Train or plane? Japan’s bullet train will get you there just as quickly and safety as a jet flight. For those of you who may be wondering if we are out of touch with world events; we did hear about the tragic train accident in Japan just one week prior to our trip. Why choose the bullet train, because we felt the past safety record and the present high awareness and precautions made us safer than ever. Riding the bullet train truly feels like flying low without the turbulence. There’s no long airport waiting time and you actually have legroom. What a great way to see the heart of Japan, snow capped Mount Fuji, rice fields and quaint villages.
We were told that Kyoto was the ancient capital of Japan so we expected to see historic buildings and traditional Japanese Gardens. What we didn’t expect was Kyoto Station with it’s modern lofty glass and steel atrium. Set in the center of town it’s a huge hub of transportation and commerce.
If you ever travel to Japan make sure you cough up the money to spend at least one evening in a Japanese style room. The Japanese rooms at the
Westin Miyako in Kyoto are like stepping back into Japan’s simpler past. Sitting with legs crossed while drinking Japanese tea and being surrounded by Zen-like Gardens set the mood for the occasion. Each evening it is tradition to bath and dress in a robe then have dinner. . In our own way we tried to experience the Japanese bath. The true tradition would be to shower and enter a communal soaking tub. THERE'S ONLY SO MUCH CULTURE SHOCK A PERSON SHOULD ATTEMPT. Thank goodness our rooms had private deep, wooden tubs and each of us took our turns to “soak” in the Japanese ritual. Each evening our rooms were arranged with mats and futons. Sleeping on the floor can actually be comfortable. Who knew?
The real culture shock is the Japanese toilet. Two options; hole in the floor or super modern gadgets. It just isn’t normal for an American to see flashing lights, buttons and commuter controls on a toilet. Our advice is to make sure you know what a button does BEFORE you push it. A person could be spoiled by such gadgets and get use to features like electronically warmed seating. The girls decided they want Japanese
bathrooms when they return home! Enough said!
Timing is everything and we fortunately were in Kyoto during the Aoi-Matsuri Festival. Aoi means hollyhock, the flower used to decorate the carriages. The processional begins at the Kyoto Imperial Palace and ends at the Shimogamo Shrine. The solemn and graceful parade involves 500 people in elegant costumes. There are 40 horses and cows some pulling beautifully decorated carriages. The Festival has been taking place since the 6th century.
We took an English speaking, guided day trip to Nara, the first Japanese capital. We saw the Todai-ji Temple built in the year 743 ad. It is one of the world’s largest wooden structures. The temple enshrines Japan’s largest bronze Buddha, 49 feet tall. You might expect this to be a quite place but that was not the case. Instead when we arrived the grounds were teeming with thousands of school children. Our guide told us that in Japan students study the history of these places and are then required to visit the historical sites. The temple is surrounded by a deer park. We bought wafer shaped deer treats to feed them. They had been trained to bow their heads to receive
the treats. Janna loved it.
On our way back to Tokyo from Kyoto we stopped at Nagoya to attend the World Expo. The area for the fair is huge. The crowds were huge-r! Again, there were large groups of school children. We didn’t see as many of the venues has we would have liked, however, the displays we saw were extraordinary. Being at the World Expo was fascinating in itself, it’s almost like an historical event. The buildings, people, food, transport and logistics boggle the mind.
After all this history and culture we had to break down and see….Tokyo Disney Sea . It’s our new favorite Disney Park. It’s absolutely beautiful and the rides are the highest tech yet, just what you would expect in Japan. Maybe we should call this the World Disney Tour. You should all be aware that all the Disney visits are due to Allana and Janna’s powers of persuasion. If you believe that we have some land for sale in Florida! (swamp land)
Japan is a land awash with astonishing examples of old and new. Streets that share thousand year old temples with ultra-modern structures. Bullet trains whizzing by as simple
Very useful for ordering food when you are non-Japanese speaking.
bicycles leisurely trudge along. Kimono clad women in wooden slippers gliding past teenage girls in (the latest craze) gothic dress. High tech toilet technology and squatty potties. Ancient Temples, crowded with school children and Tokyo Disney Sea, not crowded at all. These contrasts come together to put Japan high on our list of favorite destinations so far...
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