You're Not Going to Japan AGAIN?

Apr 8th, 2012, 07:37 PM
  #21  
 
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One of the other 4 NT castles is Inuyama, which is quite nearby. There are famous tea huts there, too. Nearby is Meiji-Mura, which is very interesting (they have the lobby of Frank Lloyd Wright's Imperial Hotel among many other buildings from all over Japan), and Gifu for Cormorant fishing. On the way back to Kyoto you can stop off at Ishiyama-dera, where Murusaki Shikibu is said to have written the first chapters of Genjo Monogatari It's a very beautiful place and they have an exhibit about her.

By the way, I notice you are going to Hokkaido. I did not find Sapporo or Otaru very interesting. What I did enjoy was the Shiretoko Penisular and Daisetsuzan, especially the area south of Sounkyo Onsen (through the tunnel), and the lakes Mosshu (a caldera like Crater Lake, but bigger), Akan, and Kussharo. You need a car to visit these and it might be a bit early in the year to go there. The northern part of Tohoko might be a better bet.
someotherguy is offline  
Apr 10th, 2012, 03:20 PM
  #22  
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Thanks for the travel tips but time is tight unfortunately.I've pondered the Hokkaido section long and hard and decided to give Shiretoko a miss this time - just too much of a rush.

Monday I went to Amanohashidate - on the other side of the island. Rather than sit around waiting for a train, I went via Kyoto so saw lots of sakura along the way. I walked along the platform and boarded the limited express Hashidate thanks to the JR pass. We set off through the bamboo forests of Arashiyama and through tunnels and over rivers and through the countryside.

The last portion of the trip is not on JR tracks. The conductor told me I would have to change trains at Fukuchiyama, so when we reached there I got off to get a ticket and was directed back onto the same train - which waits for people such as myself and those who actually came direct from Osaka. When we set off again, there were passengers just buying their tickets on the train, as I had at first presumed I would do. Grr.

There was another nervous moment when the train stopped for a few minutes, then set off in the direction we'd just come from. I was sure I hadn't missed my stop and sure enough in minutes we'd headed around the bay to Amanohashidate. This place is on the west coast and site of one of the "three most beautiful sites in Japan." The others are Miyajima and Matsushima, so now I have seen all three.

You go to Amanohashidate because there is a sand bar stretching across the bay covered with pine trees. Pretty in itself ( and doubtlessly more so in sunny weather) but the big thing is that if you put your back to the view, bend over and look between your legs, you see the path to heaven. Apparently.

I first did the cable car ride up the mountain on the south side. The view from this side is supposed to resemble a flying dragon. At the top here there's a rather nice amusement park with rides designed for small children and a rose garen which isn't much yet. There sakura here are a long way from blooming which was a bit of a shame. And the picnic tables had signs warning that hawks (or kites or falcons etc) would steal your food.

After lunch I did the ferry trip across the bay and the cable car ride to where you see the stairway to heaven. Apparently. This side is much more commercial and touristy - there's more room for the tour buses and a couple of temples and shrines. There were at least two tour buses doing "henro" with the pilgrims in their white jackets.

As for the bending over thing - there are special benches and everyone's doing it so you don't really feel like an idiot. Actually it was very windy so mostly you felt like you'd be blown away. You can also buy clay discs (3 for 100 yen) and try to throw them through a large circle on a pole. Not easy in the wind.

On the way back on the ferry some had availed themselves of the chance to feed the seagulls (packets of seagull food 100 yen) and there was much squealing and excitement as the gull swooped and snatched the food.

You can also walk across the sand bar - its about 4 kms, and hire bikes etc. and there are other ferry rides to places further afield. There's a bridge across the opening to the ocean and it swivels on a central mount- I saw it open to let a couple of barges through.

Unfortunately I didn't pay close enough attention to the time and , having missed the 3.00 train, there wasn't another one till 4.30, which made it rather late getting back to Osaka and it was getting dark as we passed through Takarazawa which is a pity as there seemed to be madly blooming sakura everywhere.

Met up with my friend and we went to a cool little restaurant in Umeda where you cook your own takoyaki. W
eigasuki is offline  
Apr 11th, 2012, 06:55 AM
  #23  
 
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eigasuki, I take it that you didn't see the path to heaven when you did the bend over thing. (Apparently, lol) But you got to cook your own takoyaki later, which in itself is a little slice of heaven, eh? I have never heard of a cook your own takoyaki place. I've been to cook your own places w/griddles in Japan (like Sometoro in Asakusa in Tokyo, make your own yakisoba and okonomiyaki, yum), but have not seen takoyaki to cook yourself. Maybe it is a thing in Osaka?

