Japan 2016

So..we have had several little trips to visit eachother..but this was our first international trip..and I think we caught the travel bug from it. Actually, I think we both had it before but now we share a strain! HAH! This trip was inspired by my son who was taking Japanese lessons, how cool would it be to see Japan and actually use some of what he learned? I like off the beaten path excursions..but I also want to see the “Must-See”s. So I tried to get a little of both in this trip. We had a week and a half.  We both flew into Tokyo and met at the airport, and so it begins… P.S.  (tips):
  • Get a JapanRail pass before you head off to Japan (the green car is nice). You can literally get EVERYWHERE on the train..and it is amazing, on time, easy, and there’s almost always an office with someone who speaks english to help you book where you want to go in the most timely manner. (you have to make a reservation for the green car because they reserve your seat but we never had a problem with availability on any of our rides). There’s also an app for your phone.  If you’re military affiliated, you can get a pass from ITT for a discount.(https://www.japan-rail-pass.com/?currency-code=USD&ap=b6021as&gclid=CJ6j6Jub1tMCFclKDQod6DANWQ)
  • Portable Wi-fi are a wonderful thing I’ve discovered for ANY trip. Keep in touch without outrageous phone bills and allows you to google map. We ordered ours from econnectjapan.com
  • My dad warned me of this one..and I should have listened more closely. You need LOTS of cash.. Especially if you plan to take a Taxi anywhere. So yea.. we thought ok lots of cash.. $300 each and we should be good. Nope, we hit the ATM about 4 more times.
  • Speaking of ATMs..You can get local currency from the ATM at the airport, but beyond that it’s pretty difficult to find an ATM that takes an american Debit Card.  We thought that would be a lot easier and had a couple of stressful moments hunting ATMs.
Day 1:  Got to Japan and slept! Day 2: Hopped on the train and rode out to the 5 lakes region. We were hoping to see Mt. Fuji. We stayed at a hotel at Lake Kawaguchico and took the day to wander and explore. We actually stumbled upon a Gondola that gives you a ride to the top of a mountain and is supposed to have a beautiful view of Mt. Fuji. So we hopped on that. It was called the Kachi Kachi Ropeway. However.. as you can see and I’m told is the fact 90% of the time.. It was couldy and unvisible =( What a view :

But the Gandola ride was fun and we got to try a local snack (anyone know what these are called?)

Well we didn’t get to see Mt. Fuji, but the whole 5 lakes region was neat. we wandered around the town. there was a hiking trail and the lake to explore. Also our hotel was really nice. We stayed at the Fuji Lake Hotel. It even provided us with robes and slippers and put on a show in the evening! This hotel also allowed you to book a “private” session  for the Onsen  (hot springs bath) so we didn’t have to feel weird about getting naked and showering in front of strangers.

This hotel also allowed you to book a “private” session  for the Onsen  (natural hot springs bath) so we didn’t have to feel weird about getting naked and showering in front of strangers. Above is the private bath!

We splurged on a fancy dinner this evening to try some traditional local fare:

Here was our breakfast buffet the next morning =p not your typical American fare for sure…

Day 3: Train to Matsumoto Castle. This was a bit of a train ride so it was all that was on the agenda for today. See the castle and wander around.  I think it was here a little old lady was on her bike with all her groceries in a basket. She fell over right in front of us groceries everywhere!.  We helped her get up and gather her things. I don’t know how she was riding a bike, she could barely walk!

We stayed in a more “local” type hotel this evening with an onsen. We looked around but didn’t get in tonight. Ash was able to figure out the lady was telling us our room was on ” Ni Kai” the “2nd floor.”

Day 4:      Train to Kyoto.  Here our main attraction was the Fushimi Inari-Taisha shrine.  5000 golden gates or Torii gates. This area was one of my favorite. So neat and there were shops and food stalls along the way.  Also, Kyoto has several places you can play dress up. Which of course we had to do!

