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Trip Report My Japan Travels - Follow-along with me

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Hi All, thought I'd post a day-to-day update of my one-month travels in Japan.

I left IAD Tuesday, May 9th, 2017 at 12:20pm flying first class (which IMO if you can afford to for such a long haul is the way to go) that was scheduled to arrive at Narita at 15:25, May 10th, 2017. The flight was uneventful until an announcement came about mid-flight asking if a doctor was onboard. Fast-forward about one-half hours we're told that the sick passenger was not getting any better so we would be diverting to Anchorage, Alaska for an emergency landing in 20 mins to let off sick passenger. We set down in Anchorage at about 3:30 local time give or take and was met by paramedics to off load sick passenger. Thereafter, the Captain announced that he's securing a new route to get us on the way to Tokyo while the plane is being re-fueled. After about 2hrs. on the ground we received clearance to take off and are on our way. We then continued uneventfully to Narita and touched down at about 5:40, a bit over 2hrs., of our original scheduled touch down. (Haven't never been to Alaska, I'm thinking I can cross it of my bucket list now, after seeing the snow-capped mountains from my window on the plane.)

Clearing immigration went quick and very smoothly. Picked up my luggage and headed upstairs (4th floor) to pickup up my portable WiFi which I rented from Advanced Global Communications. After picking up wifi I then headed to ATM to withdraw some Yen and went back downstairs to purchased my ticket for the Keisei Skyliner at ¥2470 to Nippori Station. I intended after purchasing my ticket to transfer my Japan Rail voucher but the clerk at Keisei counter said I had no time since my train was already on platform 5 and would be leaving in a few minutes at 6:48 so I'll need to run, but run where when there a many of us heading in the same direction to get on the same train. I made it to the platform, which was super easy to find, and onto the waiting train. Once on the train all the bottom racks for storing your luggage was taken, but I was helped by a very kind Japanese gentleman who saw my struggles. I immediately took the first available seat until a couple came on looking at me and their tickets and pointing which made me look at my ticket only to realized that I was in the wrong seat. My reserved seat was 3A. So up I went to seat 3A only to be told no this is not your seat, you're in 8 (will figure that out later). So back I went to a gentleman who I thought was in my seat only to be told no I'm not. Back again to seat 3A pointing to my ticket "no this is my seat". The kind lady, who never seemed perturbed by this crazy lady telling her she's in her seat, finally explained to me that I'm currently in car 6, but my ticket is for car 8, seat 3A. Humbly apologizing for my error, I grabbed my suitcase and glided 2 cars over to car 8, seat 3A and all's right in my train travel world. So note to anyone catching the Keisei Skyliner, all seats are reserved which is being announced on entry on the train, but who's paying attention to this when you're trying to get on and get settled. (In also the confusion, I left my glasses holder in car 6, but only realized this as the train was pulling into Nippori Station...oh well I swapped one case I had)

The train ride to Nippori Station was on time and fast. I would say in less than 20-30 minutes I was at Nippori after leaving Narita. So if you're staying in the Ueno area (Ueno being the last stop) the Keisei Skyliner is fast and cheap option. Once at Nippori, I had told my host that with the lateness and rain (it's now almost 8pm), I would prefer to take a taxi, which she said was okay but call her once I got the taxi so she could give him directions to her studio which was about 5mins away driving and about 10-12 minutes if I'd walked, but with luggage and me being directionally challenged when arriving at a new location, I imagined it would've taken me much longer. The taxi driver stopped on the corner of the street where my host was waiting and cost ¥570. (One note, with this being my only taxi ride so far, the driver never got out to help me put my luggage in the car even after seeing me struggling to lift a heavy suitcase, not even popping the trunk. So not sure if this is standard Japanese taxi practice or not, if it's standard, I guess I won't hold it against him, but common courtesy dictates that such should be done, especially when a woman is struggling to lift a heavy suitcase).

Anyway, I settled in for the night too tired to even venture out to grab something to eat. I made a cup of tea and as tired as I was sleep eluded me so I tried catching up with some work emails and watching a nature documentary on Netflix until I finally decided to turn it off and tried to sleep which I finally did at about 11:30pm.

So that is my travel day 1. It's now 6:15am and I've been up since about 3am, still on USA time and wondering when or if jet leg will set in and kick me down. I have breakfast with my host at 9am and then I'll head over to Ueno Station, which the attendant at Nippori Station told me can exchange my Japan Rail voucher. Then I'll check out this neat neighborhood before my real adventure begins, trying my hand at actually riding the Tokyo subway to meet my Japanese friends for dinner at Yokohama Station, but I'm armed with the Tokyo subway app, Navitime and Japan Travel apps.

Will update my day 2 adventure tomorrow.

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    Thank you guys for following along.

    Day 2: sleep still eludes me. Up earlier than I should be, but hey I'm on vacation so time is of no importance unless you have a specific train to catch.

    Met my host at her office next door for a lovely Japanese-style vegetarian breakfast of tofu, pickled veggies, miso soup, rice and a very savory tart made mostly from tofu and some barley tea. It's becoming very difficult to find decaf coffee here so far.

    After breakfast I decided I'll head to Ueno Station to exchange my Japan Rail voucher, which my host says I can walk to Ueno Park and the Station is also close to park. So off I went and had a chance o enjoy the neighborhood which is mainly older yet modern with many alleys in which one can duct into and explore, I didn't however. Turns out while I was happy the sun was out, it was starting to be uncomfortably too hot for me and I needed a hat (which I hadn't thought to pack) to block some of sun from baking me. I saw a dollar mart across the street and decided to stop in to see if the had any hats. Luckily they had a wide-brimmed black-brown which was perfect. I purchased and put it on. Feeling better I continue on my way and stopped to grab a croissant from a bakery. Ueno Zoo and Park are located right next to each other, never been into Zoos, I bypassed the Zoo and headed for the Park which is as large as I've read it is and lovely. As I entered I stop to take a few pics admiring the park. By this time the croissant I bought was calling for me to take a bite so I sat to enjoy the park while I ate the croissant. I've had many croissants in my life, but this was by far the best croissant I've ever eating. It's was flaky, had just enough butter that the paper bag it was in was not oily and it was deliciously moist. So good it was I decided I'll have to stop on my way back and grab a couple more. After finish eating the croissant, I continued walking through the park still admiring its beauty and watching all the folks who were there either strolling, relaxing, drawing, picnicking, running, etc. the sun was really getting to me despite the hat so I decided to head to Ueno Station, but as I'm heading in that direction it occurred to me that I didn't put the voucher in my back...wholly-crap as Frank Barone would say.

    At this point I'm like it's getting too hot to have to go get the voucher and walk back down here, so I decided that'll head back, get the voucher and walk to Nishi-Nippori Station which is much closer to where I'm staying and take the train back to Ueno Station. Of course, on the was back I had to stop and picked up a couple croissants. When the clerk recognized me I said in my limited Japanese 'oishii' to which she smiled.

    After getting the voucher I headed to Nishi-Nippori where I took the Yamanote Line to Ueno Station. At Ueno I located the Japan Rail Pass counter, exchanged the voucher for the Pass and went to the JR Office (they're located right next to each other) to get my tickets and reserve my seats. After that I just wondered around the station trying to find something to eat before meeting up with my friends for dinner, but nothing vegetarian really jumped out at me so I ended up only purchasing some bottled water and what appeared to be to slices of whole wheat bread wrapped in the package and walked back to the studio. By the time I returned to the studio it was about time to get ready to go meet my friends.

    My friends had gave me instructions to take train back to Ueno, then take JR Utsunomiya line to Numazu leaving at 14:20 and get off at Yokohama Station at 16:53. However, when I got to Ueno the tracks (13-15) that was listed for the Utsunomiya didn't make sense so I went to the JR Office to inquire and was told I needed track 7 (glad I asked). This now caused another cunnundrum as I'd used my Suica card to enter Nishi-Nippori to get to Ueno and I was still inside the system, so again I headed to the JR Office to inquire if I could use the Suica card or would I be able to use my JR pass to get to Yokohama. The clerk told me I can use my JR Pass and personally took me over to the gate to get a refund to my Suica card and told me to now go to track 7. As I was heading to track 7, I head heels running behind only to turn around and saw it was the clerk who took me back to the window haven't realized that my Pass was set to be activated on Saturday the 13th not the 11th and expired on the 2nd. So they stamped it to activate the 11th but the expired date is still the same. Of course, I didn't realized this until after I was on the train. So not sure what to do since I already have my reserved seat tickets.

    Anyway, I arrived at Yokohama Station to have coffee with my friend while we waited for her husband. We decided to have coffee at Starbucks, but there was not a seat to be had for 2 people. I told my friend the Starbucks here is worst then the ones in the USA because I've never not been able to find a seat at any Starbucks I've went to. So we found another cafe to have our coffee while we waited and catch up. Once her husband arrived we went to the Yokohama Sky Building 29th floor and had a 6-7 course meal of mainly vegetarian dishes with lots of tofu at Umenohana. It was quite good.

    End of day 2. Day 3 coming next.

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    Are you a crafter/sewer? Nippori (walkable from Nishi Nippori) is also known as Fabric Town and is a mecca for anyone who works with textiles. Back to your first day - you must have got the only rude taxi driver in all of metropolitan Tokyo! Will follow your trip with interest.

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    Thank you all for continuing to follow along.

    @Boveney, I'm actually staying close to the Nishi-Nippori Station but since the Keisei Skyliner only stops at Nippori my host asked that I get off there. I definitely found the taxi driver behavior very strange, if not rude.

    @mrwunrfl, since I haven't yet been to Alaska and although it's my plan to do so someday and in the event I don't get a chance too, I may as well check it off now.

    @thursdaysd, I love hats and have bought quite a few for those hot days.

    Day 3, was rather uneventful as I felt the jetlag finally settling in. I met my friend Mari in Kanagawa for an early lunch by taking the train from Nishi Nippori (JR Keihin Tohoku line to Ofuna) and got off at Shinbashi and from Shinbashi transferred to (JR Yokosuka line to Kurihama) and met her at Musashikosugi Station. Since I had my JR Pass she gave me those directions because it was much quicker. Plus she enjoyed seeing how well I would use the trains here. She's beeen very impressed so far. In fact, after spend a few hours with her I made my way too Ginza which really impressed her, but making it to Ginza was through trial and error as it wasn't where I intended to go but it was a blessing as I found another way of getting back to Nishi Nippori without using the Yamanote line, which really impressed Mari. At Ginza, I wondered around a bit finding it not much to my liking with all the high end shops and fancy expensive cars. With jetlag now knocking on my door I head to Ginza Station where I discovered I could take the Chiyoda Line directly to Nishi Nippori, which was quick and oh so easy.

    Walking back to the studio I wondered the Yanaka neighborhood where a portion of the street is blocked off to vehicle traffic allowing you to wonder the alleys lined with shops. This is where I picked up a couple nice hats. I also stopped at an Indian restaurant and picked up an order of sumosas before heading in for the day and night. At the studio I ask my sumosas which were really good, showered and before long I was out for the count sleeping through the night, which was good du e to having an early day.

    At this moment I'm on the Shinkansen to Mishima (where she said it's raining) meeting Mari and her family for an overnight in Izu before going to Kanazawa Sunday.

