Visiting Japan

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I stayed in Osaka and Kyoto, and visited Nara.

 

Osaka is just a big ugly city, much like any big ugly city anywhere. It was no big deal to me, except that it's known for its cuisine.

 

Kyoto and Nara, on the other hand, were magical. They were the most amazing places I've ever visited, I can't recommend them enough.

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Yes, I went for 3 weeks 2 Decembers ago and had a great time. I stayed 5 days in Tokyo - make sure you visit the different areas as the city is quite divided up into different styles. I suggest Akihabara (the electronics district) to pick up some free advertsing tissues from Lolita girls, Ginza to look at fancy shops and huge TV screens on street corners, Takeshite Dori to view the Japanese lolita/goth craze which is going on there still and the imperial palace. Ueno has the Edo Museum, and yes it's a little further than normal on the underground, but the museum's worth it - you can see Edo (the former wooden city of Tokyo) as a model and walk along Nihonbashi bridge. I also went to the national sword museum but beware - it's very hard to find, and you can't take photos in there so don't be too disappointed! It's also not a huge museum but it does indeed hold many beautiful katana.

 

From Tokyo to Kyoto in 2.5 hrs (I think) with the Nozomi Shinkansen - this is the express bullet train and is not covered by the Japan Rail Pass (as a warning) - the speed! Amazing!

 

Kyoto is also a must (don't just go to Tokyo as Kyoto has much more of the traditional ancient Japanese cultural aspects like temples, shrines, parks etc). Here I'd recommend a trip to Arashiyama - the famous bamboo forests. Beautiful. Close by is the mountain monkey park where you get to walk amongst the monkeys (just don't take any food in with you or stare them in the eye). Great view of Kyoto from the top of the park. Otherwise there are many many temples and shrines - I recommend Kiyomizu (the silver one, much nicer than the golden temple) and a zen garden or too.

 

I also went to Himeji which houses the most famous castle of Japan - is the castle you see in most samurai films (such as Shogun). It's huge and very pretty, and there's a great zen garden just around the corner which isn't very well advertised but was my favourite of them all. A day trip from Kyoto.

 

Another day trip was Nara - make sure you visit the 2 main temples/shrines there (can't remember the names but check any tourist guide). The walk amongst the statue lanterns and old trees was a very humbling experience. The deer park was also interesting.. watch out for any food or paper or indeed anything remotely edible that you keep in your pockets - they're quite agressive.

 

Last but not least I visited Hiroshima, also as a day trip with the Shinkansen from Kyoto. Only went to the Peace Memorial Park and Museum.

 

That's what I remember from the top of my head but of course in 3 weeks we did so much, not to mention all the food we ate.. mmmm. Only had sushi once though, surprisingly enough, and that was in Musashi Sushi, the first kaiten sushi in the world, in Kyoto (or as the Germans call it, 'running sushi').

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Hey UA, I was there last may and took the Nozomi Shinkansen from Tokyo to Kyoto and it was covered on my RailPass, I don't know if that has changed since you were there or if I just lucked out?

When you were in the Takeshite Dori district did you get to see the "french maid" thing they had going on? That was just crazy, the outfits I could handle but the blazing blue eyes through me off.

I agree Akihabara is a great place to visit, cell phones and crazy gadgets everywhere, and all those girls passing out kleenex and stuff.

Did you make it down to Mt. Fuji? Its a bit of a trip but it was worth it.

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When I went in Dec 05 it wasn't included, so maybe they've added in now, or you just got lucky and they didn't notice ;)

 

Yeah I saw quite a few French maid outfits, sailor moon outfits, schoolgirl outfits... was most interesting :) I actually bought a skirt there myself (layered lace/assymetrical/satin thing). Wasn't cheap though!

 

I didn't make it to Mount Fuji but managed to make quite a good film of it from the Shinkansen on the way back to Tokyo. It sounds silly but it really is huge!

