Amazing Japan Trip May 2007
Sendai Travel Blog› entry 1 of 2 › view all entries
I have traveled throughout Europe and I love the European flair and history. However, I was totally surprised at my Japanese travel experience and I now rate Japan as one of my favorite countries!
Tokyo was our starting point. From Tokyo we traveled up to Sendai in Northern Japan and then back to Tokyo, then to Osaka and Kyoto. We covered about 1000 miles by train. Upon walking the streets in the different cities as a tourist, of course, we were approached by several school children just about everywhere we went. They either wanted to "interview" us, have their picture taken with us, or just say "hello." Strangers would "bow" to us as we walked by and smiled at us and greeted us. We were pleasantly surprised by their warmness toward us.
We pruchased the Japan Rail Pass here at home n the US. You cannot purchase these in Japan. They are stricly for tourists visiting Japan. You can order them off the internet. We bought the green car (First Class) 7 day pass. They were not that much more than the economy price. We went on bullet trains from Tokyo-Sendai-Tokyo-Osaka-Kyoto-Osaka-Tokyo-Narita. The Japanese railway system runs right on time! The bullet trains were quiet and extremely comfortable with plenty of leg room and space! You never knew you were kicking bootie at 200 m.p.h.!!!
The Japanese gardens in and around their shrines and temples are beautiful!! They are lush green with blooming flowers and manicured to the empth degree!!! We never got tired of the aura they presented.
We ate at several different Japanese authentic restaurants where you take your shoes off and sit on the floor. Though you sit on the floor there are places for your legs to dangle. The food was tremendous. When we didn't have the time to go to a restaurant we usually could find a McDonalds and order their 100-Yen meal (similar to the American Value meal). There were also Wendys and KFC restaurants all over for those who yearn an American fast food meal.
Kyoto is a lovely city. In Japan's standards, it is a smaller city in population even though it contains over a million people. They have a very modern and new train station that just opened a few months ago complete with a 7-floor upscale shopping mall. We got a one day bus pass that we purchased at the train station and then took the bus around Kyoto. They actually have a few buses that have English spoken on their loudspeaker to let you know where you are and where to get off. We visited a few things in Kyoto but my favorite was the Golden Pavilion (Kinkaku-ji). We strolled along the Philosopher's Path which is lined with a canal and Japanese homes and shops. There are plenty of Starbucks throughout the city where we would take a break. There is a huge outdoor shopping area that is off the main street. That was fun to stroll through.
Osaka is a big city but alot to see and do. We visited the Osaka Castle. Again, we were interviewed and had our picture taken with many school children. If they were in a hurry, they would walk past us and in unison yell "hello" to us. You can climb to the 8th floor of the Osaka Castle and then go out and snap some pictures of the several views of Osaka. We stayed at the Sheraton in Osaka. Very nice and clean hotel and friendly clerks that work there. The hotel was very near a train and sub station so it was easy to get around. However, the subway and train stations do present a bit of a challenge in that the signs are all in Japanese. It's difficult finding people in Japan who actually do speak English. School children are in the process of learning their own difficult language so they do not know as much English as the Europeans.
In train stations we would look for the big I for Information. Most of the time they spoke English but in broken English but enough to help us. At the Osaka Train station the Information kiosk was the best English speaking people we found in all of Japan. They helped us out tremendously and gave us a great map of Osaka and gave us directions how to find our hotel and recommended places to visit.
The Tokyo train station was not for the "novice". We arrived at the Tokyo train station during the Friday evening rush hour! Fortunately we had a week of traveling in Japan using subsways and trains under our belt and felt comfortable. We had our luggage in tow and were dodging as many people as I've ever seen in 1 spot at a time! We managaed to find the train that would take us to Narita near the airport. The Tokyo Airport is a good hour or more away from Tokyo in Narita. I would highly recommend getting to Narita the night before your flight out. There are many transit hotels in the area that have shuttle buses to and from the airport. The airport is laid out where it is very easy to get through. (Terminal 2). There are lovely last-minute souvenir shops upstairs and past security many duty-free shops. If you have time, they have 2 observation decks outside complete with park benches where you can watch the planes arrive and take off. There is a Starbucks complete with about 10 computers with high-speed internet. It's a bit pricey. 100 yen for 10 minutes. However, if you're looking for a way to get rid of your last yen before you depart, this is a good place to get rid of it.