Winter trip to Japan

Jan 11th, 2006, 06:40 PM
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Join Date: Jul 2003
Posts: 90
Winter trip to Japan

Just an attempt to add some travel tidbits after our trip to Japan Dec. 22 to Jan 3. I gleaned much from this website so I'm adding. We traveled to see our daughter who is teaching with the JET program and we had all previously lived in Okinawa for 3 years. So we had seen some of mainland AND already had an appreciation and understanding of Japan. But we know little Japanese but our daughter is learning. We landed in Osaka (good, organized airport unlike Narita) and took the bus to the Hilton for the night. Followed KimJapan's suggestion and enjoyed the beers and food of the Executive Level. Celebrated with a Christmas tree there. Left the following morning by going to Namba bus station and took a direct bus to Kurayoshi -- Tottori prefecture. 4 hours directly west over some mountains. The bus was comfortable, stopped for a break half way, luggage easily stored underneath, and cost much less than the train. The train had too made changes that would have made it a longer trip. We stayed for 3 nights in her apt. sleeping on the tatami mats, shopping at the local stores. Fun. Had our most unusual Christmas morning. Walking in a park and zoo in the snow. Shopping down in a district with restored sake warehouses. Visiting local shops and cooking a lunch of sushi, soup and Chinese dumplings. Our last day we visited her school, met teachers and conversed with a class. Then we left the next day. Tottori already had a foot of snow but as we left, another was falling. But we rode over the mountains again and saw beautiful scene after scene. Nothing like bamboo covered in snow. I marveled that we left her apartment at 8:15am, took bus to Osaka, JRlocal train to Kyoto, and taxi to Holiday Inn by 1:30. Great connections. Lots of connections.

I just posted a comment about the hotel in Kyoto. We were very happy with the Holiday Inn...stayed for 7 nights so we saw it all and at an easy pace. We organized our week around what was going to be open since we were spending Jan 1-3 - holidays - there. Most all restaurants and shops were open except for some of the smaller ones. We also lucked out to go to Toji for the Antique Market on the 1st Sunday and this one lasted for 3 days. I have antique obis and other things in my house so I was thrilled.

Kyoto top sights:
1. Sanjusangendo and Kiyomizuzu was a favorite day. We walked from JR station to Sanjusangendo (20 min) then up to Kiyomizu. (30 min) We went up through the road by the graveyard and descended by the shopping street - Sannenzaka. Cab to Shijo Dori for late lunch. Shopping. Then back to hotel.
2. Philosopher's walk from Nanzenji up tp Ginkakuji was wonderful. Ginkakuji had the best garden of all. Easy walk and lots of coffee shops and shops along the way. I enjoyed seeing the upscale homes by the canal.
3. Heian Temple and its Gardens then walked over to Kyoto Handicraft Center. Good shopping. I bought 2 woodblock prints there for less than I saw them in the covered market off Shijo dori. Ate lunch there upstairs at 12:00. We were hungry so we checked it out. 1,500 yen per person ($14) seemed steep but not when we sat down. Lots of different foods - tempura, salads, soups, all buffet so it was our major meal of the day. Great view. There was a large tour group that came in but they had plenty of room to accommodate. Can leave packages there in a locker. We saw some more in the area (zoo there) and then went back and they took us back to our hotel for free. Just check in with them with you enter.
4. Kinkaku-ji (golden) temple is lovely but not much over there. We ended up seeing a group of men making the New Year's rice cakes by hand -- the hammer and fires-- and ended up at a LLBean near the bus station. Daughter looking for good warm clothes.
5. Toji temple and antique market
6. Nara. The Todai-ji temple is a must. Our coldest wet day but it was Jan 2nd and the streets were filled with booths and all the families were there eating street food and visiting the shrine. Much people watching.

We did no museums -- all closed. And this was our 2nd trip there. Have seen it with the leaves - breathtaking. Next time it will have to be the cherry trees.

