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Seeking Japan suggestions/ideas

Discussion in 'Scenic, Architecture, and Travel' started by mumu, Apr 24, 2019.

  1. mumu

    mumu Mu-43 Regular

    190
    Jan 16, 2012
    We've just booked our flight to Japan for next March (yes, we plan early). Staying in Tokyo and Kyoto (or was it Osaka? Can't recall -- my wife did the booking). Suggestions for things to see and do? I like seeing the unusual stuff as well as some standard things. So far, I want to:
    - watch the Rockabilly dancers at Yoyogi Park
    - eat in tiny restaurants in narrow alleys
    - eat at one of the dessert places that was in "The Sweet Tooth Salaryman" on Netflix
    - photograph people and the streets at night

    So what else do you suggest?

    Hotel or B&B? Also, should we try a ryokan? I've thought about it but don't know if we'd feel compelled to spend a lot of time in the room to soak in the experience vs. roaming around a city. Recommendations for a hotel/b&b/ryokan?
     
  2. Certainly try a Ryokan. We stayed at Fujioto Ryokan in Tsumago for a couple of nights and it was brilliant. We at the best Japanese food there of our whole trip and had an Onsen bath. The facilities were shared, but there are other Ryokans with private facilities.

    It is difficult to recommend specific things as we have only been once and so can only say whether what we did was good or bad. A repeat traveller would probably be able to give better advice.

    Ryokan starter:
    IMG_2727.JPG
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  3. mumu

    mumu Mu-43 Regular

    190
    Jan 16, 2012
    I'd love to hear what you thought was good or bad!
     
  4. Well, forwarding your luggage is cheap and efficient. We did that for each change of location so we only took a small, wheeled overnight bag each time on the train. While we like some Japanese food, we found quite a bit of not so good Japanese food. When we gave up on Japanese food and ate French and Italian (cooked and run by Japanese people) we ate a lot better. We had a very good Spanish meal in Kyoto as well. In Kyoto we had a brilliant Italian meal in a tiny restaurant run by one Japanese man all by himself. He spoke no English but had a menu with English written next to it so you just pointed. There was also a very good French restaurant in Kyoto run by a Japanese man who had spent some time living in France.

    The Japanese people are very friendly and helpful. The rail pass is very useful - you need it to be arranged before you go (it is cheaper). We were met by someone on our first day who took us to change our voucher for the rail pass and book all the seats on the trains. The "modern" art museum in Kyoto is not that modern - most things are at least 100 years old - and was very good.

    The Kyoto Botanical gardens are excellent - if you like gardens.

    On our last afternoon we watched the sunset from Roppongi Hills tower - a relaxing way to spend a two and a half hours and get some great photos - one of which is a 40" x 30" canvas print now.

    Sticky rice on a lollipop stick is really nice.

    If you want any specifics (e.g. restaurants locations) I will see what I can find out.
     
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  5. ooheadsoo

    ooheadsoo Mu-43 Veteran

    357
    Jan 13, 2018
    A few pointers...airbnbs have gone up in price drastically where the price for a room is not necessarily less than for a business hotel. At this point, for the same dollar, you get more space at a airbnb, but more amenities at a hotel. Which you prefer is a personal choice. Another thing to note is that Japanese addresses are not easy to find for the inexperienced, because they have large city blocks with unnamed alleyways, so expect to wander for 10-20 minutes each time you are visiting a new place to stay if you go the airbnb route.
    Consider this more of a cultural experience that includes an overnight stay. Definitely recommended, and the food is typically excellent. We typically try to plan for a night's stay at the end of the trip when everyone is tired.

    Just about everything I ate in Japan was excellent, but I have a broad palate so I can't really help you there. Even convenience stores like 7/11 sell excellent food.

    For what it's worth, I believe modern art technically refers to the period around/after the turn of the 20th century. We are in the era of post-modernity.
     
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  6. mumu

    mumu Mu-43 Regular

    190
    Jan 16, 2012
    We eat Japanese food quite a bit but I am interested in that Italian place you mentioned. If you can recall the name and general location that'd be great.

    Thanks for that tip! I'll add it to my Japan document.

    Have you posted the image here? I'd like to see it. Also, at that tower, do you photograph through glass or is there an outdoor area where you can shoot unobstructed?

    I will keep my eyes open for that.
     
  7. mumu

    mumu Mu-43 Regular

    190
    Jan 16, 2012
    That's a good idea. Although I wonder if doing a Ryokan earlier would be more beneficial in that it'd immerse us into the culture sooner?

