Sayonara, Japan.

Watching the golden sunset from the airport window provided an appropriate good-bye to my 10-day Japanese adventure. The setting sun cast a golden glow over Ise Bay and sparkled on the wings of the jet sitting at the gate. Continue reading

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Keep Your Dreams Alive

私は日本に行きます。Nihon ni ikimasu. I am going to Japan.

Since childhood I have wanted to go to Japan. I don’t know why. Perhaps the lure of things that interested me such as the intrigue of a strangely written language, the beautiful photo depictions of gardens and flowers, the gorgeous kimonos or simply the exotic and very different culture. Keep in mind, I grew up before the Internet, before easy access to information; the world seemed even larger then. Before Internet connection, different cultures were more mysterious and faraway places  more exotic. Add a child’s imagination, and the exciting dream gets painted with even more vibrant colors. Continue reading

Bloomin’ Azalea Bonsai

For two days in a row I tried to decipher the words of the Japanese train announcer as he quickly announced the specific train stops while riding the railway to Kyoto with my friend.  The one phrase I finally understood was “Omi-Hachiman, Omi-Hachiman desu,” roughly translated into English as “the next stop is Omi-Hachiman.” Although we did not get off the train in Omi-Hachiman, the announcer’s rhythmic words stuck in my head like a catchy little tune. Continue reading

The TOKYO SKYTREE

TOKYO SKYTREE®

The TOKYO SKYTREE® is the world’s tallest free-standing broadcasting tower, reaching up 634 meters into the sky (2,080 feet). The Skytree is also quite new, completed in 2012.  It was designed with the concept of bringing traditional together with the future, and the name, height, design and color all have meaning relevant to Japanese culture. Continue reading

Super Tour Man

We boarded the Shinkansen (“bullet” train) early and headed to Tokyo.  Traveling close to 200 m.p.h., the scenery whizzed by. The Shinkansen is a story in itself, so let’s just fast forward to Tokyo where we meet Super Tour Man. But first, my friend and I got off the train, and moving in speedy train fashion my friend whizzed us through the extremely large Tokyo train station, me at her heels, out the other side into the super-sized city.  Of course, it’s always movement at top speed with my speedy friend who is amazingly following her phone map while speed walking while we were looking for our hotel.  We speedily found it. Then, my friend informed me we were running late (yes, running—that’s being late, fast–) to catch our Hato tour bus to inner Tokyo.  So, it was out of the hotel and towards the tour bus depot. Continue reading

What you always wanted to know about toilets…

Ok, toilets are a subject that spark the curiosity but nobody wants to ask about them, or maybe even write about them. But here it is–what you always wanted to know about Japanese toilets but were afraid to ask.

Well, I spent a whole 10 days in Japan. That does not make me an expert, of course!  However, I DID experience both the traditional Japanese-style toilet facility AND the Western-style toilet facility.

Interestingly, at one tourist visitor site there was a sign pointing specifically to the “Western toilet” facility; I found that humorous. In a public restroom there are usually more stalls with the “trench” style toilet, as I term it, along with a few Western toilet stalls; but, relax! In my experience, all but one public place we visited had Western-style facilities. Either way, you would be smart to carry your own tissue paper just in case. You might also want to carry your own little hand towel because there is water to wash your hands but not necessarily a way to dry them.  Let me add, though, when hand air dryers are available, they are powerful and work quite well.

So, no worries. In fact, the Western toilets are often deluxe models (especially in homes or hotels) with heated toilet seats. Moreover, there is a separate control panel attached to the toilet or nearby wall with push buttons for a variety of fun toilet activities. Unlike the boring, single U.S. flush handle,  the control panel could have a button for making just the flushing sound. Of course, there’s the button for making the actual flush. Then there’s that novel button for bidet or shower, regular or super strength. Another type of toilet combo unit I saw had the toilet bowl with the hand-washing sink attached above the toilet tank so that when you flush the bowl, water simultaneously runs in the sink for hand washing.

Of course, the “trench” model is more difficult to use as one must squat. But if you must, don’t worry. The trench is plenty big and has a powerful flush feature.

Well, all for now–gotta “go”.traditional style toilet

toilet panel

 

Two Pedestrian Miles in Nara

Wear comfortable shoes.

Let me first mention that a tourist visiting Japan from a foreign country can buy the Japan Rail Pass, a special fare ticket for using the Japan Rail (JR) system.  For about $300.00 I purchased a 7-day pass. There are also 14- and 21-day pass options. The pass holder does not have to worry about buying tickets at the station because the pass is the ticket. The pass saved me money. By the way, it would be a really, really good deal if you wanted to do a sightseeing train trip all over the country—you would really get your money’s worth! Fantastic train system, I might add.

Having said that, once you reach your destination by train, naturally you still have to get around, and this is often accomplished on foot or sometimes by city bus or more trains. Getting around once you “get there” seems quite convenient, though, but will inevitably involve a healthy amount of walking. In Nara, we figured out which city bus to take about half way across town to the Todaiji Temple area; the rest of the day was on foot.

The way I figured from the tourist map scale, we walked from the bus stop to the temple, about .4 km; from the Temple through the deer park (home of the famous Nara free-roaming deer plus other temple locations) another 1.5 km; and instead of the bus, we decided to walk back to Nara train station so we could squeeze in a few other sights (beautiful Nara Park, Kofukuji Temple and the 5-story pagoda) and shopping, another 2 km. So, we probably walked about 4 kilometers. At one kilometer equaling about ½ mile, we trekked about 2 miles; not a bad day’s stroll.  I will share more info on the interesting sights later, just letting you know to wear some comfortable walking shoes when you visit Japan!

Off to a Late Start

The plane for the first flight leg of my trip was late—very late. That meant I would not catch the connecting flight to my destination nor be on time for those picking me up in Japan. Now what?

After some diligent pecking at the keyboard, the airline representative found an alternative flight following a different route and involving a connection with a small airline in Japan (only one seat left!) getting me to my final destination only 2 hours late. I said, “Grab it!”