I am a big Hiroshige fan, I own some authentic woodblock 1st eds of his. He did a nice ukiyo-e of Amanohashidate.

http://www.hiroshige.org.uk/hiroshig...date_Tango.jpg

So what has been going on since Monday?
emd3 is offline  
Apr 11th, 2012, 08:25 AM
  #24  
 
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Am enjoying your report, eigasuki, and looking forward to more.

I visited Hikone-jo last fall as a day trip from Osaka. There is a tourist office at the bottom of the steps at the station exit and a tourist-bus stop just beyond that. It is a nice castle, smaller than Himeji. The stairway is not tricky like Himeji-jo so you would safe, emd, probably.
mrwunrfl is offline  
Apr 11th, 2012, 12:21 PM
  #25  
 
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Loving your updates!

At Fukuchiyama we all had to exit our JR train that was headed back to Kyoto and took another train waiting for the onward journey. We were coming from Kinosaki at the time. I too was worried later when after a stop they switched tracks and started going back where we had just come but turned in the right direction shortly and stopped that stressed feeling I was starting to have at that moment,lol.

We had planned on Matsushima last year to complete the trilogy but Mother Nature got in our way a bit.....will have to wait for another trip north to complete the three sites.

I am almost certain that I've read somewhere that takoyaki balls originated in Osaka along with a lot of other Japanese comfort foods.....it is the "Kitchen of Japan"

Thanks again for the updates, we won't be in Japan this year so will have to live vicariously through everyone's reports.

Aloha!
hawaiiantraveler is offline  
Apr 11th, 2012, 02:04 PM
  #26  
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There are plenty of opportunities for the head bangers in Hikone-jo, though there aren't as many stairs as in Himeji, they are still very steep. Luckily I'm not that tall so not aa problem for me.


I seemed to be the only non- Japanese at Amanohashidate but Tuesday I headedfor Kyoto during hanami, tourist central at the best of times. First item of business was to negotiate the Osaka subway system in rush hour. I utilised one of the Women Only carriages but it was the most crowded of the lot - that must say something. Actually it's an easy connection from my station straight to Shin Osaka to catch the shinkansen.

I then transferred at Kyoto eki to the JR Nara line to Tofukuji. This was a very nice temple with a couple of nice gardens, one of which is quite new but an award winning karesansui garden. A little river runs through it and though there were no cherry blossoms, it will be stunning in a few days when the maple leaves are out. There were almost no people there so it was very tranquil, especialy after the crowds and hustle and bustle of Osaka.

I originally planned to walk from the to Fushimi Inari but couldnt figure out how so retraced my steps to the station. There I fell into the trap of the small town girl and jumped on the train when it pulled up, only to realise as it sped through Inari station, that it was the rapid that only stops at some stations.

I wasn't the only one - many got off at the next stop, Rokujizo, and consulted maps and sign boards. However, as it was the station where you get the Tozai subway , I decided to by pass Fushimi Inari (have been there before) and go straight to my next planned destination. I caught the subway to Daigo and followed a group of senior citizens, supposing they were also heading to the temple.Bad idea - they were in a group and heading for a special bus pick-up. So I missed the crowds heading for the easiest wway and walked "around the block" so to speak before reconnecting with the mob.I eventually found the way and reached the temple complex.

As well as being a World Heritage listed site, Daigo-ji is famous for its history, its religious relics and the famous people who've contributed to its development. And then there are its numerous sakura which line the avenues that lead to the various buildings. Despite the huge crowds, it was just stunning. There are several varieties of sakura, all blooming madly in shades from white to dark pink. Weeping ones, double ones and absolutely huge ones with horizontal, gnarled branches supported by poles. There's a gallery and museum with various statues, Buddhas etc.

There are three mani temple complexes which you can buy a joint ticket or some combination. My favourite was Sanboin. It has the most amazing garden and the most jolly monks- the others looked stressed and sombre, these were friendly and welcoming.

I climbed to the top to see the spring and queued for nearly fifty minutes to get an entry in my goshoincho.

