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-   -   Nywoman an older single traveler explores Japan (https://www.fodors.com/community/asia/nywoman-an-older-single-traveler-explores-japan-1503457/)

Nywoman Oct 24th, 2017 02:35 AM

Nywoman an older single traveler explores Japan
 
Because I wasn't smart enough to tag Taiwan and Japan my first Japan entry on sleeping in a pod hotel in Osaka is tagged Taiwan. Have asked Fodor's to retag but so far no response. There fore there will be two tip reports.
My second day in Osaka
They say you should be careful what you wish for. I was longing for some down time after some rather intense walking in Osaka. Typhoon is hitting Kyoto and the parade I was looking forward to tomorrow has been cancelled. It is raining cats and dogs and not pleasant to go out. This was one of the places where I had very carefully planned what to do each day and don’t really have a backup plan. Will figure it out by the time tomorrow comes.
People make bucket lists, I never really have, except I wanted to go to the Osaka Aquarium, see the castle and sleep in a capsule hotel. Managed to do all three here, I bought a pass that gave me free entry to the aquarium as well as unlimited subway and bus rides for the day. The Aquarium is totally amazing with tanks from all the major oceans. One starts on the top floor and walk down, the visibility is extraordinary because it is acrylic instead of glass all the fish are very clearly visible. The main tank can be seen on all floors, and one sees which fish live on each level of the ocean. It is one of the largest aquariums in the world with 29.000 animals and 470 species. It was truly an exhilarating experience being so close to the fish as well as penguins. Had no idea that there were so many kinds of jelly fish in the world, did not find out though what their functions is.
Then it was off to Osaka Castle which I decided to see from the outside, paid my entrance fee to Nishinomaru garden which was not much to see except a large lawn, but it did give me some wonderful photos of the castle. I did try to fit in one more sight before it was time to call it a day but it was just too far. Clocked in almost 5 miles but I am sure that at least 2 miles were purely walking the subway stations. The distances are enormous the stations even more so and you just walk and walk to reach the exit.
It so happened that my neighbor across from my pod is from Taiwan, more exact Hualien which is where I am going on my return to Taiwan. We agreed to Facebook, what on earth did we ever do before internet, social media and smart phones? She is it turns out very active, but it is all in Chinese and Google is not a good translator.
Leave for Kyoto tomorrow morning.

thursdaysd Oct 24th, 2017 05:28 AM

Signing on. Aquarium sounds amazing. Agree totally about the subway stations!

Nywoman Oct 26th, 2017 12:50 AM

Kyoto

Kyoto
Rain and more rain. The parade was cancelled, went to a shrine which was supposed to have a handicraft market still functioning despite the rain. Well it wasn’t happening, instead I got to see a bridal couple in very traditional costumes. The headdress alone was spectacular, a really beautiful couple. I am wet and cold and go to the café by the entrance for some tea and soba noodles. While I am sitting there in walks an American woman with her Japanese son. It turns out that she has lived here for 40 years and teaches English at the University. Before I know it she has invited me back to their apartment and to go grocery shopping with them. I sounded more interesting than the piano concert I had planned on attending, in hindsight am not so sure.

Had been told that the typhoon was about to hit at 7 pm that night so I made sure to return to my BnB in plenty of time. It is a very lovely place somewhere in between a hostel and a BnB. The owner had arranged for calligraphy lessons and a tea making ceremony to keep us amused. We could hear the rain pelting down but that was all. I heard that the noise from the wind had been bad, fortunately escaped it all.,

The next day planned to go to Hikone to see the castle except the trains were not running sat for over an hour on a train that wasn’t moving. Went to plan B or was it C and went to Arashiyama there was a temple garden I missed last year and it has gnawed on me ever since. Also had a reservation at Tempura Matsu at 5.30. for my 10 or was it 11 course meal? It was just as sensational as everything I had read and heard about it. The Chilled sake came in a hollowed out bamboo stem. Each course was more appealing than the next and best of all the atmosphere was very relaxed and friendly. The restaurant is a family affair, the parents and sister were all working and being very friendly. What a lovely ending to a somewhat chaotic day.

