JAPAN - 2010

Mar 2nd, 2011, 12:38 PM
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Join Date: Jan 2004
Posts: 240
JAPAN - 2010


May 28 Miami - Atlanta- Narita (we were rerouted away from N.Y. because of bad weather).

May 29 Arrive Narita – 5pm Picture and forefinger prints. Had a gun to read body temp 50 feet away.
Validate train tickets with voucher in office.
Proceed to train.
Train was clean – had malt beer.
Toilet had heated seat and was immaculate.
Went to son’s mother-in-law’s home in Shinjuku near Yayogi station.
They ordered delicious sushi in – came in 5 boxes – after eating, boxes are cleaned and left outside door for pick-up.

May 30 Went to sleep and woke up at 5:30 a.m. – walked with family including 20-month old grandson.
Sunday – had breakfast at Pronto in Yoyogi – good coffee and white toast with egg and cheese mashed into toast.
Stopped in Ramen shop on 4-hour family walk – very filling and hot soup (get mild)
Walked to Meji Shrine and outer gardens. Beautiful property in the middle of city. The gates are made of cypress, tall and beautiful.
Passed by riding stables and academy.
After visiting the Shrine, came to Harajuku train station. Lively – it was Sunday and young people from all over were dressed colorfully and were non-conformists.
Walked from street filled with young people – very crowded. Stopped at one of the crepe shops for an ice banana chocolate crepe – was yummy! For you guys who liked the school girl look, there were thousands of Japans most attractive young people.
We went home for a nap and slept from 4:30-7:30 pm.

Most places were closed Sunday night at 10 pm. We found an excellent Indian restaurant (to the left and upstairs when facing Yayogi station from the street). They closed at 11 pm but talked to Indian owners from Delhi until midnight.

May 31 Went home and slept until 6 am – had coffee and went to Tsukiji Fish Market. When we got off subway, we could smell fish. Auction was over but it was incredible – 90% of Japan’s fish comes through the market. The crabs, tuna, salmon, eel, clams were everywhere. It is a good place to buy sharp knives at a good price. We walked through and bought cooked fish and chicken for “happy-hour” back at the house.
At 11 am, we went to one of the many sushi restaurants to the left of the market – had an assortment of obviously delicious sushi and had a saki buzz at 11 am in the morning. My wife, who does not usually eat raw fish loved it. It was tender and fresh.
We walked from the market through Ginza to the Imperial Palace. We stopped in the Peninsula Hotel to use the bathroom. The toilet was fascinating – heated seat, buttons to wash the front and back of you on high or low spray.
To our dismay, the Imperial Palace Gardens were closed Mondays. We walked through Hibaya Park stopping for water. There are vending machines everywhere in Japan. The cigarette machines read circles on eyes and face to determine your age – beer, coffee, water, soda, etc., in the machines.
Went for dinner to an eel-only place in Yogogi open for 80 years. Took our shoes off and sat around a table in a private room. With Yoyogi Station to your back, it is about ½ mile down on the right. I went to the bathroom and they gave me slippers to enter the bathroom. Beer goes very well with sushi.
Went home and drank Suntory scotch (from Lost in Translation) until toasted.

June 1 Learned something about validating JR Pass – interesting to validate and take JR from Yayogi. Only certain places validate JR Pass (not Yayogi) – had to go to Tokyo station for son and daughter-in-law to validate their
passes – had 1½ hour layover for trip to Mito – went to Kitchen Station downstairs and found a great tempura restaurant right next to the Irish Pub. They brought fresh tempura fish, shrimp and vegetables along with soup to the table. Have not had a bad meal yet – Japan is an eating culture!
We went to Mita (1½ hour train ride) to visit the Buddhist cemetery where our hostess, Eiko, husband’s (he died at age 67 2 years ago) ashes were laid. He and other family member’s ashes are all under one stone. I was taken aback by swastikas on stones, but learned they were Buddhist and not Nazi symbols. We took buckets with ladles and poured water on the family stones. Eiko placed flowers at the family plot and burned incense. We proceeded to an adjoining Temple for a private Zen memorial service. The monk chanted in Japanese and struck a bell and piece of wood. I am Jewish but partook of the sacraments. You take incense particles, bring them to your forehead and then place it on a not stone 3 times and bow to the monk – one person at a time.
While in Mito, we walked to the nearby Nichido Gallery and museum of Art built by an art lover who has a gallery in Ginza, Tokyo. The grounds were beautiful with an excellent collection. We were surrounded by views of mountains and a waterfalls. We walked about 4 miles back to the train station. The local Japanese children were interested by our 20-month old grandson who is a mix of Japanese and Latino American background. We took the train home – we ate from a bento box of cooked fish, seaweed and vegetable.

