S: Japan Story July 17-30, 2010
FC: Japan Story July 17-30,2010 | by Mary McCracken
1: T O K Y O | J U L Y 17-22
2: Saturday, July 17, 2010-We met the group at Pearson Airport before we boarded the direct flight to Narita, Japan. It was a long 14 hour flight. I watched a lot of movies in between my naps. Linda did a lot of exercising. We sat together, with an empty seat between us. Sunday, July 18- We arrived in Japan at 3 pm. It was very hot. We had our index finger printed and were photographed at the customs. It was a long bus ride into Tokyo and we saw the "executive campout" along the river. There were ball players in the park. We past Tokyo Disney. They drive on the left side of the road. Reached the Metropolitan Hotel. Took a quick walk around the neighbourhood before an international buffet supper. Interesting toilet- made flushing noise when you sat on it. Had buttons for different functions. Monday, July 19- great buffet breakfast. We were lucky to see Mt. Fuji without clouds. Visited Peace Park, took cable car to Owakudani Hell Valley and cruised Lake Ashi before lunch. Walked through Tokugawa Shogun. Went to Hatajiku wood craft workshop. Drove through the mountains and had an Izakaya dinner in Ginza. Took train back to hotel. Tuesday, July 20- After breakfast went to Tsukiji Fish Market, saw the Namiyoke Shrine and outdoor market stalls. Walked about the Imperial palace plaza and then went up the Tokyo Tower. Shopped in Kappabashi Shopping street and found Mizuhiki strings for Linda. After lunch we wandered around Asakusa Temple grounds looking for a special fan for Odori and shopped in Odaiba. Had a fun time in the Hyaku-en store. After returning to the hotel, we walked to Sakura restaurant where we had to cook our own meal. We sat on the ground after removing our shoes and had to wear their slippers to go to the washroom.
3: Hakone Peace Park Mount Fuji Tokyo Tower Tokyo Tree
4: Tim and Anna took us to visit Mariko and Shinichi in Kunitachi Wednesday, July 21, 2010 We rode a train, subway and a bus. It was very hot. Mariko prepared a great lunch for us in her home. After shopping in the afternoon, Tim took us to a Mongolian grill for supper,
5: Thursday, July 22- Up bright and early at 5 am to catch the trains for the day. We had sent on our big suitcases and just had an overnight bag for our subway, Shinkansen bullet train and Express train Hakutaka for Kanazawa. Had a great Bento box lunch served on the train at 9:30. At times saw interesting scenery from the train. Rivers went out to the Japan Sea. Sato-san our friendly bus driver met us at Kanazawa. Visited the beautiful Kenrokuen Garden (made up of the 6 virtures: spaciousness, seclusion, ingenuity, air of antiquity, flowing water and panoramic views), Museum of Traditional Product and Craft where we saw the different stages of lacquer ware being produced.Walked through Nomura Samurai Residence and garden, Higashi Chaya and visited Sakuda gold paper mills. We checked into the ANA Crown Plaza in Kanazawa.
6: Shinkansen to Kanazawa July 22-23 | Nomura Samurai Residence | Our Great Bus and Driver Sato-san | Higashi Chaya
7: July 23,2010 | Friday, July 23- After breakfast we drove through the Japanese Alps. Inami was the wood sculpture town with great mochi. Ainokura pioneer village has the Gasshomura with rice fields. Stopped at Gokoyama Washi Paper Mills where Linda had a chance to make a sheet of washi paper. Vegetarian lunch with mountain vegetables in Kaminachi. We then visited the Murakami farm house where we learned about life in the mountains living in the gassho homes. We drove through long tunnels in the mountains before arriving in Takayama where we had a chance to wander the old street of San-Machi Suji. Specialty sake is served in a square pine cup. We all bought our sarubobo "lucky monkey".
