Nywoman returns to Japan

Oct 24th, 2019, 08:20 PM
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Nywoman returns to Japan

Am at the beginning of a 6 week trip to Japan and Taiwan. This time am traveling with a friend of mine for the first 3 weeks, retracing my steps from my first visit. We are going to Tokyo, Takayama, Kanazawa and Kyoto with some side trips here and there.

Ulrica my friend, returns to New York and I will continue to Hokkaido and Taiwan on my own.

Flight over on Japan airlines in First class. thank you
Chase Sapphire Reserve points. The Japanese meal was exquisite probably better than many restaurants.
Then the bed with a choice of mattress firmness and the most comfortable pyjamas made the 14 hour flight very palatable.
When we arrived in Haneda we picked up our 2 one week Jr passes and the 72 hour unlimited Tokyo metro card.
For our first 4 nights in Tokyo we stayed in Asakusa at B Tokyo Hotel. Ulrica wanted to move into our bathroom with it’s very fancy shower and of course a Toto toilet that kept you warm as you sat on it, apart from all the other bells and whistles. It washes and dries you both front and rear and you get up and off it feeling refreshed.

The first order of business next morning after our very substantial multi national breakfast, courtesy of the hotel, was getting a portable keyboard so that I can write my travel letters on my phone.. First order of business going to Akihabara the electronic Mecca of Tokyo. Since we got an early start we visited the Kanda Myoin Shrine, which was on top of a hill with really steep steps approaching it unless you choose to walk uphill on a street. We choose the stairs!!! What were we thinking?

My last keyboard was purchased at Yodobashi so that is where we headed. We finally located the floor and area where the keyboards were sold.
The salesman used a voice translator and after many back and forths we discovered that my keyboard was out of stock, that is until another salesman pulled a box and said this was what I was looking for, except it wasn’t, which I discovered when I unpacked it back at the hotel.
While at the store I bought a 3G 30 day data only sim card. The hotels usually have Wi-Fi as do the trains, it seemed a waste of money to rent a Wi-Fi. Since I have both Viber and Whatsapp on my android phone data is all I need cost approx $30 We finished
our shopping experience with lunch on the 8th floor.
delicious Tuna Sashimi and a beer.

Next morning we went back to return the keyboard, but not until I had managed to order one from Amazon with same day delivery. At the store the clerk used another voice translator and asked “what were the symptoms” as I tried to explain it was the wrong item. Eventually I was able to return it but not until a pretty hard sales tactic was used.

After our successful return, we were booked to attend a classical Japanese Dance class at the Asakusa Cultural Center. This is a free class that I saw online with company called Peatix.There were approx 20 men and women who got attired in Yukatas. Then we each received a maiogi which is the name for a folding fan.After a very cheerful greeting we got a lesson in opening the fan and making fluttering movements with it. A very beautiful young girl demonstrated each movement and step. It was very educational to recognize each position of the fan and what it was indicating. May be I will gain a greater understanding of watching Japanese dances.. My conclusion was that I had not missed my calling, felt very clumsy and awkward, especially as I was watching two guys from Hawaii in front of me, they joked that their hula lessons paid off. After the lesson we were treated to a performance by a professional dancer what a lovely experience.

The Sensoji Temple was right across the street, it is claimed to hae been buit in 628. A very large compound with many shops and restaurants. Amongst the crowds were Rugby fans from all over world and of course other tourists as well.. We had been recommended to have lunch at Daikokuya tempura restaurant that specialises in dark sesame oil tempura. Apparently you either hate or love it, we were much closer to the former than the latter school. After exploring the grounds and heading towards our hotel, we discovered Don Quijote a multi story discount.shop and a passage with high end desserts just a block or so from our hotel. Who could resist a black sesame icecream with all sorts of additions, not I.

That evening we had been invited to my friend Elizabeth Andoh and her husband to attend a watching fireworks party. Elizabeth is an old friend of mine who is a food writer with many cookbooks and articles under her belt as well as a cooking teacher and Japanese food expert, she and her Japanese husband have an apartment from which you can see Mt. Fuji and spectacular fireworks. the food was as expected very simple yet complex and very good. We left before the end to avoid the crowds on the train. It seemed as if half of Tokyo had ventured out to watch,

Happiness my keyboard was waiting when we returned, amazing same day delivery. I know that Amazon offers that in New York, somehow I doubted it in Tokyo.