    Btw, transferring at Tokyo Station for the Shinkansen was super easy. In fact, Japan train travel is not as difficult as I thought it would be.

    More to come.

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    Hi, following along also.

    Son took Japanese in college so we are thinking about a trip to Japan together. My DH does not like to travel as much as I and at my age of 71 am hesitant to travel alone as I fear I'll fall and break a hip or something.

    I wasn't keen to visit Japan as I thought they eat a lot of fish so am interested in your vegetarian meals.

    Stay safe and have fun.

    Karen

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    I'm not concerned about safety, I am just not comfortable traveling alone in a country where I cannot speak the language. I use Grand Circle Travel and OAT but plan excursions on my own while on these tours as I often do prefer to do my own thing.

    I want someone who can get me to a hospital and translate for me if something happens. I am a chicken.

    I so admire you who travel solo. I wish I was brave enough to do it. Since my son speaks a little Japanese, I feel comfortable planning a trip with him, otherwise I would use GCT/OAT.

    Karen

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    Hi Karen and thanks for following along. After having the pleasure of meeting you, I have to say you look wonderful at 71 and please put your fears of falling in Japan to rest. I am absolutely loving my time here in Japan. As thursdaysd and mrwunrfl have said Japan is truly a great country for the elderly who I've seen out and about on the trains, biking and walking just taking their time (hunched over and all) so I'm sure you'll be fine traversing on your own if your son or husband can't join you.

    With respect to vegetarian meals, well that is another situation all together. I'm fortunate to have my Japanese friends here who's been absolutely the best knowing that I'm vegetarian and ordering for me, but for the few hours I've been on my own it was difficult. I have eaten lots of bread here which I don't do when I'm at home as I bake my own bread, but the Japanese bread is unlike any bread I've eaten which is so good. I was happy to run into an Indian restaurant which thankfully I'm at least familiar with their food.

    My host was even kind enough to write down in Japanese that I want decaf coffee but I have not have to use it as yet.

    I'm now in Izu with my friends and after leaving here today will be on my own until I return to Tokyo in June and will have them with me. They took me to the grocery store yesterday to familiarize me with what I will need to purchase which is a godsend. So I was able to buy decaf coffee, cream, oatmeal, granola, raisins, etc. Mari will also write and draw that I'm vegetarian so I can have with me. I've already emailed my host in Kyoto that I'm a vegetarian and he said not to worry he will point me in the right direction. I'm also armed with the happycow app which can let you know where the closest vegan/vegetarian restaurants are, although I haven't had to use that yet.

    Some vegetarian dishes I've had thus far are brown rice, the most amazing Brussel sprouts ever, cabbage slaw, carrot and ginger soup (delish, wish I could have bagged that), of course, tofu, vegetable samosas and miso soup. Mari took me a the restaurant in Mishima where she got married, which required reservations, and was super kind to let them know ahead of time that I'm vegetarian so when we arrived I didn't need to order anything. The lunch consisted of carrot/ginger soup (this one even better than the first), the best Caesar salad and a mixed of veggies on a potato gallete finished with gelatin type pudding dessert.

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    Today, Sunday May 14th, 2017, I'm on the Shinkansen Hakutaka headed to Kanazawa.

    Yesterday I arrived at Mishima to pouring rain (rained all day) where I was met by Mari and Kengo for an overnight in Izu. Before driving to Izu Mari wanted to take me for lunch at the restaurant where her and Kengo had their wedding reception La table de Kudo. Before arriving Mari made reservations (which is require) and informed them that I was a vegetarian.

    After lunch I told Mari I'd forgotten my tennis shoes and would like to go running while I'm in Kanazawa and Kyoto as I had I inquired about running areas close by. We drove to a mall where I purchased a pair of running sneakers. After that we head to the grocery store so Mari (who was determined to cook for me) could pick up some groceries as well as showing me how to find what I would need for my stay in Kanazawa, Kyoto and Hiroshima. At the grocery store I picked up oatmeal, decaf coffee, creame, sugar, granola, almond milk and raisins. She also showed me (and I took pics) of other items I would need. We then hit the road for our drive to the Izu Peninsula where they'd rented an airbnb with a wonderful view of the Pacific Ocean. It was hard to enjoy the drive as the rain continued to come down. On any other day, the drive would have been very scenic, driving into the tree lined mountains via winding and very narrow roads. We arrived at our host at about after 6:30. The host had given them very detailed instructions once they arrived which was followed to enter the house. The house proved to be everything as advertised. With most of the day gone, it was time to get dinner ready so Mari suggested I take a shower while she prepared dinner. I offered to help but she says I trust her to make dinner.

    Mari's dinner consisted of a delicious mix salad, spinach marinated in sesame dressing, grilled mackerel, rice, miso soup (I've been enjoying this soup as I've never had it before, especially the seaweed) and some pickled marinated vegetables of artichoke, mushrooms and tomatoes. Everything I ate was delicious sans the mackerel.

    Since we lost so much the day before we wanted to get an early start the next day so after dinner we all turned in for the night.

    We awoke today to no rain, had a lovely Japanese styled breakfast of more mackerel, rice, miso soup, Japanese omelette, green tea and Mari wanted me to try fermented soybean which she says has some good health benefits and staple in Japan. I'd told her I would at least give it try and while it's not something I'll like eat again it turned out to have an interesting taste with its sticky gooy-ness and I ate it all which really pleased Mari.

    After breakfast we drive up to see Mount Omuro which was so amazing. Cold and windy offering 360 degree panoramic views of the entire Izu Peninsula. Only thing missing was to see Fuji-san who was mysteriously missing. Having had to catch the 12:23 Shinkansen from Mishima we headed back hoping to avoid any traffic. Driving proved to be a bit difficult for me, not sure if the altitude was getting to me from the decent but I was starting to feel very nauseous and actually tasted the fermented soybean trying to make an appearance, but once we leveled off I felt better.

    We arrived at Mishima with only a few minutes to spare before the train arrived. And this is where I'm writing my report from. All in all, in enjoyed my few days in Tokyo but especially seeing and spending time with Mari and Kengo. My overall take of Tokyo is that I loved it and am looking forward to my return where I'll spend 4 days including a day in Kamakura and shopping at Kappadashi. I especially enjoyed getting around on the trains that runs like fine tuned machines and probably rival train travels in Switzerland for their promptness.

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    You should be proud of yourself. Natto is very much an acquired taste, and not many people even get past the smell, much less the texture!

    Sounds like you are off to a great start. Hope all continues to go well.

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    @lcuy, thank you. For me the smell wasn't all that bad nor the taste for that matter but I don't think it'll be something I'll be adding to my diet.

    Kanazawa

    I arrived in Kanazawa to beautiful sunny skies and was met at the station by my host who'd offered to pick me up if I can in before 5 since he had an appointment at 6pm. I mentioned to him that it'd rain nonstop in Mishima and the Izu Peninsula and he said I was very lucky because its been the rainiest time in Kanazawa up until the day before I arrived (lucky indeed). Mari had mentioned that she thought Kanazawa Station to be the most beautiful in Japan. Since I still have quite a few more to go through, I'll say it's definitely the most beautiful one I've been through thus far.

    We then headed to the car and made our way to the apartment while my host gave me a brief tour of all the attractions as we passed among them Omi-cho Market, Daiwa Department store and expensive shopping area(as he put it), the business district area, Hirokoji/Teramachi/Nomachi (Ninja Temple), Kanazawa Castle Park, 21st Century Museum, Kenroku-en Garden.

    We arrived at the apartment my home for the next few days. The apartment is in a perfect location across from a Junior High School (easy landmark) and about a 3-4 mins. walk from Kenroku-en Garden and Kanazawa Castle. (In fact, this has been my running route each morning during my stay so far).

    After showing me around the apartment which is more a studio and small by Japanese standard but perfect for me, I headed out to explore the area. I walked along the main road Ohori Dori Ave pass Kenroku-en Garden and at Kanazawa Castle and at Kanazawa Castle Park what do I run into but a wine festival being held at the park. Japanese with their glasses of wine and food sitting out having picnics, belly dancers on stage showing the crowds how to belly dance and everyone dancing and singing along. I could tell that many have been there a while and had their fill and re-fills of wine because quite a few stumbled into me. Unfortunately, I'm no longer drinking but boy do I wish I could've sampled some of the Kanazawa wine. I hung out there for a while before continuing on. I then found the Tourist Office to inquire about going to Shirakawa-go where the kind attendant give a map and pointed out where I could purchase the tickets. By this time it was getting dark so I decided to look for something for dinner. This I must say is turning out to be more difficult than I anticipated, finding vegetarian meals. Finally after stopping at a few restaurants inquiring if they had any entrees that didn't have meat already in it, I settled on a vegetarian sub from Subways. With sandwich in had I headed back to the apartment ate my sandwich with a cup of tea, took a shower Nd it was lights out.

    Next morning I woke at about 5:30 and decided with all the bread I'd consume so far, I'll go for a run before starting my day. My run took me up Ohori Dori Ave where I turned right through the Castle Park through the neighborhood behind the Castle Park where I ran into a group of Japanese older women exercising. As I slowed down to watch them they motioned for me to join them which I did and they were also so excited as was I. Although the instructor they were listening to on their radio was in Japanese, for the next 30 mins. I was able to follow along by watching their movements which I picked up rather quickly much to their delight. We worked out doing a series of mostly arm and leg exercises that includes lots of stretching. After we were finished they asked if I was American and when I said yes, they all started laughing in appreciation and as I thank them in Japanese they all (every last one) give me a high-five. While everything on this trip so far has been a highlight and memorable, that will no doubt be in the top 5. While I've heard is that Japanese tend to be shy, I have to say there was nothing shy about these ladies.

    As I continued with my run beaming with excitement I couldn't helped but stop and text some of my friends back home who too were as excited as I was to have experienced something like that.

    Arriving at the apartment I made myself a bowl of oatmeal and a cup of decaf coffee which I'd purchased while at the grocery store with Mari and brought with me, showered and headed out for my first full day in Kanazaw. First stop was the Kanazawa Castle Park where I (and must've been hundreds others) spent must've been well over 3 hours just walking around it's ground admiring everything inch of it. Then I headed across the bridge to Kenroku-en Garden where I thought I'd died and ended up in heaven. I cannot and will not attempt to find the adjectives to describe my feelings walking around this majestic, beautiful and serene (okay I found a few) piece of nature and art. It's exquisite in its entirety, so beautiful it is that I couldn't bare to leave. If I spent over 3 hours at the Castle, I lost track of how long I was there. In fact, I was there so long I forgot I needed to eat and when I finally did and made my way to try and find something to eat, which wasn't going to well I wished I was still in that enchanted garden that made me forgot I needed to eat. I ended up at H&M store, not to buy anything but because I saw a sign that a restaurant was serving a buffet so I thought there must be something on the buffet I could eat.

    As I walked in I was met by a nice host and when I showed her my card in Japanese saying I was a vegetarian, she took me to the buffet where she showed me that I can have anything on the buffet which included pizza, but no veggies pizza. Exasperated, I decided a salad it will be. As I sat down I saw next to me were to American guys who were also wearing the same black shirt as the workers so to went over and asked if they worked there only to be told no they go to school here. Turns out of of them was fluent in Japanese. The attendant explained to him that I should keep an eye out because the bring out different items and if anything comes out that didn't have meat she'll let me know. However, the only thing that came out without meat was a pizza with cheese and corn. I enjoyed my salad and left still hungry.

