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JAPAN..Travel agent? A few other questions, too

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May 5th, 2018, 05:36 AM
  #21
 
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Oh I hope you get to Fukuoka. I was so disappointed to pass that up.

If you get a chance, you may want to browse through my Japan TR. my food documentation may be sketchy, but there were so many memorable meals. The language barrier really wasn’t an issue- everywhere had an English menu, often with pictures, although some of the translations were odd.

Food highlights that I remember offhand: the kaiseki meal in Kyoto, hida beef (both steak and nigiri) in Takayama. Rice balls in a little neighborhood place in Kyoto. Offal/Korean bbq that I queued for accidentally in Tokyo. The gyoza place I queued for deliberately. (If you see a line of Japanese people waiting for food, get in line. Always good). Not Japanese, but the MO in Tokyo has a molecular gastronomy meal that I really enjoyed- 1 Michelin Star.

kaisekiimg]https://cimg7.ibsrv.net/gimg/www.fodors.com-vbulletin/2000x1504-1/19d2ec31_cd65_4228_b30f_a0d5bdf54f39_2323702c2cd51 513ecea106db9f85e703a3427a9.jpeg[/img]



I definitely agree with the encouragement to get away from the train stations. I found some wonderful local places off the beaten path. It was a little difficult the first week or so, but the more successes, I had, the more adventurous I became.

I loved onsens. I didn’t expect to, so perhaps your partner will surprise you? That said, I wasn’t really impressed with Hakone, although there’s a lot to do there, and I could have entertained myself a few more days at least.

Luxury hotels are not my forte, but I was impressed by the MO’s service and location. Also the lobby bathroom view was spectacular.

Intrigued by your mention of the vintage textiles- what exactly are you looking for? I was sad to discover that I’d planned my time in Tokyo at the same time of Tomato’s summer closure. I want to go back to Japan just for textile hunting. And for sea urchin bowls at tsukijiki. Your thread is making me hungry.
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May 5th, 2018, 01:46 PM
  #22
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OMG: Sea urchin bowls? I will respond more later but talk about making someone hungry!!!

Years ago, in the '80s, vintage kimono were not popular with Japanese as there was a taboo against used clothing (or so I was told). Maybe this is still true. I remember a place called Komachi House in Kyoto which sold used kimono and I bought about a dozen, mostly man's kimono that might have been for weddings. With a symbol on the outside and a woven/embroildered lining. I used to wear them with black leggings and once I was shopping for an outfit for my sister's wedding in NYC. I went into the shop of a well-known Dutch designer who had a shop on Madison Avenue. I was wearing the black kimono. He flipped out and told me if I would give it to him, I could choose any one item in his store. I declined, but I'll always remember that. Anyway, back then you could buy these kimono for maybe $20 or $30 dollar equivalent. So I'd love to find vintage traditional clothing. Also anything indigo, and anything I could mount and hang on the wall. I just love the look and feel even if I don't remember much about the various fabrics and dyes.

I also love the items that have a veneer of cherry wood. I bought some of those and after the passing of time, a few of them have started to crack and the veneer has begun to peel off. This is the type of work I am speaking of; not sure of the name but you can see here a small item. I collect small boxes and love anything interesting.


https://zenminded.uk/products/zen-mi...-accessory-box
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May 5th, 2018, 04:52 PM
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Oh, I love the kimono story. Very cool. I wondered where people bought second kimonos- it seems fashionable to make them into art or recycled fashion now.

And...

BEHOLD: SEA URCHIN BOWL


I found a list online of 10 best Uni bowls in Tokyo or something like that. Some day I shall try all of those ten. I came back and my friends asked “what was your best food?” I said hmmm, that’s tough but that was either the offal or the sea urchin. “And we thought you could get no weirder,” she said. Anyway, apparently Hokkaido is world famous for Uni. I had to cut Hokkaido, and Kyushu, so I really need to go back some day!
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May 6th, 2018, 04:17 AM
  #24
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Oh, My, that uni looks quite amazing. Is this the same as ricci in Italy (sea urchin)?

I still have most of those kimonos. The designer was Koos Van Den Akker; he's gone now but was quite the talent back then. Apparently there are still second-hand Kyoto shops selling old kimonos..but who knows what the prices are now. I used to hang one of the black ones, inside out with the embroidered lining showing, on the wall...

