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Japan Trip
Old 05-24-2009, 07:22 AM   #1
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Japan Trip

My partner had a business trip to Japan and I went along - an "early" retirement vacation (just 5 more weeks to go). We spent 2 weeks exploring Tokyo, Kyoto, Takayama and area. We had a Japan Rail pass for the first week - Japan has a great rail system. Partner had to work most of the second week. But his clients were very hospitable - taking us out to local restaurants in the evening and sightseeing on the weekend. We even got to experience karaoke - Japanese style.

Incredible country. Incredible people.

A few pix:

1. Mount Fuji
2. Shinto Wedding at Meiji Shrine in Tokyo
3. Garden at Nijo Castle, Kyoto
4. Kyoto Station
5. Temple, Kyoto

Rob
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Old 05-24-2009, 08:27 AM   #2
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OK, give me a budget for a couple for a two week trip. 3* hotels, moderate places to eat, use of public transportation.

I understand that it's pretty $$$$$$$$!
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Old 05-24-2009, 08:31 AM   #3
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Fuji-san was out! Lucky you

Both times I was there it was partly cloudy - still very neat, floating in the clouds.

Kyoto Station is cool! Way-cool, to borrow from my nieces. Did you go up to the little park on the top?

wanna go, wanna go, :::whine:::

ta,
mew
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Old 05-24-2009, 08:34 AM   #4
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How did you handle the language and reading the signs?
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Old 05-24-2009, 01:38 PM   #5
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OK, give me a budget for a couple for a two week trip. 3* hotels, moderate places to eat, use of public transportation.

I understand that it's pretty $$$$$$$$!
Japan was not all that expensive. We stayed in 3.5 - 4 star hotels in both Tokyo and Kyoto booked through Expedia. Averaged $200 CDN per night. You could shop around on the Internet and find adequate accommodation for less. We purchased the Japan Rail 1-week Green passes (which is First Class, reserved seating) for about $450 CDN per pass. You could go with Coach seating (which was almost the same as First Class, just more crowded) for about $375 CDN. Because of the rail pass, we only needed occasional subway and bus transportation in Kyoto and Tokyo. That was inexpensive - Kyoto 3-day subway and bus pass was about $20. Taxis are outrageously expensive (at least in Tokyo) and we didn't use them.

Meals were not much more than metropolitan Toronto. A decent Japanese lunch including soup, main dish and beverage ran about $1200 - $1800 Yen (roughly $15 - $22 CDN). We often ate for less - a decent Bento box lunch (take out) could be had for 800 - 900 Yen. Dinner ran between $20 - $30 CDN. Kirin and Asahi beer was about 240 Yen in the hotel vending machines. About 400 - 550 Yen in a restaurant. Didn't order wine or sake in a restaurant, but noticed they seemed pricey.

Interesting point - many smaller restaurants and shops don't take credit cards. So you need to travel with lots of cash (Yen).

Can't give you a total budget, though because much of the second week was taken care of by my partner's clients.

Rob
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Old 05-24-2009, 01:44 PM   #6
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Fuji-san was out! Lucky you

Both times I was there it was partly cloudy - still very neat, floating in the clouds.

Kyoto Station is cool! Way-cool, to borrow from my nieces. Did you go up to the little park on the top?

wanna go, wanna go, :::whine:::

ta,
mew
Yes, we were very lucky with weather - only one day of cold and rain - the rest was low to mid 20's (70'sF). It was a clear view of Fuji in the morning from Hakone National Park but it was hazy by the afternoon with the humidity.

Yes we did get to the park at the top of Kyoto station. They were setting up for a concert in the amphitheatre 3/4 of the way up. But we didn't stick around - we had other places planned to sightsee that day.

Rob
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Old 05-24-2009, 01:56 PM   #7
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How did you handle the language and reading the signs?
We were pretty apprehensive about the language thing because we had about 10 words of Japanese between us going over. And of course, the written language was totally incomprehensible to us.

But, other than a few hilarious moments trying to order food in restaurants, we had no difficulty at all. The subway and bus signs and announcements in Tokyo and Kyoto are in both Japanese and English. Major street signs in both Tokyo and Kyoto are in both languages also. The Japan Rail system is completely bilingual for signs and announcements.

We even managed to read a couple of signs in Japanese in one town after a very helpful tourist information guide wrote them out for us to help us find a shop we were looking for.

And the Japanese are very friendly. One day in Kyoto we were standing at a bus stop trying to determine which route to take, when a woman stopped and asked if she could help. She determined that the bus we needed to take only stopped at this particular stop every 45 minutes so she walked us down the street to another bus plaza where the buses stopped more frequently. She explained that she had participated in a homestay program in Calgary during her highschool years and wanted us to have good memories of our trip to Japan!