Best places to eat:
(Realize our daughter has been eating Japanese for months...she looked for some things like cheese, bread---so we enjoyed the gourmet grocery downstairs from our hotel.
But the Italian restaurant downstairs at the JR Trainstation at the end of Porta was wonderful. Had fried calamari, large salads, and good pasta (fettucini with crabmeat It's a chain. Can't remember the name but begins with a "C". Very popular. Also found a yakkiniku restaurant that I think we loved in 89. Downstairs of the Avanti Dept store ( they have about 10 restaurants to choose from) across from the train station (stay underground - go right to it) we had steak, several orders of vegetables and beer for $50 for 3. You cook on a lava stone. Just stir fry yourself. Fun and good. Also had lots of seafood.

We left by taking an airport limo (3,000 yen each plus 1,000 for an extra bag) that was a van that drove us to the door. Could have taken other transportation but the added expense was worth it. We used every bit of the 2 hours to check in, go through security, get a Starbucks sandwich, hit the bathroom then board.

Thanks for any comments I've gotten from you on this Asia board. The best thing about traveling in Japan is the people. They are so willing to help you and those who can speak any English are most eager to practice. They are also happy to see you enjoying their country. Good traveling.
byronelaine is offline  
Jan 11th, 2006, 07:03 PM
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 6,267
Thanks so much for the report. This forum has been in need of some good Japan trip reports for awhile now. What a nice trip for you all and your daughter. A friend and colleague of mine (lawyer in big firm) left to go into the JET program in July; I'm trying to hook up w/him in April there.

I am glad you made the Toji market day. We loved that also. So vibrant.

I esp. appreciate your Kyoto #3 and am printing it to take w/us in April.

I always like to see people come back here and report after their trips; I know it takes effort to do so. It is great to see it all come together after you have seen their posts and answer their questions before the trip.
emd is offline  
Jan 11th, 2006, 08:14 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
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"LLBean near the bus station"

A real LLBean?? Where exactly, please? I would love to buy something at LLB in Kyoto!!!

Mara is offline  
Jan 11th, 2006, 08:47 PM
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Mara, I know you had to cancel your prior trip - when are you going?
emd is offline  
Jan 11th, 2006, 09:10 PM
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Thanks for the great report. Glad to hear you enjoyed yourself, esp. with experiencing real-life Japan in Kurayoshi.
mrwunrfl is offline  
Jan 11th, 2006, 09:19 PM
Join Date: Feb 2004
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I'm not sure where it is in Kyoto, but there is an LLBean in Osaka directly behind the Hilton that is directly across from Osaka station. We visit that store when in Osaka. There is a number of stores in Japan, as well as an outlet in Karuizawa.
KimJapan is offline  
Jan 12th, 2006, 05:52 PM
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The LLBean in Kyoto is in the North section of the city right above the Main Bus Terminal - Kitaoji Station. All the lines go in there and the subway also goes there. We walked back from the Golden Pavilion and looked for a restaurant recommended in guide book -- closed. Saw Starbucks. Then just a block is the bus station, LLBean and a shopping center on top. My husband did buy some pants there --- about $80 on sale for $50. Then we took the subway to Gion.
byronelaine is offline  
Jan 14th, 2006, 08:21 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
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Gee, I missed this post two days ago.

Byronelaine (and Kimjapan) - Thanks so much for the info about LLBean - I plan to go to Kinkakuji so I will try to check it out. Starbucks is one place I refuse to go into and they're on almost every block here in NYC but it will be a good landmark.

Elaine - I am hoping to go the very end of March and first week in April. I am trying to be low key so as not to jinx myself

It is hard to find hotels with availability already - I have had quite a few rejections but I have one room reserved for sure.

Mara is offline  
Jan 17th, 2006, 04:45 PM
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I had the same problem finding a rooms for the week around New Year's. Westin, Granvia, Okura, New Miyako...all said they couldn't do New Year's Eve and Day. But the Holiday Inn at 17,000yen a night said yes and worked out great.
byronelaine is offline  
Nov 10th, 2007, 09:09 AM
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veromar is offline  
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