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Quick trip to Japan via 787 non-stop from Boston

Quick trip to Japan via 787 non-stop from Boston

Nov 28th, 2012, 06:42 AM
  #21  
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Join Date: Jan 2003
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Just a few of the things that I love about Japan:

- It is clean, clean, clean. Hotel rooms (even the very most modest ones) are clean, streets are clean, subways are clean. Shinagawa station is enormous, with more than 17 gajillion people passing through every day minute, and you won't find even a scrap of paper on the ground.

- People cooperate to make the place work. The place is clean in large part because there's a tacit agreement to keep it that way. People line up to get on the bus or escalator. (Italians, especially, please take note. No, wait, please don't: there's a certain charm in a culture that combines over-the-top anarchy with over-the-top style.) People usually don't chat on cell phones in public, and, if they do, it's always with their hand covering their mouth.

- The food always looks delicious. Usually tastes pretty good, too, though some items would seem to be very much an acquired taste. The Ginger Ale is a total delight and actually tastes like ginger, even leaving your mouth with the requisite tingle. Wilkinson Ginger Ale is my go-to brand; if anyone has other reccos, I'll listen.

- The instant gratification of vending machines. It was cold this morning, and as soon as I felt the slightest chill I knew that, by some sort of Japanese law, it is illegal not to have a vending machine more than 200 feet from wherever you are in any city, at any time. 110 yen later, a warm can of coffee was in my not-yet-gloved hands.

- I'm suddenly average height.

Thx all for comments. As requested, a photo of the gloves (390¥, or about US$5.00): https://picasaweb.google.com/lh/phot...eat=directlink

HT: No time for Showa Kinen this trip, but thx for the suggestion. Will do next time. It was actually about 11am when I reached Shinjuku Gyoen, but the day was obviously very gray. Got there via Marunouchi Line and Shinjuku gate, exited via Sendagaya gate/Chuo Line.
DonTopaz is offline  
Nov 28th, 2012, 07:40 AM
  #22  
 
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I love the gloves, they made me smile! Were you inspired by the koyo colors?
sassy_cat is offline  
Nov 28th, 2012, 09:43 AM
  #23  
 
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Great pics of the fall colors. Whetting my appetite for my trip next year.
MinnBeef is offline  
Nov 28th, 2012, 09:47 AM
  #24  
 
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Don, I agree with your observations about Japan. I was amazed by how clean and orderly every is - not an easy feat given the size of its population. And I truly miss the vending machines and its variety.
tripplanner001 is offline  
Nov 28th, 2012, 11:21 AM
  #25  
 
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More Japan nostalgia. I miss

1 The extraordinary trains that take you wherever you want to go, in style and perfectly on time
2. The beautiful presentation of food in restaurants and markets
3. My favorite meal: a really good green tea, miso soup and sushi
4. The discreet use of cell phones
5. Customer service
6. The exhilaration of wandering around temples and shrines.
7. The access to coastline
8. The bathrooms with separate showers and tubs
9. The restorative public baths

Thanks for letting us share in your trip, Don. Enjoy.
marya_ is offline  
Nov 29th, 2012, 12:08 PM
  #26  
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Travel day to Hiroshima yesterday. Great views of Mt Fuji from the Shinkansen, rising out of the transmission lines and drab gray apartment buildings with their cheerful pointillisms of red and white and green laundry. The autumn colors were splendid between Tokyo and Osaka, and seemingly well past their peak after that.

If Fuji-san was shy on your trip, here's what she looks like from the train:

https://picasaweb.google.com/lh/phot...eat=directlink

https://picasaweb.google.com/lh/phot...eat=directlink

Surprised to see that the trains were well packed (even the green car) for a mid-morning departure. I suppose that JR is doing the same as the airlines -- making less-than-prime-time seats available at lower prices through various packages/tours.

The train in Japan is really a decent way to travel. You know that you'll be on time, the ride is smooth and quiet (in contrast to any Amtrak train except for their designated Quiet Cars), and the stations are extremely functional, even if lacking in charm. The cultural bit where certain train personnel bow when entering/leaving a car sets a nice tone, I believe. Says to me that the service people on the train are showing respect and thanks to the people who patronize the trains. The uppity crones and queens who dominate United's international cabin crews would do well to pay attention to this. Indeed, if the President of UAL Corp is reading this, I urge you to instruct your international FAs to implement this practice.