Finally there was sunshine and I got to Hikone, and despite a map and instructions I managed to get lost on my way to the castle. This was most fortuitous because I passed by a kitchenware/hardware store that had wooden bento boxes displayed. I remembered the request to bring back a Bonito shaver for a friend, after many explanations they produced the item. The goodbyes were lengthy and after taking the obligatory photos I was gifted a keychain with a bell. As I continued on the same street I passed a private home that was a combination old and what resembled a clapboard extension You could sense that behind the fence was a Japanese garden. The owners were parking their car, I asked about the extension and was invited in to see the garden. It was magnificent, on a level with any temple garden. The garden and house were 90 years old the extension was built in 1932, of course it was not clapboard just looked like it.

What a lovely beginning to my day. Finally made it to the castle which was high up on a hill, there were steps made of stones and more stones and when I finally thought I had arrived the were more steps. It made the Great Wall of China look like child’s play and I thought that was hard to walk with all the uneven stones. The worst part was seeing elderly Japanese running up those steps as I labored very hard. The castle is small and very lovely it is one of the few original ones that have survived fires and earthquakes. Left to return to hotel, with aching legs and feet but my back is good.

jacketwatch Oct 26th, 2017 04:36 AM

Going shopping with a local is pretty cool to me just to see more of how they live.

That 10-11 course meal sounds great.

Glad hear you are doing ok and I hope a good nights rest will ease your feet and legs.

Nywoman Oct 27th, 2017 02:11 PM

Kyoto continued
Another day of sunshine and the tourist gods seem to still be with me. Had wanted to see the Katsura Imperial Palace, and somehow been misinformed that it did not require reservations. It does, and it was fully booked, but if you arrive at 11 am there are a few same day tickets available. Took a train and a bus using my ICOCA card. This is a prepaid charge card that can be used for transportation and in stores all over Japan. The palace is located outside the local bus company’s rid, so my day pass was not valid. Arrive at 11 am sharp and get a pass for the 3.30 pm tour.
Decide to spend the time seeing the Silver Pavilion which required another long walk to get to. What a beautiful sight, it was originally built in the 1480’s for the shogun and then converted to a Zen temple. The grounds are beautiful and there is a walk up the mountain which looked very appealing but my legs were still protesting yesterday’s outing. This also precluded walking the Philosophers path which I had wanted to do.
Back to the Imperial Palace, again magnificent gardens and an instructive audio guide. Towards the end of the tour I met a Japanese girl who lives in L.A. and we decided to head back to Kyoto together. She wanted to see a goldfish exhibit at Ninja-ji castle, I had no interest. Then she shows me the flyer it is Artaquarium opening that day. I had read about this rather bizarre pop art exhibit. Over 5000 goldfish are displayed in different kinds of aquariums which are lit up in various neon lights. Agreed that this could be fun, we arrive at the castle but the tickets are not available at the venue, you have to go to a convenience store.
I see there is a press gathering and as a lark I say, I write a blog does that qualify and hand my business card to the person in charge and then I say New York. Well, we get two press passes and get to partake of the inauguration which was quite spectacular. We are sitting by the mayor of Kyoto and other dignitaries, listening to speeches, the only one I understood was the Italian ambassador’s. After the ribbon cutting ceremony which was attended by all the bigwigs in white gloves and ribboned scissors there was a Geisha performance. The Geisha and a Maiko, a geisha in training, perform several dances accompanied by a woman playing a stringed instrument and singing. What a treat this was before we enter the actual exhibit space. There are lit tanks in all colours, shapes and sizes spread out over a quite large area and there is a free sake bar. The evening has gotten quite cool the warm sake mixed with dashi tasted delicious, of course we had to have several glasses to warm up. After having chatted with Hidetodo Kimura the creator and some of his friends we left. Hunger has set in a serious way. We end up at an Izekaya, a place to eat small dishes and drink. There is an older man well into his cups but very jolly who insists on pouring beer for us. Then a lively discussion takes place about the Yankees loss and the Dodgers. The owner produces a paper to show me pictures, of course I am not understanding the finer points of the conversation but I got the gist. Baseball is serious business in Japan. Time to head home and get ready for tomorrow and Naoshima.