It's very extensive and spread up the mountain on rocky paths with gravel and people everywhere taking photos and not looking where they are going. By the time I got back to central Kyoto, the light was fading my original plan to visit Nijo-jo for the night illumination was passed on,and I headed back to Osaka for an early night doing laundry and packing up ready for my next stop.
eigasuki is offline  
Apr 11th, 2012, 08:00 PM
  #27  
 
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Great report, thanks for sharing!
Amanohashidate sounds very interesting - did you think about staying over there at all?
Mara is offline  
Apr 13th, 2012, 02:23 AM
  #28  
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Now what happened to the post I wrote last night....?

Mara there's not that much to see in Amanohashidate IMO, I always thought of it as a day trip though it has a relaxed family holiday vibe if that'ws your thing. I would make a good side trip to/from Kinosaki Onsen I think.

On Wednesday the weather was poor and so was the visibilty on the Sakura shinkansen. It was warm and comfortable and I was tired and very tempted to sit there and go to Kagoshima just for the heck of it. Instead I bypassed Onomichi, my overnight destination, which looked gloomy and depressing in the rain, and headed for Hiroshima. Okonomiyaki for lunch at one of the numerous restaurants and the station, a quick trip to Genbaku dome to see it with sakura and by then the weather had cleared somewhat so I made it to Shukkeien Gardens by following the Path of Culture and Enlightenment - or something like that. LOVED Shukkeien which looked delighful with wet rocks and sakura, some with petals froming pink carpets below.

The next day the weather was very much better and I did part of the Shimanami Kaido. I caught a bus to the Innoshima interchange where I picked up the highway bus bound for Imabari on Shikoku. I had read that the bridges at that end are the most impressive and I would say that is the case. However, don't do as I did and go to Imabari eki. I then had to back track to the first bridge - about 6kms and half an hour of cycling. I could have got off the bus and hired a bike at the Kurushima Kaiyou stop.

However the weather was glorious and it was a very pleasant cycle for the most part - except for the seemingly never-ending upward slopes. More sensible people allocate more time. I had to get to Matsue by night - a trip of nearly 3 hours not counting the bit from Onomichi to Okayama, so about 3 when I reached the cycle hire place near Tatara Bridge, I returned the bike and caught the bus back to the interchange, the local to Onomichi etc. Still, it was nearly 40kms, not bad for someone who can't remember the last time she was on a bike.

The route is really well signposted with blue lines lining the road, rest stops, maps and information boards and there's lots to see on the way for those with time to side track.
eigasuki is offline  
Apr 13th, 2012, 06:21 AM
  #29  
 
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You cycled the Shimanami Kaido, and you are not a biker! That sounds like so much fun. I've gone across the bridge but not biked it. I am not biker either, this gives me hope.

And okonomiyaki at Hiroshima station...I wonder if you went to my favorite couple's pace in the downstairs of the station, just outside the grocery store down there. Just a little place w/15 or so chairs and a few tables, but I was so impressed the 1st time w/my son that I made it a point to take my dughter back there on the 2nd trip to Japan. It was just a yr. later but the man actually remembered me, making a sign w/his hand up high, meaning he recalled that I had been w/my 6'3" son the time before. That impressed me almost as much as his okonomiyaki.

I looked into staying in Okoyama once, but had not heard of Onomichi. I just looked it up and it looks like a sweet little town, right on the inland sea. May I ask where you were going to stay overnight there?

I admire your ability to switch gears and go on to Hiroshima instead. And thanks for the review of Shukkeien. Where did you stay overnight in Hiroshima?

And where did you end up Thurs. night?
emd3 is offline  
Apr 13th, 2012, 06:46 AM
  #30  
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I didn't overnight at Hiroshima - I stayed at the Green Hill Hotel at Onomichi - right on the waterfront and right by the station. Very convenient and quite a pleasant place to stay. would have done the temple walk instead of Hiroshima but wimped out on the weather.

I wanted to bus across the Akashi bridge too but time got the better of me. Have done the Seto Ohashi from Okayama on the train a few times now.

Rain also dampened things today at Matsue castle and made touring the samurai area less fun than I hoped. I went out to the Adachi Art Gallery and garden - the garden is just fabulous but you can't walk in it and it's just a bit too manicured. Interesting trip by local train and shutttle bus to get there.