Last edited by Nywoman; Oct 24th, 2019 at 08:24 PM. Reason: too many spaces etween sentences
Nywoman is online now  
Oct 24th, 2019, 09:33 PM
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Looking forward to following you as you travel. I love your reports!
lcuy is offline  
Oct 25th, 2019, 05:34 AM
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Looking forward to more. Thanks for writing.
Marija is online now  
Oct 25th, 2019, 06:02 AM
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Great start to your trip. We arrive in Tokyo on Monday and will have a couple of days before heading north. Thanks for the details, I will look into the class for one afternoon.
FromDC is offline  
Oct 25th, 2019, 04:01 PM
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We just returned from Japan so I look forward to following along and reliving parts of our trip.
yestravel is offline  
Oct 26th, 2019, 02:15 AM
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Takayama and Kanazawa

We had booked the Hotel Tabino which was a little outside Takayama centre. No big deal we thought since there was a shuttle service. We arrived at the station at 1.30 and called the hotel. The shuttle would pick us up at 3.30, that was it. We took a taxi and when we arrived we had been assigned a postage sized room with a double bed. After a lot of back and forth, which seems to be a pattern, we got a larger room with twin beds, for of course more money. We bought breakfast for the first day, but decided it was not worth it. With Family Mart across the road and refrigerator in the room we could do better.
Since not much was happening until later we took the shuttle to the station and then a bus to Hida Heritage village which I had wanted to visit. It was very interesting with diifernet dwellings from the area. We had not paid attention to the bus schedule and just missed one as we wanted to leave. We were fortunate in being able to hitch a ride with a couple who we think were going our way. Being Japanese they may have been to polite to tell us.
When we got into town we inspected the festival wagons that were lined up on the main street. These wagons are about 300 years old and each belong to a ward. The men from that ward man and maneuver these people drawn wagons. They are very elaborately decorated and have been restored for 100+thousands of dollars. The procession is very excited to watch.
When they had passed we decided to check out the street food that was offered and passed the time before the evening parade, shopping and looking around. Ulrica was all set on getting a wooden spinner she had seen. We went into the shop that looked likely to carry this kind of item, but they didnít. However, they sent us across the street to a souvenir shop that then sent us elsewhere and finally she found the item, and bought a few. Time for the evening procession which I think is so much more impressive with the live lanterns and candles hanging off the wagons. We were extremely fortunate in finding a couple from California that had occupied a table at a pop-up serving ramen and sake. We joined them and had a perfect view as well as a great evening.We walked to the station and got a shuttle back.

Check out next morning . We are going to Kanazawa and there is a typhoon warning. Last time I was in Kanazawa a typhoon hit, was not looking forward to that experience again. We managed to have a nice day seeing the Kenroku-en garden, Samurai quarters, the palace and the Omicho market.Right now the typhoon named Hagidis is on top of the list.
We were supposed to stay in Kanazawa 2 nights at the Kanazawa Manten Hotel. This hotel is totally unmanned until 4 pm check in time FYI. When we found out that all train service had been cancelled on Sunday we decided to leave Saturday.
This was not a problem,our hotel in Tokyo was able to accomodate us. The hotel booked through Agoda, in Kanazawa, had no problem canceling one night. Agoda had a big problem and I am still trying to sort it out. Which after a lot of to dos got sorted out.
We were able to leave on the last train from Kanazawa at 11.45 am to Tokyo on Saturday.
It was a grey day with rain but since it was still before Hagidis touchdown we weren't affected.As it happened Tokyo was not affected. Arriving into Tokyo was a very interesting and somewhat scary experience. The station was empty nothing was open, we seemed to be the last people exiting. There were a lot of taxis waiting with the rain pelting down we grabbed one to take us to our hotel No cars or people on the streets, Tokyo was a ghost town. We were fortunate in that we were not affected, watching the news was a very sad experience that we were happy to have escaped.
We are back at our hotel, when we checked in we were given a lot of perks and amenities including fancy facemasks, guess how we ended the day?
Woke up this morning to a brilliant blue sky. There were still disruptions in the train services but we managed to get to Akihabara. Had left my USB cables and charger in Takayama and needed to replace them. Then we went to the Imperial Palace to see the East Garden. 15,000 steps later I was ready to call it a day. We have actually walked approx. 5 miles a day and my body feels it.

Last edited by Nywoman; Oct 26th, 2019 at 02:28 AM.
Nywoman is online now  
Oct 26th, 2019, 05:20 AM
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Iím following along too and looking forward to more.
tripplanner001 is online now  
Oct 26th, 2019, 07:31 AM
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Thank you. Following too!
jacketwatch is online now  
Oct 26th, 2019, 07:33 AM
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We were in Takayama also for the festival. I agree the floats at night were quite something to see. We also thought the parade the second afternoon was more interesting than the one we saw on the first afternoon. Enjoying following along on your trip.
yestravel is offline  
Oct 26th, 2019, 09:54 AM
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Signing on. Glad to hear you escaped the typhoon. The dance class sounds really interesting.
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Oct 26th, 2019, 02:41 PM
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I'm enjoying your report, nywoman.
Kathie is offline  
Oct 29th, 2019, 06:33 PM
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Temple lodging Shukubo Kakurinbo