June 2 We drank and went to sleep for 7 hours – went to Starbucks (similar to ours). We went on fast bullet train from Tokyo station to Kyoto (2 ½ hours). It was too cloudy to see Mt. Fuji on the right. We had a fish bento box on the train with eel, mackerel and octopus on rice with Yebisu malt beer. We headed to the Hotel Granavia over the train station in Kyoto.

We ate dinner at Kashi Kura yakatori restaurant – excellent restaurant.
Walked to river – great clubs and hostess clubs along the south side of river.

June 3 Thursday – Walked for exercise, Breakfast in Hotel
Sunrise Tours – Palace, Ninjo-Jo Castle, Golden Palace
Sushiiwa – Lunch – The owner, Toshiya, spoke to me for two hours. Had a sashimi platter with tuna sushi and salmon eggs.
Got up and went for a one-hour walk as nothing was open until 7 pm. I have a Citibank Debit card. You can draw money from Post Office, 7-Eleven and Citibank. Had a breakfast in Hotel Granavia – It was overpriced - $40 for 2 cups of coffee, 2 omelet’s and croissants.
Took Sunrise half-day tour to Ninjo-Jo Castle, Golden Palace and Imperial Palace. It was a little rushed but gave us an overview. I left the family and took a nap in the room. I walked to a great sushi restaurant – Sushiiwa. The owner Toshiya spoke with me for two hours. Had sashimi platter with salmon eggs and tuna sushi.
At night, we took the bullet to Osaka. Had pancakes with seafood at Chibo (excellent). We then had the local “junkfood” – grilled octopus on a stick with breading around it. We then hit a local restaurant Bar-Izakaya-Yakko near Namba Station. The locals were louder in Osaka and appeared drunk – it was fun! We returned by local train to Kyoto – the Bullet train to Osaka from Kyoto took 10 minutes and the return to Kyoto on the local train took 45 minutes.

June 4 Friday – We got up and went to Aritsugu Co. to buy a knife. We took the subway 2 stops from Kyoto Station. There was a great selection. My wife bought a vegetable knife engraved at no extra charge “R&R Japan 2010”. It was a hassle getting cash for the purchase. We went to a bank nearby and exchanged $100 US for cash – we had to go to the 2nd floor office of the bank. There were 3 bosses with underlings walking around them. When underlings left the room, they bowed to each of the 3 bosses.

The bathrooms are interesting in Japan – heated seats with built-in bidets. It is a good way of cleaning our “privates”. For lunch, we went to the department store fresh food area connected to Kyoto Station. I ate excellent fried chicken and shrimp dumplings. The rice crackers are excellent in Japan.
We took a rest and checked out at 2 pm. We took a cab ($30) to the Rock Garden. It was beautiful grounds but the Rock Garden only had 15 rocks! We took local transportation back to the station. We took 2 one-car trains and a bus to return. The locals could not have been better with directions. We stopped in the department store and got cheese, rice crackers and yogurt. Took the bullet train back to Tokyo. We had ice coffee and green cake in the Kyoto Station. Listened to ipod on the train – took Chuo Line to Shin Juku Station and then to Yayogi Station. Back at the house, had drinks and went to sleep.