MaryW Oct 27th, 2017 02:58 PM

Wow, that sounds great. I look foward to your report on Naoshima. I hope the weather gods are kind as I read that in the next week there might be a bit more bad weather from the edge of another typhoon.

Really enjoying reading your travels. Thanks.

thursdaysd Oct 27th, 2017 03:56 PM

Sounds like a really good day. Congratulations on the press passes!

lcuy Oct 27th, 2017 06:15 PM

Sore feet aside, sounds like you are having some very good travel luck!

Did you make reservations for Tempura Matsu a long time in advance or while you were in Japan?

Nywoman Oct 27th, 2017 10:01 PM

Hi Lucy,

Full confession, I pulled strings and used the name of someone I know who is friendly with them. The reservation was made a couple of days beforehand. I have been told that if you have the hotel make the reservation it is easier than if you make it yourself.

Nywoman Oct 29th, 2017 12:05 AM

Naoshima
On my way from Kyoto stopped at Okayama to see the famous Korakuen garden, considered to be one of the 3 great gardens of Japan. Left my luggage at the station, where I also managed to have my first vending machine ticket for Ramen. Am not sure how the garden earned that distinction unless I didn’t really appreciate it. The distinction may come from the fact that it was established in 1684 it seemed to consist mainly of lawns with some trees in the periphery, perhaps I missed the important parts.
On to catch the train to Uno where I was to get the ferry for Honmura on the eastern part of Naoshima.
It said that my guesthouse was just over 1km from the harbor. What was not mentioned were the hills,
fortunately, I managed to get a lift with another couple whose landlord picked them up. My accommodation was an entire apartment with kitchen and washing machine for approx. $60 per night.
What I love about Japan amongst other things are the wonderful comforters, Episode 1 did not disappoint.

Next morning brilliant sunshine and it was time to hit the museums. There ae 3 museums on the island that can be reached by free shuttle bus. The regular bus drops you off where the shuttle picks up. It all seems great until you realize that the buses only run sporadically. This became even more apparent after the night show of James Turell’s “Open sky” which ends at 6 pm, my taxi cost $16.

I started at Benesse house which was I thought had very interesting art. What stands out in particular was an installation of flags that were ant farms and 3 wooden figures saying chatter, chatter continuously. There was nude by one of my favorite artists Yves Klein and so much more. Then I went on to Lee Ufan museum who is a Korean artist that left me cold and finally Chichu art museum that exhibits only 3 artists. Monet, James Turell and Walter de Maria. The museum is designed by Ando Tadao and mainly underground. It was a wonderful experience.

Had heard about the “Open Sky” which only takes place on weekends, I managed to get a reservation for that Saturday from NYC, when I arrived I asked if there were any cancellations for that night, since rain was predicted for Saturday. Yes they had a ticket which I grabbed immediately. It is now 2.30 and I have done the museums and return to the ticket office and bus station. There are no buses that will work for me to return by 5pm for the show. The manager gives me dispensation to return to the museum, but the hill up is a long climb for me, especially since I still have to return to the ticket office and walk it again. Decide to stay put, which was fortunate since I met two delightful young Swedish men. One is an artist and the other a journalist and we had some time to hang out together.

My problem with Naoshima is that don’t ride a bike which it appeared that most people did which gave a greater freedom. The next day it rained, not a gentle sweet rain, but a relentless gray constant downpour. I started to walk towards Honmura to see the Art Project when my landlord rescued me with his car. Dutifully bought the ticket to see the 6 buildings, managed one which was again an Ando designed building and a James Turell art work. For me it was not a pleasant experience, you ae in a totally dark room and then asked to walk towards a lit rectangle. I was very afraid of stumbling and falling since there was nothing to hold on to, of course it was fine.

