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10 Days to Tokyo

posted at 12:24 am
on Nov. 21, 2008

Comments: 3 so far

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In 10 days, it’s sayonara for Susie and me. We’re heading to Japan for a two week vacation: Tokyo, Kyoto, Nara and the Ramen Museum.

OK, thanks, I do know that the Ramen Museum is not, technically, a city.  But I can’t remember the name of the city that it’s in. All the cities have such similar names: YaSoDoMiSoFa, or something like that. Japanese is all Greek to me.

We’re heading over to join my mom and my sister, who are attending a conference put on by Kumon Japan.  Kumon is a supplementary educational system that helps people learn math and reading—sometimes remedial, sometimes advanced.

Kumon is celebrating its 50th anniversary by hosting a world franchise owner conference.  There will be about a zillion people there, and it’s my mom’s first time in Japan, so she’s really excited.

I don’t know why I phrased it like that: It’s all of our first times in Japan.  Susie and I have been wanting to go for years.

But one thing that I find interesting is that when I was asked recently what I wanted to see in Japan, I was a little stumped.  I couldn’t really think of any attractions that attracted me.  Tokyo doesn’t seem to have the same types of tourist draws that a Paris or a Berlin has—no Eiffel Tower or Brandenburg Gate.

Instead, I’m totally interested in things that are less tangible: the food, the restaurants, the shopping districts, the language, the electronics, the people, the history, the religion… all these intangibles that the Japanese are known for.

We’ll have the benefit of being with our good friends Jason and Noriko for much of the trip—they’re heading back to visit family and have graciously volunteered to help us see the country and not provoke any international incidents.  They say we should get used to:
* showering in a big communal room
* pointing at pictures of food we want
* paying in cash for something worth 100,000
* not really understanding why we’re doing something

But of course, even with them there to suggest, guide, prod and rescue, I’m also looking for suggestions from others who have been before.  Do you have any must-see or don’t-do advice for Susie and I? Share in the comments!  Best advice gets a pack of pocky!



 
 

 

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Overheard

“The sad truth is that most evil is done by people who never make up their minds to be good or evil.”

...who said it?

“Almost every American I know does trade large portions of his life for entertainment, hour by weeknight hour, binge by Saturday binge, Facebook check by Facebook check. I’m one of them. In the course of writing this I’ve watched all 13 episodes of House of Cards and who knows how many more West Wing episodes, and I’ve spent any number of blurred hours falling down internet rabbit holes. All instead of reading, or writing, or working, or spending real time with people I love.”

...who said it?

“Live a good life. If there are gods and they are just, then they will not care how devout you have been, but will welcome you based on the virtues you have lived by. If there are gods, but unjust, then you should not want to worship them. If there are no gods, then you will be gone, but will have lived a noble life that will live on in the memories of your loved ones.”

...who said it?

“I play with variables constantly.”

...who said it?

“Only the person who has learned Continual Love coming from a heart of Gratitude/Worship can effectively deal with the problem of loneliness.”

...who said it?

Comments

 

 

 

 

 

Hey, Travis, I'm actually reading this while in Kyoto (one week into a two week trip to Japan)...funny coincidence.

We're visiting Nara tomorrow; however, I have a bit of advice for Kyoto. Get a bus map from the tourist agency and figure out which temples/shrines/sights you want to see. Then get a day pass for the bus (500 Yen...slightly more than 2 trips cost) and go to town! Routes 100, 101 and 102 are especially routed to hit a lot of temples and sights, plus they have a bit of overlap so transferring from one bus to the next (or getting to a different area of town) shouldn't be too hard. You can supplement the buses with occasional trips on the metro or local rail lines (unfortunately, even if you have a JR Rail Pass, you probably won't get to use it in Kyoto except to get to Nara...just about everything in Kyoto that's useful isn't JR).

I'll have to look up the list of sights we've seen to give you some recommendations; however, I can recommend Nijo Castle as I just saw it today. Beautiful building inside and out and the grounds are spectacular. I should also mention that a number of the temples have special evening openings (most normally close around 5:30-6:00) where they have everything lit up. Some end before you arrive but others go into early December, so ask around and see if you're interested.

If you have a JR Rail Pass, you might want to make a half-day trip down to Himeji (60 mins or so by Shinkansen) to see the famous castle. It's quite beautifully designed and the view from the top is excellent.

Anyway, feel free to e-mail me if you have any specific questions...I'll send you an e-mail with some helpful links and anything else I can think of!

 

Posted by filmgoerjuan
  at 6:11 am on Nov. 21, 2008

 

 

 

Oh man, there's so much. It sounds like you'll have hosts that will be a huge help. A few things...

The big, popular districts (Shinjuku, Ginza, Shibuya, etc.) are better at night. The same is true with Akihabara. Tokyo is not a pretty city and during the day seems drab. But at night, it's a different place. Do the cultural things during the day and head to the districts at night.

Do karaoke. They are everywhere and a great place to have too much to drink.

It's a pain to get up so early, but the Tsukiji Fish market is an amazing site.

Again, painful, but interesting - ride the subway at rush hour. It's a uniquely Japanese experience.

We've had a lot of sushi in Tokyo, but the most memorable was at a place filled with business men - always the best. Sakae Zushi (pretty sure was the name) close to the Shinjuku station. Real life - no gaigin.

If you're there on a Sunday, go hang out at Harajuku and see the Cosplay kids. The whole scene around there is interesting.

I'm sure you'll take the Shinkansen down to Kyoto. One of my favorite parts of Japan. Notice how they arrive and depart almost down to the second. Amazing.

Crap, I could go on and on.

There aren't public trashcans. You'll be carrying around trash a lot. The 7-11 c-stores have trash cans.

It's generally bad form to eat and walk at the same time - and no food or drink consumed on the subway.

It's easy to rent a cell phone in the airport, if you're interested.

Lot's more here: http://www.theworldisnotflat.com/tags/japan

I'm jealous! Let me know if you want to chat before you leave.

 

Posted by Lee LeFever
  at 10:05 am on Nov. 21, 2008

 

 

 

Not having ever been to Japan, I don't have much to say other than have a great trip! But my friend Graham's been living there for many years now, and you might want to skim through his blog if you have time, there's posts from trips he's taken and just lots of Japan randomness on there that you might be interested in. http://misosepitaph.blogspot.com

 

Posted by Ariane
  at 8:32 pm on Nov. 21, 2008

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