Trip report Japan (September)

Oct 11th, 2004, 11:05 PM
  #1  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Aug 2004
Posts: 231
Trip report Japan (September)

OK here is my trip report. This is the first time I have written one of these so bear with me!
I?ll start with a few reflections ?we had a fantastic time mainly because of the Japanese people. They were without question always friendly, gentle, cheerful, welcoming and willing to help. They also responded enthusiastically to my puny attempts to say a few words in Japanese.
We flew from Perth to Sydney on August 31 and then on to Tokyo on September 1. From Tokyo we flew to Miyazaki on the south east coast of Kyushu and after 14 days there we activated our JR passes and wended our way back to Tokyo stopping at Hiroshima and Miyajima, Takarazuka (with a side trip to Osaka), Nagoya, Kanazawa, Kyoto, Nara and finally Tokyo.
So, what were the sights, sounds and experiences that stand out? This is not in any order!
? Flying with JAL ?it was superb - the food and service was excellent -it took 10 hours but that went fairly quickly mainly because we had plenty of room (the plane was half full) but also we had personal monitors which had a selection of 8 movies, various games and an added feature (which Qantas does not have) of being able to see what was happening below and the pilot?s view.
? The outstanding infrastructure. Everything worked! There was a general air of cleanliness and efficiency ? especially with regard to the various transport systems.
? The Community Baths. Disrobing, washing oneself and then immersing in a series of hot and cold natural spring baths naked in front of complete strangers (a definite cultural experience!) at a number of on-sens ? the one that is vivid in my memory was in Kirishima National Park (near Kagoshima). It was very small, cost only 200 yen but the view of the mountains and river down below was to die for!
? Walking across the world?s longest single suspension bridge at Aya Teruha and admiring the wonderful view down below and the low clouds above.
? Experiencing a typhoon first hand. It vented its full fury at around 3am but having put up the shutters around the house we were staying in we felt safe!
? The food?we ate a lot of raw fish, eel, ramen (noodles) and developed a taste for rice cakes filled with a sweet bean mixture! Japanese friends treated us to some spectacular meals including a sushi spread, a banquet (with ladies in Kimonos serving us) and a restaurant which served a selection of yakitori type dishes with the most delicious being tofu in soya sauce! We also sampled ancient fare (wild rice etc) at the Saitobaru burial grounds, preserved fruits at Aya Shusen-no-Mori, a range of beverages -Japanese beers and spirits are fine; the wine is misnamed!
? Travelling on Shinkansens ?very smooth, comfortable, fast and always on time.
? Bento Boxes. The ubiquitous ?lunch boxes available at many outlets and particularly at the railway stations. Good food, always interesting, tasty and fresh.
? Visiting the Peace Memorial at Hiroshima ? it?s worth while to allow extra time here to come to terms with the horror and tragedy of the past and to see and experience resurgent and optimistic Hiroshima.
? A number of shrines, temples, castles? for us the most interesting and spectacular were the Udo-Jingu in Nichinan City (near Miyazaki), Kanazawa Castle, Todaiji Temple at Nara ? a truly awesome building, the 5 storied pagoda also at Nara, Heian Shrine, Kinkakuji (?the Golden Pavilion) and Eikando Zenrin-ji (Kyoto) and Sensoji in Tokyo.
? Spending some time window-shopping at Nipponbashi (Osaka), Harajuku, Shinjuku and Akihabara to see the vast range of merchandise and to experience shopping among tens of thousands of people up close (a very different thing for Australians especially from Perth!)
? Visiting a number of beautiful gardens including the one at the Imperial Palace at Kyoto and Kenroku-en at Kanazawa (best to arrive at this one early (before 8.00 am). By 9.00am busloads of Japanese visitors make their presence felt.
? Relaxing for an afternoon at the world?s largest indoor pool at Seagaia. A Miyazaki Visitors? Pass obtainable at the tourist office at Miyazaki Central railway station entitles you to some useful discounts at this and other local attractions.
? A stroll along Philosophers? Walk between temples in Kyoto ? very relaxing and a chance once again to embrace the environment and atmosphere without the ?hustle and bustle?.
? Cycling through the padi fields in Miyazaki. Bicycle hire is easy although it sometimes means paying the wholesale cost of the bike and being recouped less about 500 yen per day when the bike is returned.
? Museums ? We visited a number including the historical museum at Miyazaki Municipal Museum, Tokugawa Art Museum in Nagoya, Kyoto National Museum, Edo Museum, Tokyo National Museum. Apart from Miyazaki the museums were pricey and there were galleries closed but we saw some magnificent displays of Japanese swords, ceramics, and tapestries. The shops attached were great for woodblock prints and other middle range souvenirs.
? Shopping: I am an avid shopper but Japan is expensive! ?However, we did do some browsing. 100 yen shops- worth it just to see what you can get for 105 yen and what they have produced in terms of Disney characters, Gion in Kyoto - the place to buy antiques, the Ginza (look, but the prices in the larger stores were preposterous), the ?flea markets? outside temples in Nagoya, Nakimise Dori ?a great for buying gifts to take home. We also enjoyed just buying groceries in the local mart in Miyazaki. For interest what did we buy aside from souvenirs? Some wood-block prints, some Japanese kitchen knives, a camera and a card radio.

Suggestions:

Definitely purchase a JR pass before you depart for Japan. Great value and places every part of Japan within easy reach.

We were advised to purchase travellers? cheques because of the lack of ATMs in Japan. In fact we could have managed perfectly well using ATMs and our Visa credit cards. Make sure that you have a Cirrus card. If you do buy travellers? cheques, get them in Japanese yen.