    At this time it was a bit after 5, so I headed to the bus stop getting on the JR bus (figure I'll use my JR pass rather than spend the ¥200) to Kanazawa Station to secure my ticket for Shirkawa-go today but all the bus seats on the time I wanted to return were sold so I purchased a ticket for Wednesday. After getting my ticket I was still hungry and thought I'd better get something to eat for dinner so I headed to the Kanazawa Station to see what I could find. Nothing really piqued my interest until I saw a restaurant named Chili (not like our Chili's) advertising as "vegeful curry linguine", my heart soared as I'm thinking finally a veggie restaurant. However turns out the sauce contained meat. This too would be on my top 5 of memorable experiences. With my google translate I was explaining to the clerk that I didn't want the meat and if she could make it without meat, but she's not able to explain it to me properly. Her manager is on the phone and one of the other clerks I assume who was off or had just gotten off but was walking by came over and the 3 of us was all trying to explain what I wanted which we finally figured out. When the manager got off the phone they explained to her what I wanted, she in turn called someone, I'm assuming the owner and came back and said yes, we'll make it without meat. I then proceeded to pay for the meal and sat and waited for about 10 mins. when the clerk bought a hot bowl filled linguine in the curry-type sauce topped with a bed of lettuce. I don't know how to add a picture otherwise I would post a before and after pic. As I sat there admiring the smell of it, I took a fork full and burned my mouth but I didn't care, it was so delicious, I cleaned the bowl. I then proceeded to the JR bus stop and headed back to the apartment full, where I took a shower and it was lights out.

    Sorry for any typos caused by auto correct as I'm on my iPad sitting in a Starbucks.

    More to come...

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    Sorry that eating is proving difficult. Would veggie tempura work? If you eat eggs I think okonomiyaki might and there was a very good okonomiyaki place in Kanazawa when I was there. I did see a few Indian restaurants last year, one of them was in a food court in a department store.

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    Glad you are having a good time.

    Your story of exercising with the older ladies reminded me of a park in China where a large group of women were exercising to music. One song was the Macarena which they weren't doing, so I joined them and showed them the dance. They picked it up quite quickly and I received a lovely applause when we were done.

    Even before I became a vegetarian 30 years ago I wasn't adventurous as far as food goes. I only recently started eating Mexican food, I really think I'll have a problem with food in Japan. In China I was mostly served a vegetable that looked like cooked spinach. Day after day after day, lol.

    If we go, I'll pack stuff to eat.


    Karen

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    " In China I was mostly served a vegetable that looked like cooked spinach. Day after day after day, lol."

    Were you on a tour? I got some lovely stir frys by going into the kitchen and pointing at what I wanted. I have veggie friends who lived in China for three years, I am quite sure they didn't eat spinach all the time!

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    Yes, I was on a tour with meals served family style and this dish was pointed out as vegetarian. Hardly any other options, if I am recalling correctly, but not really a big deal.

    Karen

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    @kfreeland900, thanks for following along.

    @KRNS, despite the food issue (which is getting better), I'm having an amazing time and it's such a wonderful country and people. So don't let the food issue dissuade you.

    @thursdaysd, haven't seen much tempura yet. I did walked by a restaurant that was advertising it but with meat. I meant to go back and asked if they had vegetable tempura but didn't get around to it.

    Today I leave Kanazawa for Matsumoto. But I have to say I fell in love with Kanazawa. The weather has continued to be very much spring-like minus the rain. Yesterday I did a day trip to Shirakawa-go, by taking the bus from Kanazawa Station which takes about 1 hr. to get to Shirakawa-go and what a lovely time I had. Gorgeous scenery and landscapes with jaw dropping vistas every which way the eyes can behold. (Before coming to Japan I was nerve racking myself trying to find the perfect walking shoes/sandals from the Keens, Tevas, Chacos, Naot, you name it I tried them all. Then one day while on Merrel's website I saw a pair on sale for $34 and thought what the heck for that price it won't hurt to purchase. After receiving them they were light weight but I didn't care much for the insole and felt it needed more lift so I took out the insoles from a pair of shoes I have and wah-la added the extra lift and support I needed. I also didn't want to pack my Keen hiking shoes due to them being so heavy and bulky so I purchased as pair of Keen sandals which were also on sale at Nordstrom. These 2 have turned out to be the best thing ever in walking shoes. I've only worn the Keens once relying mostly on the Merrels which are as light as a feather and offer great support especially with the addition of the extra insoles). I mentioned the shoes only to say that I walked must've been everything nook and cranny of the Shirakawa-go village (trying to avoid the hoard of Chinese tourists that had also descended there...no offense to any Chinese) in the time before I needed to be back at the bus station. I took too many pictures to count because at every turn that was something that was worth photographing. I kept imagining what it would be like in the winter with the snow covered roofs with those giant mountains as a backdrop and told myself I'll need to come back during the winter time just to see is winter wonderland.

    I stopped briefly to grab something to eat which was my first time trying soba noodles with fried tofu, seaweed, radish and green onions in a delicious hot broth. Happy that I didn't go hungry trying to find a vegetarian meal, I continued exploring the area until it was time to get to the bus station for the return to Kanazawa. At the bus station I met a lovely family from Australia who were spending the night at a ryokan who were also vegetarians and came with their cards in Japanese (which they give me one even though I told them I had one) that's says "I'm a vegetarian. I can't eat meat, poultry or fish including dashi. Eggs and dairy are ok. Thank you for understanding." After telling them that it's been hard for me, the wife whom I gather is not really fully vegetarian, although of of the sons is gluten free, mentioned if that was the case if she had to eat fish she would. The husband did say that it was his choice to become vegetarian because of the treatment of animals. I suppose we all have our reasons why we become that vegetarian, personal choice, dietary or allergies. After talking with them some more, turns out the husband was born in Oklahoma, grew up in Missouri, lived in Baltimore for a time before moving to Australia. My bus pulled into the station so we bid each other goodbye and says that maybe our paths would cross in Kyoto where they were heading to after Shirakawa-go and where I'll be heading on Monday. So who knows our paths may cross.

    Arriving back at Kanazawa Station a little after 5pm, the next JR bus wasn't scheduled to leave until 6:20 so I decided to grab some dinner inside the Station before going back to the apartment since there's not much in the area. I ran into J.S. Pancake Cafe and after looking at the menu I saw something that piqued my interest, a salad of Avocado, smoke salmon (I asked if the could minus the salmon), lentils and black beans with baked potato fries so delicious. With my belly full, I headed to the bus stop where the JR bus was waiting. I got on the bus without paying any attention to its destination and because it was now dark outside, didn't paid any attention to the streets, until I realized the English translation was no longer being announced, but still I should've also realized there were only local Japanese on the bus. At this point I said to myself "hey Dorothy you're not in Kansas anymore", but figured the bus is going in another direction and would eventually end up back on Ohori Dori Ave by Kenroke-en Garden my stop, but the bus just kept going. Eventually with only 3 other passengers on board, I got up and asked the driver who don't speak much English if he was going to Kenroku-en for which he replied no, now that I understand. So I say "Kanazawa Station?" and he said yes. So I went back to my seat as we continued until we came to the final stop when the last passenger got off and it was just me and the driver on board. He waited a few minutes signing his arrival sheet and then checked the bus for anything that was left and then we pulled off back towards Kanazawa Station. Now paying full attention I got off at the only stop I recognized which is Omi-cho Market and walked the 15 mins back to the apartment. Turns out the JR bus that goes my route ends at 5:40. In all of this I never panicked. Not sure if it's because my friend Mari is always telling me not to be too afraid because Japan is safe or if it because I knew the bus will be going back to the station, but I'll say that there probably is that many who can say they got a sightseeing seeing tour of the real neighborhoods where the locals live. As the bus was driving through the different neighborhoods I saw kids riding their bikes coming from school with their headlights and white helmets which reminded me of ET and made me lol. All in all, an interesting end to a beautiful day.

    Back at the apartment I started to pack my bags for departure the next day, showered and went to be. I got up at 5am and went for my last run in Kanazawa head back to the apartment did my last laundry and got ready to leave, took the right JR bus to Kanazawa Station where I am now writing this while waiting for my train to Matsumoto.

    Matsumoto up next. Thanks for following along and pardon the errors.

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    Matsumoto 5/18 to 5/22

    Left the Kanazawa Station on the Shinkansen Hakutaka 562 which departed at 11:56am with a transfer at Nagano where we arrived at 13:18. I think took the Shinkansen Shinano 16 which left at 14:04 with an arrival at Matsumoto at 14:52.

    I arrived at Matsumoto to beautiful almost like Kanazawa except it has been much warmer here. I've truly lucked out with the weather thus far on this portion of my trip after leaving Izu. Mari says it's been raining a lot in Tokyo. I hope the rain is gone by my return in early June (although June is the beginning of rainy season...fingers crossed). Once I got downstairs and realized I didn't know which exit the hotel would be the closest exit East/West. So I pulled out my iPad and plugged in the hotel name and the coordinates came up to head east. So head east and make a right and the hotel with .2 km away. Well, I did as google directed but ended up going well past .2 km. I then stopped a Japanese lady and showed her the hotel name on my iPad and asked if she knew where it was. After looking at the map she said it's the other way, so I headed in the opposite direction but still did not see the hotel so I stopped a gentlemen and asked him if he knew, after looking at the map he told me to follow him where we crossed the street, walked just a couple minutes and turned down a side street and wah-lah there is Hotel Mor-Schein. Mari had called them for me before I left Tokyo and they'd told her that they were directly across the street from the Matsumoto Station but not visible to the eyes so now I understand what they meant. The hotel is indeed across the street from the station and for those who may want to stay here, which I highly recommend, at the east exit of the station go left and cross at the light which is directly in front of the 7-11 (hallelujah), head left and at the end of that block turn right and there's the hotel. Hotel Mor-Schein is a small boutique hotel (and the only hotel I'm staying in on this trip, using AirBnB and a guesthouse) which has everything you will need. The staff is friendly albeit they don't speak much English but they're very helpful. The hotel is also within walking distance to all the sites. The room is your standard Japanese size room, which doesn't bother me, but has all the amenities one would need.

