rolls from the German Bakery, the others raided the 7-11 store, and we all enjoyed an indoors lunch and nap as the rain poured down outside.

Around 3ish I stirred the pot-DD and I wanted to go back and just “see” if our ninja house was open and she wanted to go back to a store in the Nagamachi district and buy some chopsticks she had seen. (We spend half our hols doubling back somewhere ‘cos she can’t make her mind up to buy while we are there-the big Simba in the Disney store in NYC comes to mind-and we got soaked going there in pouring rain our last afternoon too!)

The rain had eased again so off we set and found the shop DD wanted. It was bitterly cold and the girls were handing out hot Japanese tea-delicious to warm us up. Purchases made we headed up into Teraamachi again and YES-the ninja temple was open and we could join the next tour just starting. There were so few tourists there was no need for reservations. It was all in Japanese but they gave us an English book to briefly explain most of what we were seeing. We also had to sign an indemnify page that said we understood the tour was totally in Japanese, would involve walking around for 45 mins with stairs, no photos, and we could not talk or translate out loud for the benefit of others as it would disturb other guests.

It was a pity we couldn’t understand it properly as I am sure the extra details were fun but it was easy to understand the gist and you could see everything of course. There were all sorts of tricks to the place-it looked small from the outside and at the time the Tokugawa shogunate prohibited the construction of buildings higher than three stories. Inside though the temple is four stories with seven layers. It has 23 rooms and 29 staircases with a stain glass window lookout right at the top from which they could signal to the castle and spy on troop movements on the plain. There was also a central well that every room practically led to. One room even had a curved bridge leading from it to make the guests at tea parties imagine they were on the banks of a river. The offertory box in the main entrance floor could be turned into a pit to catch enemies as they ran in. There was a secret room for the Lord to attend prayer in the main temple without others seeing him and a one-way mirror made out of bamboo. There were hidden passages accessed from under a floor board leading to the guard’s room, others leading to a secret room to hide in, or sliding panels that hid various exits from rooms so you could be being chased and nip behind one and nip out elsewhere behind your enemy. One set of stairs looked like solid wall from outside but really were made of paper so the shadow of your enemies legs could be seen through them and stabbed from inside as they ran up them. There was even a sepukku (ritual suicide) chamber with a one way only revolving door. Supposedly there was a secret passage to the castle under the river from the temple but it’s never been found so probably a myth.

The simple exterior of the temple

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Anyway we thoroughly enjoyed the tour and were so pleased it was open. I had missed the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art which is the other thing Kanazawa is famous for and whilst we don’t like modern art all that much I wanted to just have a look-see at the unusual circular building. It was after 5 by now but we headed back through Katamachi and along a modern shopping street that had been tempting me – Tatamachi. This was a youthful shopping mall lined with teen clothing and record stores and had rock music playing out of loud speakers.

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DH was sure I was getting him lost when we turned off and headed into a maze of tiny winding streets but I popped out only a little past my destination.

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Parts of the art gallery and the grounds are open for free so we had a look at these – DD and I checked out the shop where looking at postcards I confirmed that I wouldn’t much care for most of the art inside.

The sinks in the art gallery-had hand dryers built in as well as automatic soap and water dispenser

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We then walked back “home” collecting more Mr Donut donuts en route (forgot to say we pigged out on these yesterday too but they had such intriguing colours and shapes and we had no idea what flavour we were buying so each one was a surprise-turned out about 3 different types of consistency too. Can’t remember all the flavours we sampled now but included cherry (in a cherry blossom shape), caramel, chocolate dipped chewy chocolate, coconut, strawberry, green tea…of course we didn't take pics of any-groan.)

Dinner tonight we had to try Wonderful Burgers which had come recommended by several trip reportees and locals on other travel sites. The chef was a friendly Lebanese Italian who loved to travel and had worked everywhere including Melbourne. It was great ‘cos he could tell us what everything was (there was a picture menu but that doesn’t give away a lot) and what we might like to try. We ended up DH with-no surprise here- yet another spaghetti bolognaise, and DD and I ended up getting the same-a Japanese vegetable curry that came with a side salad of lettuce and sweet spicy red things and rice. It was SOO good.

