For not really wanting to go, I had a really good time. From the people, new food, landscape and things to see it was really eye opening and amazing. As I recall things of what stuck out to me I’ll try and note them. Otherwise I’m going to share some pics and add a few notes for each. At the end I included a misc. section with just random pics and comments. We did a lot of things and to document them all would take me forever.
We flew into Tokyo Haneda Intl. airport which is closer to the city, but a smaller airport. Going through customs was a strange experience. I had brought every drug prescription and what it was for from the Dr.’s, for the Kids, me and my wife thinking I would be flagged if I didn’t (that was what I read) no one cared. The whole customs experience was very confusing.
That aside, it was hot in the airport. In Florida, it seems every common area has AC and set at least to 75. If it was on and set to 80 we were lucky. This was a very common theme everywhere in Japan. Hotel Lobby’s would have AC, but the halls in the Hotels did not! It was always strange to see what was cooled and what was not.
I paid some company to have an English speaking Japanese person meet us at the Airport and get our train tickets setup. Not studying any of the train information before arriving was not smart. Don’t do what I did, educate yourself as much as you can on the trains and subways especially in Tokyo. Tokyo made NYC seem like a playground! So, we finally get on our train to Kyoto which was a 4-hour ride if I recall after landing from our 17 hour flight!
We stayed 4 nights in Kyoto, 1 in Mt. Fuji and 5 nights in Tokyo. Looking back, we should have stayed 3 nights in Tokyo and 6 in Kyoto and explored more down south. My wife and I talked about going back and exploring the South more and the North.
This was our travel route. Down to Kyoto from Tokyo, day trip to Hiroshima, back to Kyoto, then around to Mt. Fuji and then back to Tokyo. The Shinkansen (Bullet Train) was amazing! 180mph smooth as glass. We did do first class for our Japan Rail Pass. It helped on the long train rides, but around Tokyo not applicable.
I had heard that lots of people knew English in Japan. Not true. Most people had no clue what I was saying, nor I them! People would speak full on Japanese to me and I just nodded my head went about my way. Well I didn’t get arrested so “yes” must have meant something!
The pic below is train life. And the pic below that is my son and I crammed into a train in Tokyo. We were on trains a lot getting around and I just couldn’t get over how sad and withdrawn people seemed. Maybe sad is the wrong word, maybe in their own world. Everyone was either reading a book, playing a game, texting, staring off in space or sleeping. No one really talked. Very few if any couples. While in the Fuji area, we had a half American, half Japanese Taxi driver who said it is very common for Japanese to not know who their neighbors are.
Off the train walking in the City and more so in Tokyo, was like walking at Disney World. Very crowded and everyone just did what they wanted to do. There was no left side or right side, there was just the side the thought they should be on. It was constant moving and avoiding everyone. My wife and I did find this unusual because the culture seems so time driven and organized that you would think it would apply to walking too.
We had a few experiences with people being so nice and going so far out their way to help you it almost seemed unbelievable. One lady at the train station, walked us to where we needed to go only realizing she gave us the wrong directions. All of the sudden she shows up in front of us and was like, so sorry, over here, and took us back where we needed to go.
American companies Like Starbucks and McDonalds seemed to do very well in Japan. The McDonalds we ate in Kyoto, we were sat at a reserved table, our food was brought to us, the restaurant was immaculate, and everyone was incredibly nice. It was a very strange experience. I would say almost every employee really enjoyed his or her job anywhere we went regardless of what they did.
Smoking was very common in Japan. 30% of men and 8% of women smoked per a Japanese Dr. I spoke with. Restaurants had smoking sections inside, so did the trains. You couldn’t miss it was the bad part.
One afternoon I’m standing at the vending machine and it’s just taking my money. Three older ladies walk up and presume I’m Ignorant. They are talking to each other in Japanese and at me too and having me shove money in. We all had a good laugh with nothing but hand language, puzzled looks and me out $3 for a $1 bottle of water. It was one of those funny experiences I’ll never forget.
One thing I noticed about myself, I look people in the eyes when I’m walking and as such, saw lots of colored contacts in Japanese people. I would say 1 in 4 Women had them and 1 in 7 men. It was more of a young person thing, but I did see quite a few older people with them too. My wife thought I was crazy, so I had to keep pointing people out.
Anime is huge in Japan. Everything is “Animated”. As you’re going up in the buildings we even stumbled across an entire floor dedicated to Anime Porn! We can’t read Japanese and honestly it was sensory overload in lots of places like Akihabara (Huge shopping district in Tokyo). To me, prices were no better than the US and, in some instances, more. I spent < $20 on stuff to bring home.
This pic was at an Anime Convention we literally fell into. Minus the costumes, these were the contacts lots of people had, all different colors too.
All in all, we are all the same. Just a different part of the world with different cutlers. I say this because when you watch Japanese kids be kids, they are all the same as American. They just want to have fun and be kids.
I really believe were just taught to be different.
The city itself sits in a valley surrounded by mountains. There are lots of Mountains all around Japan. Japan made me think of Pennsylvania and the Allegany mountains. Just beautiful, but Hot in Kyoto!
We visited some shrines, Nijo-Jo Castle, Bamboo Forest, took a day trip to Hiroshima, saw the A-Bomb Dome and explored Itsukushima Island. In Kyoto we used mainly Taxi’s. It was expensive, but even with Taxis we walked a bunch. Average day of walking was 7-10 miles. I slept like a baby every night.
Kyoto traffic was busy, but almost choreographed that everyone knew exactly when they could go, what the limit was, where to go, but close to being on the edge of chaos! Every moment seemed like a case of close calls, but it was just normal everyday life. Tokyo traffic was slow and congested.
