Family just rt from 8 nts in Japan

Old Jun 27th, 2001, 08:21 PM
  #1  
connie
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Family just rt from 8 nts in Japan

We just returned from our first trip to Japan. We spent 8 nights and had the most fabulous time. Since this site was very helpful in planning our trip, I thought I would post our travel itinenary, some recommended sights and a few travel tips.

Our schedule - very ambitious but worth it!
Monday - Arrived in Tokyo.
Swapped rail voucher for passes, booked reservations for all trains. Took limo bus to hotel area (it was the middle of rush hour and we were not ready to activate our 7 day rail pass, about $30 pp and 1/2 for child). Ate dinner, walked around, went to bed at 10pm.
Tuesday early Tsukiji fish market for sushi breakfast (The Best in Japan!), visited Hama Kikyu Garden, cruised up river to Asakusa walk Nakamise-dori and spoke to school kids practicing their English, visited the Temples, strolled through Kappabashi looking at plastic food models, visited Tokyo Zoo - saw 1 giant panda, ate dinner and took train home from electronic district.
Wednesday - train to Takayama. Visited open market, float museum, saw old merchant houses, visited several shines and temples and then took bus to Folk Village (farm and other houses dating from 17th century) and stayed at Oyado Hachibe Ryokan (19,600 with dinner and breakfast for the 3 of us) Wonderful ryokan, super dinner, great shower and tub to soak in was like a mini swimming pool. Japanese ambiance with Western comforts.
Thursday Train to Hiroshima and then local train and ferry to Miyajima. Ropeway to Mt. Misen (did not spot any wild monkeys) and checked into Miyajimakan Ryokan (24,300 with dinner and breakfast for the 3 of us) The best dinner of our entire trip and wonderful full Japanese breakfast. The nicest mother/daughter/daughter-in-law operation. Ryokan on main street with views of inland sea. The friendliest wild deer and most beautiful Torii gate lit by moonlight & high tide! (One of Japan's top 3 water views).
Island only had Japanese tourist spending the night. The best temple - Daisho-in. Only short walk from Itsurushima shrine. A "Must" of you are on the island. There is a "universally illuminating cave" at the back of the complex. Hundreds of ceiling lanterns and mini buddhas.
Friday - ferry and street car #3 to downtown Hiroshima. Visited Peace Park, A-Dome building, Children's Peace Memorial. Took train to Himeji, checked luggage, saw Himeji castle (alllow 2.5 - 3 hours for total layover) train to Kyoto for dinner in the Ginza area.
Saturday - all day Kyoto. Ryoanji - Zen rock garden (go early, it gets really busy), Kinkakuji - Golden Temple, Kyoto Handicraft Center (1 hour handicraft sessions to make your own block print, enameling or wooden doll), Heian Shrine and up to Kinkakuji past Teapot Alley for the best city view and Temples devoted to Love.
Sunday - Sanjusanuen Temple - 1001 Buddhas, train to Tokyo. Shopping on Ginza, visited Toy Park
Monday - Tokyo Disneyland (daughter's birthday) Magic Kingdom just like Florida's,
lots of beautiful children having fun.
Tuesday Back to fish market for Sushi breakfast, small amount of shopping, LEX to Narita for flight home.

Advice
- buy a rail pass, see Japan and not just Tokyo. Regular is fine, no reason to spend more money on Green pass. Make reservations, some trains had no empty seats in the reserved area. No charge for reservations. I was advise to swap passes in Tokyo or Narita - since more folks spoke English. Read your reservation to find out what train car you are in and stnd where marked on the platform. Be on time. The trains were never late or early on any of the trains we took and they leave you with very little time to get on or off. Pack light, there are luggage racks or you leave it by your feet. (no luggage bays, except for plane to Narita)
- Tokyo subways - lay out your travel plans and be sure to pick the right subway line. English staion names posted for current previous and next subway stations. Also note which exit you want to leave from which is closest to your destination.
- Do not blow your nose in public, switch to bathroom slippers before entering a bathroom, do not stick chop sticks in the rice bowl straight up, do not pass food with a chopstick, most Japanese do not eat or drink on sidewalks, right hand is used to indicate single digits, left hands is for 10'2, 20's 30's..etc. depending on how many fingers are up. So if you mean 7 then, hold up right hand with 5 fingers extended and place two fingers from left hand on top of right hand. If you hold up five fingers on right hand and two on left hand, they think it means 25.
- Kyoto bus system is terrific. Get a bus map and buy a 1 day pass for 500 yen and you can travel to all the major sites easily.
- Toliets - most places have squat toilets, but the handicap ones and those on the bullet trains were "western" style. Bring tissues. Not all places had toliet paper, most did not have hand towels, and some places do not give out napkins with dinner.
- vist the department store's food court in the basement. Cheap, huge varity, regional specialities and wonderful for taking on the train to eat en route.
- ATM's now at Post Offices, some big places take credit cards, but most prefer cash. Hand over money with two hands or place on little tray. Do not count change at register, considered impolite.

Regrets - wished we left more time for shopping for local crafts - pottery, wood products and blockprints were beautiful. Shot 10 rolls of 24 and I wished I took more.

Kudos - Takayama, Mijayama and Kyoto. Woderful to see the mounain region and then go down to the inland sea. Kyoto is wonderful, it has some many beautiful things to see and it is not so big that it is overwhelming. The old house & neighborhoods are still intact. The Japanese - friendly, helpful, polite and welcoming. The food!!! refined, delicous, and compared to the West -lo cal. Please try the eel.

