S: JAPAN 2012
BC: by suzE | 2012
FC: Japan | 2012
1: Our Itinerary: | Travel OAK - LAX to HAN 7/19-7/21 | Tokyo 7/21-7/25 Hiroshima 7/25-7/26 Kyoto 7/26-7/30 Takayama 7/30-7/31 Kamikochi 7/31-8/2 Matsumoto 8/2-8/3 Tokyo 8/3-8/4 Home 8/4 | A | B | C | D | E | F | A | 5 hour & 40 minute train ride to: | 2 hour train ride to: | 3 hour and 10 minute train ride to: | 1 1/2 hour bus ride to: | 1/2 hour bus & 40 minute train to: | 2 1/2 hour train ride to: | Citadines Shinjuku Tokyo | Sheraton Hiroshima Hotel | Kyoto Hotel Okura | Takayama Ryokan Tanabe | Hotel Shirakabaso | Hotel Harmonie Bien | Miyajima Torii
2: NY on steroids! | Pachinko - gambling games that are deafening! | Vending machines everywhere! | Capsule hotel | Traditional & new side by side | T O K Y O
3: Shinjuku station- 3 million people go through it a day | Shibuya Crossing | Subway system always on time and never more than a 2 minute wait! | Toilets that spray, heat & play music! | Love Hotel Hill | Citadines Shinjuku- our hotel | Tokyo Tower | Tsukiji Market
4: Meiji Shrine | Temizuya-font. Rinse left hand, right hand, pour water into left hand, rinse mouth, rinse left hand and dipper.
5: Lace covered seats and taxi drivers in white gloves! | Asakusa | Asahi Flame
6: Our day with Yumi: | Starting upper right and going clockwise: Tsukiji Hongan-ji -a Jodo Shinshu Buddhist temple Hamarikyu Gardens -a peaceful oasis where we experienced a traditional tea ceremony. Discovered did not like green tea! Took a boat to Asakusa where we had shabu shabu & sukiyaki for lunch and then went to the Sensoji shrine also known as Asakusa Kannon Temple and the Sensoji Five Story Pagoda, passing by many stalls selling souvenirs and kitsch. We also went to see the Emperor's palace and Yumi helped us redeem our Japan Rail passes and buy baseball tickets.
8: This is us looking happy before we had our yakitori - skewers of chicken skin, chicken gizzards, chicken eggs and who knows what else. Everything but white meat chicken! Not sure what the egg dish was either. Most disappointing meal of the trip. | Evan looking happy that I got the photo of these guys all dressed alike looking at magazines! | We had a supermarket near our hotel where we stocked up on breakfast foods. Overwhelmed by foods we didn't recognize! 7-11 next door which was convenient as there are only two places where foreign debit/credit cards work - 7-11 stores and post offices. So surprising. | The next day, we must have traveled 50 miles using the subway system. Started out going to Ghibli Museum- an anime museum that was all in Japanese and wasted on us. Tom & Evan enjoyed the drinks with the marble in it. Then we went to the Tokyo Dome- Home of the Tokyo Giants, then Ginza, then dinner in Roppongi- another happening area! | mmm | liked the menu.
9: Every evening we negotiated dinner- had to fulfill 4 criteria: 1) Air conditioned 2) English menus or pictures 3) No smokers nearby and 4) we all had to agree we Got frustrating at times as Tom and Evan got tired of Japanese food by day two! | Avery & Susie go off for a Japanese lunch while boys opt for Italian! | The subways had women only cars during rush hour! | liked the menu.
10: KAMAKURA | Susumu Yoshida - our courtly, knowledgeable guide | 7/24 | Golden Statue of Yakuyoke Amida Buddha (Protector from Evil Spirits) | Hasedera Temple dates back to 736 | Kamakura was the seat of Japan's first shogun ruled government and about a one-hour train ride from Tokyo
11: Great Buddha - Daibutsu | 37 foot bronze figure was cast in 1292 | Seen from inside
12: Jizo is the protector of children, expectant mothers, firemen, and travelers. Most of all, he is the protector of deceased children, including miscarried, aborted or stillborn infants. In Japanese folklore, Jizo hides the children in his robes to protect them from demons and guide them to salvation.
13: Ristorante Stefano | Delicious Birthday Dinner!