8: Japanese Alps
9: TAKAYAMA | July 23-24 | Kaiseki Dinner
10: Checked into the Takayama Green Hotel and had time for the onsen before our kaiseki dinner. This nobleman's dinner had 8 different food courses with food prepared in different ways: raw, fried, grilled and deep fried. We all wore our yukata to dinner. Saturday, July 24- Linda went to the onsen before breakfast. Had a great meal of fish before visiting the Miyagawa market by the river. A great variety of free samples- different kinds of miso and manju, pickles and soyabean tea. Saw the huge festival floats in the museum. We drove through the Nagano prefecture visiting the post town of Tsumago where we had lunch and then went on to Magome. These towns have been restored to the Edo period. They were on the route that connected Tokyo to Kyoto- the new and old capital cities of Japan. It was very hot, so our bus driver found a great waterfalls where we could cool down. Peaches on the trees were individually wrapped so that the sun would not dry them up. We continued our long drive to Osaka. The highways and airports are privatized and very expensive. The user must pay. The return cost for a trip to Hiroshima from Osaka and back is about $250US. The truck stop along the highway was huge. It had a great food assortment, including restaurants and take out convenience foods, along with possible omiyage that travellers might need. There is always a huge bank of toilets- western style and Japanese style. We tried a takoyaki- octopus waffle along with our futomaki. We checked into the ANA Crowne Plaza Hotel Osaka and went to dinner at the Sakura restaurant where the waitress was very helpful with the different foods. "Okini" in Osaka for Thank you.
11: Post Towns of TSUMAGO and MAGOME
12: OSAKA July 24-27
13: KYOTO and NARA
14: Sunday,July 25- Up early so Linda could phone home. First in line for breakfast-enjoyed smoked salmon salad. Satoko-san was our local guide who took us to visit Nara Deer Park. Nara was the ancient capital. 1100 deer roam freely throughout the area. We saw the Kofukuji Temple, Sarusawa Ike Pond and the Todaiji Temple with the Great Buddha build in 752. It is Japan's largest bronze Buddha sitting in the world's largest wooden building.The hand is facing up to call all who are suffering to come to him for aid. The Jizo Bosatsu protects travellers and young children especially those who died. Jizo is to help them cross the river because they made the parents sad by dying. They are often portrayed with red bibs and bonnets. We had a western style lunch of salisbury steak and a small piece of corn on the cob. We then saw Nigatsudo Temple and went through Osaka Castle to see exhibits on the history of samurai- Toyo Hideoyoshi. Walked on the hottest day so far to a lovely tofu restaurant " Ame no Hana" on the 21st floor of Seiko Epson building. Monday, July 26-Went to Kyoto, the only capital city in the world that lasted 1000 years. It has 50 million visitors a year. Kiyomizu temple ( clear water) has 3 waterfalls- a high stage and no nails used in the construction. Sanjusan Gendo temple has 1001 Buddha images and a long porch (with 33 spaces between columns) used in arrow shooting contests. Saw Nijo castle before lunch at the Kyoto Nishijin Textile Pavillion. Saw Kimono fashion show with 7 models. Went to Kinkakuji and toured its beautiful gardens. Visited Kyoto Station and climbed the 5 floors for a scenic view of Kyoto and its candle. Had a delicious Shabu Shabu dinner at a local restaurant, Kagonoya.
