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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 30th, 2012, 07:14 PM
  #41  
 
Join Date: May 2005
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I liked the Shukkeien very much as well, but judging from your photo, it is even lovelier in Autumn than it was in Summer.

Wonderful account of your interaction with the ticket vendor/steward of values.

Omedetou gozaimasu.
marya_ is offline  
Dec 1st, 2012, 09:42 AM
  #42  
 
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Great report. Yes, the Atomic Dome and Peace Museum are so well done and moving-I'll never forget it.

Loved your "average height" and "loitering" comments!
moremiles is offline  
Dec 3rd, 2012, 02:18 PM
  #43  
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Kyoto is surely one of those places that every traveler should visit once. And, like so many other places on that list, your first visit is never your last one. There's just so much to explore, so many things that you've never seen before, so many positive experiences.

This is a city of charming streets, awe-inspiring gardens and temples, and surprises around so many corners. No skyscrapers here -- there's a strict limit on building heights -- so the scale is much more human than elsewhere in Japan and the rest of eastern Asia.

I signed up for a cycling tour of the city with the Kyoto Cycling Tour Project ( http://www.kctp.net/en/ ), and that turned out to be a fantastic way to enjoy the sights. With them, you have a tour guide, and you can have up to 4 people in your group (your choice of how many). My guide, Keiko, was wonderful: she spoke excellent English, and she knows and loves Kyoto. The entire trip was on streets and back alleys of Kyoto, and I felt completely safe 100% of the time. The cycle was a comfortable, 8-speed, and it was an altogether wonderful experience. There's a choice of tours/routes, with half-day and full-day tours available. I will say that I had excellent, if a bit chilly, weather. There's no canceling if it rains (if it's a light rain, they'll supply a raincoat; if it's a heavy rain, a walking tour is substituted).

A few photos of SHinbashi-dori (one of my favorite streets anywhere), some Geishas/Kabuki performers who had drawn a crowd while walking to their theater, and this typist on a bicycle:

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

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

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

https://picasaweb.google.com/lh/phot...eat=directlink
DonTopaz is offline  
Dec 3rd, 2012, 02:38 PM
  #44  
 
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Great photos, thanks for sharing! I am so jealous - I know someone else visiting Kyoto now as well....I won't be there til April....
Mara is offline  
Dec 3rd, 2012, 02:59 PM
  #45  
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Was just thinking about Kyoto's history, human scale, interesting neighborhoods/streets. My not-so-unbiased conclusion:

Kyoto : Japan :: Boston : USA
DonTopaz is offline  
Dec 3rd, 2012, 09:04 PM
  #46  
 
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Sasusangendo right next door is a classic

So is Arashiyama

Enjoying all of your reports

Aloha!
hawaiiantraveler is offline  
Dec 3rd, 2012, 10:53 PM
  #47  
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Another good day. I did, in fact, spend much of the morning at Sanjusangendo. I'm not that much of a temple person (either Asian-style or Brookline-Newton style), but Sanjusangendo is surely worth a visit. It's be interesting to compare the Buddha count at Sanjusangendo with the Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery in Sha Tin (Hong Kong), which is also worth a walk uphill to visit. Took in a cold stroll down the Philosopher's Path, then a short visit to the garden at Nanzenji, then headed back to Kyoto Station to warm up.

Isetan has a huge department store there, with plenty to look at. The quality available at higher-end Japanese stores is often way, way superior to anything in the States. Got a few pairs of winter socks -- the kind that I can only find in Japan, that you wear around the house and are so ultra-soft that the toes jump with joy. Shame that they don't sell other garments in my size.

The Hyatt is really a wonderful place to stay. The decor is contemporary and understated, very much in keeping with Japanese culture. Lots of wood throughout, with plenty of care given to the details. While the room is obviously not that of a ryokan, there's still a wood carving with a berry outcrop that suggests the decoration in the alcove of a fine ryokan. Staff are attentive without being either obtrusive or fussy. This is consistent with other Hyatts I've been to here (Regency & Grand Hyatt in Tokyo, Regency in Hakone/Gora). The location here in Tokyo is the biggest drawback for me. It's about a 15- or 20-minute walk to the train station (downhill going to the station, uphill coming back); the other ways to get there are a city bus (2 mins walk from the hotel, but not a very comfortable way to travel) or a cab ($8 each way).

Time for evening cocktails at the bar.
DonTopaz is offline  
Dec 4th, 2012, 04:35 AM
  #48  
 
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Following and gathering info. Hope the cocktails were good.
kmkrnn is offline  
Dec 4th, 2012, 04:42 AM
  #49  
 
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loving this as we anticipate our visit next fall..

had i been at the ticket booth i would have been the perfect gentleman as I asked to speak to the GM... and by the time i finished with him it would be my birthday...
rhkkmk is offline  
Dec 4th, 2012, 05:11 AM
  #50  
 
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Cocktails at the Hyatt Kyoto are 50% off between 17:00-19:00 in the Touzan bar only
hawaiiantraveler is offline  
Dec 4th, 2012, 06:56 AM
  #51  
 
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DonTopaz - you do know that Boston and Kyoto are sister cities, right.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sister_cities_of_Boston
usernameistaken is offline  
Dec 4th, 2012, 07:03 AM
  #52  
 
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Enjoying your report, Don.
Kathie is offline  
Dec 4th, 2012, 01:28 PM
  #53  
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I did indeed head to the Touzan bar, and it's one of the nicest bars I've ever been in. [I suppose there are two ways to look at that statement. On the one hand, I've been in an awful lot of bars, so top-of-the-list should be a good thing. On the other hand, a great many of those bars have been places like Herbie's, or the Blue Sands, or the Dew Drop Inn, none of which will have ever appeared on any list except those kept by local Sanitation Departments.]

