Category Archives: Japan

Memoirs of a Day in Kyoto

Home to 2000 temples and shrines, Japan’s former Imperial capital, Kyoto, should be a priority on any trip to Japan.  We took the shinaksen bullet train from Hakone, which cut down the trip from 4-5 hours to 2.

It was interesting to see all of the domestic tourists in Kyoto dressed up in traditional Japanese clothing, an apparently popular local vacation activity.

Shinkasen bullet train

Shinkasen bullet train

 

Visit: 

  • Kiyumizu-dera Temple (UNESCO World Heritage Site) – the most  visited site in Kyoto
  • The 1300 Gates at Fushimi Inari Shrine – the inspiration for the 2005 Christo and Jeanne-Calude “The Gates” exhibit in Central Park, NYC
  • Kinkaku-ji Temple (The Golden Pavillion) (UNESCO World Heritage Site) whose top 2 floors are covered in gold leaf
Kiyomizu-dera  temple

Kiyomizu-dera temple

Kiyomizu-dera  temple

Kiyomizu-dera temple

Kiyomizu-dera  temple

Kiyomizu-dera temple

Kiyomizu-dera  temple

Kiyomizu-dera temple

Kyoto

Kyoto

Fushimi Inari Temple

Fushimi Inari Temple

1300 Gates at Fushimi Inari Temple

1300 Gates at Fushimi Inari Temple

Kinkaku-ji Golden Pavillion

Kinkaku-ji Golden Pavillion

Kinkaku-ji Golden Pavillion Temple

Kinkaku-ji Golden Pavillion Temple

 

Eat at: 

  • Nishiki Market for everything – this one covered street in Kyoto is the best places to taste bits and bites of Japan from the dozens and dozens of merchants selling everything from mochi-wrapped strawberries and tofu donuts to live loach fish and octopus tentacles.  The market was one of our top Kyoto highlights
  • Gogyo (just off of Nishiki Market) for well-priced ramen (vegetarians beware – get something in Nishiki Market instead)
  • Kikunoi – one of Kyoto’s top rated restaurants — but make reservations in advance! (We didn’t get to go)
Mochi at the market...yum!

Mochi at the market…yum!

Nishiki Market Stall

Nishiki Market Stall

Win & Ari at Nishiki Market

Win & Ari at Nishiki Market

Shop atKyoto Handicrafts market for high-quality and reasonably priced souvenirs of all types (lacquer, kimonos, katanas, tea sets, etc.)

Wander throughGion for Gesha spotting

 

Gion at night

Gion at night

SAM_0550

Spotted:  Gesha!

Spotted: Gesha!

 

 

 

 

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A Room with a View: Hakone & Mt. Fuji, Japan

We spent the second leg of our Japan trip in Hakone, a resort town ~1 hour outside of Tokyo, known for its onsen hot springs and views of nearby Mt. Fuji.

Mt. Fuji in the background

Mt. Fuji in the background

Mt. Fuji in the background

Mt. Fuji in the background

Unexpected but wonderful:

  • Transportation:  upon arriving at the train station, all visitors check luggage with a service that transports guests’ bags to their hotels, allowing them to freely ride the many modes of transportation that comprise the Hakone sightseeing loop including: train, cable car funicular, bus, ropeway, and pirate ship (around Ashi lake)
  • Onsen Tamago:  eggs that have been hard-boiled in the volcanic hot springs, yum!
  • Open Air Museum: admittedly, we expected this amazing space to be boring, but it was filled with dynamic, interactive exhibits, including a maze and climbing structures
Ropeway to the pirate ship

Ropeway to the pirate ship

Onsen Tamago

Onsen Tamago

Onsen Tamago

Onsen Tamago

Bus to the volcanic hot springs

Bus to the volcanic hot springs

Open air Museum

Open air Museum

Open air museum

Open air museum

Open air museum

Open air museum

Open air museum

Open air museum

Open air museum

Open air museum

Open Air museum

Open Air museum

Open Air museum

Open Air museum

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Lake Ashi

Lake Ashi

Lake Ashi

Lake Ashi

The most memorable part of Hakone was our traditional Japanese guest house (ryokan).  Our ryokan  had amazing onsen  hot springs overlooking Mt. Fuji.  In fact, each traditional Japanese room, with a tatami woven mat floor and traditional futon beds, also had a picture-perfect view of Japan’s highest volcano.  Guests at the ryokan wear traditional yukata robes (cotton kimonos) and are served a traditional kaiseki dinner, consisting of several, small, elaborately displayed dishes including:

Kaiseki Menu

Kaiseki Menu

Our beautiful kaiseki dinner

Our beautiful kaiseki dinner

Our ryokan room

Our ryokan room

Where to stay & eat:  Fujimien Ryokan

Visitor tip:  Buy a Hakone “free-pass” which includes the roundtrip train from Tokyo as well as unlimited access on all of the modes of transportation within Hakone.  Very worthwhile.

 

Me & Ari in yukata robes

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5 Things You Didn’t Think to Pack for Japan

It’s that time again.  In 3 days I’m leaving for  16 day trip to Japan (Tokyo, Hakone, Kyoto), Hong Kong, and South Korea.  

Not having ever been to this part of the world, I started Googling what I should pack and came across this amazing list from Lonely Planet on “The 5 Things You Didn’t Think to Pack for Japan.”  Love!

Is there anything that’s missing from this list?  Anything specific to Hong Kong or S. Korea that should go into my suitcase?  Let me know what you think!

suitcase

Non-Lacing Shoes

One of Japan’s best-known customs is removing shoes upon entering a home. But a lot of other places you might visit – ryokanstemplesmuseumshistorical sites, even some restaurants – may require that you doff your footwear at the door, too. Make things easier for yourself – and save time – by forgoing those high lace-up boots for shoes that simply slip on and off, or else have Velcro fasteners.

Tissues

If you’re eating out casually in Japan – in cafes, getting takeaway, etc – you’ll notice that napkins often aren’t given out to customers. It’s a good idea to carry a travel packet of tissues with you for snack times (especially if you’re travelling with kids).

Washcloth

Public bathrooms in Japan usually don’t have paper towels, and there are some that don’t even have hand dryers (or else there’s only one, which might mean waiting). Keep a small towel or washcloth in your bag for drying your hands after you’ve washed them. (A cool, moist towel on your neck will also help keep you cool during Japan’s hot and humid summer.)

Hand Sanitiser

Similarly, some bathrooms you encounter may not even have soap, especially on shinkansen (bullet trains). A small bottle of hand sanitiser will come in handy, even for the non-germophobes.

Umbrella

Even if you’re visiting outside of ‘plum rain’ season (June and July), Japan’s island-weather system means it can rain almost any time of the year. Inexpensive umbrellas are available for purchase, of course, but they don’t fold up, and you may find that a compact travel umbrella is easier to carry when the sun comes out again

Read more: http://www.lonelyplanet.com/japan/travel-tips-and-articles/37418#ixzz2MgQBSzrF

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Spring Break 2013 – East Asia!

More details to come, but excited to share that I  just booked travel for Spring Break to East Asia!

Spring Break 2013

Spring Break 2013

March 9-13: Japan (Tokyo, Hakone, Kyoto)

March 14-16: Hong Kong

March 17-24: South Korea (Seoul, Uslan, Busan, DMZ)

Guidebooks are ordered, now time to do some research!  Recommendations and suggestions are welcome.

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Filed under Asia, Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, Travel (General)