15: HIROSHIMA | July 27-28
16: Tuesday, July 27- after breakfast drove to the Seto Ohashi Bridge. It is one of the world's greatest suspension bridges connecting Honshu and Shikoku Islands. There had been a lot of fatal boat accidents in the past, so they took 10 years to complete this bridge in 1988. There is enough wire and metal used to build 300 Tokyo Towers. All the cement used could build 2 Empire State buildings. They still haven't paid for the bridge, so the cost to cross is very expensive.($30 for a car crossing. The ferry is $10.) We stopped for lunch at the base of the bridge and had fun shopping in the grocery store Marunaka. The fruit was very expensive- bought 3 peaches to try. Saw a lot of oyster baskets where they let the babies grow bigger. Took a boat ride around the bridge and saw a gallery where they watch boat races. We drove 2 hours to Hiroshima. Visited the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park to pray for world peace. Saw the 1000 cranes of Sadako. There was a 12 mile radius where everything was burned by the bomb. Some of the children were sent away into the mountains. We had an Italian dinner in the Hiroshima Century 21 Hotel. (It had remote control drapes.) Wednesday, July 28- had otonomiyaki for breakfast (cabbage pizza). Hiroshima is built on soft ground and has no subway system- one of the few cities with trams. Drove to Iwakuni to see the Kintaikyo Bridge built in 1673. Crossed over to see the samurai house and then taste one of the 100 flavours of ice cream. Continued on to Miyajima by ferry to see the Itsukushima Shrine and famous "floating" red Torii gate. There are no cemetaries or hospitals on the island. Had famous Miyajima oysters with spaghetti for lunch. It takes 2 1/2 years to grow big oysters. While driving back to Osaka we had karaoke in the bus. Our very fancy farewell dinner was prepared by Chef Morishita. Sayonara Kudo family!
18: Thursday, July 29- the Kudo family left early in the morning. We set out for Wakayama after breakfast- our first rainy day! It was about a 3 hour drive when we reached the Pacific Ocean at Hinomisaki Park. Jun-san was trying to find any Kagetsu in the area, without luck. Takara was the area where the Kagetsus were from in Wakayama-ken. The area we drove through was famous for mikan-a picture was painted on the bridge. We had a delicious, fresh fish lunch at the Hinomisaki National Resthouse- run by the town for non-profit. The museum was located in the American Village, so called because the emigrants to America sent money back to Japan, so they could build their homes. The museum was called Kanada Mura because it was dedicated to the Japanese from that area who settled in Canada. The front foyer had a time line starting with Manzo Nagano who came to Canada in 1877. It highlighted events up to 2004- when the museum probably opened. One room was devoted to baseball! There was a "fishing" corner where a book on Grandpa Kagetsu was on display. Much of the writing was in Japanese, but there were also some newspaper clippings in English, along with old photos- including the family when mom was young. There was some information on the internment which helped Jun-san understand the situation more clearly. We left for Osaka and had to say sayonara to our wonderful busdriver. We ate dinner at BenTen which served Hokkaido cuisine. We had to cook our own beef and vegetables. We walked home up and down stairs to "cross" busy streets from underneath. Jun-san insisted that we couldn't leave Japan without some Ramen- so he found a restaurant that would take the 10 of us. Arigato gozaimasu Jun-san- we said our goodbyes in the lobby- we will be up early the next morning to go to the airport.
19: WAKAYAMA KANADA MURA our Kagetsu roots
20: Friday, July 30- We woke up at 5 am and received our box breakfast. Took a taxi to the airport bus terminal- it was full- the aisle had fold-down seats, so no one was standing for the trip. At the airport we saw luggage being emptied as they tallied the weight. We were ok!!! We were allowed water in the bottles, but they tested it. From Osaka to Tokyo we were seated in the last business class row- spent the whole hour playing with the different buttons- reclining bed, back massage, leg rest, portable remote for the TV, which wasn't on for the short trip. Had a long wait at Narita airport so we visited many of the stores. Continued shopping! Bought our lunch at Lawson- a convenience store- little packages of sushi, chicken, spring rolls, potato croquette- which could be heated up. There was an Origami Museum display near our boarding area. Very interesting creations. One ring was worth about $11100. Kitkat was available in all sorts of flavours including wasabi. They were giving away free samples. Boarded the plane and a chatty ESL teacher was beside me. He was originally from Ottawa, married a Japanese girl and lived in Hiroshima. Saw three movies in between naps. Food was ok. Landed safely on time. Tommy and the kids were in Toronto to greet us. What great memories of a lifetime !
21: Saying Goodbye to Japan | S A Y O N A R A | Great memories | Arigato Gozaimasu Jun-san