A couple of weeks before we left there was an article in Washington Post about a temple stay. Although a temple stay is not something that I have been anxious to repeat after my experience in Korea. The author made this sound extremely appealing, especially since she stressed the owners culinary skills. We booked one night, our next to last together, at Temple Lodging Shukubo Kakurinbo. It is located in Minobu one train stop from Fuji, and a taxi drive from the station. This is an area rich in temples there are over 20 lodgings but mainly for pilgrims. Kakurinbo is unusual in that welcomes foreign visitors, actually encourages them. We arrived to one of the warmest welcomes by Rico a German member of the staff and Junko Higushi, the owner. We were immediately made to feel as very treasured visitors, which gave us a warm feeling inside.

The building is quite large, there are two floors with tatami rooms.The walls are lined with wedding kimonos that you can borrow for a photoshoot.
Our room on the second floor was comfortable with some hangers for our clothes and a safe in case you wanted to lock up your valuables since the sliding doors are without locks.
The futons put out at night were some of the most c9mfortable I hae encountered.

That afternoon there was a photoshoot of the food and an interview with Junko going on.
for an online magazine. We were served lunch and introduced to Arena a young girl from Lithuania, who was staying here, she is a buddhist and works in the kitchen and does other chores as well.
She is a charming and pretty girl who was available all the time for questions.

The dining room overlooks a koi pond and garden which is very soothing and enjoyable to look at.
I did some writing and before dinner which is at 6 pm we went into the onsen which had been filled with wine salts and other minerals. Dinner was a vision for all the senses, there was a bowl of tomato soup, with a tofu filled tomato in the center. Yuba, dried tofu skin on seaweed, natto fermented soybeans on fried yuba and several other dishes. One more delectable than the other. Dessert was a soy milk ice cream with different fruit preserves. After dinner there was a dance performance by one of the staff members, he comes from Yamada, a city hit by the tsunami, and this is a dance from that city. It involved a lot of acrobatics and an umbrella as well as a round item made of bamboo.. Junk explained that he does this to entice people to go to Yamada as they need tourism.

The next morning up at 5 am to attend temple services at Kuonji, the most important temple on Mt. Minobusan, it is 743 years old and extremely important to the Nichiren sect of buddhism. The main temple which is very large was filled almost to capacity with pilgrims who wore white jackets, many of them had red stamps on the backs from other temples. It was an interesting experience since it reminded me of so many other religions. There was a sermon, the congregation responded and sang. It was not unfamiliar despite the fact that it was. The temple is very ornate with lots of gold, and striking.

We returned for another exquisite meal, this one served in lacquered baskets, which had several layers each filled with little dishes. We were very sad to leave had easily stayed another few days. However am planning to return for Sakura, cherry blossom time first week in April. Anyone care to join me?

Nywoman is online now  
Oct 30th, 2019, 04:26 AM
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Wow! Sounds amazing. So glad you had this wonderful cultural experience.
We found the Japanese to be very welcoming and gracious. I can see why you would like to return. We would to someone day.
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Nov 4th, 2019, 08:52 PM
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In order not to make this too long I have split the Hokkaido part into 2

Hakodate I so wanted to love you,or at least like you, but it was not to be. Arrived with grey skies threatening rain and it never changed. I did not find the city exciting, despite taking the tram from end to end. Though it is arrounded by lovely mountains it has little greenery that I saw. Went to the morning market which I found very expensive. 1 raw scallop $10 and 3 small abalone $15. Of course King Crab was the big draw, but I just didn't take to it. Hakodate struck me as a parochial city with little charm.

When I dIdnít know what to do with myself, after having seen the Red Brick Warehouse a virtual merchandise and souvenir center similar to so many in the U.S. I went to the Yunokawa Onsen which was a nice experience. 3 different pools of varying degrees of heat. For roughly $ 5 I got a skimpy towel and a bar of soap, which I considered a bargain.

What has struck me each time I have been to an onsen is how thoroughly Japanese women scrub themselves and each other before they feel ready to go in the water.

Received many smiles and I felt much better after my soak.

The weather never improved alternating rain and grey skies. I was happy to leave.

Sapporo didnít know what to expect, but it was instant love. I have always found it so interesting how some places speak to you and others donít. Well, Sapporo shouted at me from the second I got off the train. I was staying at Best Western on Odoro-Nishi facing the park. It was an easy bus ride and as I was to discover an easy walk to the station and most other places.