    Finally arriving at the hotel, I told the attendant my name and she immediately recognized my name because my luggage which I'd sent from Kanazawa had already arrived and was in my room. She then told me my bill for the next 4 days which I needed to pay now and thankfully for the 7-11 next door as I didn't have enough to settle my bill, so I told her I'll be right back and ran to 7-11 to get enough to cover my bill and ran back. All checked in I head to my room, settled in just a few minutes and headed out to scope out the surroundings. One thing I was happy to see as I exited the station was Mos Burger which made my veggie heart so happy. As I hadn't eating anything all day, that was my first stop ordering their soy patty burger with onion rings which was recommended by Mari as her favorite. Once my order arrived, I gobbled it down with some orange juice and found that I was still hungry. Japanese sizes are nothing like our sizes, the burger was eaten in 3 bites and the onion rings were about 6 if that much...lol. Still needing something else I headed to another of Mari's favorites and also located as you exit the station Vie De France and ordered an apple turn over (again very tiny) and sat and eat that. Feeling somewhat full (not really but will save that dinner), I continue to explore the area and thought I'd head to the castle. I went in the direction of the sign saying Matsumoto National Treasure which I assumed was the castle, but may have gotten off track somewhere because I didn't see the castle and ended up following a group, who I assume was heading in the castle direction but later realized they were coming from the castle because I didn't go far enough. Oh well, since it was getting late, I decided the castle can wait after all, I have 4 days to see it. I ended up wandering around Nakamachi-dori street and the many other side streets where most of the merchants were closing up for the evening, admiring the many canals/bridges that seems to run the length of the city even crossing over the other red-canal bridge. After all this wandering and with it getting late, I was again hungry (again I hadn't eaten anything before arriving) so headed back in the direction of the hotel along another street and I ventured upon a restaurant Curry House CoCo where the menu was advertising vegetable curry on rice, excited to see this, I went inside and was asked to take a seat. Once seated I asked if they had an English menu to which the waitress said yes and brought one over. I immediately saw that they had a combination of vegetable curry dishes so I ordered one consisting of yams, carrots and string beans. After placing my order it gave me a chance to really look at their menu and turns out there was a special insert advertising vegan/vegetarian options (another hallelujah). My food arrived and in my excitement I motioned by pointing to the gentlemen that brought out my food (not that he really understood what I was saying) that I was happy I can order without meat. At the mention of no meat he finally understood that I didn't want any meat and luckily too because the dish he brought out contained meat in the curry sauce. Apologizing he said he'll be back. Another few minutes and he arrived with a fresh plate of the curry vegetables with rice and boy was it good and worth it. Thoroughly satisfied and happy that I'd found two options for eating in the short time I was in Matsumoto, I head back to the hotel showered and it was lights out.

    Coming up next, my amazing day at Kamikochi...

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    Still following along. The places you are visiting sound beautiful and you do a good job painting the images. I've not traveled to the Japanese Alps and beyond so all the places you described are new to me.

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    Thank you for posting directions on finding Hotel Morschein - my houseguests here in Tokyo are taking the train to Matsumoto this morning and have reservations there. I'd forgot that it took me a couple of tries to locate it. So - very timely to find your post! It is supposed to be unseasonably hot in Matsumoto for the next few days (33C predicted today) so depending on when your Kamikochi account is posted, I might suggest they head there.

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    @Boveney, glad that my directions are of help. Yes it's definitely not easy to spot Hotel Mor-Schein from the station or even walking along the street because I passed it when I eventually went in the right direction. Thanks to that kind Japanese gentleman, who I ran into a couple days later and we both said hello recognizing each other. Yes, it's is unbelievably hot here in Matsumoto. Even at 8:45 walking across the street to station I could tell it's going to be a scorcher today. I'm headed to Kyoto now where it appears to be just as warm. Heading to Kamikochi may offer some reprieve, although I couldn't have asked for better weather during my time there, which was perfect. Quite the contrary, I was at Norikura yesterday and it was even extremely warm.

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    @tripplanner, thanks for continuing to follow along.

    May 19th

    Today I decided I'll head to Kamikochi for the day. Upon arrival at the train station I'd read that tickets for the Kamikochi Line train can be purchased from the two machines to the left of the station. At the machine, the keys which are in Japanese, I'm trying to figure out how to purchase my ticket when the kind attendant came over and asked where I was going and when I said Kamikochi he asked if I wanted a one way or round trip and I said round trip. I'd read and had a brochure with me that one could also purchase a 2 day pass so I showed him and he said not here only one way or round trip. He then pressed the English but and hit the button for the Kamikochi round trip ticket which is ¥4500 and told me cash only no credit card. I inserted my money and out pops two tickets, I then proceeded to the gate where another attendant stamped the Matsumoto-Kamikochi ticket and told me track 7 where the train was scheduled to leave at 8:41. At the platform I noticed a lot of young people were also waiting for the train but they were not dressed in uniform like all Japanese kids I'd seen so far, but turns out the train makes a stop at Katani which is also the stop for Matsumoto University. The train leaves Matsumoto to the last stop Shin-Shimashima making stops along the way. The total time is 30 mins.

    We arrived at Shin-Shimashima (forgive me as I've already discarded my brochures with the train/bus schedules so don't have the exact times other than the time the train leaves Matsumoto) station and transfers to the waiting bus for Kamikochi. There's quite a number of us all heading to Kamikochi but I was lucky to snag a window seat on the left side opposite the driver which I felt offered some amazing views going up the mountains. The trains and buses at Shin-Shimashima (like trains/buses in Japan) run on a coordinated schedule so the buses are waiting when the trains arrives with sometimes just a few minutes to spare for wondering or to use the restroom. At the appointed time, the bus takes off. There's many stops along the way some stops are designated stops where passengers can get on from either hiking or when parking at the various car lots (Kamikochi is car free and thankfully so). I loved when the bus starts its climb up the mountains on what to me are the narrowest and windiest (can't be a word) roads I've ever driven on. Winding and climbing our way up the mountains I'm both terrified and excitedly-exhilarated, terrified because sitting at the window that hugs the jaw-dropping-gut-wrenching cliffs below with only a hair of space between the bus and the guardrail that you hope can do a good of a job in stopping the bus should it ever have to take a plunge down the rock-infested-fast-flowing streams below and of course, excitedly-exhilarated to be witnessing some of the most amazing views your eyes can behold. My camera was working overtime and I was texting my friends back home with the pics of how exciting it was and they too were excited. By this time, as we continue our climb and as the roads narrows even more and the turns get even more hair-raising, I was lucky that I didn't have much in way of breakfast because I was beginning to get a little lighthearted and nauseous due to the altitude but it sure didn't stop my excitement. At one point the bus came to a stop for quite a few minutes and I'm wondering what's going on, but turns out that we were about to cross over a tiny bridge area that could only accommodate one vehicle at a time. Apparently the buses communicate with each or maybe there's a sign that I didn't see letting the drivers know when there's traffic already on the bridge-pass.

    We arrived at Taisho Pond and it seems like the entire but emptied out at this viewing stop. I didn't because I wanted to go to the bus terminal at Kamikochi to get my numbered ticket for the return bus. This is highly recommended and sometimes it's so busy that without the numbered ticket (which you get on the bus with by your number) you may not get on a bus if it's full. No standing on the buses for obvious reasons. Once at Kamikochi with hundreds of others who appeared to have come on tour buses, I went to the ticket window and got my number for the return bus, explored some of the souvenir shops and headed in the direction of the famous Kappa-dashi bridge.

    More to come...

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    Kamikochi, con't

    This place literally took my breath away. Even with the thousands that had also descended on this beautiful piece of nature, it still caused me to pause to inhale the fresh scent of the pristine clean mountain air. Spring was definitely in the air. I beamed at the still snow-capped Japanese Alps high about, watched in awe and wonder at the Kappa-dashi Bridge suspended over the Azusa River and even marveled at those that were clamming to take pics on, over, around and under this bridge. I too waited my turn to snap and snap away at every angle I could get. I really like that the area is car free which I believe has helped maintain the tranquil and serene setting her. After making my fill of all the pics one could take, I took the nature trail that leads to the Myojin Pond which is a winding, part gravel, mostly dirt with a few wooden man-made walk ways, some like mini-bridges and some are wooden steps (which are steep in some areas so one needs to watch ones step) sprinkled in between. During my walk which took most longer to reach Myojin Pond because we're also still mesmerized by the many scenic views we stumbled upon, especially Takezawa Marsh, where we found a man painting this beautiful area.

    I finally made my way to Myojin Pond after about 1 1/2 and paid the ¥300 to enter. This too is a lovely scenic area and after taking some more pics, I headed over to Myojin Bridge and just as I'm getting to the bridge what do I see crossing the way but a snow monkey of this area the ones with the pink face. In my amazement I tried to get a pic of him, but it appear that they are very shy retreating into the nearby brushes instead. I followed from a distance trying to get more pics and a few more crossed over. I did manage to get some good shots of them before crossing over the bridge and taking some more pics. By this time, I realized I won't have time to make it to Taisho Pond as it was getting late and I didn't want to miss the bus, so I decided I would come back early the next day and get off at Taisho Pond this time.

    Walking back was faster as while I was still enjoying the views, I was on a timed-mission so didn't want to stop for fear of missing the bus. Back at the bus terminal, the bus arrived and we headed back down the mountains. I think it's safe to say that everyone was dead tired because most were sleeping even quite a few snoring. I didn't sleep though because again going down was just as hard as going up and again, I was lucky I didn't eat much all day. This time instead of getting off at Shin-Shimashima, I took the bus directly into Matsumoto getting off at the bus terminal there. Since I didn't have lunch I decided to grab dinner. While I was on the bus, I was texting with Mari and had mentioned to her how hungry I was so she looked up an Italian place named Trattoria Girasole in the same building as Mos Burger where she thought I might want to try and said they also served pizza. Once I arrived at the place and looked at the menu, nothing appealed to me so I ordered a simple salad and simple it was. I ate it just to satisfied my hungry stomach but was still hungry so I went downstairs to Mos Burger and ordered another soy bean burger and then went over to Vie De France and had my usual apple turnover. Now fully satisfied I headed back to the hotel and stopped at the front desk to ask if I could forward my luggage to Kyoto and was told that I needed to have it downstairs by 5pm the next day. As I had planned on going to Kamikochi again, I quickly decide against that because I didn't want to take the chance of not getting back by 5 so I decided that I would spend the day visiting the castle. So I headed upstairs showered and hit the sheets.

    Next morning I woke up bright and early hoping to get an early start and visit the castle and then head to Wasabi Farms. Although, I now knew where the castle is located, I headed in the direction of the Matsumoto City Musemu of Arts. Once I arrived it is clear that it was not open as yet (opened at 10) because other than myself there was a group who appear to had arranged for a tour. So I took that opportunity to take lots of pics without having to dodge others from getting in my shots.

    I then headed to the castle and when I entered the entrance I was awe struck by the beauty of Matsumoto Castle. It was like something that drifted out of a fairy tale novel. I stood there for a while just marveling at its beauty and then started taking pics from every possible angle. When you're traveling alone it's always difficult getting pics of oneself and even though I'm armed with my iPad and it has a timer, it's not easy to find something to put it on to set it to take pics. Today I was lucky that a gentlemen also traveling alone approached and asked if I wanted him to take pics of me and I happily said please. Once he'd taking some nice shots, we introduced ourselves. He's from Belgium and had been traveling for a couple weeks where he was in Osaka and showed me a lovely pic of Osaka's white Castle which he said I should definitely visit, Miyajima where he taught was too crowded and didn't quit enjoy for that reason, he also enjoyed Kanazawa same as I and when I told him I was headed to Kyoto next, he said I would enjoy that too (which is where I am now and am enjoying it). I told him I was heading to Wasabi Farms after the castle and he said that I could miss it because he was not impressed with it. That really surprised me but said I could go and see for myself. I then told him that I'd visited Kamikochi and really loved it as that's where he wanted to go but wasn't sure he could since he needed to get back to Tokyo for his flight on Tuesday morning. I showed him the train/bus scheduled where the first train leaves at 5:45 and if he caught that train he would probably have the place all to himself before the throngs of visited arrived (later I did ran into him at the station purchasing his tickets). Before heading off, he asked if could take a pic of me and I said yes as he was kind and all. We said our goodbyes (ran into each other several times after that and agreed that Matsumoto is a small place.

