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David's Abbreviated Trip Report-Japan, Part 2-Sakura 2017

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Apr 12th, 2017, 01:23 AM
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David's Abbreviated Trip Report-Japan, Part 2-Sakura 2017

Hi everyone. Sitting here at my ryokan on the shores of Kawaguchi-ko on my last full day in Japan. Seems like an appropriate time to share my thoughts on this, my second trip to Japan. My first trip was in Nov. 2013 to see the koyo/fall colors and so it seemed logical to return for trip #2 to see the Sakura this spring.

On this trip, I visited Tokyo, Kamakura, Kyoto, Himeji. Koyasan, Hikone, Kanazawa and Kawaguchi-ko. Start to finish, it will be 19 days from the time I left Minneapolis. Overall, it was another wonderful trip and I will continue to be a huge ambassador for Japan to my family and friends.

Highlights:

1. Seeing the Great Buddha of Kamkura
2. Shopping in Kappabashi and picking up an awesome yanagiba and deba.
3. Having the pleasure of staying once again at Hotel Mume in Kyoto with Hisako and her team. Hotel Mume, along with the Witt Istanbul are my two favorite hotels in the world.
4. Seeing the Miyako Odori geisha performance in Kyoto. THANK YOU to Hotel Mume for arranging my ticket in advance. I LOVED it!
5. Kenrokuen garden and hitting full bloom Sakura in Kanazawa.
6. The incredible sushi meals I had at Koutin in Kanazawa and Matsudaya and Kappazushi in Kyoto.
7. Collecting 24 stamps and seals from the temples and shrines I visited.
8. Himeji Castle
9. The cool visit to Ide Sake Brewery here in Kawaguchi-ki
10. The mind-blowing views today of snow capped Mt. Fuji, from here at my ryokan as well as from my visit to Chureito Pagoda. Without a doubt it is the most beautiful natural wonder Inhave ever seen.

Downsides:
1. The occasional rudeness or dismissiveness one occasionally receives as a solo traveller.
2. Being made to feel like a total foreigner at the Ninja temple in Kanazawa.
3. (Sorry to get personal here...). Experiencing some wonderful, romantic things like intimate sushi dinners at tiny restaurants, gazing out at Mt. Fuji across Kawaguchi-ko from the ryokan patio or walking under the full bloom cherry blossoms in Kanazawa and not being able to experience it with the man I've loved for 15 years but will never have.

Japan once again has proved to be an alluring, exciting, enchanting and stimulating destination. It's people have so much to do with this. Will I come back again after 2 trips? Yes, perhaps. I could see myself coming back to either visit volcanoes and onsen in Kyushu or to hike Hokkaido in spring.

Hope this abbreviated report was of Interest and value. Happy to answer any questions anyone has. Signing off for now from the shores of Kawaguchi-ko.

David
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Apr 12th, 2017, 04:42 AM
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Hi David,

Thank you for your thoughts on your 2nd trip to Japan. In less than a month I too (solo) will be heading to the Land of the Rising Sun. Interesting to hear about your treatment as a solo traveler. I hope my experience won't be the same. I'll be visiting all of the same places as you and definitely looking forward to shopping at Kappabashi and hoping not to go overboard.

I would love to hear more on Hikone and Kawaguchi-ko. Did you visit Hikone as a day trip from Kyoto and where did you come from before Kawaguchi-ko?

Reason I asked, is I am thinking about visiting Hikone as a day trip from Kyoto and will be heading to Kawaguchi-ko from Matsumoto, so wondering about the logic of getting to both. Of course, any other information you can share is appreciated.

I imagine the Sakuras will be long gone by the time I arrive, but nonetheless, I excitedly looking forward to my first trip to Japan.

Thank you!
jdc
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Apr 12th, 2017, 06:16 AM
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I should have added an 11th highlight-the rotenburo here at Kotgetsu that, weather permitting, provides you a jaw-dropping view of Fuji-san while you soak. Doesn't get any better than that.
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Apr 12th, 2017, 06:22 AM
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@jdc26:

Don't take my comment about solo traveller slights to be a particular reference to the Japanese. Those sorts of things happen to me once or twice on every trip in every country. More often than not, they involve other foreign travelers. As a whole, I find the Japanese to be the kindest people in the world.