14: Shinkansen (Bullet Train) to Hiroshima | These are the people who came like ants out of a hole in the wall to clean the trains. It was surreal! | Statue of faithful dog Hachiko | Popular meeting & smoking spot at Shibuya station. | Eating Bento boxes on the train | Japan Rail Passes had to be bought in advance in the US and made travel by train substantially cheaper.
15: HIROSHIMA | 8:15 AM 8/6/45 | Hiroshima Peace Park and Museum was very moving, particularly the artifacts and memorials. 80,000 people died immediately and up to 60,000 more in the next few months. 69% of the city was leveled. The most extreme horror was experienced by students sent out to demolish buildings in five inner city locations. Of the roughly 8,200 students mobilized for this work, over 5,900 perished. Seeing their burnt clothing and artifacts is heartrending.
16: We froze in the A/C and it took forever to get our food but we laughed a lot! | Dinner... | To indicate she didn't understand us, our waitress would open her eyes wide and blink slowly. Hilarious! | Paper cranes are known as the symbol of peace. | Hiroshima known for its oysters. These took about an hour and a half to be served!
17: MIYAJIMA | Miyajima island is known as one of the three most scenic spots in Japan. | The O-Torii Gate is entrance to the island shrine and its most famous symbol. | Five-storied Pagoda | Deer are tame on the island and considered messengers of the gods. | (aka Itsukushima Shrine) | Daishon Temple | The vermilion color of the shrines and O-torii is used to keep evil spirits away.
18: Lining the steps to the temple are five hundred Rakan statues , all having unique facial expressions!
19: Hochozuka Monument where you can give thanks to old kitchen knives that are no longer usable. | Shaka Buddha entering Nirvana surrounded by his sixteen disciples. | Prayer room at the top of Maniden Hall. | Fudo myo-o, or Immovable King, is characterized by the fierce face to show his determination to destroy evil. | Shrine to canned food!
20: As visitors pass by, they can run their hands along the revolving sutras, bringing good fortune. | 1000 Fudo or Immovable King images donated by workshippers | Noodles on ice! | Lover's Sanctuary where we lit the flame together and thought about our love for each other | Getting good fortune | Eternal Flame that has been burning 1200 years. Used as pilot light for the "Flame of Peace " at Hiroshima Park
21: nnn | Mt. Misen Summit | We took two ropeways (gondolas) to the top and hiked seeing stunning 360 degree views of the islands and Hiroshima. It was very hot and humid as it was most of the trip. This was the day I fell, bruising my shoulder and knees. My shoulder didn't really heal until I came home. We had to really run to catch the ferry we needed to get to our train to Kyoto on time. Stopped for one last photo of the torii at high tide.
22: KYOTO | Our day with Kenzo: Nijo Castle-Ninomaru Palace Golden Pavilion Ryoanji Temple (Rock Garden) Conveyor Belt Sushi Lunch Sanjusangendo- 1001 Buddhas Kyomizudera Temple- (where love stone walk was) | Ninomaru Palace at Nijo Castle | Ninomaru Palace was home to the first three Shoguns. To protect the occupants from sneak attacks and assassins, the floors of the corridors squeak like nightingales when anyone walks on them. | . | . | . | . | . | .
23: Kinkakuji (Golden Pavilion) | Your wish comes true if you can throw a coin into the pot. In a moment of triumph and joy, I was the only one to get it in. And even better I used a 5 yen coin which is considered lucky. We'll see if my wish comes true.
24: Ryoanji Temple ( Zen Rock Garden) | Kenzo took us to a really fun sushi place for lunch. Everything was automated and you just grabbed what you wanted off the assembly line. It cost 110 yen per plate and we ended up with 35 plates! When you fed the plates to a hole on the table the video machine became a game and we ended up winning two windup sushi toys! | A word on the weather: Except for the first 2 days in Tokyo and 2 days in Kamikochi, it was very hot and humid. Above Kenzo is sitting on a noble's rock where in the old days only someone of high status could sit on | In this garden you can never see all 15 rocks at once, symbolizing that no one can achieve perfection. It takes two weeks to rake the gravel around the rocks.
25: Sanjusangendo | Kyomizudera Temple- (home of the Love Shrine) | This temple features a huge hall containing 1,001 figures of Kannon carved in the 12th and 13th centuries. All are symmetrically aligned horizontally, vertically and across. | Senju Kannon - Goddess of mercy and compassion | Wind God | At 390 feet long-longest building in the world. Archery exhibition contests called Toshiya are held here. | In the past, archery contestants had to shoot off arrows 24 hours straight. One 11 year old fired 11,800 arrows and hit the target 11,400 times from one end of the hall to the other!