I ordered a few books and am now thinking two weeks in each city and then on to Kyushu where we might rent a car. Since I am a nervous driver to begin with, this might be spooky, but interested to hear about people from right-driving countries who have rented cars in Japan.
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May 6th, 2018, 06:39 AM
  #25
 
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Had some really delicious beef in Fukuoka:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaura...u_Okinawa.html
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May 6th, 2018, 04:49 PM
  #26
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Thursday, thanks for that! I'm excited to try the various local specialties.
Where are you off to next, if you don't mind me asking?
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May 6th, 2018, 04:57 PM
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Hi eks, thanks for asking. I've been grounded for the last year, but am finally on medication that seems to be working without side effects. Yeah! However, I don't think I'll be tackling anything more difficult than England this year, where I'll be visiting family. Maybe somewhere more exciting next year. Happily, I finally made it to Uzbekistan in 2016 (along with return visits to South Korea and Japan) but still have four 'stans to go, plus Iran.

BTW, I chose to visit Nagasaki rather than Hiroshima, it always seem to be overshadowed if not forgotten.
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May 6th, 2018, 05:45 PM
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Yep, sea urchin roe.

apparently 18 varieties are edible (well, at least, you want to eat those) and when Japan had a shortage, an industry in CA started up. Now because of various reasons, those urchins are under threat. winter is best because that’s when the roe is biggest (the urchins are feeling frisky) but in any case freshest is best, which explains why it’s so good in places like Japan and Italy, where people are very interested in seasonal food, and so dubious in the us.

Sadly, like so much ocean life, the main threat is ocean acidification/climate change. I feel about snorkeling/wildlife like how I feel about Venice- I will never get to see every place currently under threat in my life time.

(There was an science article about sea urchins in california last year, I got a bit obsessed.)


So glad to hear you’re doing better, Thursday!!
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May 6th, 2018, 07:33 PM
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Re vintage textiles: I assumed you were talking about boro which is now very expensive everywhere in Japan. Collectors have scoured remote villages in Nigata so there is very little left to discover, is my impression. Old kimono on the other hand are plentiful - I keep an eye out for haori as I find the shorter length easier to work with - I like to try to keep to 500 yen for haori, 1,000 yen for kimono. Oedo antique fair at the International Forum in Tokyo, lst and 3rd Sundays is a good source. Now that the Yasukuni shrine antique fair is closed, many of the vendors have turned up there. Also check Tansuya shops - found all over the country. End November/early December they take over a big hall in central Tokyo and have huge clearout. The Boro-Ichi market in Setagaya (15-16 January, 15-16 December) is worth planning a trip around. My Japanese friends tell me people come regularly to the door asking for old kimonos which they offer to buy for just a few hundred yen. As a result, Japanese friends are only too pleased to give away kimono to someone who will appreciate them instead of having them end up in piles in the boro-ichi/shrine fairs/antique markets.
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May 7th, 2018, 01:04 PM
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To reach Yukari Shinji Sakamoto: [email protected]. She does not work nor lead tours on weekends.
Her website: www.foodsaketokyo. Buy her book; I know you will enjoy it. I bought it on Amazon.
she lives in Tokyo but was raised in the US. We emailed back and forth and she was so very helpful answering my questions. We had to cancel our trip to Japan a week before we were scheduled to leave due to necessary major surgery. We will rebook it and make sure to be in Tokyo to book a tour with Yukari on a weekday. I also had booked tours in Tokyo and Kyoto with Context Tours.I look forward to following your posts on Japan.
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May 7th, 2018, 01:15 PM
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There's a used kimono store along the Philosopher's Path in Kyoto, and it had stacks and stacks of them, but they weren't that cheap. I'm sorry, but I can't remember the name right now.

The Park Hyatt is still the best hotel in Shinjuku, but terribly expensive. If it were me, I'd save and stay at the Keio Plaza. Some rooms have amazing views, and it's very well located not too far and not too close to the station.
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May 7th, 2018, 01:23 PM
  #32
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OH this is great stuff! I have the Yukari Sakamoto book coming in the mail.
Boveney you are way ahead of me! I'm embarassed by my lack of information on this topic. I know next to nothing about these textiles but will be sure to read up, and try to include the dates you mention. Would you mind letting me know about any others in November/early December in Tokyo and Kyoto or places easy to access from those cities?

I read a chain called Nakano Broadway. Does that ring a bell?

6 nights in Kyoto? Too long for one who does not want to visit more than 3 or 4 temples?
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May 7th, 2018, 02:41 PM
  #33
 
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Originally Posted by ekscrunchy View Post
OH this is great stuff! I have the Yukari Sakamoto book coming in the mail.
Boveney you are way ahead of me! I'm embarassed by my lack of information on this topic. I know next to nothing about these textiles but will be sure to read up, and try to include the dates you mention. Would you mind letting me know about any others in November/early December in Tokyo and Kyoto or places easy to access from those cities?

I read a chain called Nakano Broadway. Does that ring a bell?

6 nights in Kyoto? Too long for one who does not want to visit more than 3 or 4 temples?
imo no. I think I had 6 days in Kyoto and wanted a few more. I am not a temple person. I was temple-ed out after 2 or 3, and I mean for the whole trip. It kind of surprised me, because I will otherwise spend all day hopping between churches and historic sites.