June 5 Saturday – Got up late to go to fish market. We arrived at noon to bring fish back for barbecue. Everything was closed as there was no fish to buy – too late. We stopped at a place for incredible sashimi around the fish market. Even though abalone is a delicacy, I did not like it as it is hard. Stopped to buy fish, chicken wings and drums at the supermarket in Yayogi for barbeque. The supermarket did not sell charcoal and we had to go to a harware store.

At 5 pm locals come for a barbeque. We had cervice and tuna and avocado with 2 magnum sized bottles of saki. The cloudy was best. We were with several persons who spoke English along with locals. The wings were perfect. I went to sleep at midnight. My son Diego got into a wrestling match with 2 Germans. My wife and Saya (Diego’s wife) broke it up.

June 6 Sunday – Went by train to Hakone. Got “Hakone Free Pass” at Shin Jaku Station for 5500 yen each. Took 3 trains to Miyonoshita to Fujiya Hotel –

Eisenhower, Thatcher, Twiggy and William Holden stayed here. We took luggage from the train station which was difficult. Should call hotel to pick you up with luggage. Hotel has been around since 1870’s. We saw a beautiful wedding while there. They had a cloakroom. We swam in the pool and Jacuzzi that had hot
spring water. Hot spring water was pumped to room. We had an elegant dinner in the dining room.

June 7 Monday – We had American breakfast - included. Went to Miyonashita Station to Gira and transferred to a cable car. We proceeded to a large gondola ride (15-person capacity). On the way up, we saw sulfur pots and steam escaping from the earth. Got off at the first stop and walked ½ mile to the top. We could not see Fuji-San. They boil eggs in the steaming water and send the black eggs down by lift which the tourists eat. We got back on the gondola and the skies opened and we saw Mt. Fuji. It is difficult to take a picture against the sky. We went to the lake and boarded a pirate boat (touristy) on Lake Ashi. We got off at the first stop and looked for the “checkpoint”. Just keep walking left when you dock. The “checkpoint” is not worth it. It is a replica and all the guides and writing were in Japanese. We walked about 20 minutes to the left to the next town where the bus leaves to go back to the Fujiya Hotel. Prior to that, we had excellent tempura, miso and saki at the 3rd restaurant on the right as you enter the town. The bus stopped at our hotel. As we were tired and Rachel (my wife) felt ill, we had room service. Food at the Fujiya was overpriced, but excellent.

June 8 Tuesday – Had American breakfast included at the hotel. The staff took our bags from the hotel to Miyonshita Station. Took train to Hakkone-Yamato and transferred to Odwara. We then took the Shinkansen with a change at Osaka to Hiroshima. We saw the lower half of Fuji-San as the top was covered by clouds. We ate in Osaka Station. You buy coupens for the meal in a machine and give it to your waiter. I had an excellent whole fish with rice. A peculiar habit among Japanese as some of them

walk with surgical masks. I think a lot of the people are “germaphobic”. My wife says that they do this to not spread germs when they have colds. In Hiroshima, we are staying at the Granvia Hotel which is connected to the train station.
Took the #2 streetcar to the A-Dome – incredible! Saw memorial to Sedata at the Peace Park. Sedata was a young girl who died of Leukemia several years after the bomb. She believed if she folded 1,000 cranes, she would survive. Cranes are everywhere. It rained and we went back to the
Granvia. Ate dinner at Kanawa for Oysters in station. Had a $15 oyster – it was gigantic and cut in 3 pieces – more oyster meat in one than a couple dozen back home!

June 9 Wednesday – Went back to Peace Memorial. 6th grade children learning English came up to us. They sang and gave us paper cranes that they made. We saw the Centograph (contains names of the dead from bombing), eternal flames and museum. It was sad and definitely
made us feel “anti-nuclear” and some guilt.