    After having my fill of the castle (hours), I decided to head back and grab some lunch before going back to the hotel to get my luggage together. Walking back I ran into another Italian restaurant, this one had an English menu outside advertising vegetables with linguine pasta that sounded right up my alley, but when I went in turned out it also had shrimp and when I told the waiter I was vegetarian and if they could just make it with the vegetables he said in the best English he could that he would. After a few minutes my food arrived and it looked so good. I took a quick pic and sunk my fork in and into my mouth to the most delicious pasta primavera I've ever eaten. It was so good that I took out my goole translator and translated "I can't thank you guys enough. It was so delicious" and showed it to the waiter and the chef and they all smiled and looked very pleased. Back at the hotel, I packed up my luggage and took it down to the front desk for forwarding to Kyoto. Afterwards I headed over to the station to see if it was too late to head to the Wasabi Farms and was told by the tourist office that it was. She said I could go the next day, but I had plans on going back to Kamikochi and she suggested that since I've been to Kamikochi I should try Norikura. I was hesitant telling her that I really enjoyed Kamikochi and wanted to see Taisho Pond, but she said Norikura is also nice and added that there was a festival in Norikura that I might enjoy. So I decided I'll go to Norikura instead. She give me a map of the area and how to get there, which is just like going to Kamikochi, but at a certain point head in a different direction.

    By now it's dinner time and I decided to head back to Curry House Coco and enjoyed another fine meal of curry with rice and vegetables, afterwards I headed to Vie De France for my apple turnover fix.

    Thanks for following along, up next Norikura...

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    I'm on the edge of my seat: will you get to Taisho pond?

    In my experience, it's safe to get off there and take the walk into the center--it takes only an hour or so and you'll arrive in plenty of time to make the bus reservation for your return.

    I enjoyed your description of the journey between Shin-Shimashima and Kamikochi! It certainly is exciting and scenic and the serious white-gloved bus driver makes it seem safer than comparable journeys elsewhere.

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    Norikura,

    The bus ride to Norikura is in the same direction as Kamikochi driving up the mountains along winding, narrow roads, but to get to Norikura the bus takes a left turn instead of going right to Kamikochi at a certain location. There wasn't much of us on the bus, so I was right up front and after we made the left heading to Norikura, while there were some scenic views, it wasn't as spectacular as Kamikochi. I got off at the Norikura Kogen stop and wanted to see both the Sanbondaki and Zengoro Waterfalls but decided that I'd head to the park where the annual Sumomo Festival was being held and then worked my way back to the waterfalls. I followed a couple who appear to be going in the same direction since I'd overheard them ask the tourist information desk for directions. The three of us headed left from the bus stop and walked a long a nice route that is used for hiking and biking trails and walked for about 30 mins before arriving at the location. When we arrived, folks were already arriving to enjoy the festival and vendors were setting up. I stopped and bought a couple pastries and was thankful there was an English speaking woman helping who was able to let me know what the pastries I was buying had in them. I was told that even though the event don't start until 10am, folks were arriving early to secure their tickets for the free homemade soba noodles and tempura made from a variety of wild plants (called 'sansai') picked from the mountains. Some of the booths were also selling some of the fresh sansai.

    With pastries in hand, I then headed over to the area where most of the crowds were congregating which was close by a stream lines with plum trees and that's because it was very hot and sitting close to the stream which is crystal clear and in a shaded area and offers a bit of relief from the heat. Although there was a breeze now and them, it was extremely hot with zero clouds in the sky. A clear sunny day. I sat there for a while taking pics of the surroundings of the snow peaks of Mt. Norikura and then decided to venture a bit further to explore the area. One thing I noticed in Norikura is just about everything is in Japanese so it was somewhat difficult trying to figure out where you were. But thankfully I had an English map which I got from the tourist office to help navigate my way around. I followed a path along with many other that led us to the Azami Pond. It's not anywhere as pictureque as the ponds found in Kamikochi especially that none of the native animals like mallard or spotbill duck were to be seen. Maybe they were on their way back from flying south for the winter. After walking around the pond area, I continued along the walking trail which is mostly paved. I followed trail until the end which I think was Megoya Grove where you can see the Asia skunk cabbage, which you do see some along the way while you walk.

    After reaching the end, I sat for a while in the cool shade to catch my breath and to cool off and ate my pastries before heading back. The walk back was not as difficult because you're going downhill and I soon arrived back at the festival which appeared to have been in full swing while I was gone. When I arrived the line was very long for those that had secured their tickets for the free food, but what cause my eyes was a traditional sumomo dance that was being performed by women dressed beautifully in kimonos of different colors and at that point they were asking anyone to join in the dance even if you didn't know you could follow along, which a lot of the crowds including children got up to join. It was so much fun watching everyone having such a good time that I started recording it. After the dance was don't and the dancers were standing on the side, I went over and asked if I could have a picture with them and they were also so happy to. After the dance performance then came some kind of live calligraphy which was being performed by a Calligraphy Girls Club from Matsumoto Arigasaki High School which was so beautifully done. The girls while singing, dancing and cheering creates a huge calligraphy artwork using giant brushes which is being coordinated to the music. It was truly spectacular to watch. After they were done, I decided that if I wanted to see the waterfalls, I better head back, so I walked back the way I'd come and end back at the tourist office bone tired from the heat. So I asked the lady at the desk if there was a hot springs close by and directed me to one across the street and also give me a coupon for a discount.

    I then headed to the hot springs and after soaking for about 30 mins which was so relaxing, I headed to the restaurant and ordered a bowl of soba noodles with vegetables which was delicious. By now, after the soak in the hot springs, my body just wanted a bed and as I headed back to the tourist office, I asked when was the next bus and was told it would be there in the next 10 mins., and right there I decided that I had not more energy left to walk another hour to see the waterfalls and waited for the bus to arrive. Once on the bus, my body could take it no more so I drifted in and out of sleep until arriving at Shin-Shimashima station. Since the train back to Matsumoto had not yet arrived, we were asked to wait in the waiting room. While waiting I must have dosed off again because I vaguely remembered hearing the announcement that the train had arrived and to line up to start board, so I was shocked when I opened my eyes to an empty room. I rushed outside thinking I'd missed the train, but I was lucky that they had not yet started boarding since the train was only now pulling into the station. Once all the passengers had de-board we started boarding for the ride back to Matsumoto.

    Back in Matsumoto, feeling a bit refreshed and with it being my last night in Matsumoto, I headed to the hotel briefly to refresh and decided I would go see Matsumoto Castle when it's illuminated. After refreshing I walked to the Castle and arrived right at twilight and was able to capture some beautiful images of the Castle before heading back in search of something to eat. On the way back, I stopped at the Matsumoto Parco shopping mall and wondered around while looking for something to eat and ended up at 5Horn Cafe where I ordered a really nice salad with sautéed mixed vegetables that was so divine and the pièce de résistance to celebrate my last night in Matsumoto, a slice of chocolate cake that was so good, I would go back to Matsumoto just for that. It was so good, in a place that make the best of everything, I haven't been able to find anything that taste that good.

    Feeling good from my head to my toes and now my stomach, I went back to the hotel for my last night. Next morning I got up, checked out and headed to the train station for the train that would take me from Matsumoto to Nagano and from Nagano to Kyoto, where I've been enjoying my time here immensely.

    Up next Kyoto, Kyoto...

    Thanks for continuing to follow along.

    @someotherguy, sadly, I didn't make it back to Taisho Pond, but have many reasons to get back to Kamikochi.

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    Kyoto May 22nd to June 1st

    I left Matsumoto on Shinano 10 with a transfer at Nagoya and from Nagoya on Hiraki 471 to Kyoto. As always in Japan, all trains were on time, thus arriving at Kyoto Station on schedule. The temperature when I arrived was similar to what I'd left in Matsumoto, hot and hot, but at least it wasn't raining or cold.

    The owner of the apartment had given me instructions to either catch a taxi from Kyoto Station and to call me from the taxi so he could give the driver directions to his house or take the City Bus 100 and get off at the Gojozaka stop. So on arrival at Kyoto Station and since I'd sent my luggage ahead, I decided to be adventurous and take the bus. I located the information counter and inquired where the bus stop was for Bus 100. She told me that Bus 100 will be departing from D1 and cost ¥230 (base cost for all City Bus for adults and ¥120 for children). She also told me that I could also take Bus 206, 207 and a few others which also stop at the Gojozaka stop. So off I went in search of bus stop D1 which I located right away because it's just directly in front of you as you exist the Central Exit at the station to the right. Luckily as I arrived the bus was just pulling up so I got on to standing room only, which would be the norm when taking this bus and many of the other buses, but as luck would have it, it's also the bus stop for Kiyomizudera Temple (lucky me).

    Since I was still skeptical whether I was on the right bus and not familiar with Kyoto's bus system, I asked a young man standing next to me by pointing to my map if I was on the correct bus and in perfect English yes you and I'll tell you when we reach the stop, but also pointed to the monitor above the driver which he says list the upcoming stops along with an announcement. Feeling confident, I finally relaxed. After driving along for a few minutes, I looked up at the monitor and also heard the announcement that Gojozaka was the next stop and the young man also tapping me on my shoulder, I started moving towards the front of the bus (enter at back of buses and exit and pay through the front) and when the bus stopped I put in my ¥230 and got off. I then called the owner who arrived less than 2 minutes and I'm like, wow that close. Btw, while waiting for the owner, right beside me is an Indian restaurant (yayyy).

    We walked to the apartment that would be my house for the next 10 days and once inside he showed me around to his lovely Japanese style 2 bedroom apartment. One of the room is setup tatami style and the other western style. I chose the the western style room because it has an extra bed and more room. The apartment is equipped with everything that I'll need for my stay and he even showed me that his wife had went out and bought a few groceries for my stay bread, coffee, cream, bananas, etc. He then proceeded to draw me a map of the area and pointed out some of his favorite restaurants where I could get vegetarian food. After he left, I settled in a bit and then headed out to explore the area.

    As mentioned above, the apartment is within walking distance to Kiyomizudera Temple, so that was going to be my very first stop. I left the apartment and walked back the way the owner had walked (remembering landmarks) back to the bus stop, which is now as crowded as ever and a huge crowd is also across the street all either coming from or heading to Kiyomizudera. I crossed the street and started walking but not in the direction the crowd was coming from as it was just to many people, so I walked to my right and ended up at the Omani Hombyo Mausoleum and spent about an hour walking through the grounds as I'm now walking through the back enjoying seeing the many thousands of mausoleums and the fantastic view over Kyoto, low and behold, I saw an arrow pointing to Kiyomizudera Temple and I'm like walk. So I continued to walk while still enjoying the views and the mausoleums finally arriving at Kiyomizudera. It was so beautiful even with the throngs of crowds that were still there. I was mesmerized just being there. I also enjoyed seeing all the women dressed up in their kimonos which added even more to the scenery. I stayed there for about 2 hours and when it was finally got dark and started to look for something to eat and headed to the Indian restaurant where I enjoyed vegetable pakoras and vegetable biryani, returned to the apartment and settled in for the day.