But I do love shrines- I stopped at every single one I passed. And I love shopping too, Kyoto is a great shopping city. Ymmv.
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May 7th, 2018, 06:36 PM
  #34
 
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Nakano Broadway is a shopping complex specializing in manga, anime, J-pop culture and has become a mecca for collectors of such. I have picked up anime cels there and do recall a vintage clothes shop but the items would be mainly Occupation era pieces. Not an obvious source for vintage textiles.

Tansuya is the main 'old kimono' chain. (A 'tansu' is the chest kimono are stored in; 'ya' is the generic ending for 'store'. They are all over Tokyo and at least two in Kyoto. tansuya.jp - use Google translate for an idea of stock and prices. Prices differ by location but the garments tend to be in excellent condition. Be aware that buying from the jumble at a shrine sale may mean the garment will need professional cleaning. Here in Japan, kimono are taken apart to be cleaned and then re-stitched - that process alone will cost many times more than the original cost of an old kimono. I have had good luck gently swishing kimono (NOT shibori!) in a bathtub with woolite.

There are big antique markets in Kyoto on the 21st and 22nd of each month - the Tokyo Cheapo/Japan Cheapo sites are best sources for calendars. I haven't been to either but enjoyed the shrine sale at Shitenoji in Osaka, on the 21st of each month. The Heiwajima Antique Fair will be held Dec 7-9 on the outskirts of Tokyo - this is one of the biggest in Japan (aimed at the serious collector). There is a great shrine sale on the 28th of every month in Kawagoe - 'little Edo' and a very popular day trip from Tokyo (about half hour on the train).
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May 9th, 2018, 06:07 AM
  #35
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Great info, thank you!

Can we talk about Kyoto hotels? I'm still waiting for my guidebooks but have looked online. Hotel Mume looks just about sold out for my prefeerred date range. Any other well-located options that you all like?
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May 9th, 2018, 07:05 AM
  #36
 
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I haven't stayed there, because I figure it's out of my price range, but otherwise I would stay at the Granvia.

Last trip I stayed at the Mitsui Gaden Hotel Shijo, which was an OK location, but the Granvia would have been more convenient.
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May 10th, 2018, 09:59 AM
  #37
 
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I don't have time to read all of the above as it's a lot and I need to get out the door. But, as far as Tokyo, I haven't stayed at the hotels that you listed as I was at the Four Seasons in Marunouchi (Tokyo) and which I really liked. The hotel was a 5-minute walk from Tokyo Station (train station) and I'm one who likes the Marunouchi area as it's quiet and peaceful compared to a lot of other areas. I will also be staying in Marunouchi this summer as I can go to the busier areas during the day, but then can return to quiet in the evening. Plus, it's only about a 15-minute walk to Ginza. On the weekend, the main street in Ginza is closed off to pedestrian traffic. One can also walk to Tsukiji Market in about 30 minutes, but I didn't have time. Hopefully, I'll get there on the upcoming summer trip.

I don't remember if you mentioned going to Kyoto or not, but while there last summer, I stayed in 4 hotels over 9 nights. They were the Hyatt Regency, Ritz Carlton, Four Seasons, and Royal Park. The Royal Park is low-medium priced. As for the luxury ones, as far as I'm concerned, it was the Four Seasons Hotel hands down. The hotel was just completed less than 2 years ago, I think it was, and was gorgeous and peaceful. It's an easy walk to the Hyatt Regency where they have a barbecue buffet on the weekend and non-guests can also book a table. I stayed at the Hyatt Regency for 2 nights of the 9 nights and went to the barbecue while there. They also have a Maiko that sings there in the evenings.

You mentioned something about private guides, but I think that was for Tokyo. I have an excellent private guide in Kyoto and the cost is nowhere near the $1,000-$1,500 per day that you mentioned upthread. He's not cheap, but excellent and speaks fluent English and has a comfortable car. He's been in the business a long time. I only used him for 4 hours out of my entire 9-night stay in Kyoto. The rest I did by either foot or taxi. I will have him again this summer for 4 hours out of another 9 nights. He charges by the hour and up to 8 hours I think it is. I got him off of Youtube.

As for hotels, below are the four that I stayed in, in Kyoto, and in order of my preference. This upcoming summer I will have 7 nights at the Four Seasons and 2 at the Grand Hyatt and 3 nights at the Royal Park as that room will only be for me to rest up in while in downtown Kyoto as it's in the heart of downtown. I booked it early and got it for a low price.