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The flavours were just brilliant without the heat that you get in an Indian or Thai curry which neither of us can tolerate (our mouths can and like the taste but we are both allergic to chilli). We only ate a little of the red stuff (that chilli allergy fear) but they were very sweet. Our chef told us how everything is grown on the owner’s farms and the pasta etc all hand made. We wished we had had time to try their burgers too as all their buns were home baked. The store was struggling though to compete with the new McDonalds that had opened a few doors up the street where all the Japanese youth now go to and which was a bit cheaper. So if you are in Kanazawa (and they are still open) you have to have your burgers (or their excellent other dishes) at Wonderful Burgers!

From here it was time to head home and reluctantly pack-the town being smaller I guess, it had a nice welcoming feel to it. It would have been nice to have had more time just to wander and explore the winding streets, the temples, the many museums of local arts and crafts (we didn’t get time/energy to fit one in) and the little cafes and restaurants. Outside was noisier tonight-those business men playing up but with the window shut we couldn’t hear a thing and slept like babes in the wood til our alarm woke us.

Aussie Wendy
05-10-2012, 06:13 AM
Day 10 Friday 6 April Off to Tokyo

The train left at 9.15 on time-it was a rapid train to Echigo-Yuzawa and then a change to the shinkansen (bullet train) to Tokyo. Compared to our trip to Kanazawa the train was half empty and very quiet. The hostesses walked up and down the aisles with carts of food in smart grey outfits. Like the ticket collectors they bow to the passengers as they enter and leave-so polite.

The train travelled along by the sea shore for the first part of the trip-with pine trees it looked like a beach in Aus.

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Views of fields from the opposite side of the train

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Then we went through the tunnels and popped out in the mountains with villages buried in snow up to their first floors and cold looking mountain streams.

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It was freezing at Echigo-Yuzawa. On the bullet train, once we passed through the tunnels, we popped out into very dry looking eastern plains and towns that blurred into suburbs very quickly.

The bullet train

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Hopped off at Ueno station and found it quite easy to get a Suica card and catch the JR Yamanote line around to Ikebukuro-but turned out we didn’t need to pay extra for that leg as the change was included with the original ticket.

Advertising cherry blossom season in Ikebukuro

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A friendly owl sculpture in the station

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The hotel, the B Ikebukuro, was just a very short walk from the station as I had read and they let us check in though it was only 2.30 (though whilst they were checking us in and getting keys they kept saying check in is not til 3 which was a tad confusing). The triple room was tiny (as we had read)-3 beds pushed together but we could manage and the usual high tech bathroom.

A view borrowed off the net

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An untidy view during our stay

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We headed out for a late lunch walking towards Sunshine City. Ikebukuro is becoming another hotspot for electronics and anime fans and the station is the second busiest next to Shinjuku. As well as the shopping malls, there is a skyscraper with an observation deck, aquarium, planetarium, Egyptian Museum, indoor theme park by Namco, convention centre etc. (We only stumbled across the shops and observation deck entry lifts).

Had a feed of pizza in a pizza place (guess what-we chose somewhere that didn’t have an English menu-again! So we didn’t quite get what we wanted despite DD’s interpretation of the katakana but it was good and was eaten before I had time to take the camera out -of course. Not very cheesy but cheese is expensive in Japan but tasty).

Then we spent the afternoon getting lost in the shops. Did find an English map which was very helpful. I adored Tokyu Hands-a homewares store on 7 levels full of stationary, kitchenware, bathroom supplies, cushions, linen, scrapbook and craft supplies, you name it. The top floor also had a cat house-where you pay to spend an hour patting cats (because the animal lovers in Tokyo apartments often can’t have their own). DD and I were very tempted but DH just rolled his eyes so we refrained. We probably spent over an hour in the store and hardly scratched the surface.

A fountain inside the main mall

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We also spent time in the Disney store (of course), and Daiso (which is a 200Y store-with a great range of stuff like our Bargain Plus), Passport which also sells homewares like cheap but stylish cups, bowls, cutlery, towels etc. They had bento box themes cushions which were cute. Also a sweet shop selling lots of bizarre sweets and Moe (or it might have been Mono) that sold all the Studio Ghibli merchandise (Totoro, Catbus, the witches cat-in plush, porcelain, garden statues, linen-you name it ). We also came across Lush, the Body Shop,Toys R Us – ran out of time to go into any of the clothing stores! We headed home quite late via a 7-11 for a snacky type late dinner. Can’t find a Lawsons anywhere near here-sob- as that was our favourite convenience store for snack goods.