    Tomorrow (Japan's tomorrow) will mark 1 week since I've been here and during that time, I will now list what I've done rather than giving day to day detail, but if anyone has any questions, please feel free to ask.

    Day 2, visited Fushimi-inari and Sanjusangendo Temple
    Day 3, Nijo Castle (loved it here and was lucky to see a bride in groom in their traditional wedding attire taking photos) and Kinkakuji Temple (Golden Pavillion) (blew me away)
    Day 4, Ginkakuji (Silver Pavillon), Philosopher Path, Nishiki Market, Gion, Geishas sighting 3 back to back. (they truly are so beautiful), Yasaka Shrine illuminated at night
    Day 5, all day in Arashiyama (loved it so much I'm going back before leaving Kyoto)
    Day 6, all day Nara with a lovely guide (loved it so much went back again)
    Day 7, few hours Nara and then Uji (really loved)

    As it turns out, I can actually walk to/from Kyoto Station from the apartment if I really wanted to. Have not done it as yet, but have taken the bus to as far as the Sanjusangendo Temple stop and walk to the apartment from there, especially after having cake after dinner...lol

    The apartment is also a quick 15-20 mins walk to Gion. I've walked from Yasaka Shrine which is the bus stop for Gion back to the apartment.

    I can also walk to the Keihan Subway line from the apartment and have done so when I visited Fushimi-inari, Sanjusangendo Temple and Niji Castle when I was still feeling my way around area, but since then and trying to utilize my JR pass (which I can't use on that line) being going to Kyoto station instead (love hanging out at Kyoto Station anyway. It fascinates me). For the buses, I've been using my Suica card which is more convenient than having to find ¥230 each time.

    Tomorrow I'm heading to Himeji Castle (again utilizing my JR Pass) and then the owner of the apartment is taking me on an excursion so I need to be back by 3pm. I'll definitely post about those two adventures.

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    Hi jdc26,

    Is the apartment you are staying in the one above the potters studio? I have been looking at that and hope to stay there in the future if I can get bookings. I would love to hear what you think about staying there.

    I am enjoying your report - only trouble is I keep thinking "that sounds good and how can I add it to my plans". Matsumoto has just joined rejoined my list.

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    @MaryW, yes the apartment is above the potters house Tenseian. I absolutely love it here and Haraguchi-san and his wife (who I've yet to meet but know she's been around) are the best. Like I mentioned above, it's conveniently located to all of Kyoto either by bus, train, subway or walking. The apartment is in a lovely quite residential area with an elementary school in the back but you'll never know and considering it's off a busy street, it's so quite here. I highly recommend it. Only downside and full disclosure, the steps leading up to the actual apartment are very steep and narrow so if you have any aversion to climbing steep stairs (up/down) I would recommend against it.

    Japan is very addicted, I haven't even left yet and I'm already planning my return. Matsumoto surprised me, contrary to everything I've read that it warrants one day to see the Castle, I was extremely happy with the 4 days I started there because you can do so many day trips using it as a base.

    Let me know if I can answer any more questions for you. This is my very first trip that I did not buy a guide book and have not needed one. With the internet at my fingertips that's all the guide I need. Good luck planning. You won't be disappointed in wherever in Japan you choose to go.

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    Today I got up early and headed to Himeji and made it a quick visit. This was the best decision that I could've made. I arrived at Kyoto Station and went to the JR office and got reserved roundtrip to Himeji on the Shinkansen 495 which left Kyoto at 8:23 and arrived Himeji at 9:15. On our approach to Himeji station if you sit or right you get a chance to see this beautiful castle looming in the distance. No direction or map is needed. At station you'll want to take the north exit and simply follow the castle which will be beckoning you in the distance. Everything one have heard and read about how spectrally beautiful this white castle is are spot on. It's even more beautiful when you can see it up close. Even the approach to it is perfectly mesmerizing. Getting there around that time was perfect since the hoards of other tourists had not yet arrived so I had sometime to take pics of the castle and then I headed left to the garden area which I literally had all to myself with the exception of one or two people that passed through and thoroughly enjoyed this vantage point as I could view the castle from this angle as well. Once I was satisfied with all the pics I took, I headed back in the direction of the station just when the hoards were arriving. Perfect timing. Back at the station I did a little window shopping through the mall adjacent to the station and then stopped in Starbuck for a latte and a veggie wrap before heading upstairs for the Shinkansen Hiraki 470 which left at 1:02 and once I arrived at Kyoto Station I headed back to the apartment where Haraguchi-san was going to take me on an excursion.

    We left the apartment at 3:10 and headed to Takao located in the mountains of Kyoto. The drive there was lovely and once we arrived, Haraguchi-san guided me in the direction to access Jingoji Temple and told me he would wait at the car for me. Reaching the temple involves taking steep stone steps down hill and then more stone steps up a very step hill to get to this temple, but trust me, it's worth it. Arriving at this temple was simply divine, unfortunately when arrived the main hall had already closed for the day, but the young lady allowed me to take some pics of the grounds. None of the other temples I've visited so far had the effect that Jingoji did. I think it may have more to do with the fact that I had it all to myself because as I was arriving a few people were leaving. The grounds are amazing and I can only imagine how beautiful it is for Cherry Blossoms and during Koyo when the leaves are at their peak. Haraguchi-san said that the entire area is heavily trafficked during those times. As I continued taking pics, I saw the image of a huge pagoda through the leaves and thought "oh my, I've got to get a closer look", so as I spotted the path that lead up to it and started towards it, what do I see slithering across the path but a huge snake. OMG, I started running the other way. This was not your everyday garden snake, which I also loath, but this was the biggest snake I've ever seen and I've seen my share of them. Even getting a closer look at that striking pagoda couldn't make me continue up that path. By this time I heard some voices and thought if they're going up there, then maybe I'll follow along, but sadly of the 3 men that came up, one who appear to be the groundkeeper told me that since it's five o'clock the temple is closed, so off I went back down the stoned-step stairs. While this Temple is worth seeing, it's not for those that has any kind of mobility issues. It's a very step climb and I'm thankful that I stay in shape otherwise, I don't think I would've made it up and back down.

    On the ride back to the apartment, Haraguchi-san took me to an area overlooking the entire city of Kyoto and what a magnificent view it was with Kyoto Tower in the center of it all. He also stopped at another view area, also spectacular, this one overlooking the Hozu River. While we were there we spotted the Saga Scenic train rolling through and took pictures before heading back to the apartment. All in all, a very long, but fulfilling day.

    My time in Kyoto is coming to an end as I head to Hiroshima on Thursday, but it has been remarkable being here. It's a lovely city and I hoping to come back soon for spring or fall.

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    Thank you very much for the info. Thats helpful. Just have to try and get a booking that will fit - juggling all the different bits is a challenge but it seems Japan requires it more than anywhere else.

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    We stayed at that same apartment. We loved the owner! We had a memorable night going out for drinks with him at a "private" bar after he'd taken us to Arashiyama. We also loved seeing the children practice for Sports Day, as we watched from the balcony. Thanks for helping me relive our wonderful stay there.

    MaryW, the only negative thing I'd say about the apartment is that the steps are steep to get up and down to the living level. The layout also takes getting used to. The toilet is in a little room next to the kitchenette. There's a sink right outside the door. The shower is on the other side of the apartment, in an enclosed room but you have to go outside to get to it. There's a washer and dryer on the balcony. The location is great and it's an easy walk or bus ride to Gion.

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    @internetwiz, yes the setup does takes some getting use to, but I'm actually liking it very much because it's so different. And yes, the owner, even before I arrived was so responsive, thoughtful and kind, he's wonderful. Yes too enjoy watching the kids practice, even play baseball and watch the elementary school kids at recess.

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    Thanks Internetwiz for the extra info on the apartment. As a potter I am extremely attracted to staying above the studio. I might need to think about those stairs as I have a dodgy knee that is prone flaring with lots of steps and lots of pounding pavements so pretty likely it will play up.

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    Ditto, having taken up pottery just after my last visit to Japan (in large part inspired by the pottery class I took in Shigaraki), I'd love to stay in this apartment too, but I know that the steep stairs and layout would be an issue for me.

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    MaryW, we minimized the times we had to go up the stairs by keeping our suitcases, with most of our things, on the ground floor entry level. If we needed to grab something before we went out, it was easier to rummage through our suitcases there, than to have to go back upstairs (plus we didn't have to bring them up/down the stairs anyway).

    Kavey, apparently the potter, Mr. Haraguchi, has an example of his work in one of the British galleries. You might be able to track it down. He's shown all over the world and is known for his celadon. (We got to look in his studio, which is on site.)

    Sorry to hijack your thread, jdc26 (I'm in the DC area, too.)

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    @internetwiz, no apologies needed. MaryW made and inquiry on this thread and you had other information pertaining to that inquiry so no hijacking was made. Good to know another DC area poster is on board. I don't recall if you were you at the last GTG and if so, sorry we didn't get a chance to meet. Hopefully, next time.

    Days 8-9 - Kyoto

    Yesterday was a very leisure day for me since I'd checked off all I wanted to do here in Kyoto and decided to sleep in a bit before getting up and packing my luggage for forwarding to Hiroshima. Haraguchi-san and I had walked across the street to "K" convenient store to get a label so if could fill it out in Japanese. Once my luggage was packed, I decided to head to Gion which I hadn't really spent too much time in, finding it a bit too much for my taste, like a magnified version of Times Square in NY, with the wall to walk people. But I was trying to find a bakery that someone had recommended call Kyoto Gion Boloniya which makes original fresh-baked Danish breads. Arriving in Gion, I stopped in a shop to pick up a couple souvenirs for some friends and inquired with the clerk if she know where it was and after doing a google search, she pointed me in the right direction which she said was about 7 mins. walking. So off I went and sure enough in 7 mins I'd located it (it's a 7 mins walk from the Gion stop which is also the stop for Yasaka Shrine, but I guess there's another stop after that which is closer, but I got off at the Gion/Yasaka Shrine stop). Once inside the smell of fresh baked bread was wafering from the back and I had such a hard time deciding which ones to buy so I purchased a couple slices of the original (they're packed by either 2 small or 2 large slices our you can buy the whole loaf), a raisin swirl, a round one (not sure what it was, but after eating it later, it was delicious) and a croissant. With my bread purchase in hand and since it was now lunch time, I decided to head back to a restaurant where I enjoyed an amazing fried rice. Once I arrived, it was packed just like it was the first time I was there, but finding a seat for one wasn't difficult. After I was seated I told the waitress that I wanted fried rice no meat, which she understood and then tried to tell her not too much salt, which she wasn't understanding and just as I was about to pull out my google translate the chef, who'd recognized me motioned to her that he knew what I was saying since I'd asked the same thing when I was there (good to be remembered...lol). Food arrived and just like the last time, perfect.