Depending on your budget, the medium priced business hotels are good value. We stayed in the Toyoko Inn Chain. The cost for two was between $120 and $140 Australian. These hotels were clean, usually central and most offer free Internet access.

Make sure that between cramming in as much sight seeing as possible, that you allow the occasional rest morning or afternoon. It helps you appreciate the fascinating sights and experiences of Japan even more.

I think this is enough for now?.
As I said before, it was a memorable holiday and we would love to go back there again. If anyone has any questions don?t hesitate to ask. We have lots of photos but I have to figure out how to put them on the net. Any help to do this would be appreciated.
albaaust is offline  
Oct 12th, 2004, 03:03 AM
  #2  
 
Join Date: Mar 2004
Posts: 2,456
Thank you for the great report !

> we had a fantastic time mainly because of the Japanese people.

I'm really glad to hear it.

For online photo albums, I use a few, among which is :

http://photobucket.com/
(I sometimes have problems rotating the images.)

I also use Sonyphotostation.com
kappa is offline  
Oct 12th, 2004, 03:52 AM
  #3  
emd
 
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 6,267
albaaust: What a way to start the day, alone w/my coffee and this report! I don't have much time right now, so please check back, I will post questions later. But for now, did you rent a house in Miyazaki or were you staying w/freinds? I saw your reference to tightening up the house for the typhoon and thought I'd ask. If you rented, how did you do that?
I am so glad to hear of your reaction to Hiroshima, as we have been trying to decide if it is worth it to for us go take time from Kyoto to go there for part of a day trip, and your answer is "yes".
I am curious about the woodblock prints, because I really love them and intend to buy some good quality ones there. I just bought two Hiroshige's (1840's) in NYC last week. I told myself I was going to do comparison shopping for prices so I'd know if I was getting a good deal in Japan, but, well, now I have two Hiroshige's. I am assuming that the ones for sale in the museum shops are 20th century prints, or do they sell the ones printed at the time the woodblocks were made, done w/natural dyes? Did you purchase any old ones or see them for sale?
Glad to hear your input about the ATMS and credit cards, as there is always debate about that point.
Your tone and attitude are inspiring. It sounds like you went at a good pace and really took time to enjoy and savor- the bike rides, resting, enjoying the people, etc. We are trying to have that attitude also, but I think it would be more conducive if we had the luxury of 3-4 wks instead of 2 (can't tell exactly how long you had, was your JR 7 days or 14?)
Did you have any kids on the trip w/you?
emd is offline  
Oct 12th, 2004, 03:59 AM
  #4  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 15,591

Wonderful trip report, thanks. Sounds like you had many wonderful experiences. I do have a few questions, hope you have time to answer a couple of them.

There are a couple of folks on the forum who are planning visits to Hiroshima and/or Miyajima. How long did you spend in those places? How much time for the museum? Did you stay on Miyajima or was it a day visit?

How long were you in Kagoshima? Did you visit Sakurajima & what was it like? Where did you stay? I'd like to hear more about Miyazaki and if you made other stops in Kyushu.

Did you see the Takarazuka Revue?
mrwunrfl is offline  
Oct 12th, 2004, 01:08 PM
  #5  
 
Join Date: Mar 2004
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Correction, that was
www.imagestation.com/
not Sonyphotostation.com

Also,
www.ofoto.com/Welcome.jsp
kappa is offline  
Oct 12th, 2004, 11:35 PM
  #6  
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Posts: 231
Some answers to questions.We stayed at our son's house in Miyazaki but he was away for much of the time working elsewhere in Japan so we had the place to ourselves which was great! We were very lucky! The house had aluminium shutters around all the windows which had to be slid and fastened into place in preparation for the typhoon. Our son took us down to Kagoshima/Kirishima National Park and so we were to a certain extent bound to what he wanted to show us.It took about two and a half hours to get there. We saw some beautiful countryside,lots of volcanic activity and some lovely but expensive ryokans but we did not go into Kagoshima itself unfortunately.
We had a 14 day JR pass which was quite expensive but worth it! I did a calculation comparing what we would have spent if we had not used the pass and we would have paid double the money! I am a teacher and therefore, for me going to Hiroshima the main emphasis was the museum. We arrived at Hiroshima at 3.30pm, booked into our hotel and then caught the local tram to the ferry port so we could catch a glimpse of the tori gate at Miyajima at sunset.We did it but unfortunately, we did not see anything else-most of the shops, restaurants etc were closed and apparently there had been some damage from the typhoon.The next morning was spent devoted to exploring the monuments etc around the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. Altogether we spent close on 3 hours there.We did not see the Takarazuka Revue. We have a sister school relationship with the High School in Takarazuka so that was our reason for going there. The Principal and staff organised a pretty special banquet for us and the school visit gave us another insight to life in Japan. I have to say Japanese school children do not have it easy!
In response to woodblock prints we did see a lot of modern day prints at places like Nakimise Dori in Tokyo for quite reasonable prices. Tokyo National Museum has a display of some of the original woodblock prints and in their shop you can order handprinted woodblock prints. I am not sure of the paints they use. They were from memory around 3000 yen. Edo museum also has a small display of the process of woodblock printing.The second floor of the Oriental Bazaar in Harajuka(Tokyo)also had an interesting selection of woodblock prints which were dated ranging in price upwards from 20,000 yen. I would also have a look in Gion. Quite a lot of shops had antiques eg netsuke,medicine boxes,various carvings and ceramics which seemed genuine.Thank you to Kappa for the photo site. I shall try it.
albaaust is offline  
Oct 13th, 2004, 08:20 AM
  #7  
 
Join Date: Mar 2004
Posts: 194
Check out also:
www.photosite.com

My favorite photo website..........
HappyTraveling is offline  
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