We were too tired to battle the crowds and head to Roppongi as I had planned. As dusk fell Ikebukuro got very busy with 100’s of teens and twenty-somethings thronging the area. DH ducked into a couple of electronic shops trying to get a USB ethernet adapter for his Macbook (as his doesn't have an ethernet slot) so we could plug it into the free internet cable in the room. Eventually found it after about our 5th attempt and wandering around floor after floor in shop after shop gazing at 100's of electronic cables and paid about the same as we would in Aus. so finally we could reconnect with the world after a break in Kanazawa! (where we needed the same thing but couldn't be bothered trying to find a store to buy one).

Aussie Wendy
05-10-2012, 06:31 AM
Day 11 Saturday 7 April Cherry Blossoms!

Slept quite well though the room got stuffy (we had turned the air con right down but it seemed to switch itself off in the night) and the pillows were very hard-the hardest to date. Breakfast was included here, served in the 2nd floor bar that is an izakaya (Japanese bar and grill where you get small plates to accompany your drinks) at night.

It was heavily Japanese orientated –a bewildering array of miso soup, pasta, curries, rice, salads and condiments and toppings to accompany your meal-much more exciting than our western food. Also had brewed coffee, teas, juices, tinned fruit, yoghurt, cereal, toast, croissants, a revolting looking runny scrambled egg mess, tiny saveloy sausages, hot chips and cold hard-boiled eggs (from the Japanese group) so plenty to find something to keep you going. I loved the signage e.g. ‘deserts’ (for breakfast!)

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I had read up on what was happening with cherry blossoms and those in Ueno Park were predicted to be out in full this weekend so that was stop one for the day. When we got there via the JR Yamanote line we were so pleased we came here first as already it was starting to get very busy and the food stalls were starting to do a roaring trade-unfortunately we were too full from breaky.

Got some nice cherry blossom pics.

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Looking across the lake at the rows of blossom

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Food stalls

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The swan boats on the lake are very sweet

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Love the different colours

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They even grow on the trunk

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PrincessInOz
05-10-2012, 06:43 AM
Wendy - Those blossoms are just gorgeous. Your TR is amazing and your pictures show me the Japan that I have not yet dreamed of seeing. I'm going to have to move Japan up the bucket list.

Aussie Wendy
05-10-2012, 07:01 AM
Continued last post

Then we caught a subway over to Ryogogu to go to the Edo-Tokyo Museum. This is a folk museum which is our favourite type of museum. The building itself is modelled after a traditional Japanese rice storehouse on stilts.

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This contrast of old and new took our eye

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You go up an incredibly long and high escalater to get to the 6th and 5th floors where the permanent displays are. It had lots of models of Tokyo in the Edo period – including the castle and city very intricately detailed; they even had binoculars so you could look at individual characters close up-very cool. There was a replica of the Nihonbashi Bridge and the façade of a Kabuki Theatre, full size replica houses from the Edo period, westernisation under the Meiji, the impact of the Kanto earthquake and the war, which brought home the devestation that was wrecked on ordinary people's lives and included bits of US bombs etc.

The entry

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The entry bridge (replica Nihonbashi)

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Close up of the (I presume) emperor

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The Kabuki theatre

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Painted screens

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Models

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A replica Edo home. The woman has just given birth and has to sit up awake for some incredible length of time which resulted in a higher death rate but I can't remember the superstition why.

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The Kabuki costumes

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There were also lots of things you could play on.

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We enjoyed a couple of hours before heading back to the metro and catching it to Asakusa. Had to change stations and found this involved a walk along several streets between the different lines so popped in to a 7-11 en route and bought sandwiches and crisps for a picnic lunch-planned for by the river. However when we arrived guess what- hanami was on and it was PACKED!

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We crossed the bridge to the side of the river away from the blossoms and joined several locals sitting in the sun-til the sun went in and it turned cold then we headed back across to go and see Sensoji Temple.

