Japan Journals

Japan

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A November 2001 trip to Japan by Sergey

Yokohama Bay Sheraton Hotel Photo, Yokohama, Japan More Photos
Quote: I just went on a 1-week trip to Japan. I stayed in one place, but went around to a several different cities, and so this journal will include a bunch of information. Read the free-form location entries first if you like, or go directly to the items that interest you.

Japan

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Overview

Quote:
This country is full of very courteous people. Few speak much English, but they'll try to help you anyway. I guess the biggest impression I came away with, and one that I think is probably the most Japanese, is the train conductor bowing before leaving the train car, every time. To me this is just so symbolic of the type of culture Japan has.Quick Tips: Japan is extremely expensive. Bring lots of money, and make sure it is in yen. You can certainly exchange money at banks and hotels, but don't expect the mom & pop shop to take anything other than cold hard cash. Many places don't take credit cards. Give yourself a week in Japan at the very minimum.Best Way To Get Around: Can't...Read More

Yokohama Bay Sheraton Hotel

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Hotel

Yokohama Bay Sheraton Hotel Photo, Yokohama, Japan
Quote:
This is a beautiful and nicely located hotel. It is quite western in style, and most Americans will feel quite at home here. It is rather pricey, both for room and other things. I chose this hotel because Yokohama is only about 30 minutes from Tokyo, and this was an SPG category 3 hotel (the Starwood Preferred Guest members will know what this means and it doesn''t apply to anyone else). The location of the hotel is great. It is across the street from the Yokohama train station, and is even connected to the train station through an underground shopping mall. It is a 3-4 minute walk at most, and if it rains, you won''t need your umbrella. The Yokohama train station has most of the trains the...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on December 2, 2001

Yokohama Bay Sheraton Hotel
1-3-23 Kitasaiwai, Nishi-Ku
Yokohama, Japan 220-0004
+81 (45) 411-1111

Nanzenji Temple

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Attraction

Nanzenji Temple Photo, Japan, Asia
Quote:
This is a beautiful old temple surrounded by tons of other fantastic buildings and lots of trees. Nanzenji Temple was originally a villa for Emperor Kameyama from 1264 until 1291, when he became a monk and donated it as a temple. The current buildings date from 1570-1600, because the temple was destroyed by fire 3 times. This temple has several sections that are open to the public. The first thing to keep in mind is that you will have to take your shoes off to go inside. I don't know if slippers are provided during warmer seasons, but at the end of November there was a big container filled with with same-sized slippers. If your shoe size is US 8 or more, you might consider bypassin...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on December 13, 2001

Kyoto Imperial Palace

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Attraction

Imperial Palace Garden Photo, Japan, Asia
Quote:
Since Kyoto was the capital of Japan for over 1000 years, one would expect a large number of government related buildings. This palace was originally a "detached" palace, used on occasion, but eventually became the main residence of the Emperor. Currently the Emperor resides in Tokyo and rarely comes here. The only way to visit the Palace is as a part of a guided tour. If you're not taking a tour of the city that includes this, you can still go. The Imperial Household Agency operates 2 free guided tours (in both english and japanese) every day at 10 AM and 2 PM. But wait, you can't just show up. You must apply in advance at the office of the Imperial Household Agency. Applications have to...Read More

Member Rating 3 out of 5 on December 13, 2001

Hato Bus

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Attraction

Hato Bus Photo, Japan, Asia
Quote:
The terminal location is the Hamamatsucho Bus Terminal, which is attached to the Hamamatsucho JR train station. The company also makes a number of free pickups at major Tokyo hotels, if you're staying right in town. There are a large number of tours offered, and I chose one of two different afternoon Tokyo tours. This consisted of a drive through Ginza, a brief stop in front of the Tokyo Imperial Palace for picture taking, a guided tour of the Asakusa Kannon Temple (see separate entry), followed by some free time for shopping, a boat cruise on the Sumida river and a guided overview of Tokyo from the 40th floor observation deck of the World Trade Center Building (located at Hamamatsucho termina...Read More

Member Rating 3 out of 5 on December 11, 2001

JTB Tours

Attraction

Quote:
From the several tours offered by this company I chose the afternoon Nara tour. The pickup point for me was at the New Miyako Hotel, which is basically across the street from the JR train station. As with most other tours, free pickups are available at major hotels around Kyoto. Nara is about a 30-45 minute drive from Kyoto, and during the trip the guide explained a great deal about the history of Nara and Kyotol, and pointed out interesting things along the way. The tour includes two points of interest in Nara, the Todaiji Temple and the Kasuga Shrine. At the temple the guide gave us close to 45 minutes of free time after finishing her explanation of the history of the temple. The trip bac...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on December 11, 2001