Since I got in fairly early I went for a walk in the park. The fall colours are glorious, the reds so very red and the yellows very yellow. The sky was a bright cloudless blue, air crisp but not cold I felt extremely content. As I was to feel for the next few days exploring the city and walking many miles each day. Hokkaido is a not a very historical area from a western standpoint. it was settled in the mid 1800ís as a fishing and trading center. The cities are very modern with a few historical buildings here and there.

My first morning I went to the Nijo fish market, walked around and towards the back I saw a fish monger that had a very make shift eatery, thatís where I had oysters for breakfast. The oysters here are large and creamy and affordable compared to other arts of the country. I have only had them steamed in the past now I ate them sashimi style, as is my custom. I was sitting next to a couple from Hong Kong who ordered everything for sale including King Crab, they kindly offered me several legs so sweet and very tasty. It was interesting to see how the fish mongers conducted their regular business while catering to tourists. Speaking of which, if I saw 10 non-orientals during my time in Hokkaido that was a lot.

Nywoman is online now  
Nov 4th, 2019, 08:56 PM
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Hokkaido 2

I spent one day visiting Otaru about 30 minutes by train. I had seen a video filmed by a Swedish young man who calls himself ďA hungry TigerĒ and is eating his way around Asia

posting his adventures on You Tube. He had been to Otaru and eaten grilled Herring. Of course I had to have that. With a little bit of help I found my way to Aotsuka Shokudo, apparently a very popular and famous place, a bus ride from the station by the aquarium. This area is called Shukutsu and was based on herring fishing and even has several herring lodges and a herring mansion.

The Herrings were very large and skewered, the skewers were then put in vertically facing a carefully nurtured charcoal fire. Have now experienced two firsts one eating fresh grilled herring, the other eating it with chopsticks. It was delicious, I think I still prefer it pickled.

Next to me was a woman from Tokyo who was in Otaru for a few days. We managed to communicate by sign language and English. She had rented a car and drove me back to town. What a charming little town with many historical buildings, apparently the first railroad in Hokkaido was built connecting Otaru to Sapporo in 1880. and it was an important fishing port as well as coal center.

It was really very lovely, I thotougly enjoyed walking around. My new found friend had given me suggestions for sushi places that were all conveyor belt. When I returned to Sapporo decided to try her No 1 recommendation Naoyakatei. It has several branches I tried to go to the one closest to the center. It was still a subway and a bus ride plus a short walk away. One problem with Japan, everything is written in Japanese. I arrived and there were two large eating establishments, which one to pick? I choose the wrong one. When I walked in the door to the correct one, I was greeted by loud shouts,. It reminded me of the place in Charlotte where we used to eat sushi.Wish i knew what they shouted. Nagoyakatei lived up to its reputation. It was very good and really indulged, it was still less then $25.In case anybody is interested, the other two were sushi-hanamaru and toiton-kita1

today I went to Hokkaido University to look at the Gingo trees. Have seen many tourist brochures and never understood the appeal until I saw the trees with my own eyes. It is a canopy of golden leaves, it totally takes your breath away. I wandered around the campus for a couple of hours before I decided to head back. Am not sure how I missed the subway entrance but I managed to clock 7 Ĺ miles. My dinner was in Ramen Alley a clam and chicken broth Ramen that was very good My last night I went to Hakura Ramen also in the Ramen Alley that was a very complex and rich ramen. So far everything I have eaten has been excellent. Another meal I had was at a restaurant specialising in uni or sea urchin as we know it. Now is not the season which I knew but if I had come this far I was going to have some at this restaurant. It was good but I have had better, couldnít resist ordering the au gratin which was advertised as ladies liking it. Lots of white sauce with a hint of sea urchin flavour and a grilled piece on top. It was on my bucket list, can now tick it off.

Sapporo has several parks and at this time of year they are spectacular. Feel so fortunate that I managed to catch the colours as today when I was leaving you could tell the end was near. I basically walked around and admired the changing of the leaves and ate my way through the city. Unfortunately my last sushi meal was a let down.

Next stop TaiPei in Taiwan.

Nywoman is online now  
Nov 5th, 2019, 06:30 AM
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Herring fishing was a huge base of economics in Otaru until the 1950's when they basically overfished it and the supply dropped dramatically. We rather liked it too.
We had a Goodwill guide on Hakodate so our experience was different and saw some quaint sites and she arranged a lunch in a nice restaurant atop some hills overlooking the lake. The views were beautiful. The luncheon experience was very nice actually.
Later we took a one car train into town then took that one car trolley to the station. Low and slow you could say. .
Can't wait to hear about Taipei.
jacketwatch is online now  
Nov 6th, 2019, 07:49 PM
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Very much enjoying your report...
BowenLinda is offline  
Nov 11th, 2019, 05:13 AM
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Next report in Taiwan forum

Am now in Taiwan and am posting in that Forum
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