Matsue is really trying to cater for international travellers - 50% off most entrance fees, lots of English information. Hopefully it will be sunny tomorrow . I'm at Toyoko Inn here - like to stay near the station on a short visit. I discovered my shortfalls with ohashi tonight - I could not dismember a whole crispy skinned fish and get at the flesh. Hazukashii.
eigasuki is offline  
Apr 13th, 2012, 09:07 AM
  #31  
 
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Wow, this is getting better and better!
I did the Temple Walk in Onomichi a couple of years ago - it was very interesting plus there was a cable car ride to Senkoji Park which had many sakura at the time and a lovely museum as well.
I was also thinking of Matsue and that area on my next trip....
eigasuki - I have checked japan-guide.com and see the bus schedules there for the trip you took on the Shimanami Kaido - is that what you used? Do you read Japanese?
Mara is offline  
Apr 16th, 2012, 05:14 AM
  #32  
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Mara I used the info from japan- guide in my research into the feasibilty of my plans but lost my print out when I took it out of my folder so I actually 'winged it' on the day. i was really lucky to make three out of the four connections - had to wait 30 minutes for the other. Maybe I could have done the temple walk in the rain but I did enjoy my Hiroshima detour. Next time.

I left Matsue for a long day on the train - limited express to Okayama, Sakura shinkansen to Shin- Osaka and on to Tokyo.
The trip from Matsue was very interesting in daylight - through the mountains and rural farmland and running alongside rivers most of the way. The rivers ran west at the start of the trip and later were running south and of course many sakura lining the river banks.

At Kyoto I decided to break the journey and took a quick side trip to Kinkau-ji. I have not been there since 2002 when I did not have a digital camera. By the time I got there about 4.oo pm, the sun was quite low so it wasn't the best light but I got a few shots in, and then a very crowded bus trip back to the station and then to Tokyo. I stayed at SHinagawa Prince Hotel as I had another train to catch in the morning. Not particularly impressed with the value for money - about twice what I paid elsewhere for much the same facilities, except that internet was 1500 yen till midnight and no breakfast.
eigasuki is offline  
Apr 16th, 2012, 08:44 AM
  #33  
 
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eigasuki - I stayed down the block at the Toyoko Inn when I was transiting - including my recent trip. The room is tiny as usual with TI's but there is free LAN and also breakfast buffet but I must say I was surprised that it was very limited this time - compared to other TI's I stayed on this trip....but its cost is about 7000 JPY....

I'm sure Kinkakuji looked nice in the setting sun....
Mara is offline  
Apr 16th, 2012, 10:54 AM
  #34  
 
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eigasuki, is that it, are you on the way home or already home? I hope not, I have been loking forward to your reports.m Well, if you are home or on the way, I hope you plan another trip soon as I loved your reports.

I have considered taking the shinkansen from Kyoto to Shinagawa an dstaying at Shinagawa Prince hotel or other hotels close to it, as a way of being close to station to get the Narita Express when departing next day from Narita. Thanks for the info on your stay at that hotel.
emd3 is offline  
Apr 16th, 2012, 02:54 PM
  #35  
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Mara I have stayed st that TI before, It was my first choice but it was fully booked that night - a Saturday. Emd, I was in the cheapo(?) East wing at the Prince - you can pay more for a better room in the newer part of the hotel. It is certainly convenient.

I am halfway through the trip so it's not over yet, but the sakura might be. I left Shinagawa in the morning and changed trains in Tokyo eki. I was headed for Shirakawa-shi in Fukushima province. Not to be confused with Shirakawa-go, it's hardly on most tourists' bucket list.

A friend who is teaching English on the JET programme is living there now and I couldn't go past en route to Hokkaido without stopping over. It is right at the south end of Fukushima ken so I thought i could risk one night.

First on our tour was the castle which can be seen from her apartment . It's closed now as the walls were badly damaged in the earthquake. There's also a small history museum. Later we went to a shrine and lovely park and tea garden. The park is famous as the first public park in Japan.

Later we drove up into the mountains to a lovely onsen and rotemburo alongside one of the rivers and dinner at an izakaya. A lovely way to break the journey north. She has been through a lot in the last year - was relocated from her former posting which is now in the exclusion zone.

Next day onto the train north to Hokkaido. Pity the Hyabusa is not on the JR pass. I considered paying to do a segment but it didnt work out timewise. I had an hour to wait at Shin Aomori which was lunchtime and time to view all the apple based souvenirs and on to Hakodate which is where I am now.

After Hachinohe, we emerged from a tunnel to see snow and after the nxt tunnel, the world was white! I was fascinated to ride along the coast ans see snow on the edge of the ocean.

I was surprised how nervous I was going through the Seikan tunnel. I think it was the signs on the seat backs or the way staff kept walking up and down the train. Fourteen months ago I probably wouldn't have given it a second thought.