This pic below is from Nijo-Jo Castle (1626). Pics never do things like this justice. You really must be there to appreciate the detail.
Kids really enjoyed the Shrines and temples. This is Fushimi Inari Shrine. (711-1499) This trip was really for them. My son turned 25 this month and my daughter 22.
This was Kiyomuzi Temple. Founded in 778, built in 1633. This place was amazing. I shared this pic so you can see how it sits up on the mountain side. The walk up, the placement, the structures were just amazing. Again, pics don’t do it justice. I’m not Buddhist, but I can appreciate the settings and buildings.
Visiting Itsukushima Island in Hiroshima Bay. We went first to the Island and then to Hiroshima A-Bomb Dome. The island was beautiful. Deer roamed around and you could walk up and pet them.
On Itsukushima Island, my wife had to get in the water. She was like I’m not coming all this way to not get in the ocean in Japan!
From Kyoto, we left for Mt. Fuji. We had this tendency the entire trip to be up by 5AM and back in bed by 9PM. It just worked. It was light out by 5:30AM so we just went. Also, being so hot we found it cooler. Anyway, we left early from Kyoto. It seemed like it took close to 5 hours. We had 3 or 4 train transfers, with the last being a Train that seemed like it came off the set of Harry Potter. It was a private line, but got the job done. Just really neat.
We only spent ½ day in Fujikawaguchiko, Yamanashi area where our Hotel was by Mt. Fuji, but we did see Fugaku Wind Cave in the Aokigahara Forest. It was freezing in that cave and still had ice in it in the middle of the summer! The lava was beautiful as it came down the mountain all over grown with trees. I think the last eruption was 1700’s time frame. Fuji is still an active volcano.
This pic was from the top of our Traditional hotel we stayed in that night. The Hotel was interesting sleeping on the floor! Not the most comfortable. Supposedly we were lucky to see the top of the mountain. I guess it’s covered in clouds more so than being visible. At night, you could see all the climbers with their HUD and lights on climbing to the top of the mountain to watch the sunrise in the morning! Yes, crazy if you ask me, but thousands of people do it each year!
The views from our observation deck on the hotel were amazing. Again, the photo doesn’t do it justice.
From Mt. Fuji, we went back to Tokyo for the remainder of the 5 nights. I was not prepared for how big Tokyo was, the amount of people, 38 million including the surrounding areas and that where we were staying was the heart of party central Tokyo, the ward of Shinjuku.
Shinjuku train station is the busiest in the world! We did not know that either. It was the station closest to our hotel. It was confusing, cramped, under construction, with Paper signs in some spots. Every elevator, in every train station was small. So small that you could fit a wheel chair and the person pushing it and that was it! Also, the yellow lines are for the blind. Walking with suitcases was a nightmare because the yellow bumps. Took us awhile to figure out these were for the blind.
This pic was the first day we arrived in Tokyo (Shinjuku Station) for our stay there. It proceeded to get busier and busier each day up to when we left because we were approaching some Japan holidays.
This was the hotel we stayed in (Large High rise that says Hotel Gracery). Notice Godzilla on the side. Was easy to ID as a landmark. This is right in the heart of the red-light district. The key is to not walk alone. Otherwise everyone comes up to you. I was solicited and so was my son.
The hotel was one of the best I’ve ever stayed in. It was only 3 star rated, but to me it was 5 star. Everyone went out of their way. Really amazing service. When I needed to go to the hospital for my AFIB, they found me an English speaking one. In July, I had my first AFIB episode in the states. Night at the hospital cost the insurance $20K! I was in the Japanese hospital for 3 hours, Dr. Never left my side, blood work, I.V., testing, etc. $269!
My son had to see the Gundam Statue. He grew up watching the cartoons.
We did a lot of shopping, ate lots of different food, some good, some weird and went to Disney 3 different days. Both my daughter and son bought so much stuff they had to bring a second suitcase back.
My son and I did manage to drive go carts on the roads of Tokyo. It was a complete blast. Would totally recommend this. Street legal, driving with traffic and running red lights!
The day we left (Aug. 12th) we were worried we wouldn’t make it out. We were being chased out by a Typhoon!
Whenever I eat out in the US, I put down a napkin for utensils or lean them on my plate. I just think restaurant tables are gross. Japanese solution, Brilliant. They did this for both chopsticks and silverware!
In order for your room to have power you had to leave your key in. Of course, there is always a work around! Nothing worse than being out all day, hot and sweaty, to come back to a hot hotel. No thanks!
In order for 4 adults to sleep comfortable we got 2 rooms in each hotel. The beds were slightly larger than a twin, maybe the size of a full! I couldn’t imagine 4 of us in one room!
This was about an hour wait in this very small, quaint, restaurant for wagyu roast beef rice bowl. Worth the wait for sure. The theory goes if there is a line and you’re hungry, get in line. It’s likely very good.
We were half way through our day at Disney, my daughter just breaks down and says thank you so much! She was so grateful.
These toilets were the bomb! If you want to feel clean, get one! My entire family misses the toilets.
Just today my wife commented on this. I may surprise here with one for Christmas.
I noticed this EVERYWHERE we got drinks. They do not fill up the glass or cup. It’s always a good distance from the top or only half full. This was one breakfast morning at our Hotel.
Well, what did I spend? I’m sure there was money spent on Cameras, new laptop, clothes, other misc items not included below. But this was what I spent to get there and while there. I found cash was necessary but lots of places took Credit Card (Cardo!)
Yen to dollars for dummies. 1 yen is about .0094 pennies. So, the easiest thing to do to convert, was simply drop off the last two digits. 1000 yen is $10. And It’s always less in US dollars, easy.
Plane tickets for 4
Credit Card Charges