Rob
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Old 05-24-2009, 02:50 PM   #8
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Very cool! Japan is one of the countries I'd like to visit in the next few years. Hubby was talking about maybe quitting our jobs for a year to teach English there. I don't know if that's a little extreme. But it's certainly one of the countries we'd like to visit -- maybe teach English when we are semi-FIREd.
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Old 05-24-2009, 03:38 PM   #9
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Great photos, Rob!

Japan's economy has been in recession for years. Perhaps that's why it didn't eem so expensive. When in Tokyo in 2000, I remember seeing the very neat shacks of homeless people on the banks of the Tokyo river, all covered in blue tarp. Are they still there?

Did you get to visit anyone's home? I didn't, but friends did visit a family, and they said it was a really tiny, but exquisitely neat, apartment of about 500 sq. feet.
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Old 05-24-2009, 03:48 PM   #10
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Taxis are outrageously expensive (at least in Tokyo) and we didn't use them.



Rob
Info for others planning a trip:

Everyone told me this, but I took an early morning taxi from my Tokyo hotel to Shinjuku Station because I didn't want to haul stuff on the trains. It was about US$15.00, which I thought was reasonable given the rate of exchange and the convenience. I told the driver what train I was taking, and he took me to the closest entrance. (Shinjuku Station is HUGE, so that was a big deal )

I had very little time in Kyoto the last time I went, and also took a few reasonable cabs to a few temples to save time.

Touristing around, I wouldn't want to pay for sitting in traffic, just to get somewhere the trains would take me to. And DON'T pay for a cab in from Narita Airport unless you are one of the landed gentry!

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Old 05-24-2009, 06:52 PM   #11
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Rob, you got here at the best time of year for seeing the sights. Congrats on that.

GoodSense - if you are thinking about teaching English here, make sure you get hooked up with a good school before you come, and wait until the economy gets better. Schools are closing because companies can't afford to send their employees, and with salary cuts, lay-offs, etc, individuals can't afford to pay their own way either. We have an English teacher (several actually) that we have hired for in-house language training, but they will go when their contracts expire...can't afford them anymore.

And yes, taxis are expensive. The only place I know of in the world that they are much more expensive than here is in Switzerland, where a 5 minute ride from the airport to a nearby hotel can run up to $40. The 10-15 minute 3-4km ride from Tokyo station to my office is only about $20 by comparison.

Anyone considering travel to Japan should avoid June to mid July, due to the rain. It is almost a constant drizzle from mid June to mid July. Mid July thur mid September is hot and humid. The cherry blossoms are out in force everywhere in Tokyo in the first week of April. And mid April to mid/late May is probably about the best weather for sightseeing (not too cold, not too hot, lots of sunny days).

R
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Old 05-24-2009, 07:19 PM   #12
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Ahhhh....cherry blossoms....
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Old 05-24-2009, 08:35 PM   #13
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Great photos, Rob!

Japan's economy has been in recession for years. Perhaps that's why it didn't eem so expensive. When in Tokyo in 2000, I remember seeing the very neat shacks of homeless people on the banks of the Tokyo river, all covered in blue tarp. Are they still there?

Did you get to visit anyone's home? I didn't, but friends did visit a family, and they said it was a really tiny, but exquisitely neat, apartment of about 500 sq. feet.
Meadbh:

We weren't in the area of Tokyo where the homeless live, but I understand they are still there on the riverbank.

My partner kept hoping we would get invited to someone's home but all the entertaining was in restaurants and bars. Maybe next visit.

We did spend the evening with a Canadian friend who is teaching at a women's university in Tokyo. He described the apartments as you did - tiny by our standards but well laid out.

Rob
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Old 05-26-2009, 02:07 AM   #14
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Beautiful photos, robcanuck. Congratulations for a succesful trip through Japan. You visited great places in a great weather. There are some negatives as mentioned here, of course, but what is amazing here is safety and cleanness, the latter as long as you don't check the back of those small restaurants.
As to the cost of living it really depends on the exchange rate. My first trip to Japan the rate was 280 JPY/US$. Now that I live here, JPY 95/US$...I feel everything darn expensive...my wife splurged in shopping when we went to Southbend, IN last week...
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Old 05-26-2009, 01:04 PM   #15
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October and early November are nice too (as well as April and May).
JPN is really strong (or is it the USD that is so weak) for the last year and a half, so everything will cost us a little more (20% more or so) now than 2 years ago....

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Old 05-26-2009, 01:11 PM   #16
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Ahhhh....cherry blossoms....
waxing nostalgic, bbbamI?
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