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The new Sky Tree and Flamme d'Or (or Golden Turd) as it is known- a Philipe Starck installation on the Asahi brewing factory).

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Seeing the crowds visiting Sensoji was not to be either-the approach was crammed so we decided to pass it up this visit.

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We fought our way back to a metro station and since it was “going past” hopped off in Ginza. They close the main road here on weekends so it was nice strolling along in a very uncrowded area admiring the posh shops. Spent far too long in Hakuhinkan Toy Park (4 stories toy store) that Diser Lurkyloo had recommended and bought myself a small Totoro.

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Tired now caught the next metro we came across back to Ikebukuro for a rest.

Tonight planned to have a look at the bright lights and craziness of Shibuya and its infamous crossing. First we had dinner at Beckers which was right by Ikebukuro station and handy. Very nice meal. I wasn’t very hungry so just had a noodly soup and spring rolls, DD finally got her teriyaki and rice she had been craving and DH got a very good burger that came with rice and veg. It was all very good though we had to sit apart as the place was so packed.

Then it was easy to catch the JR line around to Shibuya. Joined the masses taking pics of everyone crossing the infamous crossing -you can see the Starbucks that everyone recommends to take a picture from in the following pic.

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Found the statue of Hachiko (a faithful dog that would wait at Shibuya Station for his master, a professor at Tokyo University, to return home in 1920’s. Long after his master died, the loyal Hachiko continued to wait for his master every day at the station. In 1948 they erected a statue of him.)

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We explored Centre-gai- a busy street leading from the crossing and found some more great stores like a French homewares store-drool but no space to bring anything home.

A view of Centre-Gai

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We called it a night quite early as the go go go on this trip had started to wear us down. The hotel has free coffee in the foyer you can help yourself to as well as tea making facilities in your room so with beverages and biccies to tuck us in we were happy.

aussietravellers
05-13-2012, 01:20 AM
Have just found your TR Aussie Wendy.

Have absolutely loved reading about your travels so far! I have been wanting to go to Japan for so long. We are planning a December trip, was going to be Anaheim, the last couple of weeks was thinking of Hawaii instead, but have just looked at GC to Tokyo flights with Jetstar in December and they are just over $200 one way, so that's just over $400 return.

I'm looking at how cold it was for you and December would be very cold I think, but we are used to travelling to Europe at that time of year, so I expect Japan would not be any colder (-15).

If I decide to go the Japan direction (which I will do eventually), I'll be asking for your advise. It will just be DS and I and I get nervous travelling sometimes on my own somewhere that I am not familiar with and Japan will be the first place I've travelled with him that I have not been to before.

Anyway looking forward to reading about the rest of your trip :goodvibes

Aussie Wendy
05-13-2012, 06:02 AM
Welcome aboard. I have frequently lurked on your reports or discussions you have been in! Yes the flights have been so cheap to Japan thats what encouraged us and we had some great experiences. As you can gather there was a few moments when the language defeated us or frustrated us but nothing too dire. I wouldn't like to have winged it with no research or advice though-Lurkyloo's report on the boards is tops for info.

Travelling around is very easy other than knowing weather may disrupt your travel plans and within cities the bus/metro etc links are easy to use especially if you have used any others overseas. Food was excellent as I said.

Happy to give you the benefit of our experiences if you decide to go. I presume the cold would be the main thing that time of year, as you say, I imaigne no worse than the East side of the US or parts of Europe. DisneySea was unreal-Very Disneyish but an all new experience! Disneyland was very similar to Anaheim I felt bar a few rides (and that lovely bigger castle-sorry I like the WDW castle over DL). I have to double back and fix my pics from those days though-size all over the place as I worked out what I was doing in Photobucket.

Aussie Wendy
05-13-2012, 09:46 PM
Sun 12 April Tokyo then off to Disney Resort

Another delish breaky after another hot stuffy night and we checked out of the hotel and left our bags in storage with the reception desk while we went exploring. We headed first to Yoyogi Park and the Meiji Shrine.

Entry is via two huge torii and between the second torii and the shrine itself was an interesting series of murals explaining the life of the Emperor Meiji (who opened Japan up to the west) and whose “soul” is enshrined here along with his wife.

