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Japan Trip Report - Honeymoon 10-1 to 10-14-07

Japan Trip Report - Honeymoon 10-1 to 10-14-07

Old Mar 20th, 2007, 12:24 PM
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Japan Trip Report - Honeymoon 10-1 to 10-14-07

Pardon the delay in posting!

As it was our honeymoon, we splurged on a few things (traditional Ryokan in Kyoto and fancy sushi place in Tokyo) and didníŽt run around too much as this was our honeymoon. Overall, we loved Japan and found it to be no where as expensive as everybody told us, nor as crowded or cramped. Most of the hotels mentioned had private bathrooms, unless otherwise noted. Surprisingly, some of our favorite moments were entirely unexpected or planned, like the Sumo practice we crashed or the food we ordered just by asking for ížlunch special of the dayíĘ.

Monday íV Arrival at KIX (Osaka Airport) and check in to Towa Hotel, Kyoto
Hotel íV 7000 Yen per person, with Japanese style breakfast. The rooms are small but immaculately clean, private bathrooms in every room. The breakfast was our favorite of the whole trip, maybe because it was our first Japanese breakfast ever. Check out their web site and youíŽll fall in love with it too: http://www.kyotowa.jp/english/index.html

Tuesday íV Palace and PhilosopheríŽs Walk
- Due to the jet lag, we were up at the crack of dawn and explored the area. The Kyoto train station area is actually pretty nice, with 2 large temples and quaint little streets full of nice traditional looking houses. My husband even jogged in the morning and felt comfortable and un-crowded íV everybody he passed bowed â║
- Palace is a must in Kyoto, as itíŽs different than any other fortifications we saw, with lovely decorations. Nearby is a private house you can tour, Nijo Jin'ya, but make sure you call ahead to get a Japanese speaking guide as they will not let you in otherwise: free student Kyoto guides may be arranged: http://www.eonet.ne.jp/~kyotosgg/
- PhilosopheríŽs Walk, we spent the afternoon going south to north starting at Nanzen-Ji. IíŽd recommend a full day here, as in the afternoon we were only able to see 2 out of the 7 temples on the route and it was one of our favorite places. Although itíŽs less than a 2km walk, it does take a while to take in all the temples, plus thereíŽs shops and tea houses along the way.

Wednesday íV Moved to Hotel, Ginza district walks
- Hotel íV 10200 yen per room per night total. The hotel was nothing special but the location was PERFECT; right next to the Shijo subway stop 5 minutes walk from the lights/nightlife and 10 minutes walk north of the Ginza area.
- Yasaka shrine was where we caught sight of our first geisha/maiko.
- Hirashiyama is a lovely area to walk but we got caught in the rain íV a 900 yen taxi ride took us to the hotel and back down to the Kyzimanjoy Temple for 1400 yen.

Thursday íV Hiroshima/Myajima day trip
íV Travel Note! Grab a sushi box in the Shinkansen area before the train (you have to go through the ticket booth to where the bullet train lines are before you see all the bento boxes for the road)! We didníŽt know thatíŽs where the food was and settled on sandwiches, our first and last mistake in this matter.
- This day was a bit rainy so we though itíŽs perfect for spending 6 hours on trains/boats. We did not go to Hiroshima but could have as Myajima is a small island and if you are not hiking, which we didníŽt in the rain, we could have gone to spend several hours in Hiroshima, but we are not big fans of big cities (except Kyoto and Tokyo as we would soon learn). Watch out for the pesky deer, as one of them ate our map within the first 2 minutes on the island. Also, after checking out the shrine, do not miss the temples and shrines with the buddas íV itíŽs away from the tourist hordes and quite lovely, although we areníŽt sure why shrine offerings included cans of pineapple íV anybody know?
- Lunch restaurant find on the hillside around the corner from the pagoda

Friday íV Himeji day trip and Fushimi Torii Shrine, check-in to Hiiraiwa Ryokan
- Himeji Castle: THE castle to see in Japan, for the fortifications alone. Nobody is storming this thing as itíŽs a maze just to get up to the main keep. The garden next door was not anything special, I wish we had spent the time on gardens in Kyoto.
- Fushimi shrine: We spent so much time at the castle (we are BIG castle fans), so by the time we got back to Kyoto all we had time for was to get to the Fushimi shrine, which is only a 5 minute train ride south of the Kyoto Station. We LOVED it íV this is the place if you like bright Torii gates, as there are about 30,000 of them all in a forest setting on a hillside. You need about 2 hours to do all the loops and not get lost.
- Ryokan Hiiraya: This was our big splurge for one night at the traditional Ryokan. 26000 yen per person, and worth every penny. We even had to share a bathroom, but since our room was the only one on our floor w/o a bathroom, we pretty much just shared it with each other, so it was fine. LetíŽs just say it was THE BEST SERVICE we ever received anywhere at any price. Lovely welcome, top of the line responsiveness to needs we didníŽt even know we had íV my husband was ecstatic to find an English newspaper, as he had wanted one but never voiced this íV it was just there. The 14 course kaiseki dinner served in our room over the course of 2 hours, ended any hope we had for a night time stroll íV we were just too plump and comfortable right where we wereíK but, they did need us out of the room to put out our beds, so we went to the rooftop moon viewing deck which really sealed our feeling that we were in a little oasis full of old-time charm and warmth smack in the center of modern and bustling Kyoto. It was truly a memorable place; the honeymoon place IíŽll always cherish. PS íV on checkout, there were some Japanese people checking our for what looked like lower prices, so maybe they have some specials if you know how to get them, but IíŽd still pay to stay at another place like this again.\

