Trip Report – November 2008

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.

    JR Nikko Line from Utsunomiya to Nikko.
    It even has heated seats, though they were getting a little too hot at the end!

    Rinnoji Temple

    Bell Tower, reminds me of the one in Aoishiro.

    The autumn leaves at Shoyoen Garden were nice.
    It’s combined with the ticket to see a musuem National Treasures, but there were pictures allowed inside for that part.

    Shinkyo Bridge which runs over the Daiyagawa River.
    You have to pay 300 yen just to walk across it.
    I think a picture is enough.

    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.

    Engrish sign at Hakone Yumoto.
    Sand is an abbreviation for sandwich, but it looks a little weird to be ordering “hot sand”.

    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.

    You can take the ropeway from Sounzan to Togendai.

    The ropeway stops at Owakudani where you have to transfer to another ropeway.

    You can view Lake Ashi and the pirate cruise ships that run across it.

    Close up of the pirate ship

    Hakone Jinja near Moto Hakone.
    It was getting really cold waiting for the bus back to Hakone Yumoto so by the time I got back, I was freezing since it also started raining.

  • 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 Hakonemachi, you can also walk to Moto-Hakone along a cedar-lined path which is an old section of the Tokkaido Highway.

    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.

    Hakone is also known for its soba. I had one with fried shimeji (mushroom) and bonito back in Odawara at a place called Tagoto.

  • 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.

    Hachiman Shrine complete with Higurashi ema.


    Viewpoint where you can see the whole village.

    Ok, the shrine looks a bit creepy at night. It’s only 5:30 pm.

    Stayed in a farmhouse turned minshuku for the night complete with hearth.
    The walls are pretty thin though. I could hear people in the next room snoring… :p

  • 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.

    Future car

    One-person car, reminds me of a Segway with 4 wheels.

    Robot that can perform music on a trumpet

  • 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.

    Front of Gekku.

    Torii at the entrance to Naiku

    Akafuku mochi – an Ise specialty

  • 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.

    Visited Okunoin with its famous graves.

    And Daimon

    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

    Traveled to the Peace Park today and visited the Memorial Museum.

    Also visited Hiroshima Castle.

    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.

    Stayed overnight on Miyajima at a modern ryokan.
    Itsukushima Shrine and the floating torii are illuminated at night.
    Miyajima is also known for its momiji manjuu and oysters.

  • 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.

5 Responses to Trip Report – November 2008

  1. Kieli says:

    You give really good commentary about your travels (even if the traveling part doesn’t always agree with you). Guess the Dramamine didn’t help this time?

  2. Hazuki says:

    Shijima, your last trip report was great, but this one better. XD
    …Though this statement might be bias, because I prefer see old building and nature picture than food. :p
    Anyway, the tree looks really beautiful.
    In November, was Japan season still in autumn or it’s already in winter?

    And too bad, you got motion sickness in the first day.

  3. shijima says:

    Hehe, yah, I’m all traveled out.
    Yah, Dramamine never works for me. =)

    Thanks! Glad you liked it.
    I suppose November still counts as autumn but it was around 10 degree Celsius during the day so it was cold to me.
    I still think spring season is the best with the sakura blossoms.
    I will try to finish a trip report for last year when I went during that time.

  4. Hazuki says:

    Wow, 10 degree Celcius.
    I guess autumn in Japan was pretty cold too huh.

    Last year means 2007?
    Shijima, you have vacation abroad every year? oO

  5. shijima says:

    Yah, I went to Japan and HK in 2007. I try to take a yearly vacation to take a break. :p

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