We are back, and I am jotting down a few things quickly while my mind is still fresh.
First off: thanks to the many Japanophiles here on Fodors who infected us with their enthusiasm: hawaiiantraveller, kimjapan, DonTopaz, mrwunrfl, and others.
Air itinerary: Flew to LAX as a gateway.
Flew to ITM via HND (Tokyo Haneda) and took bus from ITM to Kyoto.
Returned from Tokyo Haneda on the overnight flight to LAX, and went home after 2 overnights in LA.
Some remarks on air travel:
*I am afraid that we suffered badly from jet lag this trip. On the one hand, by flying first to LAX and overnighting, we were able to pick up ANA's overnight flight the following evening to Tokyo Haneda, which allowed us to use the following morning to commute by air to Osaka (Itami) and thence by bus to Kyoto. However, in hindsight, I wonder if taking the daytime flight to NRT (Tokyo Narita) and overnighting there before proceeding to Kyoto might have been better. As it was, we wound up being up for almost 48 hours from the time we woke up in LA to the time we hit the sheets in our Kyoto hotel, save what we snatched in the way of naps on the overnight flight. I'd hoped that this would help us adjust quickly to adjusting to a 12 time zone switch, by virtue of being so tired we'd fall asleep no matter what our first night, but the price paid in net loss of sleep was high. We enjoyed Kyoto, but our progress was slow as we were still recuperating, and I think an extra day just to offset this jet lag effect would have been a wise idea. Heck, an extra day in Kyoto is I suspect always a good idea. But more on that later.
**On the other hand, the return from Japan worked very well, as we got in a last full day in Tokyo instead of being obliged to head for the airport in the early afternoon. We also loved Haneda International, the facilities are spanking new and it's easy to spend time there. Once back in LA, we had no trouble falling asleep, although getting up the next morning was a bit tough - but it did help to force us back to North American time.
*** We loved ANA (All Nippon Airways). Very professional and courteous staff.
We got very efficient use of our 7 day JR Pass between Kyoto and Tokyo.
We also were very glad for the small compass key chain I brought along, for those places, such as the interior of large rail stations, where GPS won't work. I kid you not, I think we'd still be in Shinjuku station if we hadn't consulted the compass!
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