Torii no. 1

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Torii no 2

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It is surrounded by forest planted when they built the shrine so lovely and cool and quiet compared to the hustle of Sensoji yesterday. Also along the way are sake barrels (sake is drank during Shinto festivals and ceremonies) and wine barrels from France (as explained in the pic below).

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At the shrine, which was similar to many we had seen in Kyoto, we also saw part of a wedding with the bride in white and the groom in black in procession with the priests (and photographers keeping the tourists well out of the way).

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We walked a path through the woods back to the entrance-no sign of the Cosplay kids that used to hang here (but we had read they don’t much anymore) but the station was now packed. We walked up hustling Take****a-dori – teen central with a mix of shops selling lots of frothy girly clothes, American T’s and hoodies (very expensive), one or two goth-type clothing stores and stores selling crepes rolled up like an icecream cone and stuffed with huge blocks of cheesecake and various flavourings and cream or icecream. They looked incredibly good but sickly.
Here is a pic of one off the internet.

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Take****o-dori

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This is what I ended up getting (one without the cheesecake just icecream and banana and caramel syrup)-they are SOOO good and I could easily become addicted– I have since learnt these are an institution in Japan and there is one of a chain opened up in Sydney that sells them!

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We popped out the other end of Take****a-dori and walked up to Ometo-Sando with its posh shops. DH was a bit under the weather today-I blame him for eating those yucky looking scrambled eggs - so we only walked a short way up the road til the next metro station. DD and I explored Oriental Bazaar but restrained ourselves from buying.

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DH was recovering as the day wore on so we hopped out at Tokyo station and had a look at the Imperial Palace from the park. We had seen enough gardens not to want to wander the Imperial East Gardens so satisfied ourselves with a view of the palace walls and gate then went back to the station to buy lunch.

Motor cyclist trials on the road through the big grassy park that borders the Imperial Palace itself

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The Imperial Palace

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and its moat

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A park nearby

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The station is undergoing renovation and I suspect even more confusing than it normally is.

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We found our way to the Yaesu side and Daimaru department store for nice loos (very hot seats) and a browse in its stunning basement food hall. DD took a couple of pics but they are on her mobile phone and not on the computer yet. Armed with Bento boxes and a light sandwich for DH we hunted for somewhere to sit. I knew this would be a problem-DH spied a way outside-I am sure it was for workers not tourists-as we exited into a service alley. As we snuck beside a posh hotel the concierge saw us eyeing the seating potential of the edge of a flower box and bore down on us (it faced a service alley for goodness sake) so we kept going-and found some nice seats in the sun once we had exited the area and crossed the road-right near a statue of Prometheus.

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The Bento box was very good though some components would have been nice heated up.

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Lunch over it was back to the hotel to collect our bags and be on our way to Disney!!

PrincessInOz
05-13-2012, 10:17 PM
WOW! With every post, I keep wanting to jump on a plane and head on over! Thanks for sharing.

Aussie Wendy
05-13-2012, 10:38 PM
Sunday continued

We avoided the staircase of hell and tunnel of doom by catching the metro Yurakucho line direct from Ikebukuro all the way to the Shin Kiba (the last station) and then changing to the JR Keiyo line for just one stop to Maihama (¥380 all up)and then caught the Disney monorail to Bayside. We were staying at a Disney partner hotel, the Sheraton Grande Tokyo Bay having got a good deal on wotif.com (our first experience of using wotif for an international booking).

We were given a room overlooking the parks-here’s the view.

Looking straight out towards DisneySea

http://i1203.photobucket.com/albums/bb390/gecko290/Tokyo/IMG_7836.jpg

Looking left towards Disneyland and an empty carpark

http://i1203.photobucket.com/albums/bb390/gecko290/Tokyo/IMG_7837.jpg

A close up of the castle

http://i1203.photobucket.com/albums/bb390/gecko290/Tokyo/IMG_7838.jpg

Here is the room (BattyMum I found the pic!)

http://i1203.photobucket.com/albums/bb390/gecko290/Tokyo/IMG_1986-1.jpg

Though there were only 3 of us they had added an additional single bed into the double-bedded room but after the small Japanese rooms the room, even with this, felt massive! DD lay on the single and declared it incredibly hard so she was pleased she could have a normal bed to herself. These were very comfortable.