Leave with the map in my hand and now it is pouring, I have had it and catch the bus to go back and get my luggage. My landlord is very kind and drives me to the other port so I can catch the ferry to Takamatsu.

MaryW Oct 29th, 2017 04:44 AM

Thank you, it is very good to have your impressions of Naoshima. I guess the weather didn't help at all. I have also wondered about getting around the island as I don't get along with bikes either. Could you share the name of your guesthouse if you felt it comfortable enough to recommend? I am not sure whether its best to stay overnight and have 2 days or just do a full day.

thursdaysd Oct 29th, 2017 04:45 AM

I quite liked Korakuen, but I agree that it is more open than most Japanese gardens. Thank you for confirming my decision to skip Naoshima. My appreciation of art stops with the Surrealists, if not before..

kalihiwai2 Oct 29th, 2017 10:51 AM

Thank you for taking the time to give a great trip report.

Nywoman Oct 29th, 2017 12:52 PM

MaryW

The name of the guest house is Episode1. If I ever decide to return
which I well might I would stay either in Uno or Takamatsu and do day trips. Met several couples who did exactly that and it seemed to work out well. All I really saw were the museums and very little of the outdoor art, thanks to the weather.

MaryW Oct 29th, 2017 03:08 PM

Thank you. Thats very helpful as I plan on staying at a place just a short train trip from Uno and find I prefer a base rather than changing accommodation for just 1 night. It would give me more flexibility to visit different days too.

I look forward to more of your report.

Nywoman Oct 29th, 2017 07:02 PM

Maryw I misqouted the rate it was $50 a night.

MaryW Oct 29th, 2017 08:02 PM

Thanks again.

Nywoman Oct 30th, 2017 12:53 AM

Takamatsu
Left Naoshima in pouring rain and it continued the next day in Takamatsu. Am staying at a Dormy Inn with a fake onsen. Fake or not it is delicious to lie in the warm water under a soggy sky. I realized that my body needed to take it easier than I had anticipated, canceled my reservations in Tokushima added on a night here and another in Matsuyama. Felt good about that, took my sweet time getting ready since it was raining and plans were sketchy after the art museum.
My hotel is in a very good location, situated between two shopping arcades, the one on the left which was on the way to the museum was bedlam. It hosted a Halloween celebration through the entire arcade. The children were in costumes, the parents were in costumes the traffic directors were in costumes one could not help but smile. I was told this is a fairly recent event, people had to sign up by September 28 to obtain coupons to be exchanged for candy and other treats. Commercial or not it was a joyous beginning to my day.

It just got better, The Takamatsu Art Museum had a special exhibit called Materials That Tell Stories,
Do not consider myself an art connoisseur by any means, this exhibit blew my mind. There were 6 artists and all but one totally touched me in different ways. The talents and creativity were amazing. One artist had used plastic clothespins to create sculptures and designs. He had used 80.000 pins because there are 80.000 children in this prefecture. Managed to catch a docent who had just finished her talk and got a kind soul to translate .Had lunch at the museum, which is in itself a beautiful very modern building.

It is still raining as I leave but it was tolerable so I decided to go to Ritsurin Garden. Despite the weather it was still a great experience. In my opinion this is one of the most magnificent gardens in Japan.
Actually it is more of a park. Met a group of elderly women who were on a guided tour, one of them assisted me across some slippery stones and that was enough for us to bond. Unfortunately, the language barrier was too great, that is until we left the garden and two of the women exited and couldn’t figure out how to get back in, when I left saw a gate that opened so you could get back in, the laughs could be heard for blocks. I find that the Japanese have such a capacity for joy. The rain made a final appearance by emptying all the clouds at once, before it decided to call it quits.

