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Some notes on our trip to Tokyo and Kyoto

Some notes on our trip to Tokyo and Kyoto

Apr 15th, 2007, 05:08 AM
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Some notes on our trip to Tokyo and Kyoto

Hi all,

We went to Tokyo late February (just finding the time now to write about it!) and I wanted to mention a few things about Tokyo that might be helpful for people planning their trips:

1. Annex Katsutaro: a ryokan in Tokyo. Itīs about 10 minutes from the JR Nippori station, where you can catch a train directly to the airport, and about 2 minutes from Sendagi metro. Highly recommended even though itīs not centrally located. We got the deluxe for 2 people, which was a good size, had a closet, a full size bathroom, and was spotlessly clean. The owners were really nice too.

2. We went to Kyoto using the Sunrise Tours Kyoto Free Plan which included a round trip bullet train (Hikari) ticket from Tokyo and one night in a hotel. If you choose a “Level A” hotel, the cost of the hotel and the ticket is less than just buying a roundtrip ticket

3. Tokyo Free Guide: I found out about this in the NYT (http://travel.nytimes.com/2005/09/11...72af74&ei=5070

As all of the guides are volunteers, this is truly hit or miss. For us, it was definitely a miss, I know that many sign up as a way to practice English, but this seemed to be the only reason our guide was there. At first he wasnīt even going with us to the sites (we met him in Kamakura), he would just drive us to each temple, drop us off, and wait for us. After this happened twice, we asked him to go with us, so that we could talk to him about the sites, but he didnīt seem to know anything, so we just gave up and talked about random observations.

4. Good Samaritan Club of Kyoto University: We had much better luck with this free guide organization, http://www.geocities.jp/kyoto_samari...ritanClub.html,

It seems that the group has a written guide that everyone refers to. Not only had our guide read everything, she even took notes on it. She told us lots of interesting info that wasnīt available in our guidebook, and was a really nice person as well.

5. Tea ceremony: We went to a school that instructs women on how to perform a traditional Japanese tea ceremony. Really interesting and informative, itīs amazing how detailed it is. It was funny seeing everyone stare at my husband, a white male, and even more funny how he remembered a tea ceremony from the movie the Karate Kid, of all things, and he was describing all of the details to the instructor and it turns out the movie got everything spot on!!

The name is Chado Urasenke, Cha-Cha Club (03-5524-6565). Try to have someone who speaks Japanese make the reservation for you, as the receptionist at the time couldnīt speak English.

6. YakitoriAlley: One of our favorite places to eat. Loads of yakitori stalls under the train tracks near Hibiya Station, full of salarymen getting blind drunk with their co-workers!

7. Mikimoto pearls: We wanted to get one nice present for DHīs mother. I suggested Mikimoto and he immediately dismissed it as being too expensive. But we checked it out at Takashimaya department store, and there are beautiful pendants and brooches, that while not cheap, are within reach. We chose a simple pendant with a large white pearl, that was about 100 Euro, plus we got the 5% sales tax refunded because we were tourists. The packaging was stunning – the necklace was put into a beautiful jewelry box, that was wrapped in tissue paper, placed in a gift box, then wrapped in lovely paper with a large bow, and then placed in a gift bag!! MIL was ooohing and aahing as she unwrapped each layer.

8. Tsukiji Fish Market: We loved this market, which must be seen to be believed. Unfortunately we didnīt wake up early to enough to see the auctions (which I understand are closed to tourists) but just walking around and seeing all that was on offer was an absolute delight. We chose to eat in Sushizanmai, which was the best sushi I have ever had – just thinking of all the different fatty tunas makes my mouth water. But the most amazing thing was the grilled fatty tuna, which was out of this world!! This place is definitely tourist friendly as the menu has English translations with pictures.

The only thing I regret is not going to Sushi Dai, which is just a small sushi bar, thereīs no tables. I donīt believe there is a menu, you just get the Chefīs selection. Itīs supposed to be one of the best places to eat sushi in Tokyo. There was a long line (at 9:30 am!!!) and I just didnīt feel like waiting at the time. Itīs hardly a secret as there was a mix of locals and tourists. But no big deal, Iīll go next time.

9. Maisen Restaurant: this place specializes in Tonkatsu, where the pigs come from the restaurantīs own farm. If you want to try Tonkatsu, this is the place to go. Also easy to reach, behind Ometesando shopping center.

10. DH is a chef and insists that Japanese knives are the best in the world. If youīre interested in this, or any kind of kitchen item, you must go to Kappabashi Market. You canīt miss the street, as there is a gigantic chefīs head on the top of the first building. The Kamata knife store had a fabulous selection.

I just wanted to sum up by saying we LOVED Japan and canīt wait to go back. Itīs a fascinating country, and itīs a shame that itīs not really on the radar of many tourists. The next time, we plan on combining a trip to Japan with South Korea.

