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If you only had one week in Japan where would you go and what month?

If you only had one week in Japan where would you go and what month?

Jan 10th, 2002, 10:01 AM
  #21  
Florence
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I've topped the "reading suggestions" thread for you. The Eyewitness travel guide on Japan gives a good overview of Kyoto and detailed maps of some areas.

For real food, if you decide to stay in the Hiraiwa ryokan area (Yuhara is good too, just above the Takase canal), have dinner at restaurant Kawa, left from Hiraiwa along the canal and next to Yuhara. It's cheap, good, and authentic. Don't be shy, the owner loves foreigner and you must be prepared to write something (in any language you like) in the school note book he keeps for this purpose. Last time i was there (May 1999), a young Japanese lady was coming almost every night just for meeting foreigners and practicing English.

For eels, follow your feelings as you see the special displays outside small restaurants.

A good place at night is the izakaya located downstairs on the left side (facing the station) of Karasuma street, about 200 yards from the station. You'll find it looking for tall banners with a huge beer pitcher on it. It is noisy and unfortunately smokey, but the food is great. Sit at the bar and order with the picture cards they'll give you. Everything is cooked in front of you.

The food court under the main station is not bad for an idea of the variety of cuisine you find in Kyoto. Nothing very haute cuisine, but nothing bad either.
 
Jan 10th, 2002, 11:45 AM
  #22  
Sarah
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I always like to read something in fiction that is nationally recognize in any country I am visiting. I want to see what the natives are identifying as great literature.

With this thinking, Yasunari Kawabata, a thousand cranes would be my pick. I believe this guy was awarded the Nobel prize for life time achievement in literature in 1996 or 97. I am sure there are regional awards that better reflect local interest but this is my measure at the moment. I loved Memoirs of Geisha but realize it is written by an American (Ivy League PHD in Japanese studies) still it will get you interested in Japanese culture. The later a very quick and light read.

I also would look into some books of Haiku. The Essential Haiku : Versions of Basho, Buson, and Issa is one I like simple and will introduce to art of Haiku. The reverence for art in Japan has always struck me reading about the structure and history of Haikus is a good place to begin to see evidence of this.
 
Jan 10th, 2002, 11:46 AM
  #23  
sarah
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sorry wrong thread walked away from desk sorry
 
Jan 12th, 2002, 03:06 PM
  #24  
Erica
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I know of three travel agencies in the US that specialize in travel to Japan (they are all Japanese)

JALPAK
IACE
Nissin Travel Service

They are all good, but IACE might have the best prices. They are very helpful and can give very good advise about travel in Japan, as most of the people working for them are Japanese.

As for my opinion on the best place to go... Kyoto is my fav for what you are looking for. I guess it doesn't hurt that my husband is from there! Smiles, Erica
 
Jan 14th, 2002, 09:50 AM
  #25  
Sarah
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Thanks Erica I was able to find an IACE office in NYC. I was just trying to get and idea of pricing for lodging and found that comfort inns go for as little as 60 dollars a night (8000yen)(in August). Is this the exchange rate or is this a divy place located in Kyoto? Any more ideas on cutting cost think I should rent a condo or will the food be so much fun I should not think of cooking?
 
Jan 14th, 2002, 10:06 AM
  #26  
Florence
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$60 = Yen 8000 is about the exchange rate these times. IMO, cooking (and shopping for basic food) will consume lots of time (whether you decide to cook or not, don't miss a visit at the Nishiki food market, a vast covered market between Teramachi and Karasuma, above Shijo, good place for an overview of traditional foodstuff, a taste of Japanese housewives buying groceries, and getting an inexpensive lunch).
I'm used to spend about Yen 600 for breakfast, 500-1000 for lunch, and 1500-2000 for dinner, if I don't buy something from the next Lawson or 7/11, plus drinks from vending machines. As an aside, tap water is safe in Japan, as it is in temple fountains. Many of the bigger temples and sanctuaries will offer free cups of tea.
 
Jan 15th, 2002, 11:15 PM
  #27  
Jackie
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to reply to your original question,
fly to Kansai airport then visit:

Kyoto (3 days; stay away from tourist traps)

Nara (a day trip would do; you could actually walk to the major sites; watch out for deer that are very aggressive - they're everywhere!)