Favorite Ryokans
We stayed in Ryokans for 6 nights out of the 8 nights. Most ryokans have a time when they lock the doors for the night - some places were from 11-7Am, others 11 - 5Am. Get home on time. On our last 2 nights we stayed at the Tokyo Station Hotel for the sake of it's location (and with a rail pass they give you a 10% discount). At most ryokans, child are 70% of the adult price or free depending on their age and if you take meals with them or not. Also, most hotels don't charge for kids if they share your bed - they are all usually twin beds. The other ryokans were fine, but these two were the cleaniest, nicest, friendliest and the ones I would stay at again without any hesitation.
-Oyado Hachibe Ryokan - Takayama
http://www.japaneseguesthouses.com/takayama/index.htm
E-mail:[email protected]
-Miyajimakan Ryokan - Mijayama
http://gambo-ad.com/english/hotel/miyajimakan/info.htm

Good website for budget recommendations:
http://www.budgettravel.com/japnacom.htm

Have fun! I hope I get to go back again.
 
Old Jun 28th, 2001, 12:04 AM
  #2  
Ladybug
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Hi, Connie - wonderful report! I especially appreciate it because your itinerary is very close to what I had in mind for our trip in April. And as a very pleasant bonus, the ryokans you used are quite affordable! I've printed out your posting, but haven't read it in depth. I know I'll have questions to ask, so you'll be hearing from me again, okay?
Thanks a million for sharing!
 
Old Jun 28th, 2001, 03:05 PM
  #3  
lisa
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This is an excellent trip report. I am curious about how difficult you found the language barrier to be. Do you speak any Japanese at all? Did you find that many people spoke English and that signage in English was common?
 
Old Jun 29th, 2001, 01:13 AM
  #4  
Ladybug
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Hi again, Connie -- could you give me details of the ryokans/hotels that you didn't mention? That is, in Tokyo when you first arrived and also in Kyoto. Even if they weren't worthy of your recommendation, just seeing your comments might help in ruling them out. As you know, "negatives" can help almost as much as "positives" in making travel decisions. Thanks very much!!
 
Old Jul 1st, 2001, 03:22 PM
  #5  
Mary
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Connie, Thanks for your trip report. My husband and son (age 10) will be in Tokyo for about 10 days later this month. Could you provide some information on appropriate attire for my son? I'm particularly concerned about whether or not shorts would be appropriate or not. Thanks in advance.
 
Old Jul 1st, 2001, 06:06 PM
  #6  
Conni
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Hi, I will attempt to answer your questions as best, as I can, based on my own experience.

Language: There was actually a lot more signage in English than we had expected. Most stores, businesses major tourist sites and transportation services had names in both English and Japanese, but most restaurants were Japanese only. The transportation system is punctual, clean and modern. Radio signals indicate the next stop, trains and buses have electronic zippers running in English to supplement the Japanese announcements. The bullet trains announce stops in English. I heard that most students go to school and study English for 4 years, so they can read it and but they do not speak it as comfortably. We met university students that spoke it perfectly and two young grammar age kids bravely trying to practice it with us. All the train conductors knew how to say the track number in English. Everyone was helpful and kind. We spoke no Japanese other than a few polite phrases we memorized from the guidebooks. We book a small book along that was good for shopping to figure out the prices. Most times it was added up on by a cashier or on a calculator and shown to us. I had a co-worker translate a few questions into Japanese for us, and the two most useful were: Where is the track number for ____ train, heading for _____ destination. The answer would be in English, leading us to the train board and looking it up or walking us to the actual track! Also, where are the coin lockers? Answer was usually a mix of sign language and some English with lots of pointing.

Lodging - In Tokyo, we stayed at the Tokyo Station Hotel, they offer a 10% discount if you have a rail pass. We stayed there due to it's location. It was a hotel, nothing wonderful but I did not enjoy staying in a hotel where the entrance is accessible by the public (connects to Tokyo Station), without having to go through the front desk. The Marnarouchi Hotel was recommended but full. We also stayed at the Kimi Ryokan, which was very very small, but very clean and comfortable. I would recommend it for singles and backpackers. I have nothing bad to say about them, but I did not think to post it as a high recommendation. In Kyoto we stayed at the Tomei Roykan. 3 minutes from the station -across the street, and probably the closest ryokan to the station. It was sort of aged, not as clean and well utilized. The area is very noisy at night and there is too much pollution and dirt to think about sitting outside. The area is super urban and lacking in any character. The staff was friendly and kind, we took no meals with them. They have a 11-6 curfew and in Kyoto on a Sat. night, we would have liked staying out a little later.

Clothing - my daughter (age 11) wore what was comfortable but never changed into shorts, because we never saw them on anyone older than grammar school kids. Even in Disneyland on a muggy hot humid day, most folks were fashionably dressed and the women wore skirts, (not too much above the knee)pants and capri's. Some men wore shorts, but they were very long and baggy down past the knees. Of course, there were 20 year olds dressed in all sorts of fashion (particularly those with the most colorful hair colors!). In general folks are very neat and kids are in school uniforms, women look like women with high heel open toe sandals with pantyhose and men wore dark suits for business. Jeans and kakhis are popular, but again, very few people wore anything that "looked" worn. Also, most people show very little flesh even though some of the clothing is slinky or tight. Since you are visitors, anything is allowed and accepted no one would be so impolite to stare or say anything.

Have a great trip(s)


 
Old Jul 2nd, 2001, 08:40 AM
  #7  
Mary
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Very helpful. Thanks for your input, Connie.
 

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