 

Edit: From the JR Pass website: "Railways: All JR Group Railways-Shinkansen"bullet trains" (except any reserved or non-reserved seat on "NOZOMI" trains), limited express trains, express trains, and rapid or local trains. (With some exceptions)" so you got lucky :)

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I agree with UrbanAngel on Mt. Fuji. I vistited (another TT member in) Japan last December, I was planning a day trip to Mt. Fuji but it was too foggy. A week later on the way back from Kyoto on the Shinkansen I had a magnificent view of the mountain. If you're not planning on climbing the mountain when it's possible, it's quite a hassle to go there from Tokyo but the view from the train is already beautiful :)

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I hear you about the fog, I was there for a little more than two weeks, we kept planning on heading down to Mt. Fuji but it was either rainy foggy or we ended up getting distracted by some form of booze or another : )

My flight home was at 3pm on a sunday, so one of my buddies there decided that we were going to go to Mt.Fuji come hell or high water. So at 3am he pulls up to the buddies place where I am staying and promptly loads our drunk asses into his van for the ~2.5 hour drive down there. To say the least it was an interesting drive! But as it started getting light we realized that it was still really foggy, and that the trip might be for nothing.

Anyways, following the GPS we drive as far up the mountain as we can, almost hit a pack of deer, and get to the end of the road at about 6 am.

We pile out and hike up to the top of a ridge to find that sure enough its still so foggy that we couldn't see anything.

So after some complaining and such we were about to head back down when a beautiful breeze picked up and started clearing the fog. In a matter of a few minutes the fog cleared out just in time for the sun to hit the peak of Mt. Fuji.

Your right it is a big mountain. And was well worth the trip to go see it! : )

Almost the highlight of my trip

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When you were in the Takeshite...

Probably pronounced "tackay sheetay" but to me it looks like "take shite" :lol:

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1. Check out the supermarkets under the subway stations. The sushi prices come down as closing time draws near, which brings the uni kids (and hungry tourists:-) out to haggle with the counter ladies.

 

It does amuse me that you pay a lot of money to go to Japan, and then spend your time hanging around underground supermarkets in case they reduce sushi.

 

If you need to do that stay at home.

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It's not about getting a cheaper price, it's about the fun of haggling. Sheesh!

 

Anyway, can you stay at home and haggle for sushi in underground supermarkets?

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@Keydeck: Germany brought out a law a few years ago allowing you to haggle, although I wasn't aware that you weren't allowed to before then!

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Hey Jonny, its not just the sushi, its anything prepared or parishable(sp) heck even the milk would be marked down!

Its great getting dinner that way! I never had to haggle though, prices were all marked. We did have to battle to get some of the good stuff though : )

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After many years of avoiding Japan on business trips, I had to go last month with a client. I only spent 4 days in Tokyo, but was very impressed with the place. Its good to see a lot of positive feedback on here as well. I work with so many cynics who dismiss the place. I realise now that they are merely narrow minded and don't see further than the end of their western noses. Now I can't wait to get back there and do some more tourist things rather than just the restaurants and bars. But we did the Hyatt restaurant thing (at night) and that was very impressive.

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kagoshima is really romantic, with a big active volcano looming over the bay. nagasaki is in a very beautiful setting too. near tokyo my favorite place is kamakura.

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The John Lennon Museum is worth a visit if you're into that kind of thing. You'll need the best part of an hour to get there on the train from central Tokyo though.

 

 

Oh, and take plenty of cash because the place is bastard expensive.

Right now it's pretty cheap because of the favourable exchange rate.

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Can anyone recommend accommodation in central Tokyo for a gal going on her own who can't speak Japanese?

Am considering having 3 days there on my multi-stop outward bound to NZ this early December as I have a taste for plastic crap, Godzilla films and general nonsense, but have zero sense of direction.

Any ideas gratefully received.

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Hi Katrina, as if by Monkey Magic:

 

Yaesu Fujiya Hotel which is right by Tokyo Station (Hbf) thus ideal to get anywhere and the bus to Narita Airport is just a few doors down.

I booked online via a site called Tocoo, paid just under €100 a night for an en suite room (but Tokyo sized).

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Monkey Magic is exactly what I'd like to see :)

Cheers, I'll have a look at both of those tips, thanks to both of you.

Making the final decisions on the stopovers has been hard, but it is a 2 month trip on paid vacation so a splash & dash to Tokyo is doable (and probably NYC, Rarotonga, Sydney...).

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