Nov 06, 2008 – Dec, 1 2008
Day One – Leave US for Japan
Day Two – Arrive in Narita
Day Three – Nikko
Day Four – Hakone Round Trip Course
Day Five – Hakonemachi, Hakone Jinja
Day Six – Travel to Takayama
Day Seven – Shirakawa-go
Day Eight – Travel to Nagoya
Day Nine -Toyota Kaikan
Day Ten – Ise Jingu
Day Eleven – Koya-san
Day Twelve – Travel to Hiroshima
Day Thirteen – Hiroshima
Day Fourteen – Okayama, Miyajima
Day Fifteen – To Osaka
Day Sixteen – Arashiyama
Day Seventeen – Himeji, Kobe
Day Eighteen – Kyoto
Day Nineteen to Twenty-Five – Back to Tokyo
- Day 1 – Thursday, Nov 6 – Leave US for Japan
Left US for Japan via Northwest.
The service was good and they served ice cream sandwiches for dessert. We hit turbulence as we were reaching Japan so my face was in a motion sickness bag for 2 hours…
- Day 2 – Friday, Nov 7 – Arrive in Narita
Still nauseous as I was taking the Keisei Limited Express to Nippori where Tokiwa Hotel is.
It’s very convenient to the station and is like a typical business hotel such as Toyoko Inn except at this one, you have to take off your shoes at the front door.
- Day 3 -Saturday, Nov 8 – Nikko
Went to get my JR Pass and headed off for Nikko.
Took the MAX shinkansen to Utsunomiya and then transferred to the JR Nikko line.
The MAX was a little confusing since it’s a double-decker.
Utsunomiya is known for its gyoza but I didn’t get to try any.
They have frozen ones which can be given out as omiyage.
Missed the bus on the way down but it wasn’t too bad of a walk from Rinnoji back to the JR Nikko station since it’s downhill. I’d recommend taking the bus up, but I saw quite a few people walking up too.
- Day 4 – Sunday, November 9 – Hakone Round Trip Course
Off to Hakone today by Shinkansen.
You can’t use the Nozomi with the JR Pass so I’ll have to settle for the Kodama.
It still looks cool.
Take the shinkansen to Odawara, then transfer to Odakyu Railways to get to Hakone Yumoto.
I’d recommend getting a Hakone Free Pass so you don’t have to worry about buying tickets for everything. There’s also one day passes that I saw some people had.
I forgot that you should never visit ANY popular place on a weekend cause there will be crowds!
Here’s the line for the train from Hakone Yumoto to Gora.
There were also crowds for the cablecar from Gora to Sounzan and the ropeway.
Ok, there were crowds for everything, especially the bus from Moto-Hakone back to Hakone Yumoto.
Reminded me of Kyoto buses during sakura season.
- Day 5 – Monday, November 10 – Hakonemachi, Hakone Jinja
Day Two of visiting Hakone.
Though it was a weekday, it was still pretty crowded, especially since there were older folks on tours I think. Much less crowded than the weekend though.
Took the bus up towards Sengokuhara. Caught a glimpse of the pampas grass which were popular. The bus continued on to Togendai so I took the pirate ship across Lake Ashi again but got off at Hakonemachi this time.
Here, you can see the reconstructed Hakone Checkpoint complete with mannequins.
From Moto-Hakone, you can walk towards Hakone Jinja.
You can see the back of the torii that is in the water and then walk across the freeway to the main shrine.
The shop up there sells amazake and some good mochi. The seaweed one is surprisingly good. There was also a kimchi one but I passed on that.
- Day 6 – Tuesday, November 11 – Travel to Takayama
Traveled from Odawara to Takayama today.
Took the shinkansen to Nagoya, then the JR Limited Hida Express – Wide View from Nagoya to Takayama. The train has extra wide windows so you can see the nice scenery, not that it did me once good since I was once again nauseous. :p
- Day 7 – Wednesday, November 12 – Shirakawa-go
Traveled from Takayama to Shirakawa-go in the morning via Nohi Bus.
Shirakawa is known for it’s gassho-zakkuri farmhouses and is a World Heritage Site. There were quite a few people, but it was less crowded than Hakone.
Of course, Higurashi fans might be more familiar with the fact that Hinamizawa was based on Shirakawa.
You walk across the Deai Bridge to get to the main town.
- Day 8 – Thursday, November 13 – Travel to Nagoya
Traveled back to Nagoya via Nohi Bus and JR Hida.