I'm staying in the nondescript Sheraton at the train station. It's fairly new, and my 19th fl room is very large. The hotel is a long hike from downtown, and the view is mostly of parking lots and another nondescript hotel. Personnel I've run into have seemed eager to please. English language skills among the staff is not at the level of Tokyo hotels, but that's to be expected. (And the least-skilled of them surely knows more English than my 50-word Japanese vocabulary.) The price is right (10,000Y/nite), but I'd probably look for a more centrally-located place next time.

Off to Miyajima today, maybe.
DonTopaz is offline  
Nov 29th, 2012, 12:42 PM
  #27  
 
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Don, I was researching lodging in Tokyo earlier today. Looks like the price is right for the Strings and it gets great reviews. How would the location be for first-timers?
Craig is offline  
Nov 29th, 2012, 01:40 PM
  #28  
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Craig,

I rate the location of The Strings as fair-to-good, but not great, if you're using it as a base for several days. The best part of its location is fantastic access to JR lines: to/from Narita, to/from Central and Western Japan (Osaka/Kyoto/Takayama/Hiroshima/etc), and the Yamanote line that encircles central Tokyo. Also great access to/from Haneda. For me, the downside of its location is that the area around the hotel immediate vicinity (Shinagawa) is distinctly uninteresting, with no noteworthy parks or attractions or nice shopping.

In practical terms, if it's a high priority for your hotel to be in a place where it's easiest to get to a bunch of different places in the city, then The Strings is a very good location. On the other hand, if it's a high priority for your hotel to be within easy walking distance of nice restaurants and shopping plus one or two attractions, then I'd choose a different location.

In that latter category, my first choice is the Grand Hyatt in Roppongi. Superb hotel and service, every bit as fine a property (maybe more) than The Strings, and in a location with lots of shopping, restaurants, and some interesting walks. Great access to the subway just across the plaza from the hotel. For those who are >62, the Senior rate at the Grand Hyatt is fantastic.

HT is a big fan of the Shinjuku area, and I'm starting to believe that it's indeed a reasonable area to stay. Lots of choices at different price points, with the Park Hyatt at the top. (Caution: Shinjuku covers a very large area - you might choose a hotel in Shinjuku that is a long, long way from another attraction that's also in Shinjuku.)

One neighborhood that offers both transportation convenience and immediate-neighborhood goodness is Ueno: direct and fast train access to Narita, on both the Yamanote Line and the Tokyo metro (subway), and a lot to see and do in the area. The downside of Ueno is that it lacks the upscale hotels that are found elsewhere. (I'm staying at the relatively new Mitsui Garden in Ueno on my way home, so I'll be able to report about it. But I believe that it's a standard Japanese business hotel: rooms are small, clean, functional, and without charm.)

I understand that figuring out the best choice can be a bit bewildering, but here is the good news: Any of the above choices are good ones, and you won't be making a mistake.
DonTopaz is offline  
Nov 29th, 2012, 01:54 PM
  #29  
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3 kvetches about the Sheraton Hiroshima:

1. No wireless. This is amazing to me. The hotel is new, and my only internet access is via a LAN cable? No excuse for that.

2. Glass-top desk. Glass-top desk looks very nice. And is 100% useless with an optical mouse. (With limited options for using the laptop elsewhere -- see Kvetch #1.)

3. The Toto has a washlet, of course, but does not have a heated seat. This is an insult to my ass (it was cold this morning), and I fart in the general direction of whoever made this unfortunate and unacceptable equipment choice.
DonTopaz is offline  
Nov 29th, 2012, 02:14 PM
  #30  
 
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Go to the top of Mt Misen on Miyajima and be one with the monkey.....just don't stare into their eyes

I'd forgive the unheated Toto just to be in Japan.

Aloha!
hawaiiantraveler is offline  
Nov 29th, 2012, 03:02 PM
  #31  
 
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There is just something so civilized about heated toilet seats! Every single time I sat on one, i thought this is sooo nice.
lcuy is offline  
Nov 29th, 2012, 03:02 PM
  #32  
 
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Don, thanks for the hotel and location commentary.
Craig is offline  
Nov 29th, 2012, 10:29 PM
  #33  
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A cheerful day, with some somberness for balance. It was a day to explore the city rather than Miyajima.