    Yes, I'm very much looking forward to sampling the food at the 7/11's there.
     
  8. ooheadsoo

    ooheadsoo Mu-43 Veteran

    357
    Jan 13, 2018
    That sounds fine. For us, we're reasonably frugal and consider the ryokan stay as one of the splurges, and therefore nicer at the end to cap off the journey.
    All the other convenience store chains have good food as well, no need to feel too let down if the ones closest to you are not 7/11s.

    For Mori tower in Roppongi Hills, there is an observation floor w/ museum for a set fee, and there is an extra fee to go to the roof. I hear they are strict about carrying anything up there other than what can fit in a jacket due to the high winds, so proper tripods are out, as well as bags. I didn't go to the roof, but I read they have an actual security check to make sure you don't carry anything that might be swept away by the wind. I have seen shots which must have been taken with gorillapod style accessories that slipped through the security cracks, though. The roof deck's hours are also subject to reasonably fair weather.

    I only went to the observation floor and did not opt to go to the roof, so the above is only based on my research. Someone please correct me if they know differently.
     
  9. I have tried to find it, and even found the receipt. Unfortunately the receipt for the meal is generic with no address! It was on the hotel's recommended restaurants - we stayed at The Noku, 205-1 Okura-Cho. This is the restaurant outside - we walked past it first time as there were no signs in English.

    IMG_2797lum.jpg
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    There seemed to be lots of tiny restaurants that looked like little more than someone's front room!

    The French restaurant which was good is Le Bouchon Le Bouchon, Kyoto - City Centre - Restaurant Reviews, Photos & Reservations - TripAdvisor

    The museum was closed when we went so it was expensive because you still had to pay full price. It was through glass so the photos before sunset were better.
    E4054153lum.jpg
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  10. mumu

    mumu Mu-43 Regular

    190
    Jan 16, 2012
    Thanks (to both of you) for the restaurant and viewing information. A photo from that vantage point would be great for the wall!
     
  11. masayoshi

    masayoshi Mu-43 Top Veteran Subscribing Member

    804
    Dec 5, 2016
    Salt Lake City
    Masaaki
    I lived in Kyoto area for more than 10 years and my wife is from Shiga prefecture (next to Kyoto).
    Drop PM if you have questions.
     
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  12. ooheadsoo

    ooheadsoo Mu-43 Veteran

    357
    Jan 13, 2018
    One more note about airbnb. If you want to make reservations, say at a fancy kaiseki restaurant etc, many places will only reserve with a Japanese speaker, for the Japanese speaker to vouch for you. Hotels can usually do this for you. With airbnb, you'll have to ask your host if they're willing to vouch for you. Not making it to your reservation is a bit of a no-no. I once had a host who refused in fear of being blacklisted if I did not keep my reservation. I don't know how likely you are to run into a host like that, but it's a possibility.
     
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  13. mumu

    mumu Mu-43 Regular

    190
    Jan 16, 2012
    We are very unlikely to want to make reservations, anyways, but culturally I find it very interesting. Thanks for that tip.
     
  14. ooheadsoo

    ooheadsoo Mu-43 Veteran

    357
    Jan 13, 2018
    If you're not traveling with kids, enjoying a 2-3 hr kaiseki meal can be a good experience. If you choose to do that, you may want/have to make a reservation. Other opportunities may also require reservations. For example, my wife wanted to take a free dessert crafting class sponsored by the city (Kanazawa in this case), which required reservation due to limited space/supplies.
     
  15. Holoholo55

    Holoholo55 Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Aug 13, 2014
    Honolulu, HI
    Walter
    We traveled on our own in Japan for a week in 2013. We made hotel/ryokan reservations online, and tried to site them close to a rail station. We bought JR rail passes before we left (they're only for visitors and have to be bought outside of Japan), and we made good use of them as we went from Tokyo to Kyoto to Hiroshima to Fukuoka/Hakata. Being able to use them on the Shinkansen is a big saver. Railpass not much of a bargain if you're only taking intra-city rail. Cheaper to pay those fares in cash or Suica-type card. Japan's public transportation system is fantastic.