I visited Hikone as a hop off/hop on 2 hr. visit on my travel day from Koyasan to Kanazawa. Kawaguchi-ko was my final stop, coming from Kanazawa. I wouldn't normally recommend that route as it involved over 5 1/2 hours of travel this past Tuesday. But I was chasing Sakura with this trip and so naturally, I put the coldest/highest elevation locations at the back end of my trip to maximize my odds. It worked perfectly for Kanazawa but Indont think they've yet declared blossoms open for Fuji Five Lakes yet.
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Apr 12th, 2017, 12:27 PM
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Yes, I wouldn't worry about bad treatment from the ever polite Japanese because you are traveling solo. I was there for 38 days last fall and being solo wasn't a problem. Now, being a foreigner, that can get you a lot more room than you need on public transport. I have seen people stand rather than sit next to me on a tram or bus. In Tokyo on my first trip I had an excellent seat near the front for some non-ticketed performance, and people sat in the back rather than sit next to me. (And yes, I do shower in the morning!)
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Apr 12th, 2017, 06:47 PM
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Thanks so much, David, for sharing your thoughts!

I, too, loved the Daibutsu and Himeji-jo and Kenroku-en. I saw a different odori, but suspect that they are similar enough that I can share you delight in the event. Aren’t we lucky to be able to see and experience these things?!?

I’m very glad that I was not treated rudely or dismissively as a foreign traveler – instead, many people seemed to go out of their way (in very polite and non-invasive ways) to welcome me and to find out why I would have travelled so far on my own. And although the tour of the “ninja temple” in Kanazawa was in Japanese only, I was grateful for the efforts of my guide to make sure I saw and understood the points of interest. Maybe times have changed, or maybe it’s because I’m a woman…. Whichever, I wish your experience had been more like mine.

I have no words that can speak to that particular sense of loneliness that comes with being unable to share special moments as your heart demands. All I can think to do is to send my sincere hopes that you find peace, comfort, and yes, even joy.
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Apr 13th, 2017, 04:48 AM
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@David, thursdaysd and kja, thank you for your reassurances regarding solo travelling in Japan. As this will be my first time travelling to an Asian country, and being that my work involves working with many Asians and particularly, Japanese where I have formed life long friendship with many, it's good to hear that others share my thoughts on how polite and welcoming they truly are. I'm so looking forward to my month-long journey through Japan.
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Apr 13th, 2017, 10:54 AM
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David,

I'm so glad you had a great time on your second trip. Your first trip report was an big inspiration for our first trip 3 years ago. So sorry for the few downsides, but hoping that the happy memories will be the lasting ones! Let us know if you are ever passing through LA and we'll grab some sushi and a drink!
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Apr 13th, 2017, 06:32 PM
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The Ninja temple tour in Kanazawa is in Japanese only but didn't they give you the booklet with corresponding English translation? The guide took great pains to ensure we were looking at the right paragraph in every room (it was a bit confusing as groups follow different routes so we appreciated her concern.) Sounds like you had a wonderful time though and certainly covered a lot of ground. I hope you return.
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Apr 14th, 2017, 01:28 PM
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PPS-can't imagine how I forgot to note that Nara was also in my itinerary. Like kja has advised many times, I'm glad I gave it 2 nights. That allowed me to arrive leisurely on the first morning from Kyoto to see Kofuku-ji and the Kashuga Taisha shrine (all while managing painful tendinitis in my right lower shin.) The next day gave me a full day to arrive at Todai-ji by 8:30 for my audience with the Daibatsu before all of the crowds arrived. From there, I had the afternoon to then hop on a train and spend at Horyu-ji, the oldest temple in Japan with parts dating back to the late 600s.
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Apr 14th, 2017, 01:30 PM
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@kja--thank you for your kind thought.

