Vacation in Japan - March, 2017

Tokyo to Kyoto

with Points in Between



Day One, Tuesday, March 7th


All Nippon Airways preps a 777-300ER for us and 250 new friends


Elsa checks for availability of an in-flight ice-pack for her shoulder
after TSA insisted a doctor's request was needed to take hers on the plane
I took her gel-packs back to check-in and they traveled as luggage
Thanks, ANA !


Time since departure = 17 hours? No, only 11 hours for the whole trip
Distance traveled = 9890 miles? No, the whole trip is only 4750 nm.
Good information is hard to find... In any case, we arrived on time


The view from our hotel room in Tokyo


Day 3, Thursday - One day lost crossing the dateline


View from the top floor dining room at breakfast time
Yes, that's Mount Fuji on the horizon 60 miles away


Looking over the rainbow Bridge to the center of Tokyo



The breakfast view for our four days in Tokyo


Heading for the first stop of the day...
everybody got a little radio receiver so they could hear our guide, Etsuko


First stop was the Tsukiji Fish Market, the world's largest.


We don't know what they are, but there were lots of them


Fish Market


Lots of Smoked Eels


Too many varieties of fish to name


Crab bites Tuna on the Nose


Sushi Plate prices in Yen
Divide by 100 to get approximate US Dollar price
Top left Special is 4800Yen/100 = $48.00 !!


Fish heads, fish heads
Roly-poly fish heads
Fish heads, fish heads
Eat them up, yumÖ


Walking in Tokyo


Kindergarten Class going for an Outing


Origami Class
With Instructor at the whiteboard, diligent students practice proper paper folds
while bored student in the back makes paper airplanes


When the final stage of training begins, and the students are now called maiko, rather than minarai.
Maiko (literally "dance girl") are apprentice geisha. This training can last for up to 5 years.


Major Tourist Trinket shopping on the way to the Asakusa Kannon Temple in the background.


Advertising for the Owl Cafe


A Proud Bird


Training in Smartphone Use and Etiquette is Essential for a Maiko


If this is Tuesday, what Temple is this?

The Sensoji Kannon temple is dedicated to Guanyin, the Buddhist Goddess of Mercy
It is Tokyo's oldest temple, and one of its most significant.
The temple is the most widely visited spiritual site in the world with over 30 million visitors annually.



Harvey, brushing up on his photobomb technique


If the smoke blows on you, you will be cured



Hey, I was cheated... my shoulder still hurts


Good Food, found using Good Luck for one of our "Lunch on Your Own" meals


What do you mean by "My GPS isn't Working?"


Cat on a Leash?


Barrels of Sake wrapped in Straw


Offered as an honor to Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken
and a prayer for the continuous prosperity of the sake industry


The Wine Industry wanted into the picture, too


Entrance to the Meiji Shrine
Guests enter to the left or right side of the arch, never the middle


Visitor purify themselves by scooping water and rinsing their hands
then letting water flow down the handle to purify the scoop for the next visitor


Pouring water into your own hand isn't as easy as it might seem


The Meiji Shrine


Sushi dinner in the hotel... where we discover how expensive Japan really is.
In America, we get two pieces of tuna for $4.00. Here, it's one piece for $6.00


Day 4, Friday


Tokyo Tower is the first stop the next morning. It's 333 meters high in the center of Tokyo
Completed in 1958, it was Japan's tallest structure until 2012.


Notice the absence of construction cranes
The city isn't growing like other parts of the world



In spite of how closely spaced the buildings are and how many people live in Tokyo (12 million),
we were never caught in traffic on city streets or the freeways.



Walk around for a 360 degree view of Tokyo


The base of the Tokyo Tower


As close as we could get to the palace


The Imperial Palace in the center of Tokyo
The residence of Japan's Imperial Family


Start of Sushi School
Instructor on the left and Guide, Etsuko, on the right


We didn't get to keep the nice jackets


Master Sushi Chef displays his technique
Before sending us back to our tables for Sushi School


The sushi we made was actually pretty good


We each made six pieces of sushi on our own from a tray of fish and a bowl of rice


Elsa receives her diploma showing she graduated from Sushi School


Pedro is a Shushi Chef, too


Our honorable guide, Etsuko, dropping us off for two hours of shopping in the expensive Ginza District
We went to have a bowl of ice cream instead of helping the Japanese economy.