Day 5: I don’t know how I found out about this, but when I saw it I figured why not!  Naruto whirlpools. Japan has an inland sea called Seto, and I guess the tides collide at certain times of the day and of course some seasons create stronger currents and harder collisions. The colliding currents create little whirlpools. How neat right!?  We needed something neat that my son would be interested in aside from just sight seeing so, I found the website, which was all in Japanese. I had to ask my son’s Japanese tudor to decipher it  for me. So, once we got the details we bought tickets. This was a pretty difficult leg of our trip. Almost no one spoke English in this area and we had to figure out storing our luggage in a bus station and getting bus tickets to the location we wanted to go with a serious language barrier!  We tried to communicate with a security officer and he kind of pointed at screens and where we needed to be.

Well we found our bus..and boy was it crowded..And THEN people started getting on after it was already full.. I had no idea where they were going to sit, were they seriously going to stand for an hour on the bus? Well..there’s these sneaky little fold out seats.  Boy you better not be claustrophobic here!

But it was worth it.. pretty neat experience. And a very nice lady on the bus who spoke a tiny bit of english helped us find our way by walking with us ALL the way to the boat ticket office.  We didn’t get great pictures, but we did see whirlpools when we went.

Here’s the link if you want to take a stab at it.. (looks like they’ve added english translation now! Wish they had that a year ago!)  https://www.uzusio.com/en/

Day 6:  Train to Osaka. This day was the only thing on my itinerary that we missed. From what I had read online, it seemed like you could buy tickets at the box office to see a Sumo Wrestling match. (We were going during a tournament so it was perfect timing). I COULD have bought them online before the trip, but I thought it’d be better to get them when were there in case anything went wrong timeline wise. Ugh, I wish I had bought them before hand. We arrived too late. I guess they had sold out in the morning. All I know is, the bouncer guy standing guard over the line of people trying to get in, kept shaking his head and waving us away.  We still caught sight of several of the sumo wrestlers as they were on break or on their way in to the tournament. A couple were even nice enough to stop and take a picture.

We wandered around Osaka instead. The Capital of Japan.  We found another cool castle and ate out at a pizza place where my son ordered us “San Mizu kudasai” or “3 water please.”

Day 7:  Back to Tokyo on the Shinkansen. This was a long train ride but what a cool train. It was also very comfy, we tended to take a lot of naps during our train rides.

We didn’t have much else planned. Our flight to Okinawa was for tomorrow afternoon. So..this evening we found a video game place for my son. Which, we discovered was for 16 and over only(which my son was not yet, and he also looks younger than he is). But, there were games like Mario Kart? I’m not sure why there was that restriction. Anyway.. I let my son play Mario Kart while my friend and I stepped into the photo booth to find out they had kicked my son out of the place! Luckily it was only a minute, but scary!

In the evening we decided to take a taxi down to take pictures of the Tokyo Tower.

Day 8: We goofed off in Tokyo a little more, found one of the cat cafe’s that everyone talks about and then caught our flight to Okinawa.

Day 9: Okinawa, what to do?  Wander around in the shopping district (Kokusai Street). Also, make clay Shisa faces. (because there is a craft store on base that does them..what a great souvenier!)

Day 10: Okinawa world. Ok, well we were running out of cash at this point. It was our last day, we didn’t want to get more out. On our way to Okinawa world, we were able to get our hotel to call us a cab that takes credit cards. No problemo!  We spent the day at Okinawa world. Easy to do, lots to see.  We watched glass blowing, snake wrangling, tried Snake Venom Sake, did craft projects, got our feet exfoliated by fishies, shopped.  When the day was over, there was a whole parking lot full of taxis. We went to one and showed them our credit cards and they said no. Soo, we went to the next taxi, and got a no.. they kept saying how much it would cost to get back to our hotel. Oh my god.. we were out of cash. Juli had a little bit left, but not as much as we needed.  She pulled out her wad of cash and showed it to one of the last drivers that told us no. (I think there were two or three putting there heads together trying to figure things out at this point). Finally one of them nodded and waved for us to get in his cab. WHEW! He took pity on us and drove us back for the cash we had. No credit cards !? Even though their cabs say they take it on the side! WHY!?  At least we made it back, we thought we might be stranded.

The End!  Our whilrwind trip. Day 11 we flew home.  These were the highlights.. We had an amazing time and saw lots of things and took tons of pictures, but you’d be bored by then if you’re not already bored. =D

Airport robort helper :

Our “sayings” for the trip :

Ash :  ” I don’t want to keep walking”

Juli: ” I have to pee”

Meli: ” Where is a US ATM?”