World Trade Center Building

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Attraction

View from the Top Photo, Japan, Asia
Quote:
This is your typical 40-story office building with an observation deck on the top floor. The observation deck offers a 360-dgree view of Tokyo. I visited this as part of a tour (see Hato Bus entry), so I don't know how much it costs. According to our tour guide, this observation deck is better than the observation deck at the Tokyo Tower, because from here you can see the Tokyo Tower itself (it is the tallest structure in Japan -- the tallest building being the Landmark Tower in Yokohama -- and is the TV broadcasting tower). I had pretty good views of night-time Tokyo, since it was after dark. The city glows as pretty much any large metropolis does after sunset. There are a few sou...Read More

Member Rating 3 out of 5 on December 11, 2001

Meiji Shrine Photo, Japan, Asia
Quote:
This shrine was established November 1, 1920 for Emperor Miji and Empress Shoken. It is a Shinto shrine located in a large park. It holds a special meaning to the Imperial Family (the entire line of emperors in Japan is a single family line, up to the present day). There are a number of important ceremonies that take place here at various days throughout the year, including December 31 and January 1. Admission to the shrine is free, but you have to pay to visit the Inner Garden. Even if you don't spend a lot of time here, I would suggest a visit, just to look around and a get a feel for the place. There are a number of activities here that I didn't partake of, including going to the Inner G...Read More

Member Rating 3 out of 5 on December 3, 2001

Tokyo Imperial Palace and East Garden

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Attraction

Imperial Palace Photo, Japan, Asia
Quote:
The Imperial Palace and the East Garden are located about a 10-15 minute walk from the main Tokyo train station. The palace itself can only be seen from outside the gates, as it is the residence of the Emperor of Japan. It is only open to the public around New Year's, and from everything I heard, more than a few people show up at that time. The East Garden is the site of the former Edo Castle, which was started by the first Tokugawa Shogun. There are a few structures remaining of the castle. The beautifully landscaped garden offers a nice retreat from the bustle of Tokyo. Admission was free on the day I got there, but I don't know if that is the case every day or not. One section ...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on December 3, 2001

Ginza Shopping District

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Attraction

Ginza District Photo, Japan, Asia
Quote:
This is perhaps the most famous shopping district in Tokyo. It is a huge multi-block city area that is filled with department stores and specialty stores. There's a Nissan showroom, a Tiffany & Co., and several Japanese department stores. There are McDonald's and Starbucksa Haagen-Dazs and various Japanese restaurants. On weekends the major streets are blocked off for pedestrian use, and the whole area takes on a carnival-like atmosphere, with street performs and crowds. The best way to get here is by Tokyo subway. Take the Ginza line to the Ginza stop. There're also 2 JR train stations, Shimbashi and Yurakucho, but these are at the periphery of the shopping district, whereas ...Read More

Member Rating 3 out of 5 on December 2, 2001

The Landmark Tower

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Attraction

The Landmark Tower Photo, Japan, Asia
Quote:
This is the tallest building in Japan (tallest structure is the Tokyo TV tower). There is an observation deck on the 69th floor - the tallest available in Japan. The deck is called the Sky Garden and features a 360 degree view of the area. On clear days you can see as far as Tokyo and Mt. Fuji. On other days you will only get a view of the surrounding area, which is still pretty cool, since Yokohama is a port city, and the tower is near the water. Some useful and interesting facts about the tower: It is open 10 AM to 9 PM Admission is 1000 yen for adults, 800 yen for seniors and 200 yen for children over 4 The elevator is the world's fastest, traveling at a...Read More

Member Rating 3 out of 5 on December 2, 2001

Nijo Castle (Nijo-jo)

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Attraction

Nijo Castle Photo, Japan, Asia
Quote:
Nijo Castle was started in 1603 by Ieyasu Tokugawa as his official residence in Kyoto. Since the Shogun held the real power in Japan, this castle has the same grandeur as at the Imperial Palace. Unlike the Imperial Palace, however, you can go inside this building. Be prepared to take off your shoes and leave them on the racks at the entrance to the building. You might also want to consider bringing slippers or extra socks with you during the colder season, because they are not provided. Inside the castle are large grounds with sculpted gardens. The main building is called Ninomaru Palace. In here you can walk through various sections of the palace and see how the Shogun lived and worked. ...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on December 15, 2001

Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum

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Attraction

Hiroshima Photo, Japan, Asia
Quote:
A frightening, chilling set of displays about the atom bomb and its effects can be found here. You will learn about the history of Hiroshima, about its use by the government during WWII and about the reasons why Hiroshima was chosen by the USA as a target. There are several large scale model displays of the city before and after the attack. There are numerous photographs of the incredible devastation. The museum also has a collection of items damaged by the bomb. You can see watches that stopped at 8:15 AM, glass bottles and vases, melted and twisted into odd shapes by the incredible heat, damaged bridge supports, etc. The experience is far from pleasant, but is a must for any visi...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on December 15, 2001

Hiroshima Peace Park and A-Bomb Dome

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Attraction

A-bomb Dome Photo, Japan, Asia
Quote:
The park was created to commemorate the nuclear attack on the city. Within the grounds are a number of memorials, including the chilling ruins of one of the largest buildings in Hiroshima before the attack. Among the memorials is the Flame of Peace, which will be extinguished when there are no more nuclear weapons in the world.