Ise (overnight trip from Kyoto; do not miss the Ise shrine)

i like staying at zen temples (less than $50 a night per person, including a very tasty vegan breakfast). the major problem is the bathrooms, which are unisex ! i took a shower in the afternoon when no one was around. splurge on a nice ryokan (japanese-style inn) at Ise.

i'd add a couple of days to visit Kyoto's countryside. you could go down the river in a tiny canoe-like boat (very scenic and romantic, though there'll be someone in the boat rowing it for you, like the gondolas in Venice) and stay at a hot springs resort where you can see a lake lit by fishermen's lanterns in the evening. wild monkeys will invade your room and steal tangerines if you leave your windows open (no joke). sorry, can't remember the name of the particular town, but if anyone's interested, i can ask.

i wouldn't go to Japan in june, july, august, and early september if i had a choice. wouldn't go there in august even if someone pays me. why? the heat, humidity, and crowds (kids on summer vacation are everywhere) are dreadful!

hope you have a great trip!
 
Jan 16th, 2002, 12:24 AM
  #28  
Ladybug
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Hello, Sarah - I'd go to Kyoto either in April during the cherry blossom season or during the autumn colors. For us, both visits were beautiful.

And I'd walk the Philosopher's Path, which sounds like a wonderful walk we missed. Can someone elaborate on this particular route and its charms?? Thank you!
 
Jan 16th, 2002, 04:31 AM
  #29  
Sarah
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Thanks Jackie and Ladybug,
Any guidance you can give me on accommodation is welcomed. Would love to hear about lodging and places in countryside. I live in NYC and do not want to only visit cities. So tell me about the inn near the monkeys. I also wanted to ask how is it to sleep on those tatami mats. I owned a futon years ago but now am use to western style beds. Are they rough on your back? Don't you just love this board!!! I just don't meet travelers unless I am traveling. Will see if I can go in May and take two weeks but that is the limit in time unfortunately and I am not even sure May would work.
 
Jan 16th, 2002, 02:54 PM
  #30  
lcuy
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Hi Sarah- Futon beds are so comfortable! The tatami mats are the floor coverings made out of a reed covering a styrofoam core. Very smooth and wonderful smelling. Don't wear your shoes OR the house slippers on them.
The futon is like the one you are familiar with- in many places the maids will lay them out for you in the evening and put them away while you're out to breakfast. In hostels, you'll find them folded at the foot of your bed. The only thing that is anything but perfect about them is that you get up from the floor, instead of swinging your legs off the bed. I love to look at Japanese highrise apartments with futons hanging out to air on every balcony. Don't worry about when you go...Summer is too hot, winter too cold, spring too wet, and fall too unpredictable, but guess what? I have never wished I wasn't in Japan because of the weather! Each season has it's charms and the Japanese really celebrate the changes with new food, new decorations, and new clothes for each season.
 
Jan 17th, 2002, 02:15 AM
  #31  
Caroline
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Konnichiwa Sarah,

Don't miss Kyoto and Nara, that's for sure, there are maybe more accessible for non japanese speaking, and there is a lot of more traditionnal places left than Osaka.

In kyoto, beautiful temples like Nanzen Ji, or Arashiyama, a small town not far from Kyoto, is also great to visit when not the peak season...best time for me would be around May...not too hot yet, and less crowded after cherry blossoms.
Avoid the summer time!
Cheers
 
Jan 17th, 2002, 03:37 AM
  #32  
Florence
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Summertime in Japan is one of the best time for traditional festivals. It is a pity to miss them just because of the heat.
 
Jan 17th, 2002, 04:58 AM
  #33  
Sarah
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Thanks everyone nice to know that I don't have to worry about time of year? Really appreciate the run down on those tatami mats I can already smell the weave with your description Lcuy. I can't believe those places are so inexpensive. Anyway to get around the communal bath? I know some are shared and private but I just envision lines in the morning.

Thanks Caroline for the info on the temples and Nara. Was not happy to miss out on festival season Florence. The idea of a fire fly festival sounds magical.

I am trying to bone up on Japanese literature. Anyone read Tale of Genji and is there a translation that you prefer over others? Any other fiction and non fiction that helped you to better understand the culture? A friend told me to read up on Zen Budhism so that I can identify its influences in the gardens, Art ect...Any word or suggestions?

Is the Bon Festival more of a family or private holiday or is there enough going on in public for me to watch. I know about the bon fires and lantern flow but will people be in their homes on much of this holiday. I know Florence said Gion Matsuri has more pagentry which is a big draw for me still I can't imagine missing the roots of what I have enjoyed in Hawaii.

I know that my requests are floating all over the place here but that is the way my travel searches start. I appreciate all of your input. Has anyone been to Okinawa? Is it worth a trip down or is that too much running around in two weeks.
 
Jan 17th, 2002, 09:50 AM
  #34  
Florence
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Sarah,

It seems your heart is set on O-bon, and I think Kyoto is still the best place for you given your time constraints, since there is a concentration of events in a relatively small area. For an overview of events, have a look at the Month by Month Kyoto events" for August pages at http://www.kyotoguide.com/e-whatson/index.html

Make sure you book your hotel rooms well in advance (for Gion too).