As for prices of luxury hotels in Kyoto, the prices fluctuate like crazy and from day to day. Plus, had I gone in the spring, the Four Seasons would have cost me at least 50% more per night as I checked the prices regularly. I'll have 7 nights at the FS this summer. I booked really early and got about the same price as I paid last summer 2017. I looked at the prices now, for my same dates, and they have gone up really a lot. I also got about the same price, at the Grand Hyatt as I got last summer, but also booked that room really early. It seems that it's either booking really early or at the last minute in case there are some sales. Last summer, I had to book at the last minute (around 2.5-3 months in advance) as that's when I decided that I was going to also go to Japan as I was also in Europe that summer. So, my hotel choices ended up revolving around how much the room cost on any given day which is why I ended up in the Grand Hyatt first and then the Ritz Carlton, across town, and then the Four Seasons, walking distance from the Grand Hyatt and then the Royal Park across town and in downtown Kyoto.

I had my private guide pick me up at one hotel, upon check out, and then put my luggage into his trunk, and then we drove it to my next hotel and left it there, and then went on our 4-hour tour. Then, at the end of the 4 hour tour, I had him just drop me at the hotel that I needed to check into and we arrived at check-in time. So there was no dead, waiting time between the time of checking out of one hotel and into another hotel. I checked out of one at 10AM and into the other at around 2PM as my room was ready early.

https://www.fourseasons.com/kyoto/

https://kyoto.regency.hyatt.com/en/hotel/home.html

https://www.the-royalpark.jp/the/kyotosanjo/en/

Kyoto Luxury Hotels The Ritz-Carlton, Kyoto

Happy Travels!

Last edited by Guenmai; May 10th, 2018 at 10:12 AM.
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May 10th, 2018, 10:23 AM
  #38
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I'm getting anxious reading about all this moving about but thanks for the response and for the links.


Speaking about Kyoto now:
From a brief look it seems to me that neither the Four Seasons not the Hyatt Regency have good central locations. I like to be able to wander around without taking taxis everywhere. I know Four Seasons is near National Museum, but what is that area like in general?

Yes, I know that I do not need a private guide although we would probably l ike to book a day with Yukari Sakamoto (mentioned above). I just got her book in t he mail and look forward to settling down with it tonight.

Would it not be more convenient to stay in Downtown Kyoto?

Last edited by ekscrunchy; May 10th, 2018 at 10:26 AM.
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May 10th, 2018, 03:26 PM
  #39
 
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Originally Posted by ekscrunchy View Post
I'm getting anxious reading about all this moving about but thanks for the response and for the links.


Speaking about Kyoto now:
From a brief look it seems to me that neither the Four Seasons not the Hyatt Regency have good central locations. I like to be able to wander around without taking taxis everywhere. I know Four Seasons is near National Museum, but what is that area like in general?

Yes, I know that I do not need a private guide although we would probably l ike to book a day with Yukari Sakamoto (mentioned above). I just got her book in t he mail and look forward to settling down with it tonight.

Would it not be more convenient to stay in Downtown Kyoto?

*Did not mean to make you anxious. Sorry. Was just trying to quickly post information that might be of help. As far as moving around, personally moving around was my situation due to booking late and trying to get decent prices. Plus, I'm glad that I did as now I know where I want to and don't want to stay for the upcoming trip. I also personally find moving around less stressful, in the same city, than moving around all over a country.

* As for the Four Seasons and The Grand Hyatt, they are both in the Higashiyama area of Kyoto. I think that might have been stated on their website.

https://www.japan-guide.com/e/e3959.html

*You mentioned that neither hotel seemed central. Central to what? Kyoto is spread out.

* If you want to stay in the heart of downtown, then the Royal Park Hotel is there and the Ritz Carlton is also in the downtown area although I still had to take a taxi to get to Daimaru Department store which is also downtown. Plus, I don't know how you will get to sites in/around Kyoto without either having to take a taxi or public transportation unless you have a driver. So, for me personally, I don't mind staying in the Higashiyama area of Kyoto as it's not that far from downtown anyhow if your definition of central means downtown. Downtown is very busy. I personally choose quiet over busy for my desires in Kyoto.

Happy Travels!

Last edited by Guenmai; May 10th, 2018 at 03:47 PM.
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May 10th, 2018, 03:42 PM
  #40
 
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Originally Posted by doug_stallings View Post
There's a used kimono store along the Philosopher's Path in Kyoto, and it had stacks and stacks of them, but they weren't that cheap. I'm sorry, but I can't remember the name right now.

The Park Hyatt is still the best hotel in Shinjuku, but terribly expensive. If it were me, I'd save and stay at the Keio Plaza. Some rooms have amazing views, and it's very well located not too far and not too close to the station.
The Keio Plaza Hotel was discussed in Flygirl's thread which might be of help to the OP.

Keio Plaza Hotel, Tokyo

Happy Travels!
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