    We stayed at Touganeya Hotel near Ueno station in Tokyo for three nights and enjoyed it because of the very close proximity to the station. Lots of stuff to see and eat right around the station (Ameyoko, Ueno Park). We went to Ghibli Museum and Tokyo DisneySea (with our son), plus walking around the area. Two full days in Tokyo wasn't enough. Wanted to visit Tsukiji but never made it. Took Shinkansen to Kyoto and stayed at Sakara Kyoto. That was great, and it was on a little alley where there were shops we bought food and other things from. Walked, took the bus, or cab from there. Lots of temples nearby and the big shopping streets in Kyoto near Nishiki Market were within walking distance. Took rail to Hiroshima, ferry to Miyajima and stayed one night in a minshuku (Nakaya B&B) on the island. Our only tatami room place and it was really comfortable. We'll stay in more tatami places next time. Ate okonomiyaki at a place near the rail station. They made it right in front of us. Yum. Then stayed in a luxury hotel (Granvia) at Hiroshima station the next night. Then went to Fukuoka for just the day until we boarded a flight to Okinawa.

    Took ofuro baths every chance we could. The hotel in Okinawa had an ofuro and we used it almost every night. Such luxury.

    We traveled light - just one roller carry-on and a backpack, since we spent so much time on public transit. We could have forwarded luggage like we saw a lot of people do (Kuroneko - YAMATO TRANSPORT), but we preferred to travel light. The Japanese seem to like big suitcases, but they obviously took much care to be stylish. We weren't so much. :)  I learned one thing, taking a carry-on + backpack + camera bag was a mistake. Too many things to juggle and was a pain on a crowded train. After that, I traveled only with the carry-on and a travel backpack to hold both camera and other travel essentials. Two bag max. We brought clothes we could wash and dry and planned our hotels so there were laundry facilities when we needed to wash. Even brought some line and clips so we could hang stuff up. We got a lot of rain, so weather-sealed camera and fast-drying synthetic fibers were essential.
     
    Last edited: Apr 25, 2019
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  16. masayoshi

    masayoshi Mu-43 Top Veteran Subscribing Member

    804
    Dec 5, 2016
    Salt Lake City
    Masaaki
    Since you're going to Kyoto, and wanted to experience Kaiseki, the best well known restaurant is Kiccho in Arashiyama. Just in general, Kaiseki is really expensive and even 'regular' Japanese don't experience very often. Kiccho's dinner probably start around $300 a person up to $600-$700 a person full course 'Chef's daily custom'. If you want to experience, there are many other 'reasonable' Kaiseki restaurant, probably lunch around $50, and dinner $150 or so. Yes, it is still expensive, but this is what it is (Japanese traditional style full course, equivalent to French full course).

    Me? I'm going Ramen and Yakiniku (Japanese BBQ) and Kaiten Sushi, and fill everybody's stomach in less than $100 (Family of 4).:2thumbs:
     
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  17. dirtdevil

    dirtdevil Mu-43 Top Veteran

    770
    Apr 9, 2017
    "Too many things to juggle and was a pain on a crowded train. After that, I traveled only with the carry-on and a travel backpack to hold both camera and other travel essentials. Two bag max. We brought clothes we could wash and dry and planned our hotels so there were laundry facilities when we needed to wash."

    Since 2013 I've only been travelling with a carry on that can also act as a backpack with its hidden straps. Best decision ever...like most people I used to have the tendency to bring way too much stuff and clothes that I would not even wear. And I always have those small Tide detergeant pouches so that you can wash your clothes in the sink if I run out of clean clothes after 1 week.
     
  18. mumu

    mumu Mu-43 Regular

    190
    Jan 16, 2012
    Actually, I don't have a particular desire to try Kaiseki. I was only considering a ryokan for the experience of being in one. But I typically don't spend much on food, I'm more of a cheap eater and would be happy to eat a ramen stalls and 7-11s. Whenever I travel, I like to search out the cheap places that locals eat at.
     
  19. Holoholo55

    Holoholo55 Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Aug 13, 2014
    Honolulu, HI
    Walter
    We had many meals in those ramen/udon/tempura shops that seemed like the equivalent of a US fast food joint. There was one across from the Ueno station that became our default breakfast place before we headed out. Obviously a place for busy people to grab a fast meal, but we enjoyed them. Conbinis had surprisingly good food too. One can eat quite reasonably if you see what the locals do. :) 
     
  20. masayoshi

    masayoshi Mu-43 Top Veteran Subscribing Member

    804
    Dec 5, 2016
    Salt Lake City
    Masaaki
    I can live for a month just eating onigiri and bento from convini. Desert like icecream and pudding are also amazing.:2thumbs:
     
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