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Trip Report A Three Week Adventure in Eight Places

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I’ve been interested in Japan ever since I’d written a report on kabuki in the 8th grade. My husband Fred has been uninterested in Japan ever since putting into port there a dozen times during the Viet Nam War (he was the ship’s doc). Last year I littered the house with colorful travel books on Japan and we watched TV programs on Japan. It was an NHK program on the Spring Takayama Festival that won him over. We were a go.

Once we decided on the places we wanted to visit, the hard work/fun of itinerary planning began. I am forever grateful for the help so many Fodors posters offered (Kavey,kya, hawaiiantraveler,fromDC,Kathie, Reading54,filmwil,Mrwunfl,rhkkmk and others).
This led to the following itinerary:
4 days Tokyo
2 days Takayama
3 days Kanazawa
2 days Nara
5 days Kyoto
2 days Koyasan
1 day Hiroshima
1 day Miyajima
2 days Tokyo

We would rather see a few things at a leisurely pace than hurriedly see every praised temple and shrine. And we are mindful of energy conservation, DH is 78 1/2 and I am 71. We particularly wanted to experience how life is lived and something of the traditional arts.

We used miles to book BC seats on ANA. I began booking hotels/ryokans four months out. I bought JR 21 day passes (actually vouchers that you redeem for passes once in Japan) three months ahead. I made reservations for kaiseki meals two months in advance.

Day 1 Tuesday October 4th
Much of the four days in Tokyo were lost in transition. The heat (mid to high 80s) and high humidity along with unremitting jet lag dimmed my appreciation of aspects of what I saw and experienced. Upon arrival at Haneda we got yen from an ATM then took a taxi to our hotel.

At Tokyo Station we exchanged our vouchers for the 21 day JR pass. The station is HUGE. The crowds more bustling than at Macy's flagship Manhattan store the day after Christmas. Several things struck me on the train besides the hustle bustle. They are immaculate, you could just about eat off the floor. Not even scuff marks. Passengers quietly attend to their cellphones, earbuds in place.

We stored our luggage and headed for the famous fish market. Lots of vendors catering to tourists outside the market itself. Admission to the wholesale area didn't open until 9, if you’d missed the 5 am opening. By 9 am there was nothing much to see. I guess the guide books are right; get there at 5 am to see the auction action.

From the fish market we ambled to the Ginza district. The ladies who lunch were out in force and beautifully appointed. Amid the Chanel, Dior, Celine and similar haute couture houses we found a lunch spot that had the blessed benefit of air conditioning.

We chose Hotel Nawa based on good reviews reviews about location from Trip Advisor. The room was of decent size with the usual appointments. The toilet deserves comment. The seat was heated. I could chose to deliver a douche anterior or posterior. I could press a button to create a toilet flush sound to disguise any personal noise I might make on the can. Enough potty talk. After a shower and nap we had dinner in the hotel dining room. Not recommended.

Day 2
We are just getting the hang of the train system. And I must ask the people ask the desk for more specific information on connections. We headed out for the Tokyo National Museum. The museum is housed in a graceful traditional building. Exhibits are well displayed and marked. I liked the display of kimonos; the tiny 11th C tea pot charmed me. From the nearby Starbucks we refilled our tanks and enjoyed watching the small children play.

From the museum area it looked possible to walk to the Yanaka area. Our mifi didn't help . No one around could help, so we gave up after an hour. In other places, strangers were wonderfully helpful but not at this juncture. We ate dinner within two blocks of our hotel at a place that was busy. It was busy because it was really good. We weren’t yet organized enough to bring business cards along or I’d given one in order to get a card with the name of the cafe on it.

Day 3
We walked the tree lined path to Meiji-Jingu Shrine. I enjoyed seeing so many women wearing lovely kimonos as they made their way to the Shinto shrine. I learned that this Emperor adopted Western ways including the appreciation and collection of fine French wines. The shrine was not as elaborate as I had expected, still it was a handsome structure. By the time we walked back along the forested the shrine path, it was quite hot and muggy. We crossed the street and walked one block to the left to Takeshita-dori bazaar. Loads of school girls were evaluating the teen fashions on offer. The school boys were taking goofy photos and buying snacks. In the evening we headed for the lights of Shinjuku area .What fun to see all the neon signs, buildings lit up, people lit up. It was Times Square to the tenth power. I loved the vibrancy, the kenetic energy.

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