Today sunshine but cold winds, had read about this open air museum of old farm houses and fishermen’s cottages. Why does everything have to be built on top of hills? Managed to climb up but avoided crossing the vine bridge, Many of the paths were closed as were most of the buildings, am sure it is very interesting when that is not the case.

I really liked Takamatsu, it seems to be a city that slowly unfolds itself, could have stayed longer, to explore the islands would be nice.

Returned to the hotel for a nap and to repack as I move on tomorrow for Matsuyama.

Nywoman Nov 1st, 2017 02:45 AM

Matsuyama
The largest city on Shikoku island with a population of approx. 600.000. There might be a lot to see and do but I only found a few things. What I found was a very modern city with quaint streetcars. The second day I bought a day pass from the driver, there is only one car, when I got off he inspected the pass as if he had never seen it to make sure that the Year, Month and Day that he had scratched off were in fact correct.
The ride on the JR line comin from Takamatsu was very pleasant, basically running along the shore line of the Inland Sea with the mountains on the other side. What always amazes me is the farmland that often seems to be between houses. Of course on this stretch there are a lot of rice fields and other crops, but it is the small plantings that amaze. In Kyoto all of a sudden you see farm land in the city. The other thing that really amazes me is how house owners with no front yard create an entire garden by planting in pots. This is all over the country, and I think it is fantastic. A bit scary when the typhoon hits and they start blowing around, the next day however it is all fixed.
Arrived around 2 pm and was prepared to take a taxi, the tourist office said no a street car is fine it’s number 5. Great am all for public transport, except in this case you had to reach the tram stop with an underpass, stairs u and down. I made it but did not have a good time trying. Have no idea what got into me when I packed but it is heavy.

The hotel is off another shopping arcade, I had great directions, but when older Japanese men see me they have to take over. This little man had his phone out and insisted I follow him, I did dragging my luggage. We passed the hotel, went around the block and then triumphantly he showed me the entrance. Have been very fortunate this trip that the places I picked are close to transportation, this hotel even has a real Onsen. Today a man decided to take me by the elbow to show me where to go, and then he asked the people on line to assist me. It’s sweet and funny and fortunately a daily occurrence.

Checked in and then I went to see Matsuyama castle, it’s another very old castle, and it has a cable car to reach the lower entrance. The castle is beautiful and I now appreciate more of the history after seeing and reading about the different fiefdoms.
Went for dinner to a sushi restaurant, wanted to treat myself, it’s very hard to spend a lot of money unless yo go to a really fancy place. Though food is my profession I find it hard to differentiate, unless it is spectacular, between good and better.
Next morning, got an early start and went to Mitsu the original port and fishing village of Matsuyama.
Asked the receptionist how to get to the station and she tells me I have to walk, no buses. Stupid me did not ask about the tram, which of course I could have taken.

I don’t care what the guide books say, don’t bother. It was very funny when I arrived I showed the bus driver the Matsuyama official guide and asked where this old quarter was. He had no idea, until he decided that I should walk down a street, which I did. That’s how I discovered that there are probably 3 old houses. The weather was glorious and I enjoyed my 2 mile walk to nowhere.

Got back to Matsuyama and decided to go to Dogo Onsen which is a tram ride away. It is quite cute and not to be missed is the Botchan Karakuri Clock which on the hour has figures moving and the whole clock comes alive. Walked around and had a most reasonabley priced and delicious lunch at Oidenka whose English menu is on a tablet, that you order from.

The whole time I have been here have only seen 5 non orientals. 3 who were doing a pilgrimage and a couple arriving to the Onsen today. There is very little written in English and very few people speak it.
At my hotel the receptionist smiles nicely when I ask what does the sign for The Realization Machine in the elevator mean. She doesn’t have a clue even when I point out the Japanese name she still has no idea, So I still don’t know, was hoping for some kind of enlightenment or something.

Tomorrow is off to Fukuoka and Kyushu

jacketwatch Nov 1st, 2017 05:13 AM

Wow! Great TR and am following.

Realization machine?? I hope you find out what that is. I'd love to know. :).


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