26: Kiyomizu Love stone walk- I made both kids do it. Both were successful so they should find true love soon (but not too soon I hope). Evan had a little help from Tom which means he's going to introduce Evan to his true love! | View deck of Kiyomizudera | Making a wish | Making a wish. Evan and I had lots of opportunities to do so | Love God
27: Issen Yoshoku, a small dive, is famous for this scene and Okonomiyajki a Japanese savory pancake. | Japanese rapper | Kyoto Nightlife | Deciding where to eat
28: CHASING GEISHAS | Wannabes | Behind these shuttered facades-another world
29: Maiko (apprentice Geisha) are considered one of the great sights of Japanese tourism, and look very different from fully qualified geisha. They are at the peak of traditional Japanese femininity. The scarlet-fringed collar of a maiko's kimono hangs very loosely in the back to accentuate the nape of the neck, which is considered a primary erotic area in Japanese sexuality. She wears the same white makeup for her face on her nape, leaving two or sometimes three stripes of bare skin exposed which is considered very sexy.. Her kimono is bright and colorful with an elaborately tied obi hanging down to her ankles. She takes very small steps and wears traditional wooden shoes called okobo which stand nearly ten centimeters high.
30: NARA | Our half-day with Su | Kasuga Taisha is famous for its lanterns. | Nara is famed for its deer park and tamed yet aggressive deer. | About one hour outside of Kyoto
31: They have 1000 deer in the park | Takoyaki- octopus balls | These votive plaques, sold at the shrine, are called ema. Worshippers buy the plaque, write their wish on it, then hang it on the ema stand, in hopes the shrine deity will grant their wish. | This seat simulated 1991, 2001 & 2011 earthquakes. Really shook us up! | Delicious pancakes- Best of trip!
32: Great Buddha Hall (daibutsuden) | The main gate into Tdai-ji | The belfry | Todai-ji | The Daibutsu is made of copper and bronze, weighs 250 tons and stands 30 meters tall. His intricate hairstyle is made of 966 bronze balls. | Until 1998, the largest wooden building in the world.
33: Five-storied Pagoda 2nd tallest in Japan. | This hand alone is as large as a human. | Nyorin Kannon | The Great Buddha and Nyorin Kannon side by side. | It is a Japanese belief that when a person rubs a part of the image of Binzuru and then rubs the corresponding part of his own body, his ailment there will disappear.
34: Tenryu-ji Temple | A Zen temple with lovely pond and garden
35: Bamboo Groves | The Japanese are shy about having their photo taken so they imitate the much admired John & Yoko. | Brutally hot and humid day but slightly more bearable in these groves.
36: We went to the former villa of the popular actor Okochi Denjiro (1896-1962), located in the back of Arashiyama's bamboo groves. Okochi was reknown for playing a hero with a scar through his eye. | Okochi Sanso Villa | Chumon (the middle gate) | The expensive ($25 each) entrance fee included the dreaded matcha green tea with the awful sweet. | Okochi had this Jibutsudo shrine brought here and would meditate and pray in it. | Us imitating the Japanese, pulling a John & Yoko!
37: Gion Corner | Kyogen classical comedy, Kyomai dance by a Maiko, Gagaku music of the imperial court, Koto harp, Bunraku puppet theater, the tea ceremony, and flower arrangement. | I volunteered, not knowing it was for the tea ceremony. Had to drink green tea. Yuck! | One-hour show of seven of Kyoto's professional performing arts.
38: Fushimi Inari-taisha | It is famous for its thousands of vermilion torii gates. Fushimi Inari is the most important of several thousands of shrines dedicated to Inari, the Shinto god of rice. Foxes are thought to be Inari's messengers, resulting in many fox statues across the shrine grounds. | The two dense, parallel rows of gates are called Senbon Torii ("thousands of torii gates"). The torii gates are donations by individuals and companies, with the name and the date of the donation inscribed on the back of each gate. The cost starts around 400,000 yen for a small sized gate and increases to over one million yen for a large gate. | The foxes were a little spooky. Japanese believe they are capable of "possessing" humans - favored point of entry - under the fingernails!
