My friend and I had found some amazing fares on Japan Airlines from Vancouver to Tokyo in January for a trip from April 21 to May 10th. I spent the next couple of months doing intense research on the internet, and hanging out on the Fodors forum.
When news of the March earthquake/tsunami came out, friends and family wanted (and expected) us to cancel. Our scheduled trip was 6 weeks away at that time, so we told them we would "wait and see", but in the hearts, we were always going to go.
Instead of reading media reports, we spent more time reading personal blogs of people in Japan at the time and monitoring Tokyo's progress that way.
I started a blog and updated while we were there for a couple of main reasons. One, it was a way to let our friends and family know that we were safe. And secondly, I wanted to do my part and spread the word to people to know that it was safe to travel to Japan.
Kristina from this forum was travelling around the same time I was, and I see that she has started her trip report. She has placed some really great tips and observations that I pretty much agree with so I won't repeat that type of information.
However, the only thing that I differ in views is the cost of eating in Japan. That has been a common question from many people--Is it expensive to eat in Japan, especially Tokyo? Maybe it is because Vancouver dining prices have increased so much in the past 5 years or so, and the fact that there is a 12% tax plus a 15-20% tip on top of the bill, that I found eating in Tokyo and Japan really reasonable. The fact that tax is included and there is no tipping made a huge difference in the total dining bill.
We did feel one tiny earthquake while in Tokyo that lasted a few seconds long. It was because we had just gotten into bed so it was quiet. It felt like a train just went by with a couple of creaks but then we realized we were on the 32nd floor so that wasn't possible. But that was it. If we were out and about, I am sure we wouldn't have felt it.
Here is a summary of our Itinerary:
Tokyo - 5 nights at Century Southern Tower
Hakone - 1 night at Fukuzumiro Ryokan
Takayama - 2 nights at Hida Takayama Ouan
Kyoto - 7 nights at Hotel Mume (originally 2 nights in Hiroshima but extended Kyoto stay last minute) - Daytrips to Nara, Uji, Hikone, Hiroshima, Miyajima Island
Kyoto - 1 night at Shiraume Ryokan
Tokyo - 2 nights at Hilton Tokyo Bay (Disneyland/Disneysea)
I read through Tripadvisor reviews thoroughly before picking out these hotels and all of them were just amazing, especially Hotel Mume in Kyoto. We extended our stay there and cancelled our Hiroshima hotel and ended up doing one long day trip to Hiroshima/Miyajima Island instead.
We did try out the luggage delivery service twice and for 2500 yen, we shipped our 2 suitcases between hotels from Tokyo to Hakone, and from Kyoto to Tokyo. Not having to navigate Shinjuku station with a suitcase was luxurious and so well worth the money!
We had an incredible trip. Some of the highlights:
Sushi breakfast at Tsukiji Fish Market
Ryokan experiences in both Hakone and Kyoto
Relaxing in the onsen (Japanese hot springs)
Experiencing Golden Week mayhem
Nishiki Market in Kyoto
Miyako Odori in Kyoto - http://www.miyako-odori.jp/odori_en.html
Dressing up like a Geisha in Kyoto - http://www.maiko-henshin.com/english/index.html
Having an in-room shiatsu massage...wow!
All meals: Hida Beef in Takayama, grilled oysters in Mayajima, Hiroshima-styled okonomiyaki, sukiyaki, shabu-shabu, kaiseki, venturing into an izakaya, and all the snack and sweet stops we made along the way...
Here is a link to my blog: http://travel.suejchiu.com/
If anyone has any questions, or would like me to post restaurant and/or hotel reviews, just let me know. My personal travel journal is a 50 page word document, so I would be happy to share more information but don't want to be information overload!
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