Gion is more spectacular and festive, but all I can wish for you is that you can experience both and decide which one you like best (means you'll have to return to Japan).

Travelling during O-bon is a royal (even imperial) pain: half big-cities dwellers will be travelling back to their "furusato" (home-town), where they will mostly have family celebrations. All public transportation systems are packed solid and the roads are a pure nightmare. This has the good effect of emptying (to a certain extend - more and more people use that period for tourism) cities like Tokyo and Kyoto.

Re. tatami is really confortable, softer than what you might think, and smells of freshly cut grass.

Re communal bath: many inns have showers in addition to the main bath, and the Japanese are used to bath at night rather than in the morning.

Okinawa is definitely worth a visit, but too far away given your schedule. Again, you'll have to return to Japan for that one (bad news, eh ?).

 
Jan 17th, 2002, 10:32 AM
  #35  
Sarah
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Thanks Florence did want to hear the extra bit about Gion being more festive. How long do you think that travel problem exists for Bon Festival?Good to hear all sides. I thought the Japanese tourist board did advise against travel during Obon.
 
Jan 17th, 2002, 08:44 PM
  #36  
Florence
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Travel problem lasts about 1 week mid-August. You won't realise it if you only stay in Kyoto, but again book your hotel rooms well in advance.
 
Jan 18th, 2002, 12:43 AM
  #37  
jackie
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tolerance for heat and humidity differs from person to person, i suppose. kyoto is a basin so it's really hot during summer and cold during winter. but if you aren't deterred by the prospect of the blazing sun and feeling sticky-yucky all day long, then by all means, you should go see the gion festival. it is a sight to behold. my last words on this subject: i took my other half, who was born and raised in hawaii, to kyoto in eary july and he doesn't want to go back there during the summer months.

http://www.kyotoguide.com/e-past-issue/01.07sea.html has some information on hozugawa kudari (boat ride) and on other seasonal (summer) activities.

japanese culture (4th edition) by paul varley is a good place to start (i am a little biased here since i took classes from him).

edward g. seidensticker's translation of "The Tale Of Genji" is considered THE standard by many. prof. seidensticker translated most of kawabata's books and accompanied him when he received the nobel prize in 1968. the nobel lecture given by kawabata (japan, the beautiful and myself) is quite interesting. it can be found on the net.

prof. seidensticker also published a book on the history of tokyo (low city, high city). if you can find a copy in a library, it's worth a look.

essays written by donald keene are always entertaining and sometimes enlightening. the anthology of japanese lit. edited by keene is a must have. i don't always agree with keene and i am definitely not as fond of mishima yukio as keene is, but he does have great taste.

when i travel, i just go and enjoy the food. i really admire people who find and take the time to do the research beyond hotels and restaurants.

best wishes



 
Jan 18th, 2002, 07:27 AM
  #38  
Sarah
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Thanks Jackie what a great list! I do find that my travels are enhanced if I do a cross section of reading. I like to pick one history, one Art, one social structure/commentary, one novel. Being less familar with Japan I will probably make this my reading project for the year. I always am left wishing that I had taken a class before a big trip like this. I find you are able to absorb more of what is around you, feel the history blah blah blah. Ever read any of Banana Yoshimoto's books?

Thanks Florence that makes it less of a problem if I choose that week.
 
Jan 18th, 2002, 07:38 AM
  #39  
Sarah
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p.s Jackie I know why those Hawaii boys can't handle the humidity spoiled by those trade wind breezes. I live in the steamy toilet of NYC so I am hoping that has built up my endurance, somewhat. Do the Reyokans (sp) have air conditioning? I understand if you want to skip these questions that I should be reading out of a travel guide. I only decided to go on 8th and have been away last weekend and then this weekend. I did try to buy the book Lcuy suggested on another site "Gateway to Japan" but they were out. Will order online. In any event if any one is game I am listening.
 
Jan 18th, 2002, 07:39 AM
  #40  
Sarah
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p.s Jackie I know why those Hawaii boys can't handle the humidity spoiled by those trade wind breezes. I live in the steamy toilet of NYC so I am hoping that has built up my endurance, somewhat. Do the Reyokans (sp) have air conditioning? I understand if you want to skip these questions that I should be reading out of a travel guide. I only decided to go on 8th and have been away last weekend and then this weekend. I did try to buy the book Lcuy suggested on another site "Gateway to Japan" but they were out. Will order online. In any event if anyone is game I am listening.
 

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