Saturday íV Hikone Castle day trip, arrive in Matsumoto
- Hikone is a very nice town we visited for its castle on the way to Matsumoto (BUT in hind site I would have skipped it for Nara)
Sunday íV Matsumoto Castle and noodle festival, Nagana and monkeys
Monday íV night in the Japanes Alps at Hirayu-kan Resort with natural spring baths, nice waterfall and lovely japans Alps views íK. GOOD Hida beef too!
Tuesday íV Fall Festival in Takayama, doníŽt forget to buy your Takayama doll
Wednesday íV arrive in Tokyo, explore Shinjuku, fancy sushi dinner (from Lonely Planet book)
Thursday íV Tokyo sumo practice, palace garden (did NOT like it at all after the Kyoto gardens), transfer to Nikko for the night
Friday íV Nikko amazing temples íV the smaller one in the back was much quieter and w/o crowds so we really enjoyed it more than the main Nikko attraction, evening in red light district of Tokyo íK. Nothing THAT crazy â║
Saturday íV Tokyo fish market, explore Asakusa, Narita

Fun Facts
- Although itíŽs a tea society, places like Kyoto and Tokyo do have numerous Starbucks for the coffee lover, and they are refreshingly cheaper than in the USA.
- Taxis in Kyoto, Nikko are pretty convenient, as they only charge 570 to 640 for several kilometers íV we thought it was well worth it rather than dragging luggage on the subways. We didníŽt try it in Tokyo, though, due to traffic jams.
- Restaurants íV doníŽt be afraid to just go into anywhere that looks good and order from pictures or just ask for the special of the day at lunch. Our favorite places to eat were not in any books íV except for the top of the line sushi place, which we just would have not known about without some help from Lonely Planet.
- Contrary to what we heard, thereíŽs sushi for all budgets, from cheap conveyor belt at 200 yen per dish to 15000 yen per person at top-of íVthe-line spots in Shinjuku!
- There are numerous regional train passes so that you may not have to buy/use your JR pass if you stick to one area of Japan for several days.
lilipad is offline  
Old Mar 20th, 2007, 12:56 PM
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Great report. What is the name of the sushi place in Tokyo?
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Old Mar 20th, 2007, 01:38 PM
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Thank you for your report, of special interest to me as you visited many of the same places we plan to visit in early April. Can you tell me more about the bento lunches before you board the bullet train? Is there no food on board?? Starbucks was cheaper in Japan???
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Old Mar 20th, 2007, 04:14 PM
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Food and drink is served on the shinkansen but it is more economical, and better choices perhaps, to get your ekiben at the station. (eki-ben, eki=train station, and "ben" from bento).
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Old Mar 20th, 2007, 06:10 PM
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thanks for this report...
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Old Mar 21st, 2007, 10:48 AM
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HI All,
OK, i'll try to answer everybody at once!

1. the fancy sushi place ... i THINK it was this one (i passed on my Lonely Planet book so i can't double check but if you have one, it's second on the list of the top-end sushi in tokyo section, after the $300 per person one, at a lowely $100-150/per peron ):

Inakaya
4-10-11 Roppongi
(Off Gaien-Higashi Dor on a side street opposite Ibis Hotel)
tel.: 03/5775-1012

ANOTHER place I forgot to mention, especially if you stay in Asakusa area and like tempura is this place - serving tempura since 1887 (it's right by our hotel - a great clean place in Tokyo for under 16000YEN/night with bathroom - just make sure you ask for large corner room-they have a few 3 tatami mat rooms that are way too small: Shigetsu Ryokan http://www.shigetsu.com/):

Daikokuya
1-38-10 Asakusa

Here's a nice site with Tokyo restaurants:

http://dest.travelocity.com/DestGuid...0.html?order=p

2. TRain food - yes, they have it but it's wheeled around in those little carts so the selection is not that vast, and often they run out of things so you get stuck with a sandwitch. In Kyoto station, right where the shinkansen tracks are, there are over 15 places to buy lunch boxes from 8000-2800 yen in price with all kinds of variety - mostly they are just so beautiful you cannot resist !

Yes, starbucks in Japan is CHEAPER .. large coffe-lata-mocha-caramel will run you 350-400 yen vs the $5+ you pay in NY metro areas where i live.
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