I trammed over to the Peace Park, which was overwhelming, especially the Atomic Bomb Dome. The atomic bomb exploded almost directly above the building at 8:15am on Aug 6 1945. The building largely survived, but all of the people inside, as well as about 70,000 others nearby, died instantly or within a few days. The site evoked the same type of cold and empty feeling inside as I've gotten at Auschwitz/Birkenau, at the "Jewish quarters" of Prague and krakow that have no Jews, at the little towns in the Jura mountains of eastern France where the WWI memorials list the names of more dead men (and boys, presumably) than you'd think could have possibly lived there in the first place. Immeasurable suffering, attributable only to militarists and nationalism.

Downtown Hiroshima didn't strike me as being much different than a whole lot of other mid-size city downtowns. Not an awful place to be, but, after coming from Tokyo, it's like being in Pittsburgh after visiting New York or Chicago.

One especially pleasant exception to the humdrum was Shukkeien Garden, about a 10-minute walk from the train station. The garden is a perfectly gorgeous place, with a lake, plenty of paths, and some special spots here and there. Obviously a popular wedding place, as well, as two were going on during my time there.

One of the things that makes Japan work is that everyone obeys the rules, period. If you're waiting to cross the street and the pedestrian signal is red, you wait and wait until it turns green, no matter that there's not a car within 500 yards. (If you did that in Boston, btw, you'd likely be arrested for loitering.) Now this whole rule-following thing goes against my nature, but I try to do the when-in-Rome bit as best I can. So, at the ticket window for Shukkeien Garden, the sign says it's 250¥ (about $3.00) for adults, and free for people 65 and older. Now today is Nov 30 2012, and I turn 65 on Dec 1 2012. So I showed my ID at the ticket window, explained that I'm 65 tomorrow. The young lady at the ticket office smiled and reminded me that I was only 64, and not 65. No sense of scolding in her tone, she was simply doing what is done. (I'd have paid serious cash to see how Bob Kimball would handle the situation.) Anyway, I paid my 250¥ with a big smile, realizing that the reminder of the country's mindset was worth far more than the admission fee. And certainly the park itself was worth every yen.

Photos of Shukkeien and the Atomic Bomb Dome:

https://picasaweb.google.com/lh/phot...eat=directlink
https://picasaweb.google.com/lh/phot...eat=directlink
DonTopaz is offline  
Nov 30th, 2012, 04:03 AM
  #34  
 
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Not to brag or anything but a picture I took of the Atomic Bomb Dome was used in the Fodor's Japan guide. I usually have the camera facing me when I snap pictures so that was quite an accomplishment.

That is a place I don't think people forget visiting.
colduphere is offline  
Nov 30th, 2012, 08:49 AM
  #35  
 
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A friend was in the same situation as you regarding his 65th birthday while visiting in Hong Kong. However, the ticket seller at the told him that you are one year old the day you are born and thus gave him the over 65 discount.
HappyTrvlr is online now  
Nov 30th, 2012, 09:01 AM
  #36  
 
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Love the story about only being 64 today.
Kathie is online now  
Nov 30th, 2012, 09:21 AM
  #37  
 
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Well as it's already Dec 1st in Japan I'll wish you a Happy Birthday Don!
Keep your eyes peeled for those senior discounts today.
sassy_cat is offline  
Nov 30th, 2012, 10:25 AM
  #38  
 
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Happy Birthday Don -- what a great trip report and equally wonderful pictures.
ElaineK is offline  
Nov 30th, 2012, 10:42 AM
  #39  
 
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You should have told her, "But it is December 1 in America already!" She might have believed you...
lcuy is offline  
Nov 30th, 2012, 11:32 AM
  #40  
 
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I share your appreciation for the Japanese respect for rules! And for the heated toilets.

I noticed that the more expensive the hotel, the more likely you will be charged for wireless.

The Dotonburi Hotel in Osaka amazed me. $92 per night included late checkout (12 PM), free wifi, free internet in the lobby (three computers), laptop rental if you needed (if I recall correctly) and one free five minute phone call to anywhere in the world.
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