    After I was finishing my lunch, I continued on to explore Gion. Not sure if it was the time of day since most tourists were probably all out sightseeing but it was not overly crowded, in fact, it was quite the opposite of the first time I went there which was early evening time when everyone had done their sightseeing and most Japanese were done with work, so this was very much a different scenery. Even walking over the Shijo Bridge was different no wall to wall congestion of people that I actually got to take some pics of scenery on river banks, then I headed down Pontocho Alley and wow this too was a contrast to when I tried (yes tried) to walk down here. It was literally empty with just a few sprinkles of tourists like myself so again I was able to pics. I then headed to the Takashimaya Department store, hitting the basement floor first. I just love walking around there looking at all the mouth-watering-deliciousness that have there. Needing a sweet fix after lunch, I purchased some type of small chocolate shaped pastry which was delicious and an apple turnover for later and went in search of decaf coffee since I had used the last one that morning, but didn't find any so I headed upstairs and stopped at the Mac counter to see if they had a lipstick color that each time I tried to purchase it in the US it was sold out, luckily they had it there so I purchased it along with a black eyeliner (I know all the way to Japan to purchase makeup, but you get it when you can). Since most stores in Japan are offering tax free, I decided to take advantage although my bill wasn't that much, but enough that I could get the tax I paid back, only downside was I couldn't open the lipstick or eyeliner before leaving Japan (boo hoo hoo). Oh well, one less purchase to make when I return home.

    After receiving the taxes I'd paid (minus a 1.1 % service charge that Takashimaya charges). On the way back, I stopped at Shijo Bridge and went down o the riverside where many were congregating I suspect to get away from the heat of earlier in the day so I too joined them, but more so to just enjoy the view and being in Kyoto. While there I spotted a newly wed taking their wedding pics and took a couple of my own. After spending about an hour there, it was dinner time to think about dinner, so I headed back and tried to find a restaurant that I'd seen advertising they had vegetarian dishes, but couldn't find it, but remembered on my way to finding Kyoto Gion Bolongiya passing a Ramen and Indian restaurant so I headed in that direction. Looking at the Ramen restaurant's menu I didn't see a vegetarian option so I headed upstairs to the Indian restaurant which I knew would have vegetarian options. Once there (just me and must've been the owner), I told him I wanted something with no meat and to surprise me but don't make it spicy (he spoke English). He then served me a delicious dish of basmati rice with a curried vegetables that included pumpkin, potatoes, broccoli, carrots, etc. Happy and filled, I walked back to the apartment enjoying my apple turnover on the way (yes, I heard Japanese don't eat while walking, but contrary to that saying, I've lots of them, especially the school kids eat while walking, plus, I figured walking home would burn off some of the calories...lol).

    Before going to the apartment, I stopped at Haraguchi-san to pick up the table for sending my luggage to Hiroshima and when he answered the door, he also had some watermelon for me (how sweet), unfortunately, I had to decline telling him I don't eat watermelon and hoped I hadn't offended him, but he said it was okay. Back at the apartment to hauled my suitcase downstairs and across the street to "K" only to be told that they will be closed tomorrow so can't be picked up, so I headed back an stopped and told Haraguchi-san, who was surprised and decided to walk back over with me to see if they couldn't send it that evening, but once we got there the clerk told him that there was no more pick up for the evening and the same thing he had told me they were closed. So we walked back and he said after dinner we will take it to 7 Eleven and to leave the suitcase with him. But back at the apartment he came over to tell me that his wife will call Sagawa and they'll pick it up today, then if asked what my plans were for tomorrow and I told him I didn't have anything specific planned and he said he wanted to take me to see another beautiful temple so be back by 3:30 and I said okay. End of a leisure day.

    Day 9, final day in Kyoto coming up.

    Again, thanks for following along and apologies for any errors.

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    Day 9, Kyoto, last day

    For my last leisure day in Kyoto, I planned to go to the Imperial Palace and return in time to meet Haraguchi-san for a last temple excursion. At Kyoto Station, I took the Karasuma subway line to Imadegawa Station (not covered by JR Pass) and walked to the Palace where, after security check I was giving a hang pass which is returned after touring the Palace grounds which is immaculately beautiful and well maintained. Guided tours are available which I didn't use. The garden is lovely and I spent most of my time there just taking in the scenery and taking pictures from every angle imaginable. After visiting the Palace I wondered over the Park and spent time there taking pics and also ran into a group of Japanese mothers having a picnic with their children. They seem so happy and just enjoying sitting in the shaded area from the heat of the day, that I asked if I could take a picture and they happily said yes which made me so excited because it was just such beautiful image of them. After taking the picture they asked where I was from and when I USA, they all shouted "YAY". One of them in particular spoke very good English. I then ask if I could get a selfie to which they all responded yes, as I set the timer for a count down from 10, they all started counting down too and when it was almost just at 1, we all shouted "YAY" and I have to see it turned out to be a beautiful pic. I sent it to my friends and they said that is by far one of the most beautiful pic I've sent (not that I haven't sent some stunners, but this one interacting with the ladies they thought is special). After bidding the ladies goodbye I continued strolling through the park which offers such good shade from the heat of the day and had a nice cool breeze blowing, I finally left about 1:45, grabbed something to eat at MOS burger and headed back to Kyoto Station and back to the apartment to meet Haraguchi-san.

    My final excursion by Haraguchi-san was also to Takao but this time west Takao where he took me to Seiryu-den which also has an amazing Observation Deck and the KOU-AN - Glass Teahouse by artist Yoshioka Tokujin. The views from the Observation Deck offers exceptional views of the city and has a beautiful garden, another one that I couldn't bare to leave. The Glass Teahouse also adds an unique look to the Observation Deck area.

    I was also lucky that this too was not crowded as just as we were arriving a tour bus with a group of Japanese were arriving, but they did not stay long at all only visiting the Observation Deck and then leaving. Once they were gone, the only people that remained were myself and two other couple and after one of the couples left, it was just the three of us remaining. While on the Observation Deck and I could here in the distance thunder and could feel a change was coming. By this time, it's almost 5 and the announcement came that they were getting ready to close, so I left and told Haraguchi-san, how happy I was that he took me to two special locations that I thoroughly enjoyed. We then left and he drove me by a restaurant he said had very good vegetarian udon noodles and I decided that's where I would have dinner, but the thunder I'd heard in the distance arrived and I didn't make it out again, which was fine, because I really wasn't that hungry and retired early for my last night in Kyoto.

    Today I arrived in Hiroshima where I'll spend the next 4 nights before heading back to Tokyo for the last 4 and then head home.

    Up next Hiroshima, day 1.

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    Hiroshima:

    I left Kyoto (already missing her) for Hiroshima taking the Shinkansen with a transfer at Shin-Kobe and onto Hiroshima arriving Hiroshima at 1:36. My host had giving me instructions on how to get to the apartment, but I totally forgot the first step, which is after arriving at Hiroshima transfer to a local JR train for 2 stops and follow her direction, but instead at Hiroshima, I tried to follow her direction to no avail, until I stopped and asked for directions only to be told, I needed to go back to Hiroshima Station and take another train. I literally hit myself on the head for not following the first step. Back at Hiroshima Station, I proceed to take the local train 2 stops and arrived at the correction station Yokogawa and then proceeded to follow her direction which was spot on. At this time, when I didn't show up, my host texted me to ask where I was and when I told her about my mishap and where I was currently, as I turned to walk down the street where the apartment is located, there she is coming to find me. We both had a big chuckle at me missing the most important first step.

    After showing me around the apartment (which is just as described on Airbnb and very large considering the usual size of Japanese hotels/apartments. In fact, it is twice the the size of the hotel room I stayed in at Matsumoto), I headed out to check out the neighborhood which is well located at only a few minutes walk to Yokogawa Station where you can take the tram lines all over Hiroshima and a bus stop not far from the apartment. There's also plenty of restaurants along the way and is easily walkable throughout the city, which was my way of checking out the city. I walked from the apartment along the beautiful river that runs through the city and ended up at Hiroshima Castle (didn't go to the Peace Memorial or Atomic Bomb because I wanted to save them for a day of their own) which I didn't visit only took a few pics and then worked my way to Hiroshima Station where I went in search of something to eat for dinner and found an Indian/Nepalese restaurant ordering vegetable rice dish, after which I headed back to the apartment for the night.

    The next day, my plan were to visit both Iwakuni and Onomichi, so I took the JR train from Yokogawa Station to Iwakuni to see the Kintai-kyo Bridge, the wooden bridge of five arches that sits on stone pillars crossing over the Nishiki River. Arriving at Iwakuni Station, I then took a bus (300 yen, not covered by Japan Rail Pass) about 15-20 mins and got off at the stop just across the street from the bridge, walked across the street and bought a ticket to cross the bridge and take the ropeway up to see the Castle. After purchasing my ticket I crossed the street and got a full view of this beautiful wooden bridge which is absolutely gorgeous sitting above the Nishiki River that flows through the city. I was so enthralled by beauty of the bridge it took me a while before I could cross it, I was taking so many pictures even stopping strangers to take pics of me with the bridge as a backdrop and the area surrounding it, which is just as eye-popping. I literally fell in love with this city. I finally went to the ticket booth to show my ticket for crossing the bridge and even crossing the bridge took me a while to cross to the other side because of the amazing views/scenery, from the beautifully maintained park that flanks the bridge on the other side, to the small boats sitting in the water to those that were fly fishing in the Nishiki River below, it was all so breathtaking. It also helped that it was a clear, beautiful sunny day after having thunderstorms moved through during the evening.

    I finally made my way across the bridge and wandered around the town starting at Kikko Park (but didn't fully explore until I came back down). Wondering around, I felt like I was transported back into another time, it was so surreal and beautiful and to add to that, not many tourists were there. I saw some school kids who appear to have been on a field trip and were now playing by running through one of the many beautiful water fountains. Finally arriving at the ropeway, we made our way up the mountain with the most fantastic view of the city imaginable, oh, it was breathtaking. Getting off the ropeway at the top, I followed the signs to the castle which leads you through a well paved winding-tree-lined road before arriving at the Castle, which in my opinion, besides Matsumoto and Himeji Castle is beautiful. Unlike Hiroshima Castle, I took many, many pictures here before strolling along the grounds which is also beautiful and well maintained. I didn't pay the 260 yen (I believe) to enter the castle, which I believe offers another amazing view of the city below and the surroundings.

    After spending about an hour or more here, I headed back to the ropeway for the ride down and once back down, I continued to stroll through Kikko Park where upon entry features a Statue of the third Lord of Iwakuni and the one who initiated the bridge's construction, Kikkawa Hiroyoshi,various water features and fountains and a castle moat, an Iris Garden (next to Kenrokuen Garden, one of the most beautiful, I've seen thus far) another Japanese garden, Kikko Shrine, Noh Stage, Statue of Hozumi Tanaka (Japanese Composer) - you can press a button and listen to the music that he has composed, Kinunkaku Pavilion (so beautiful over the water), White Snake Observatory (a miss for me hate snakes, even non-real ones), Mekata Residence (former samurai residence), Nagayamon Gate, Choko-kan and Kikkawa museums), Statue of Kojiro Sasaki (historical master swordsman) and Kikko Tea Ceremony Room. So as you can see, Iwakuni has so much to offer right there in this Park, besides the bridge and the castle. I'm still stunned by how much I loved it there. Needles to say, I didn't make it to Onomichi.