Took train to Miyajima – used JR Pass (after leaving bags in lockers) for ferry to the island. Saw friendly deer everywhere. They ate paper and anything they could grab from your hands and bags. We walked to Momijisou Ryokan. It was strange in the room. Tatami table on floor with 2 seats on either side. The owner, (Grandmother Fumiko) served us iced sweet green tea. We walked to dinner at Mometunika. Had conger eel on rice and Rachel had fried chicken. There were young Japanese kids (staying at the island for summer sports camp) shopping everywhere. Had a 9 pm curfew at the Ryokan. We slept on futons on tatami mats (13) with private bath. It was a real Japanese experience.

June 10 Thursday – They served us an American breakfast. We met 4 persons from Spain. Walked to Mt. Misen Ropeway. We took 2 chairlifts through
dense woods. We then walked ½ hour each way to the Summitt passing religious sites. There were many bees at the top. It was a worthwhile trip.

We took the ferry and local train back to Hiroshima Station. We took Shinkansen to Osaka. We checked into Swissotel over Namba Station. We ate at the Empress (Cantonese) restaurant in the hotel. The portions were small but good.

June 11 Friday - We went shopping in long malls outside the hotel. We had whole crabs on the river at Kani Doraku. I bought a full bottle of saki in Takahimaya dept. store. We returned and went back out. We stopped in an Aussie bar – Blue Billibong. It was dead but we had octopus and pizza. We saw a busy bar restaurant (Italian) named Pieno. The menu was in Japanese but they understood us. Rachel had Pizza and I had a delicious chicken parmesan, beer and shot of Jamaican rum (Myers) for 2400 yen ($25).

June 12 Saturday – The sun rises at 4:30 am. Got up to do laundry. Brought Starbucks coffee back to the room first. The nearby coin laundry (behind McDonald’s) does not open until 2 pm. We walked around town – Dotobori, shinsaibasha and Namba walk. They are long covered shopping centers with shops on both sides in a long line. Had lunch (set) at a typical counter restaurant. Took clothes to wash – 300 yen per load and 100 yen for 8 minutes of drying. While there, I met a 50+ year old man who owned a badminton shop – he bought me an iced coffee. He called Amy from Taiwan who was engaged to his son. She spoke good English as she had lived in Southern California for 4 years. Had Korean dinner at Hitma. Had kimche and clam soup. Went to a Chinese chain restaurant (20 restaurants in Osaka) called Chuken and had excellent shrimp dumplings and fried chicken. Rachel had fried rice. The Fodorites recommended Korean restaurant, Kankaku Katei, but it was out of business.

June 13 Sunday – Checked out and took train to Matsumato. It is 3 hours with a change in Negoya. Checked into Western room at Hotel Kagetsu with a castle view (slight view). Went downstairs for a Japanese bath, jacuzzi

and shower. All shows on TV are in Japanese. Found a bar on the way to dinner called Flow. Flow had 500 yen ($5.00) scotches and vodkas with Avatar playing on TV. Went to Kura for dinner. It was excellent. I had sushi and soup. The wasabi is placed in the sushi by the chef. The homemade wasabi was excellent. The proprietor, upon leaving, gave us
pretty his and hers wash cloths and a sketch of restaurant as a gift. Went to bed and woke up 2-4 am and watched world-cup soccer on TV.

June 14 Monday – Had Japanese breakfast (included in hotel). Hotel recommended a place called Ihara for lacquer and gifts. We bought three items. The street called Nakamachi had several fine shops. We found a street just north of the river and found some good bargains on dishes. We shopped in a bakery for French bread and a pastry. We went to Matsumato castle, but first removed our shoes before entering. It looked more like a temple than a castle. Upon entering, we met a free English speaking guide who took us through. The steps of the 6-story castle were steep but it was worth going up. The view of the city from the top was great (city view). We bought yogurt at a convenience store outside the castle and had it for lunch. We took a short nap. Went to a bar across from the hotel – had kimchi with scotch (yamazaki) for me and vodka for wife. We met the vice-mayor and his secretary. Going to restaurant So-No-Haru (frommers recommendation) for local specialties for dinner. We sat at the bar. The owner (heavy Japanese) spoke a little English. His mom opened the restaurant 60 years ago. There is no menu. They drive 2 hours to the countryside for fresh veggies daily. You know it is good because local restaurateurs eat there. We made friends with the Japanese restaurateurs and people at the bar. The owner and wife gave us a gift and walked us out. They watched us all the way to the corner. The place was fantastic. Went back to hotel and watched Japan beat Cameroon in soccer.