But back to the Touzan. I ordered up a beer, which was fine, but I soon realized the error of my ways when the fellow at the end of the bar got a Campari on the rocks (without soda, a bit bitter for my taste, but whatever). It wasn't the red liquid that was interesting -- it was the ice cubes. These didn't come from a machine or a tray; they looked hand-chiseled, all relatively large but each a slightly rough shape. And they weren't those airy-fairy thin things that melt in 30 seconds, these were rugged ice cubes, the kind of ice cubes that a guy can appreciate. (I have no idea if ladies get a different style of cube. Nothing would surprise me.) Not only were the ice cubes reason enough to enjoy the place, but the seats at the bar were terrific. Not those uncomfortable things where your legs don't reach the floor, but upholstered seats, low enough to be perfect, and wide enough to accommodate even the most generous of rumps. So I stayed for several more drinks (vodka & tonics after the 1st biiru), enjoying a light dinner (beautiful tempura prawns and some fried potatoes) at the bar.

My favorite food on this trip has been okonomiyaki. I'd heard about it before but never got around to trying it -- that mistake has now been corrected. If you've never had okonomiyaki, it's a wonderous comfort food that seems to be the marriage of egg foo yong and crepes, on steroids, plus sauce. Apparently there are a zillion varieties -- the ones in Hiroshima all had a layer of noodles -- but most seem to have some greens, some fish and/or meat, and all I've tasted have been scrumptuous.

If you're new to visiting Japan, you can do yourself a world of good by learning just a very few words. By default, Japanese (at least most of those in cities) will assume that a Westerner knows no Japanese at all, except maybe arigato, and possibly hello and good morning. So if you can learn another dozen words, you'll suddenly jump to a high tier of esteem. Fodor's actually has a very good page with Japanese terms (http://www.fodors.com/language/japanese/). I find the most useful to be "_____ o onegai shimasu", which you can use to ask for almost anything: a beer (Biiru), the check (Okanjoo), an item that you want to buy at a shop (Kore), etc. Trust me: learn that expression, and you'll see a lot of smiles on faces.

u-n-i-t: I had no idea, or maybe just forgot, that Boston & Kyoto were twinned.

Back to Tokyo this afternoon, flying home tom'w. Cheers,
DonTopaz is offline  
Dec 4th, 2012, 02:18 PM
  #54  
 
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Don-I am enjoying your report and gathering info for our trip. Thought your comment re temples in Brookline and Newton was quite funny. They are significantly different from the Asian ones which I like very much. To me, you can't see too many temples in Asia, although DH may not agree.
shelleyk is offline  
Dec 4th, 2012, 02:52 PM
  #55  
 
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The trip is over already, wow. Thanks for taking us along Don. Bet in Tokyo you will be staying in the Ueno area and taking the Kesei liner to NRT right?
What no limo bus

In the Touzan Bar(and every bartender worth his/her salt in Japan for that matter) we love the way a Japanese bartender will shake a martini with such vigor and rigorous ritual,it is a sight to behold.

The big round ice balls I wrote about in my last trip report about Kyoto are carved and saved for the pure shot "on the rocks" drinks. The bartender at Touzan told us that the huge round ice balls only minimally comes in contact with the alcohol cooling it and keeping the drink cool but not melting like the smaller cube would so as to preserve the flavor of the alcohol and not dilute it with water.....they think of everything. Over our stays at the Hyatt we've gotten to know the bartenders and have witnessed the actual carving of ice many times.

Aloha!
hawaiiantraveler is offline  
Dec 4th, 2012, 03:13 PM
  #56  
 
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carving of ice??? you expect us to fall for that??
rhkkmk is offline  
Dec 4th, 2012, 03:20 PM
  #57  
 
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rhkkmk,

For the amount the 5 star hotels in Japan charge you should expect ice carvings by the bartenders, haha

Aloha!
hawaiiantraveler is offline  
Dec 4th, 2012, 04:18 PM
  #58  
 
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The ice cubes have now sold me on paying the big bucks for a 5*.
Craig is offline  
Dec 4th, 2012, 11:05 PM
  #59  
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Oy, the Man from AlohaLand is right: I've checked in to the Mitsui Garden Hotel in Ueno, from where I'll be taking the Keisei whatever-it's-called to Narita in the morning. A lot is due to the timing of my flight: it's an 11:40 departure, and staying in Ueno lets me take a 9:21 train (arrives 10:02) and comfortably make the flight.

The Mitsui Garden is by no means luxe, but it certainly is adequate. Room is very decent-sized with a double bed, bathroom is also more than adequate. I did reserve a not-the-cheapest room, and that's usually a very good idea at most hotels in Japan. (The extra 2000 or so yen will usually give you a much, much nicer room.) The subway is in front of the hotel, the JR station is across the street, and the Keisei station another 100 yards away. It's a nice walk or a short subway ride to Asakusa, where I'm looking forward to visiting the Maguro Bito kaiten zushi (conveyor belt sushi) joint.

I am all aflutter. It's announced that my flight will be a JAL X Ghibli special decal Flight! No plain old unadorned airplane for this man. ( http://tinyurl.com/c83y4dk )
DonTopaz is offline  
Dec 5th, 2012, 05:31 AM
  #60  
 
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you can suffer thru the fancy plane..
rhkkmk is offline  

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