You will most likely go through the Peace Park on your way to the Peace Memorial Museum. If you take the streetcar (No. 2 or 6) from Hiroshima train station, get off at the A-bomb Dome stop (Genbaku Domu-mae).

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on December 15, 2001

Owakudani Valley

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Attraction

Mt. Fuji Photo, Japan, Asia
Quote:
The first stop on the cable car if you get on at Sounzan, the area offers absolutely spectacular views of the mountains. You also get to experience the Hakone area's volcanic nature first hand, as jets of sulfur gas surround boiling water in the ground. Don't worry, it isn't as scary as it sounds. Keep in mind the unhealthy nature and very unpleasant smell of the sulfur gas. When I was here in November, it was very cold and very windy. There are several shops at the stop, offering some food, drink and souveniers. There's also a path that goes up to a point that offers exceptional views of Mt. Fuji and the surrounding area. A local tradition is to boil eggs in the naturally hot water. Thes...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on December 15, 2001

City of Tokyo

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Story/Tip

Quote:
Tokyo is the capital of Japan and is its largest city, with a population of somewhere around 12 million. It is an extremely busy city. Tokyo was almost completely destroyed by bombs during WWII, so much of the city has modern architecture. From what I saw, most of the traditional style buildings, such as temples and shrines, have been rebuilt in the last 50 years. There is still plenty to see, but don't expect to encounter traditional Japan as you would in Kyoto, for example. Best way to travel around Tokyo is by subway or train. A JR rail pass doesn't cover the Tokyo subway, so be prepared to pay cash. The subway ticket vending machines do not speak English. However, fare adjustment mach...Read More

Getting around by train

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Story/Tip

Local Trains Photo, Japan, Asia
Quote:
The train network in Japan is very extensive. It includes a number of travel lines. The best way to get around is to buy the rail pass from JR (http://www.japanrail.com). This will cover any and all JR train lines, except the Nozomi Shinkansen (this is the fastest of the 3 types of bullet trains). Keep in mind that there are other train lines in Japan, and the JR pass will not cover them. I had to take a few other train lines, and I think JR is the most tourist-friendly (not to mention most effective, and the only one with high-speed trains connecting major cities). Every station has signs in English for the station name, the direction (by showing the ...Read More

City of Kyoto

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Story/Tip

Quote:
Kyoto is a beautiful and ancient city. It was the capital of Japan for over 1000 years until the late 19th century, when the capital was moved to Tokyo. Kyoto is where you want to go if your passion is to walk narrow streets, look into numerous ancient temples and get the feeling for Japanese life as it used to be. November brings fantastic leaf colors to much of Japan, and I think to Kyoto in particular. The colors as I walked around the old temples were just mindboggling. The best way to get around Kyoto is on your own two feet. You get to experience so much more of the city that way. If you need to get somewhere fast, though, you should take the subway. The subway system is ve...Read More

City of Hiroshima

Story/Tip

Quote:
Hiroshima is currently most famous, of course, for the fact that it was the first city to be atom-bombed. The city was completely destroyed by the bomb, and so everything you see around you has been built after WWII. The major attraction of Hiroshima is the Peace Memorial Park. This includes the A-Bomb Dome, the park and the museum. See a separate entry for more information on these. Hiroshima has a system of street cars that operates rather frequently. One terminal is at the main train station, so this is a great way to connect with JR/bullet trains. Get on the street car, and pay the conductor when exiting. There are maps of the street car lines inside the cars, with english st...Read More

Hakone area

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Story/Tip

Hakone-Tozan Line Photo, Japan, Asia
Quote:
Hakone is famous for its hot springs, and is full of various resorts and clinics dedicated to taking full advantage of their medicinal qualities. Besides these, the area offers breathtaking scenery, great views of Mt. Fuji and some exciting transportation means. I highly suggest taking a day trip to the area, as I did. Plan to leave as early as possible to maximize daylight. You could take a bus tour here, or you could do as I did, and go on your own. If you choose to do that, take the train to Odawara. You can get here either by Shinkansen or by the Tokaido line. From Odaware you will need to switch from JR to the Hakone-Tozan transportation system, which includes trains, rope cars, cable...Read More