Back down to the lobby to explore-there was a nice outside pool area and a row of shops including a Disney store with lots of “wantables” in it.

The pool area and chapel viewed from inside looking over the Grand Cafe

http://i1203.photobucket.com/albums/bb390/gecko290/Tokyo/IMG_2234.jpg

The water features in the lobby

http://i1203.photobucket.com/albums/bb390/gecko290/Tokyo/IMG_2235.jpg

The flower garden

http://i1203.photobucket.com/albums/bb390/gecko290/Tokyo/IMG_1988.jpg

From the lift showing how close the hotel is to the bay

http://i1203.photobucket.com/albums/bb390/gecko290/Tokyo/IMG_7841.jpg

The front of the hotel with the Disney Resort liner (we never needed to use this as the monorail is right opposite the hotel)

http://i1203.photobucket.com/albums/bb390/gecko290/Tokyo/IMG_2236.jpg

The Disney counter didn’t accept credit cards and as paying cash might leave us short and seemed no point taking more out this late in the holiday, we decided we’d buy the tickets from the Ticket Centre at Ikspiari.

We went outside for a closer look at the pool and the chapel which had a wedding happening and exploring further around the back through the gardens, we spied the road and the sea wall. So we crossed and walked down to a spot where we could walk up and look out at the windswept bay. Just further down you could see the back side of DisneySea and the SS Columbia and the Tower of Terror so we walked down to have a look – loved the detail even on this, the “away” side. You could see the monorail tracks passed by.

The back of the hotel

http://i1203.photobucket.com/albums/bb390/gecko290/Tokyo/IMG_1992.jpg

The bay

http://i1203.photobucket.com/albums/bb390/gecko290/Tokyo/IMG_1993.jpg

http://i1203.photobucket.com/albums/bb390/gecko290/Tokyo/IMG_1991.jpg

Recognise these?

http://i1203.photobucket.com/albums/bb390/gecko290/Tokyo/IMG_1994.jpg

Closer

http://i1203.photobucket.com/albums/bb390/gecko290/Tokyo/IMG_1996.jpg

http://i1203.photobucket.com/albums/bb390/gecko290/Tokyo/IMG_1997.jpg

By now we were at the corner and figured we’d come this far we may as well keep going rather than going all the way back to the hotel only to retrace our steps on the monorail. In retrospect probably not but it was a nice evening for a walk and we soon reached the Ambassador Hotel and cut through checking out the décor to Ikspiari.

Some statue we passed en route-looked like entry to something now defunct.

http://i1203.photobucket.com/albums/bb390/gecko290/Tokyo/IMG_1999.jpg

A short cut between Ambassador Hotel and Ikispiari garden level

http://i1203.photobucket.com/albums/bb390/gecko290/Tokyo/IMG_2001.jpg

Possibly Clock Tower Plaza (this was before we picked up a map)

http://i1203.photobucket.com/albums/bb390/gecko290/Tokyo/IMG_2002.jpg

In the Garden site by the Lily Pond

http://i1203.photobucket.com/albums/bb390/gecko290/Tokyo/IMG_2003.jpg

http://i1203.photobucket.com/albums/bb390/gecko290/Tokyo/IMG_2004.jpg

Ikspiari was bigger than I imagined from descriptions I had read but we never did get a chance to look through it properly. We secured our 2 day passes (with a credit card) and by now ravenous, decided to eat next door at Ikspiari Kitchen which is a food court with different eateries side by side. These included Japanese curries and stirfries, Mexican, hamburgers, etc. You secure a table then go and order.

http://i1203.photobucket.com/albums/bb390/gecko290/Tokyo/Ikspiarikitchen.jpg

http://i1203.photobucket.com/albums/bb390/gecko290/Tokyo/Ikspiarikitchen2.jpg

DD and I ended up choosing chicken stir-fry noodles cooked while we watched and DH got a hamburger and vegetables that came in a sizzling skillet. Again I liked the fact there was soap and water provided to wash your hands near the utensil dispenser and ice cold water and cups to serve yourself.