We end the day at Akihabara, the center of Tokyo's electronic sales


We got only 5 minutes of free time to explore, a major disappointment.


The pitcher of beer was really $28 dollars, not the $20 we thought


Day 5, Saturday


A real cherry tree, not the park full of hundreds that Elsa hoped to see


Our bus driver while we were in Tokyo for four days


Welcome to Woodshop 101
Pick a bag of wood pieces to glue together to make a coaster


Arrange some little wood squares and glue them together
How hard can that be?


See, this is how it's supposed to look


You don't notice the errors in placement until after the glue dries


This pirate ship will take us across Lake Ashi


Another ship going back for more tourists


to the Mount Komagatake Ropeway up to the Owakudani Valley geothermal area.


It's still winter here in Hakone


Lunch on our own, but only one restaurant around.
I had a juicy hamburger


Food always brings a sparkle to Elsa's eyes


Geothermal Museum in Hakone


The World's Biggest Stone Easter Egg
Tourists buy real eggs, turned black by cooking in the sulfur water
They are said to prolong your life by seven years


Carrying cement in cattle?


Driving to the Mt. Fuji lookout point


It was cloudy until we arrived at the lookout


The Accidental Tourists arrive at Mt. Fuji


Mt. Fuji is an active volcano 100 km (60 miles) southwest of Tokyo. Itís the countryís tallest peak, at 3,776 meters (12, 389 feet).
A pilgrimage site for centuries, itís considered one of Japanís 3 sacred mountains, and summit hikes remain a popular activity.


Hello Kitty is a very Japanese Thing


It's Not New York, but it is Cold


Tokyo, from the shopping center outside our hotel


Our hotel, the Grand Nikko


Day 6, Sunday


Leaving Tokyo... waiting for the Bullet Train with all we were allowed to bring onboard for two nights
Our big suitcases were sent ahead by other means


We're headed for Kanazawa


The nose cones open, allowing the trains to be coupled together


Tickets, Please


On the bullet train


Watching the countryside fly by at bullet speed


Not much yard for these houses


Still plenty of snow in the mountains


Fruit and Vegetables were very expensive
Two Tomatoes, $10.00, One Cantalope, $10.00


Assortment of Fruits


Elsa got ice in the market to soothe her aching shoulder


A few more cherry blossoms in the Kenroku-en Garden


One of the country's most elite gardens


R2-D2's little Brother


In Kagaosen, we find the real Japan
The main room of our Ryokan (Inn), to be our bedroom for the night
The tatami mats look like they might be a bit uncomfortable for sleeping


A full course Kaiseki Dinner awaits


Wearing our yukata, Pedro takes a little nap before dinner


Elegant is the word for it.


Does anyone know what we are eating here?


I know this one is a shrimp


Etsuko liked to be called Eko


Things are looking up...
Our futon mats were laid out for us while we were having dinner


Day 7, Monday


Breakfast at the Ryokan


Balcony overlooking the lake outside our room



Driving on the Wrong side of the road is encouraged


One of many tunnels


It looks like Switzerland with Japanese houses


The Accidental Tourists Find Snow in the Winter in Japan !
Who Knew?


There's still plenty of snow up in the mountains


I Accept the Challenge



Thatched Roof gassho-zukuri (praying hands) Farmhouses in Shirakawa-go


Takayama's Old Town



Takayama Jinya Museum of Parade Floats


The wooden floats are brought out only for major festivals


Model Villages in the Museum



Day 8, Tuesday


Street Vendor, taking a mid-morning nap, Takayama


Takayama Sanno-machi Historic District




Chicken, beef and pork is cooked over individual small ovens



Boarding in Nagoya, bound for Kyoto


Dinner just outside the hotel... reasonably priced sushi


Day 9, Wednesday


Elsita makes a grand entrance during Kimono demonstration


This Kimono thing is serious business


Harvey, known also as Samuri-san, and his band of warriors


Instant Geisha assortment gathered from many countries


Kimono School Graduation Ceremony


Map of the Ryoanji Temple


The Kinkaku-ji Temple, the Golden Pavilion, a UNESCO World Heritage Site


Praying for better weather at the Ryoanji Temple


We came a long way to see Cherry Blossoms


Very Popular Tourist Spot


Elsa got a little ice cream cone. I wanted the big vanilla one


The very popular Hello Kitty doll was calling to Elsa


Returning to the hotel during the evening rsuh hour
Traffic always moved without delays