- Day 9 – Friday, November 14 – Toyota Kaikan
Visited Toyota Kaikan for a plant tour today.
It’s located about an hour away from Nagoya.
There’s a showroom, cafe, and shop.
Due to the time of year, we only got to see the welding part of the factory tour, the assembly part was closed but it was still interesting seeing the robots do spot welding.
The tour guide was very nice and at the end, she said thank you in all the different languages of the countries where people came from to see Toyota.
Also visited Shirotori Garden and Atsuta Shrine in the afternoon.
- Day 10 – Saturday, November 15 – Ise Jingu
Traveled by Rapid Mie Express to Ise Jingu today.
Since it was the weekend, there were street stalls in front of both Gekku (Outer Shrine) and Naiku (Inner Shrine) even though it was raining a bit.
- Day 11 – Sunday, November 16 – Koya-san
Traveled to Koya-san today from Osaka through Nankai Railways.
There’s a cable-car that leads from Gokurakubashi to Koya-san.
It’s really steep and there’s no elevator at either end, so if you have heavy suitcases like me, you’re in for a workout.
Stayed overnight at a Buddhist monastery.
Fortunately the room came with a heater and kotatsu.
They served shojin ryori (like explained in Aoishiro, it’s vegetarian and also without strong tasting vegetables like garlic and onions).
- Day 12 – Monday, November 17 – Travel to Hiroshima
Traveled to Hiroshima via Osaka on the Hikari Railstar Shinkansen.
It’s very nice. There are even private rooms at the front.
- Day 13 – Tuesday, November 18 – Hiroshima
And passed by Miyajima Island which is supposedly one of the three most beautiful views in Japan.
It’s famous for its shrines and floating torii.
It was very cold on the island due to the wind. Hiroshima is a lot colder in general than I expected. I thought it’d be warmer since it’s more south.
- Day 14 – Wednesday, November 19 – Okayama, Miyajima
Visited Okayama which is famous for its castle that is painted black.
Its nickname is the “Crow Castle”.
The wind was very strong and cold almost as cold as Miyajima.
Okayama also seems to have a lot of omiyage related to white peaches and muscat grapes.
My favorite shinkansen, the Hikari Railstar which serves Western Japan.
It even has some private booths in the green cars at the front.
- Day 15 – Thursday, November 20 – To Osaka
It was nice though cold in the morning at Arashiyama since the crowds weren’t around yet. The tours started to arrive promptly at 8 in the morning though!
Koyo at Momiji Koen – which, like its name, is known for its maple leaves.
This also near where you take the ropeway up the mountain where you can view all of Miyajima.
The deer are very tame.
View of Jinja in the morning at low tide.
- Day 16 – Friday, November 20 – Arashiyama
Traveled to Arashiyama in Northern Kyoto today.
The koyo was quite nice at the temples.
Tenryuji is one of the famous temples there.
The shopping district near Saga was quite crowded, as par for this season.
Arashiyama’s also known for its bamboo forest.
Though quite small, it’s like something out of a period drama.
- Day 17 – Saturday, November 21 – Himeji, Kobe
Visited Himeji Castle in the morning.
It’s a non-reconstructed castle and is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
There was a sample of one of those things you carry in a matsuri at JR Himeji Station.
Ever wonder what’s in Pocari? I guess this sign doesn’t quite qualify as Engrish.
I love the stuff though!
- Day 18 – Sunday, November 22 – Kyoto
I attempted to visit Tofukuji which is a temple famous for koyo in Kyoto.
I gave up and turned around after 30 minutes. I knew it was a bad idea when I got on a full train and everyone got off at the same stop and I heard someone say the crowd was as bad as hatsumode (New Year’s visit)…
I still saw some nice koyo.
JR Kyoto is getting ready for XMas.
Here’s a funny sign for those that read Japanese.
It says actually does read “Happy Terrace” but it means something like “shining lleaves”.
- Day 19 – Day 26 – November 23 – December 1 – Back to Tokyo
Went to Kobe for some souvenir shopping on Monday and then it was back to Tokyo for about a week. Pretty much wandered around and did shopping for that week so didn’t have any interesting pictures.
I must say that the JR Pass was very convenient if you’re traveling long distances by shinkansen. Also, if you wanted to go from Osaka to Kyoto, why not take the shinkansen? It’s only 15 minutes compared to 30 by limited express, hehe.
It’s a little annoying to wait for the manned gates sometimes but this only happened at Tokyo mostly.