Japan day 23 out of 21: Groundhog Day and conclusions!


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May 28th 2019
Published: June 13th 2019
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Our tour route around Japan (Google map)Our tour route around Japan (Google map)Our tour route around Japan (Google map)

We visited Tokyo, Takayama & Shirakawa, Kyoto & Nara, Koyasan, Hiroshima & Miyajima, Okayama, Himeji, Kobe travelling by train. We went about 1500 km / 1000 miles within Japan. Note that the lines drawn do not accurately match the real train routes.
We were able to have a lie-in in the Regal Hotel at Hong Kong airport because the flight wasn’t until 16:40. However, as we hadn’t been given new e-tickets and we were so skeptical about having a seat on the plane we were determined to check in when the El Al desk opened.

Breakfast in the Regal was surreal. There was half a plane load of Israelis including the crew in the restaurant - we could have been in Tel Aviv. There wasn’t too much to do as we didn’t want to go into Hong Kong for shopping so we sat in the hotel lounge trying to concentrate on the blog.

We had a quick lunch and rushed back across to the airport. We had our seats as promised so we went through check-in, passport control and security, and went to the lounge to wait for the flight.

We got on the plane and settled down. I wanted to finish watching "The Jersey Boys." The captain came on the PA - "finishing the paper work, we will take off in half an hour." Then came the announcement that there was a technical hitch and the ground staff were
Our flights to and from JapanOur flights to and from JapanOur flights to and from Japan

To reach Japan and return home we flew from Israel TLV through Beijing PEK to Tokyo HND and back from Osaka KIX through Hong Kong HKG to Israel TLV. There was no flight between Tokyo and Osaka as we travelled around Japan on trains. We flew over 19,000 km or about 12,000 miles.
working on it. Don called out “Groundhog Day!” I was distraught - this was our fourth attempt to get home - will I ever see my home again?

I stood up and saw a riot going on at the back of the plane. This was indeed Groundhog Day for most of the passengers on this flight. Don suggested to the crew that rather than wait four hours to tell passengers that the plane wasn’t going to fly that night they should give us time to change to other flights. We were told that the captain would make an announcement shortly.

In a few more minutes the captain came on the PA and told us that we would take off as soon as we had obtained clearance. A big cheer went up! The flight home was uneventful - I watched three more films. In all I watched more films that I had seen in the past five years put together!!!!! We landed before midnight just one hour later than the plane's schedule. We arrived home about 68 hours after we had left our Kobe hotel and 44 hours later than our originally scheduled arrival time.



CONCLUSIONS

Firstly I would like to thank Backyard Travel for their organisation and administration of our tour. Don and I had worked out what we wanted to see a long time before we went and this company put together the logistics and organised the tour guides and booked our hotels and train tickets and worked out our routes. We should mention that Backyard Travel did NOT provide our flights, which we booked ourselves, so they have no responsibility for our flight delays.

What did we learn about the Japanese? That they were very polite, helpful and well organised. The children behaved amazingly well. We saw thousands of children at the various shrines, at the railway stations and going on school trips. They ranged in age from maybe 5 and 6 to late teenagers. We didn’t see any littering, hooliganism, fighting, or shouting - they were just passengers on the train. They didn’t attempt to sit down if there were adults standing and one or two of them wanted to speak to us in stilted English but their English was better than our Japanese.

We also realised that WW2 had a serious impact on the citizens. We know the stories of the harsh and sadistic nature of the Japanese army, but the carpet bombing of the allies wiped out cities and thousands (millions?) of Japanese citizens. And the destruction by the A-Bomb not only destroyed buildings but generations of Japanese who are still affected by the after-effects of the atomic bomb. Maybe it should be compulsory for all leaders of nuclear nations to go to the Peace Park museum!

We found the culture, courtesy and helpfulness of the people so amazing. We loved the fact that people don’t shake hands, they bow to each other. Women don’t have to be concerned about shaking hands with men and vice versa. Our guide Chiaki in Kobe told us that her sister works for a large organisation. The money she earns goes on buying new clothes and accessories because it is expected that you will wear something different to work every day or have a new handbag or scarf. And not just any old bag, but a bag by a Name.

The train system across Japan is terrific. Signs and announcements there (and often elsewhere) are in Japanese and English. We got around and even changed our scheduled trains with very little trouble. We did not use the busses much, except for the 'loop bus' to reach tourist attractions, but it seemed that locals were also using them. The taxis are very good, and as with everything in Japan, no tipping. There are relatively few private cars in the cities, partly because of the cost of parking as our guides remarked. A major benefit of eliminating most private vehicles is that we did not see any congested traffic.

The landscape is more hilly than we had expected. The town areas are generally flat, with the exception of Kitano in Kobe, but many shrines were built on hills with steps to climb. We could see mountains in the distance nearly all the time, some still with snow on top in May. In retrospect we realised Japan is an island nation, so the terrain makes sense.

A downside, if you keep kosher and want to do the trip on your own and not in a group - food was a bit problematic. However, if you are prepared to scavenge for food, eat lots of sushi and take a few provisions with you like pot noodles, you can survive! There are vegan restaurants and the “Happy Cow” website (despite its name it is a veggie/vegan website) has a list of restaurants here.

Finally, this was probably one of the best holidays that we have ever had and we highly recommend Japan.

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