39: Rinsing hands and mouth at a chozuya
40: The Hida Folk Village ( Hida Minzokumura), also known as Hida-no-Sato, is an attractive open-air museum assembled from real buildings that effectively recreates an entire traditional mountain village. The architectural highlights are the traditional thatched-roof gassho-zukuri houses, built with roofs like hands in prayer to withstand the heavy snowfalls in this region. | TAKAYAMA | Tom checking out the facilities.
41: This unique thatching makes the roofs very strong. | The structures in the village range from 100 to 500 years in age. Many are open to perusal and are filled with artifacts from their respective time periods, including spindles, silk worm raising artifacts, cooking utensils, and clothing. | Ebisu usually appears in festivals of fisherman and known as a god of happiness who brings good fortune. | Evan really enjoyed feeding the carp. | Village Headman's house | Woodworking is one of the local crafts.
42: Ryokan Takanabe | A dinner extravaganza! | Tired out! | Futons more comfortable than ordinary beds which were super hard
43: The Maneki Neko or Japanese lucky cat has withstood the test of time and possibly performance as it has been a part of ancient Japanese culture since the Edo period. It is believed that the lucky cat with the left paw raised is expressly for welcoming business and customers. | A painting of a horse (Ema) at the entrance of a house is believed to bring good luck. | Stores everywhere in Japan, including Takayama, are overflowing with stuff.
44: Eating Hida beef- Kobi beef in Kyoto too expensive! | Playing around in Takayama!
45: Saki store | Making a wish | Takayama Yatai Kaikan where elaborately decorated ancient floats are on display. | Sakurayama Hachiman Shrine
46: KAMIKOCHI | Kamikochi is nestled in the mountains and the temperature was so much cooler. Our hotel was over the bridge from the bus station and the views were stunning. Our hotel was expensive but included elaborate dinners and breakfasts. | Japanese style room | View from our room | We realized we didn't bring enough yen and there were no ATMs and so, after panicking, we went to the bus station to exchange dollars. A nice taxi driver let us exchange $80 for 6000 yen that we needed for the bus and ropeway the next day.
47: After an onsen (Japanese baths)
48: X | X | rocky trail | We had just enough yen to take the bus to Hirayu, another to Shinhotaka Onsen and for the ropeway, the plan being we would hike down to Kamikochi. As we were buying the one way ropeway tickets, we were told "dangerous, dangerous" twice, totally freaking me out. But we had no choice but to do it since we were out of yen. The first 90 minute part was uphill which wasn't so bad but the 3 hour downhill part was hard as the path was very stony and rocky. We were calling it the death march to Kamikochi but it was beautiful!
49: Me being a fun crusher
50: MATSUMOTO | Loved Matsumoto Castle! We got a wonderful free docent tour. This 5-roofed, six story tower was built in 1593 and is Japan's oldest existing castle. It was used for Samurai training. | Former Kaichi School | Saw the Former Kaichi School, founded in 1873, making it the oldest elementary school in Japan and showcases turn of the century education from the Meiji era. | Our hotel, Harmonie Bien was only 2 blocks from the castle and had the best mattress and pillows of the trip!
52: Lucky charms used as stoppers for sake bottles | Fortune God "Daikokuten" | Matsumoto Museum | Interesting local crafts and artifacts. The fish are the originals that were on top of Matsumoto castle. Also the city is known for its paper and cloth dolls, sake stoppers and thread balls.
53: Nawate Street also known as Frog Street | Japanese have trouble pronouncing letter "L" | Kimono makers
54: TOKYO | Swallows vs. Giants | Japanese very concerned about getting injured by balls. | The baseball game was so fun! Every time the Swallows (or Swarrows as the Japanese say) scored a run, the crowd would wave plastic umbrellas up and down wildly! | Baseball food: Edamame, Octopus balls & noodles. | (again)
55: Beer server | Fans going crazy - Swallows scored 9 runs!
56: Making Octopus balls
57: Our last day in Japan... | Tsukiji Fish Market
58: Edo Tokyo Museum | We had a really nice docent take us around | Tokugawa Ieyasu Shogun | Fireman's trousers | Childbirth in olden days | KABUKI All roles were played by men | Wood block prints
59: Shopping in Asakusa | Searching for Samurai swords
60: Imperial Palace East Gardens | We had to negotiate getting into the East Gardens because of the samurai swords. Despite being boxed up, it still needed 5 (!) policemen to determine we weren't going to be a threat to the Emperor. | A wonderful trip!