@russ_in_LA: I'm so glad to hear that you found my first report helpful and I recall enjoying reading your's shortly after I was back home. And thanks for the offer should I find myself in LA. I'll take you up on that!
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Apr 14th, 2017, 01:36 PM
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@Boveney: My issues with the Ninja temple had nothing to do with the fact that the tour is conducted only in Japanese. I was aware of that before even leaving for Japan, not to mention that it was noted to me when my hotel called to make the reservation. My issues were more that I felt singled out due to being a foreigner more than several times during the actual visit. Such as again having to read and agree to a list of rules before my money was even accepted (including another reminder that the tour is Japanese only.) I then had to fill out a log with my name, address and nationality that I did not see being given to Japanese tour attendees. Then once I was assigned to a group, I was pulled out of it upon embarking and told to wait (for reasons I still don't understand) and then put into another group. Then our tour guide did not tell us that she was starting in the middle of the English guide and so I (and other foreigners) were confused for the first 1/2 of the tour as to just where she was and what she was speaking about. Overall, I felt like THEY were nervous about my being there and consequently, were giving me too much unwanted attention.
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Apr 14th, 2017, 04:46 PM
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David, I am just now catching up with your trip report. Our first visit was at the same time as yours. I am hoping to get to Japan for Sakura at some point in the near future.

Lovely report - thanks!
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Apr 14th, 2017, 05:20 PM
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I'm so glad you enjoyed Nara and made it to Horyu-ji! IIRC, mrwunrfl convinced me that Horyu-ji and Todai-ji each have legitimate claims to be the oldest temple in Japan; all I can say is that I'm glad I saw both! Did you, by chance, stop in Chugu-ji for a glimpse of the Miroku Bosatsu? I found that statue very moving.

Now I understand why you were less than pleased with the "ninja temple" -- sounds quite unpleasant! I've been asked to sign various logs for foreigners over the years, but didn't have the rest of the experiences you describe -- and for that, I am grateful. ;-)

I hope you are recovering from your tendonitis and jet lag and everything else than accompanies a return home.
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Apr 15th, 2017, 09:35 AM
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Kathie-thank you. I remember very well that you and Cheryl were my "virtual travel partners" during that time. You must put sakura onto your trip planning list. It was an incredible experience for me and I'm hoping your future trip is every bit as wonderful.
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Apr 15th, 2017, 09:44 AM
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@kja-no, I'm afraid I did not make it to Chugu-ji. By that point, I was "temples out" for the day. I was very glad though about my decision to visit Horyu-ji. The Lonely Planet book makes such a stink about whether or not to visit there. Yes, the cost is high compared to other temples (15,000Y) but hell, that's only $13.50. And it's only a 12 minute train ride from JR Nara station. Very little investment, IMHO, to see something that old and with THAT much there to see. I believe I spent 2.5 hours there.

In thinking about my Ninja temple experience, I think I'd sum it up in the opposite way to Horyu-ji. It felt pretentious and contrived. "We're so special that you can't take photos, can't do this, must do that", etc. etc. For 10,000Y, while the building itself was cool, it was not good value IMHO and they should do more to make it "foreigner friendly".

Thanks on the tendonitis wish. It was hugely painful for about 7 days of my trip. An X-ray yesterday did not disclose a stress fracture, which is good. But no cardio work at the gym or much walking around the city for 3-4 weeks. Tough advice to follow but I leave for Iceland in early June and that will make Japan look like a piece of cake in terms of physical intensity.
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Apr 15th, 2017, 10:28 AM
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For anyone reading: Chugu-ji is within Horyu-ji's grounds.

Good luck with your recover!
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Apr 15th, 2017, 02:33 PM
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Let us know how you like Iceland. Wishing you a speedy recovery!!
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Apr 17th, 2017, 03:18 PM
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Did you stay overnight in Koyosan and if so at which temple? I am researching that now for our trip in July.
Also, did you visit Kamakura as a day trip from Tokyo?
Thanks!
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Apr 17th, 2017, 06:38 PM
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Sounds like you had bad luck with your guide at Myoryuji (the 'ninja temple'). Agree that it's overhyped but our experience was polar opposite to yours: our guide went out of her way to include us. And, to be fair to the Japanese tourist authorities, it is probably necessary to take extra care to ensure that foreign visitors know what they've signed up for - you have put an extra zero on all the yen prices in your last post. Admission is 1,000 yen, not 10,000!
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