Japan

Tokyo 1wrongturn

Hanayashiki Amusement Park

No trip is complete without a visit to the local amusement park – at least for my husband and daughter.  They go off and get turn upside-down, dropped from heights, eat sweets, and experience the other side of town while I do something “boring” like go to a historic house museum or temple garden.  Tokyo was no different except for the fact that the amusement park was like something out of Spirited Away.   Hanayashiki amusement park, originally opened as a flower park, has a history of more than 150 years. Located just a few steps from Sensoji Temple in the Asakusa district, the miniature amusement park offers a small Ferris wheel, roller coaster, carousel, a ride that is powered by you pedaling, Space Shot and great crepes.

Popularity: 20% [?]

Japan Primer

Japan offers a mixed bag of experiences that range from historic to ultra modern, traditional to kitsch, super quiet to uber chaotic.

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Japan: Eating

Many years ago, my family had a wonderful Japanese food experience right in our own home.  We had a guest in from Japan and we invited her over for dinner, with a strange request – we wanted her to help us prepare dinner.  What she prepared was a huge departure from anything that we had eaten in our local sushi restaurants!  Until that moment, my knowledge of Japanese food consisted of sushi, tempura, noodles, and teriyaki.  What she presented to us were many small dishes consisting of vegetables, rice, and many types of tofu, including natto – a fermented soybean that is commonplace in Japan but an acquired taste for the American palate.  Not only were the tastes different, but so was the method of serving and eating.  This was a precursor to what we would experience in Japan.

Popularity: 32% [?]

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Japan: Lodging

One of the big issues that I grappled with during the planning stages was where to stay.  Do I stay in a super modern – techno hotel or a traditional, authentic ryokan.  I am usually driven by location and décor, then I will look at the price.  Within the first two parameters, there is quite a bit of choice.  When it came to the third, there was not a large disparity in price unless you go really high-end or hostel.  Narrowing down my choices was hard.  Ultimately, I ended up with a little of both: a high-tech, modern hotel in Tokyo and a hostel/minshuku in Kyoto.

Popularity: 20% [?]

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Japan: Words of greetings and good will

Although we were under no delusions that we could learn the language, we did make an effort to learn the key expressions of greetings and appreciation. In a culture where ceremony reigns supreme, these little gestures were greatly appreciated and returned with compliments and giggles. If you do nothing but learn to say “please,” “thank you” and count to five , you will be in good standing.

Popularity: 11% [?]

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Japan: Customs and etiquette

There are many customs that are very foreign to visitors. But, I encourage you to make the effort to learn about the Japanese customs and etiquette.  Don’t be put off by the length of this list.  Not only will it impress and please the Japanese, but it will bode well for the reputation of your native country.

Popularity: 26% [?]

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Japan: Traveling the rails

Japan’s four major islands are covered by an extensive, reliable and very clean network of railways. About 70% of Japan’s railway network is owned and operated by the Japan Railways (JR). The JR Group is made up of six regional passenger railway companies, which are JR Hokkaido, JR East, JR Central, JR West, JR Shikoku, and JR Kyushu. Together they operate a nationwide network of urban, regional and interregional train lines, night trains and shinkansen (high speed bullet trains).

Popularity: 13% [?]

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Tokyo: Outings

My first attempt to plan our trip to Japan started with maps. I should have known that one week would not be enough when I realized that I could not find Kyoto on the map because the map was not Japan, but simply Tokyo.  I consider myself fairly adept at reading maps and being able to “get a lay of the land” before I ever visit a place.  That was until I battled the map of Tokyo and Tokyo came out the victor.  I folded the map, waived the white flag and proclaimed, “Forget it!  We will figure out when we get there.”  

Popularity: 17% [?]

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Tokyo: Eating

Depachika – Food Lover’s Paradise

You can’t go to Tokyo without checking out a depachika, the lavish department store food basements that sell everything from dainty wagashi (traditional Japanese sweets) and bento to$500 melons and European pastries.  Depachika is a combination of  ‘depa’ (department store in short) and (‘chika’) and they are truly a food lover’s paradise.  In addition to buying wonderful meals and gifts, you can also sample your way through and end up quite full.  Some of the highlights included:

Popularity: 17% [?]

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Tokyo: Shopping

Bargain Shopper and Proud!

Say what you want but I am a Dollar store junkie.  Some of must best finds have been at Big Lots in America, the Pound Store in London, and the 100-Yen Shop in Japan.  You can find these 100 Yen shops all over but the biggest one that I visited was the Harajuku Daiso with four floors full of things you just have to have.  I bought 4 lovely little yellow ramikans that I use ALL THE TIME.

Popularity: 15% [?]

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