I had time to check in - Comfort hOtel right near the staion and do a bit of browsing before heading up to Hakodate yama. I took the bus to the top and once again felt very nervous on the ride. The view made it all worthwhile and I spent some time in the cafe while it got darker, lingering over a coffee where it was warm and peaceful, Still quite a bit of old snow on the yama.

I had one of those days that some of us have while travelling - my laptop battery gave out on the train, my phone was low so I couldn't waste it on the ipod, the camera battery gave out on Mt Hakodate and then I discovered I was low on cash and the ATMs at the konbeni didn't like my cards.

Next stop Sapporo.
eigasuki is offline  
Apr 16th, 2012, 04:34 PM
  #36  
 
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Wow, still enjoying your trip!
Hokkaido is on my to-do list for sure.
According to j-g.com sakura time up that way is not til the beginning of May....
Mara is offline  
Apr 16th, 2012, 04:38 PM
  #37  
 
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yay, more to come, I am psyched.
emd3 is offline  
Apr 16th, 2012, 06:05 PM
  #38  
 
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We are so enjoying your report.....wow I wish we were there right now!

Linda loved the Nijo market in Sapporo if you want to fresh eat fish or anything from the sea for breakfast/lunch. Amazing assortment of different fresh sea foods of all kinds, better assortment than Tsukiji in Tokyo and much more accessible imho. Thanks again!

Aloha!
hawaiiantraveler is offline  
Apr 19th, 2012, 03:23 AM
  #39  
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Yes the sakura are a long way off in Hokkaido. I wasn't expecting sakura though I am a bit surprised by how far away spring seems to be.

Thanks for the tip on Nijo market, HT. I haven't been to Tsukiji, and now I've been to Hakodate, Sapporo and Otaru I don't feel I need to. I did the morning before I left Hakodate and felt that was very extensive although a lot of the same. I'm not sure who buys all those crabs and fish - a couple of tour bus groups and I seemed to be the only customers.

I arrived in a freezing cold and rainy Sapporo mid afternoon and spent much of the time browsing and getting thoroughly lost and confused in the endless subterranean labyrinth of shopping arcades - there must be enough clothing in those shops to clothe every girl in Asia.

First item on the agenda was the Sapporo Beer Museum. I expected it to be a cheesy tourist rip off and thought it was very well done and set up - lots of English information and very helpful staff. There's no charge except for the sampling bar at the end where a small beer was 200 yen and 500 for a set of three styles.

I returned to the city and then to Nijo market where I had a Hokkaido seafood domburi and then wandered the covered shopping douri where I found a secondhand kimono shop and managed to settle on just one obi.

I basically just shopped the depaato and found a Tokyu Hands so I have finally had a chance to just check out he shops at a leisurely pace for a change.

Today was Otaru which At first I was totally underwhelmed by. As the sun came out and I came upon the historic district with all the glassware shops and somewhat interesting buildings, I had a somewhat better impression. Hokkaido has been interesting. I can't say I'm desperate to come back but would suggest that it would be much more agreeable in summer or in winter for the ice festival etc. I certainly seem to be one of very few westerners so that's gotta tell me something. Still, tick it off the list.
eigasuki is offline  
Apr 19th, 2012, 07:13 AM
  #40  
 
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Sakura is about 2 weeks away from Hokkaido so not that long.....

I haven't been to Tsukiji, and now I've been to Hakodate, Sapporo and Otaru I don't feel I need to.
I know what you mean,lol. Who eats so much seafood? I mean everything from the sea.....eggs, weeds, kelp, urchins, snails, moss off the rocks....it's incredible. I looked for desalinated water but couldn't find any probably only because I don't read Japanese,lol.

Still, tick it off the list.
WAIT!!!!!!
not till you've seen the summer blooms in Biei or the fall colors of Shiretoko or the volcano rich farmlands of Akanko or the spectacular vistas of Daisetsuzan..... I will guarantee this one!

Something about cold and rain that doesn't agree with me too When we arrived at Otaru it was a very cold spring morning and the sun was just coming over the mountain. I remember starting the walk down the hill to the waterfront area when I saw a youngster coming out of a doughnut shop on the left with what I assumed was a cup of hot chocolate. We ran inside to warm up on hot choco and donuts before we continued down towards the waterfront,lol

As you can tell your report is bringing back so many memories and am enjoying every minute, thanks.

Aloha!
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