11. Tokyo Food Page: I have to mention this website, http://www.bento.com/tokyofood.html, which was so useful for tips on Japanese restaurants and shopping for food.

Thanks for reading my post, and thank you to all of the people whoīs posts on Fodors were so helpful in planning my trip!

pocari is offline  
Apr 15th, 2007, 06:37 AM
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thanks for this review
rhkkmk is offline  
Apr 15th, 2007, 09:39 AM
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Thank you for posting, pocari!
Tim_and_Liz is offline  
Apr 15th, 2007, 10:16 AM
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Wonderful report. Can you tell us more about the tea ceremony? How much did it cost and will they take kids? Our youngest is 10.

Thanks so much!
withkids is offline  
Apr 15th, 2007, 12:28 PM
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Hi withkids, unfortunately I donīt know if they take kids. We paid 1000 yen each for the one hour demonstration.

Also, I wanted to add a few things to my original post:

Gonpachi Restaurant: This restaurant is famous for 2 reasons, because PM Koizumi took George Bush there, and it was featured in a scene in the movie "Kill Bill." I had read alot of positive reviews about the food, so we decided to try it. The food was uneven, the portions were really small, and the prices were outrageous (to be expected I suppose).

Tenya: A recommended fast food tempura chain. Look for the signs with blue and yellow stripes - thereīs no English.

Japan, The Original Point and Speak Phrasebook: Since neither of us speaks any Japanese, this was the book we used to get around. The title describes the book perfectly, thereīs a picture, and underneath, the Japanese words or phrases, with the English romanization. I bought this in Japan.
pocari is offline  
Apr 15th, 2007, 12:41 PM
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I appreciate you sharing your Japan experiences. Now I wanted be tempted to try Gonpachi!! Will stick to the many tried and recommended. Thanks.



wintersp is offline  
Apr 15th, 2007, 12:55 PM
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Thanks for your enjoyable, down to earth report, pocari. I also stayed at the Annex Katsutaro (after reading about it here possibly from a post by Florence) on my first trip to Japan about three years ago and was very pleased.
Mara is offline  
Jun 13th, 2007, 10:06 AM
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bookmarking
bailey6325 is offline  
Jun 13th, 2007, 11:44 AM
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Nice report, ms sweat. Now I want to go back to Sushizanmai.
mrwunrfl is offline  
Jun 23rd, 2007, 06:58 AM
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Great trip report, thanks for the detailed information!

We're combining Tokyo and a couple of cities in S. Korea in Sept. so this is very helpful.

Quick q-- if we only have about 5 days in Japan, do you think it would be worth it to cut Tokyo short and visit Kyoto for a couple of days?

Thanks!
junkgalore is offline  
Jun 25th, 2007, 04:27 AM
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Hi junkgalore,

5 days isn't enough time to see both cities, so it would be best to choose one or the other. If you want to see more of historic Japan, you might consider a day trip to Kamakura. It's only an hour away from Tokyo, and has many temples and shrines.

Please write a trip report when you get back - I would especially like to read about your experience in South Korea as I plan on going there as well in the next year or so.

mrwunrfl, I wish I could go to Sushizanmai right now too!
pocari is offline  
Jul 15th, 2007, 08:20 AM
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Thanks for your help pocari. Yes, I will be sure to write a trip report of Korea when I return. I visited Seoul in 2005 and did not write a trip report and now wish I had done so. (I am guilty of getting/reading other's travel experience but have been intimated to write a review here since each area already seems to be full of experts.) It doesn't seem like there is alot of detailed info on S. Korea in general.

As for Japan, I have read great things about Kamakura but we have opted to add Kyoto instead. This is mainly because we can fly into KIX from Busan on Sun morning. Then we depart via NRT on Saturday...thus reducing travel time. I am hoping that gives us enough time to get a flavor of each city.

Again, your trip report has really been very helpful. Just a quick question tho-- is the tea ceremony for women only? I will be with my husband and I'm sure he wouldn't mind sitting in on something like that.
junkgalore is offline  
Jul 23rd, 2007, 01:12 PM
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hi junkgalore

I agree, there's not that much out there on South Korea - which is why I will be looking forward to reading your trip report!

Men are welcome to the tea ceremony - my husband went and he loved it.
pocari is offline  
Oct 8th, 2007, 08:35 AM
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Hi Pocari,

I'm just wondering,could you tell me,about your visit to Kamakura,the guy who's accompany you during that place,where he belongs to?

Was he a free guider also?

Cheers.

Tarkio.
tarkio is offline  
Oct 8th, 2007, 05:36 PM
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I am posting this message from Tokyo..we went on our own to the fish market this morning and the tuna action rooms are definitely NOT closed to visitors. There is at least one visitors area where you can both watch and photograph the tuna auctions. Flash pictures are forbidden, however.
Dukey is offline  
Oct 9th, 2007, 03:48 AM
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Thanks for the info, Dukey. What time were you there?
DonTopaz is offline  
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