    After spending the entire day there, I took the bus back to the station and then the train back to Yokogawa Station, where I took the tram #7 to the Genbaku Dome-mae stop (which is the stop for the Atomic Bomb and Peace Memorial). Arriving, I only took a few pics of the A-Bomb Dome before the battery on my iPad died and then I used my iPhone for a few more before hunger took offer. As it was not the time I'd selected to spend there anyway, I headed off in search of something to eat and settled on a restaurant that served a delicious spaghetti with vegetables sort of primavera. After that I took the tram back to Yokogawa Station and walked to the apartment for the evening.

    Yesterday, with my JR Rail Pass having expired on June 2, I took the tram #7 to Tokaichi-machi, where I transferred to tram #2 bound for Hiroden-miyajima-guchi for 260 yen to Miyajima. While the tram makes many stops before arriving at Miyajima, I enjoyed the ride both ways. Arriving at Miyajima-guchi Station I purchased a 1 day pass 840 yen that allowed me to ride the ferry and tram for the day, but not valid on the JR ferry. The ferry ride as you approach Miyajima Island is beautiful and as it was another because day, helped in seeing the beauty of the island. Once on the island, where there were lots of other tourists but not as many as I'd anticipated, it immediately struck me that I was not as awe-strucked as when I arrived at Uji and the day before at Iwakuni even seeing Itsukushima Shrine and the O-Torii. The deers here looked malnourished and sickly and I was amazed at how many were petting them even allowing their children to pet them.

    After taking some pics, I made my way to the ropeway to Mt. Mission which I was really looking forward to. I followed the signs (which involves an uphill climb to get to and about 100 steps (if you believe the sign or count them, I didn't)) and arrived at the ropeway where I boarded a cable car with another couple and off we went. Up, up, up, up, all the way up, and still up we went for what may have been about 10-15 mins or more, I wasn't keeping track of how long we were in there, just admiring the beautiful views. Once we arrived at the station, we then took another ropeway, this one offering even more spectacular views of the Seto Inland Sea and the little islands and as far as Hiroshima. Just simply breathtaking. Once I arrived I walked up to the Observatory which also offered even more amazing panoramic views of the Seto Inland Sea and islands. From there I took the trail to Daisho-in Temple and to Mt. Misen summit and if it wasn't for the fact that I worked out constantly and stay in good shape, I'm not sure if I would've made it. Although there are instances where you're going down slope, the slopes are steep and then you climb even steeper slopes. After a Daisho-in Temple, along with 2 other ladies, who I ended walking with, I was so exhausted, I found a cool shade and rested for about 15 mins. The other 2 ladies who also rested a bit, were ready to leave after about 5 mins., but I wasn't and told them to go ahead. When I was ready, I made my way up even steeper rock steps finally arriving at the Summit where you're greeted with stunning panoramic views as well. By this time it was about 3:45 and the Summit closed at 4:00 so I took a many pics as I could while letting the gentle breeze cool me off before heading back to the ropeway which closes at 5:30, but on the way back, there were many who were on their way to Daisho-in Temple and I assume the temple, even when it is being announced that the last cable care leaves at 5:30. Going back, while still difficult, didn't take as along even when we came upon a snake on the trail. I came upon him after seeing the couple in front of me looking at something on the ground and which I assumed was a shoelace until I saw it moved and then I ran backwards screaming because I'm so afraid (more like hate) snakes. The couple who came up behind me also were terrified and as we all stood there beckoning the snake to just crawl over to the other side, he had different ideas, just lying there with it's head raised. At this point, two ladies approached and she mentioned that a snake were on the trail, but unlike us they were not afraid and just walked on by, then another two ladies did the same and then finally, after seeing that the snake is not going anywhere I took my hat off to cover seeing the snake and just ran until I rounded the corner. The couple also followed along laughing.

    Once at the ropeway, I took the next larger cable car over to the other side and then the smaller one back over. Once I decided I would go back to the ferry and then head downtown Hiroshima to get something to eat for dinner. By the time I reached the pier the high tide had already came in, so I took some pics of O-Torii at high tide and then headed to the ferry back to Miyajima-guchi station. Back at Yokogawa, I took the tram downtown and will walking through the shopping district looking for something to eat, I spot a restaurant advertising vegan/vegetarian food. It's an Art Cafe named Elk, there I had a very lovely dinner and talked to the owner telling her how happy I was to have ran into her restaurant and how difficult it's been finding such kind of restaurants in Japan. After dinner, I took the tram back to Yokogawa Station and walked back to the apartment for the evening.

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    Wow! Thank you jdc26 for sharing so many great little details - they are so helpful when planning our trip.
    Could you tell me how you sourced apartments to stay in? I will be travelling with my husband and 2 teenage children, and apartments would be a great option for many reasons in the places where we have more than a few days - Tokyo and Kyoto in particular.

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    @Judith_Hunter, thank you for reading my report. The apartment I stayed in Kyoto was mentioned here by another poster in her trip to Japan. It's a lovely place and the owner and his wife are the best hosts. As I mentioned up thread, if you don't have issues with going up steep/narrow stairway/steps, it's perfect. It's also a 2 bedroom so would be perfect for you and your family. The location cannot be beat as the bus stop (Gojozaka) for Kiyomizudera Temple is also the bus stop for the apartment and within walking to many other temples (if you're a walker like I am) and Gion. The other apartments are Airbnb's and I've been extremely happy with all of my choices and the hosts.

    @sandgroper, thank you as I am enjoying yours.

    Hiroshima - last day

    I truly saved for the best for last by leaving my visit to the Peace Memorial/Park for my last day. Visiting it on a Sunday, no less, made it the restful reprieve that one needs with the hectic schedule that my travels throughout Japan entailed. I had intended to get there early but my suitcase was being sent to Tokyo and the scheduled pickup was between 9-12. Needless to say, the pickup was very late, so I didn't make it to the park until about 1pm after taking the tram from Yokogaw Station to the Genbaku Dome-mae (Atomic Bomb Dome) Station stop, which provided me with the perfect amount of time to spend the remainder of the day, which is what I did. After, I arrived, I walked to the right of the A-Bomb and along the west bank of the Ota River entering at the Peace Clock where I stayed for quite sometime taking some pics and then I found an empty park bench located directly in front of the A-Bomb, where I sat for about an hour and half in total peace and tranquility not able to tear myself away. At that moment, I was really happy I had no other plans for that day because I surely would've canceled them. When I finally did, it was only to grab something to eat and came right back to that stop and ate picnic-style at the same bench for another 2 hours.

    After finally getting up, I went to explore the rest of the Park, starting directly behind me at the Bell of Peace, then onto the Children's Peace Monument, Peace Flame, The Memorial Cenotaph, where as luck would have it, a group of Japanese school children (may have been high school) were performing a ceremony with recitations by 3 different students and then they sang what I think maybe been the Japanese National Anthem. It was all very nicely done and moving. Because I'd spent so much time sitting at the bench in "peace and tranquility" by the time I made it to the actual Peace Memorial Museum it was closing time so, sadly for me. It was still the perfect day to be there because it was not crowded and as I was heading back to my bench another group of Japanese school children, this time looks like a choir (again either Junior or High school) were gathering in front of the A-Bomb building and sang two beautiful songs. So all in all this was as I had intended it to be a peaceful day at the Peace Park Memorial.

    Since it was now time for dinner, I went in search a restaurant that my host had recommended saying they served vegetarian meals and with the help of two Japanese a woman (who does not live in Hiroshima so didn't quite know the area) and then a gentlemen (who Iives there) was able to help me find Otis. Once at Otis a Tex-mex restaurant, I ordered the spicy lentils (which was not really spicy as in hot, just the different spices used) with brown rice (not had since leaving Tokyo) with fried bread. Eating it was like eating something that momma or grandma, home cooking at it's best. After I was finished, I thanked the lovely proprietor and walked back to the Peace Park, which was now almost empty of visitors and was so eerily silent and dare I say it, peaceful or maybe even more peaceful. I lingered there a while taking it all in and then took the tram back to Yokogawa Station still feeling that sense of peace and tranquility.

    I'm now back in Tokyo before heading home on Friday. Yesterday I spent the day in Asakusa because I wanted to get a chef knife for myself and my best friend wanted a cleaver, so I headed to Kappabashi Street and sort out Kamata which has been recommended on here by MinnBeef. At Kamata, I purchased both having my name engraved on my chef knife, but unfortunately they couldn't engrave the cleaver due to the metal being too thick. After which I basically wondered around the Asakusa area, deciding that I really liked the vibe there and may consider staying there on my next return trip to Japan. I didn't really visited any temples while there because after Kyoto, I'm still templed out, but because I was looking for a Yakata for a friend, the only place I found that had one was a shop located at the first of the Hozomon Gate at Senso-ji Temple, but only took some pictures. I purchased the Yakata and a couple of beautiful wind chimes made in Japan from another shop for my bedroom deck before heading back to the apartment.

    Today, I met the host of my first Airbnb, who I've become really good friends with at Shinjuku Station where we went to Starbucks for coffee before she left for her 12:30 appointment. Before she left she showed me how to get to Shinjuku Gyoen Garden and also the Tokyo Metropolitan building, on my way to Gyoen Garden, I stopped and purchased by NEX ticket for my departure on Friday morning and then headed to the garden, which is lovely even if the weather here in Tokyo has been a bit gloomy and overcast, I still enjoyed about a half and half before leaving and making my way to Hamarikyu Gardens which Mari texted while I was at Gyoen and told me I should visit (I may be templed out, but not garden out...lol). So I headed back to Shinjuku Station where I took the Toei Oedo Line to Shiomode Station took exit 10 and walked about 7-10 minutes to the garden. The entrance fee is 300 yen and the garden is lovely. I arrived just a little after 4pm, but their closing time is 5pm. It's hard yet amazing that in the heart of Tokyo lies two beautiful garden tucked away from all the hustle and bustle of Tokyo. I didn't have much time to see the entire garden and only had time to sit for about 10 minutes at the Teahouse to enjoy some tea and sweets before they closed at 4:45. After leaving the Teahouse, I continued to explore for about 5 mins for they announce they were getting ready to close and we should head to the exit.

    Once I exit, I decided to take the train from Shimbashi Station (Shiomode is like a maze) back to the apartment. At Shimbashi station, I did stop and grab dinner before taking the Ginza Line in direction of Asakusa, transfer at Nihombashi, Tozai Line to Takadanobaba, transfer to the Seibu Shinjuku line to the stop for the apartment Araiyakushi-mae.

    Next up, my final day in Japan

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    Thanks -- that's about how long we will go. Did you like the pacing of your trip? Any thoughts on what you would have done differently? Is there somewhere you have posted links to where you stayed for the ones you would recommend?

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    Dona, yes, I absolutely loved the pacing of my trip. I'm more a slow traveler and don't like to change places every other day and if I had more time, I would've opt to spend at least a week in each of the destinations. Other than spending more time in each of the destinations, I don't think I would do things any differently than I did. I enjoyed each of the destinations I chose and had such a grand time. I posted a review on TA for the Guesthouse in Kyoto and of course, for each of the Airbnbs, all of which I would highly recommend, the only exception being that the apartments are stayed are all suited mostly for a solo traveler with the exception being Hiroshima, which was by far the largest.

    Japan is amazing and I'm sure whatever you choose to do you will have a great time.

    Any other questions, please ask.

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