June 15 Tuesday – We left Matsumato after a Western breakfast. $25 for 2. We took the train (2 ½ hours) to Shinjuki Station and walked to the Hyatt. We are on a high floor overlooking the park and the Park Hyatt Hotel

(“Lost in Translation”). Grabbed a pizza in hotel restaurant. Heading to dinner at Salvatore Cuomo (Italian). Excellent food – had spaghetti with black ink squid and Rachel had spaghetti with tomato sauce. At the bottom of each skyscraper building, there are many restaurants.

June 16 Wednesday – Had coffee and Danish (complimentary on 6th floor) of Hyatt. I worked out in the gym and Rachel swam in the pool. Brazil beat N. Korea in the World Cup. Had incredible sushi in sushi Ishikawa and Rachel had eel (unago) in the basement of a nearly building. Took JR from Shinjuku Station and changed at Shibuya to regular subway to Daikan Station. The Japanese people gave us directions all the way. Fodor recommended lacquerware place called Yamada Heiando. We bought 3 pieces and stopped for iced coffee on the way back to station. The weather is getting hot and humid (time to leave).

We went to the nearby Island Building to the 2nd floor for good yakotori at Tori Dori before heading to the New York Bar (“Lost in Translation”) in nearby Park Hyatt Hotel. It was costly but well worth it. We drank 2 scotches and listened to an American jazz group.

June 17 Thursday – Last Day. We went to the Hyatt gym for a workout and then had complimentary coffee and Danish breakfast on the 6th floor. Took the Narita Express to the airport. Had my last sushi meal at the airport shopping mall. Flight on Delta took 13 hours. Had a 4-hour layover at JFK before the flight to Miami. Arrived at the Delta Sky Lounge just missing Apollo Ono. Upon departure, we saw a great sunset behind Manhattan Island. Arrived in Miami 11 pm exhausted with a lifetime of memories. What an incredible experience!
citiboy50 is offline  
Mar 2nd, 2011, 01:59 PM
Join Date: May 2004
Posts: 6,342
I had wondered how your trip had gone. Sounds like you had a wonderful time. You stayed in a few hotels that I have stayed in so I can see the places you are writing about in my mind. Are you planning a return trip?

hawaiiantraveler is offline  
Mar 2nd, 2011, 02:26 PM
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Join Date: Jan 2004
Posts: 240
yes-Rachel and I (Rick) loved it.As you can see, we loved the food and drink along with the sites. It was like landing on Mars. The culture and people were so different. Nothing like the Japanese descendants living in Hawaii. LOL.
citiboy50 is offline  
Mar 2nd, 2011, 04:52 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 5,989
Excellent detail on the report -- thanks! Agree w/ht (for once): it's a lot of fun for someone who has been to many places that you passed through to "re-visit" through someone else's eyes.

The biggest problem, as surely you've discovered, is the disappointment of sushi here in the States. Not that it isn't good, but the stuff in Tokyo and the rest of Japan, even in the most modest of sushi joints, is amazing.
DonTopaz is offline  
Mar 2nd, 2011, 07:57 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 12,418
You've made me so hungry that I think I'll go get sushi tonight!

thanks for your nice report!
lcuy is offline  
Mar 3rd, 2011, 06:18 AM
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unfortunately, Sashimi/sushi in the States will never be the same.The best restaurant in Miami does not compare to airport sushi in Japan.
citiboy50 is offline  
Mar 3rd, 2011, 12:04 PM
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I wish we had fresh Bento boxes here in the states-a fantastic lunch.
citiboy50 is offline  

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