DH burger

http://i1203.photobucket.com/albums/bb390/gecko290/Tokyo/IMG_2006.jpg

Stirfry noodles with very hot ginger and shallots on the side

http://i1203.photobucket.com/albums/bb390/gecko290/Tokyo/IMG_2005.jpg

continued next post

Aussie Wendy
05-13-2012, 10:41 PM
Rather than linger and shop we wanted to get back to watch the fireworks from our balcony figuring we’d have the perfect view so we picked up some breakfast supplies from the supermarket opposite (Seijo Ishii) and a bakery (possibly Piaria) that had delicious cakes and quiches and caught the monorail, regretting we hadn’t bought a 3 day pass this afternoon. Snuggled in waiting with tea and chocolate we watched the volcano erupt and guessed what was happening with Fantasmic as lights strobed and the music played

http://i1203.photobucket.com/albums/bb390/gecko290/Tokyo/IMG_2010.jpg

http://i1203.photobucket.com/albums/bb390/gecko290/Tokyo/IMG_2008.jpg

Love the full moon in this shot

http://i1203.photobucket.com/albums/bb390/gecko290/Tokyo/IMG_2014.jpg

and another more blurry

http://i1203.photobucket.com/albums/bb390/gecko290/Tokyo/IMG_2013.jpg

but then…what no fireworks. Nup-it was a windy night and we presume they were cancelled. Rather disappointed-how often do we get a room with a view! We hit the sack ready for our big day at DisneySea tomorrow.

And since that was where I started, this is where I end. Great trip full of lots of new experiences. We feel our next visit would be much easier as we know our way around things now but that's always the way venturing to a country for the first time. To conclude the symobl of our spring holiday: a cherry blossom

http://i1203.photobucket.com/albums/bb390/gecko290/Tokyo/IMG_7782.jpg

zanzibar138
05-13-2012, 11:40 PM
Thank you so much for sharing your experience! It has made Japan go up a few notches in my list of places to visit :thumbsup2

PrincessInOz
05-14-2012, 12:42 AM
We've come full circle to the end. :sad1:


Thanks for the pictures and for sharing your trip with us.

battymum
05-14-2012, 09:15 PM
Thanks so much - I am going to go back and read the whole thing start to finish. (or finish to nearly finish)

DH said to me the other day maybe we should hold off on Japan until we can go without the children - I am going to show him this TR and get him reinspired.(is that a word?)

Loved it!!!

BecBennett
05-16-2012, 05:05 AM
http://i1203.photobucket.com/albums/bb390/gecko290/Tokyo/IMG_7831.jpg


Is that a thumb?!? :rotfl2:

Do you recommend staying at a Disney resort as apposed to making the trip over from Central Tokyo on the days you want to visit the parks? What's the price comparison to staying at a Disney resort instead of in Tokyo?

What's the name of the TDL fire works show? Is it scheduled for every night?

Thanks.

Aussie Wendy
05-21-2012, 06:13 AM
"Is that a thumb?!?"
Now you mention it....glad we didn't notice that at the time!
It wasn't very tasty either-some of the other selections were better.

We found it handy staying close - didn't have to get up as early to get to rope drop when the parks are quietest. The Disney hotels themselves look gorgeous -especially Miracosta but out of my league unless I got a super deal. Tokyo hotels seemed cheaper and we paid about $30/per night less plus breakfast included for our Tokyo hotel compared to staying at a partner hotel on site (Sheraton Grande Tokyo Bay). It took us about 45 mins on a Sunday afternoon to get there from central Tokyo so you need to allow I guess an hour each way compared to 5 mins on the monorail from our partner hotel.

The actual fireworks show at Disney Resort is slack-lasts maybe 10 mins or less and it is designed to be seen from both parks so not over the castle or anything. It was called Disney Magic in the Sky. Fantasmic is the evening show at DisneySea-several differences to the US parks-we really liked it and we saw if from behind as we were up in the fortress battlements at the time. Not sure if it is on every night but seemed to be most nights. At Disneyland their big evening show is Disneyland Dreamlights Electrical Parade - we weren't there at night to see it and it isn't on every night but I have seen pics on Youtube and it looks spectacular-better than the Electrical parade that is or was? on at WDW selected nights.