Back at our Hotel


We wander from the hotel for dinner on our own, stopping in front of the train station


Another adventure in Fine Dining on our own


The waitresses have never seen foreigners in this place


Day 10, Thursday


A cherry tree, waiting for us to leave, so it can start to bloom


Another Purification Station


The Heian Shinto Shrine Main Gate with the Main Hall in the background


The Heian Shinto Shrine is listed as an important cultural property of Japan.


You are here. How do they know that?


The Japanese-style garden takes up about half the land area and was created over a 20-year period.


Species otherwise rare in Japan such as the Yellow pond turtle and the Japanese pond turtle live around the ponds.


The Bullet Trains are visible from our hotel elevator


The lobby waiting area was dominated by a giant lamp


Introduction to the Tea Ceremony


Have a Lock that doesn't Lock or a Key that doesn't Key?
Call this mobile locksmith driving his "Key Ambulance" in Kyoto


Lunch provided by the tour operator, Gate 1 Travel


High Style


The path leading up to the Fushimi Inari Shrine was crowded


The building in the background is the Romon Gate at the shrine's entrance


Please be Purified


Worship Regular Route


Fushimi Inari is the most important of several thousands of shrines dedicated to Inari, the Shinto god of rice.
Kitsune (Foxes) are thought to be Inari's messengers, resulting in many fox statues across the shrine grounds.


Fushimi Inari Shrine is an important Shinto shrine famous for its thousands of torii gates, which straddle a network of trails behind its main buildings.
The trails lead into the wooded forest of the sacred Mount Inari, which stands at 233 meters and belongs to the shrine grounds.


The inner shrine is reachable by a path lined with thousands of torii.


You can count on finding food vendors at busy locations.


Can you pick out the Foreigner Girl?
That's right... the short one...


A Time Traveler lost in a Pachinko Palace
When I last played Pachinko 40 years ago, the game consisted of a wood board with nails hammered in
There were a few machines in the train station, arranged to encourage you to give up pocket change on the way to the train
All you could hear then was the tinkling sound of the little metal ball cascading down the bed of nails
Now, it looks like Las Vegas with flashing LED lights and electronic sounds
The Good Ole Days are gone forever


A small Cemetery in the middle of the city



Day 11, Friday


Deer park in Nara. Over 1000 tame deer expect food from tourists


Stop biting my pants. I have food for you


One at a time, they are tame enough. When more gather, they get aggressive



We survived the deer attack


Todai-ji Temple


I hope my wish comes true


The smoke treatment hasn't started working yet


Daibutsu (Great Budda) stands over 50 feet high


Budda's Right Hand Man


Budda's Left Hand Man


Wandering a side street, looking for a lunch spot
We found one where the owner spoke no English, Spanish or German
We put our last 2000 Yen on the table and got service with the help of another patron


After lunch, we found an interesting self-serve food market


Japanese language lesson on the bus
wasure gataki furusato
A song for children, translates to "Oh, how I miss my Old Country Home."


After our Farewell Dinner, a Maiko (Geisha in training) Girl joined us


Can I become a Geisha, too?


Etsuko and Geisha at our Farewell Dinner


Our Merry Band at the end of the tour


Day 12, Saturday


Walking through the Kyoto train station, seeking lunch the next day


Model railroad, N guage, set up for kids in front of the train station


Back at the hotel in Kyoto, waiting for our 4:00 PM ride to the airport in Osaka
Today is Strawberry Day at the restaurant adjacent to the lobby
Kyoto has no airport, as too many temples would be destroyed to provide the space


Arriving at Tokyo Haneda for our mid-night flight to Los Angeles
We arrived in Los Angeles before we left Japan, thanks to crossing the date-line again


Our route with the number of nights we spent at each location


The End