Two Unplanned Trips to Japan.
by David Maclennan
interest in Japan only started in 1990 when we hosted an AFS Exchange student
from that country. We have made several
trips to Japan since then, and the saga continues.
our previous four and a half week trip to Japan in 2007 we had eventually
decided that we would return in 2011.
The basic planning for this trip was well and truly underway when Ann,
who is a beauty therapist, came home one day and said that one of her clients
had mentioned that there were some cheap airfares being offered to New
Zealand. So, it was onto the internet
site of our favourite airline and a return fare was being offered, not to New
Zealand but to Tokyo for AUD238.00 which was unbelievable. It came to a bit more than that by the time
you added taxes in but, nevertheless, it was still very cheap so we decided to
book it and spend a couple of weeks in Japan later that year in October
2009. Trip number one. Sorry New Zealand!
two weeks after we had booked and paid for the fares Asuka, our AFS “daughter”,
emailed us to tell us that she was getting married in March 2010. We had no option, we just had to go. Trip number two.
|Hagi street after thunder
We had decided to make the 2009 trip a very rushed one, trying to see as
many friends as possible in the short time we had.
Consequently, it was “hello” one day and “goodbye” the next. However, we did manage to see a couple of new
places - Yamaguchi and Hagi - if only for a few hours. And guess what, it rained while we were in
Hagi which curtailed our trip up to the area of the castle ruins. Mind you, we did meet a very nice lady while
sheltering in her carport from the rain.
When the rain stopped, we set off once again only to be met by the same
lady several minutes later on her bicycle with two umbrellas for us. How very kind and thoughtful. The same sort of thing happened to me a few
trips back in Arashiyama when, after I had asked a lady how to get to the Post
Office, she did not know but came back a few minutes later to show me.
People here, in Australia, frequently ask us why we go to Japan so often. It was summed up in an article in the Flight
magazine on the way back this time. The travel writer said there were a number of reasons why she liked and
wrote about a particular place and we feel that for us the reasons we keep
returning to Japan were all embodied in her article.
They were, as far as we can remember, as follows.
1. The People.
We have found that people in Japan are so friendly and helpful. Besides those examples above another from the
latest trip springs to mind. We had to
change trains at Tenjin station in Kyushu.
We had never been there before so I went off to ask a Ticket Collector
where to go. I had left Ann looking
after the cases while I did so. The
Ticket Collector left his post to direct me which way to go. In the meantime, a gentleman asked Ann what
she was doing and when I returned he escorted us, carrying Ann’s case, not only
to the platform but also talked me through the process of getting tickets from
the machine. This is just one example
from scores of others.
2. The Food.
For me food is very important.
The taste, the presentation and the service. Food does not have to be very expensive to
fulfill all of the above. Obviously, the
quality is better the more that you pay.
But for us, some of the best meals are ones we have had at station
restaurants. In Kanazawa two examples
are outstanding. Late afternoon - coffee
(freshly ground and made), fresh sandwiches and a dessert all for ¥500
each. Evening - an okonomiyaki (the best we have tasted in Japan) and beer all
for ¥1500 each. Needless to say, the meals at Yoyokaku are superb.
3. The Accommodation. People say “Isn’t it very expensive in
Japan?” and we tell them that you can find cheap accommodation anywhere, because
all you need is a bed to sleep in each night.
You can find an adequate ryokan providing dinner, bed and breakfast for
as little as ¥7000 each for the night.
But again, you get what you pay for.
Japan is one of the few places in the world (and we have visited over 18
different countries) where we feel truly safe at all times.
5. The Culture.
Because the culture of Japan is so different from what we are used to,
we find it so interesting. Not only
that, there is so much to learn and see.
6. The Scenery.
The scenery differs wherever you are in Japan and from season to
season. The plum and cherry blossoms in
spring, the beautiful autumn colours and the snow in winter. Kenrokuen in Kanazawa epitomizes all of this.
It is so easy to get from place to place either on the shinkansen, local
trains or by bus.
that has taken us off on a tangent, so back to the tale and this year’s trip
and the highlights in chronological order.
Our first port of call was Kansai airport where we returned some luggage
to another AFS student, who was with our grand-daughter for last year,
and we met with her parents who were very nice people indeed and arranged
to meet in Kyoto before we returned home.
|After dinner at Yoyokaku
with Korean Honeymooners Kim and Son
was off to Karatsu. At Yoyokaku, we met
a Korean couple who were on their honeymoon.
Den-san took the four of us around for the day to show us some of the
sights. A great day was enjoyed by all,
and even if the weather was not the best the hospitality was wonderful, as
always. We finished off the day with a
sumptuous meal of “shabu-shabu”. An
excellent start to the trip.
Karatsu, we went to Yanagawa - the Venice of Japan. We stayed at Hakuryuso ryokan which proved
interesting in that the only person who spoke English was a Russian maid.
|Gondolier in Yanagawa
We had a pleasant stay and went on a “gondola” on the canals, at one stage
being serenaded by the boatman. Yanagawa was decked out for Girl’s Day with
dolls and mobiles galore. They were on
the streets, in shops and on the banks of the canals. It was a very colourful two days. Then it was off to Tokyo to meet up with some
friends before the wedding.
The wedding was very different to the one we attended in 2007 which was
a traditional Shinto wedding.
This one was
carried out in a western Chapel with an American minister. Nevertheless, it was an excellent afternoon
and evening. We would not have missed it
for the world.
arrived in Kanazawa the day after the wedding and in the evening it started to
snow. It snowed for the next 24 hours
but only lightly and it was most enjoyable walking around in the ten
centimetres of snow as we very seldom see snow at home.
we arrived back in Kyoto, a place where there is so much to see and do. We have spent over three weeks in total in
Kyoto over the years and there is still so much more that we want to see. The Yamada’s were there to take us out for
our final day. And what a day it was,
visiting a couple of temples and shrines that we had not visited before. Walking through the back streets under the
plum blossom before being taken out to lunch.
Two and a half hours and nineteen courses later we went for another walk
before heading back to Kyoto Station and saying goodbye until next year. We did not need to go out for dinner and I
think it was the first time that I have not been able to finish my breakfast
the next morning. What a lunch!!! What a way to finish the trip.
on September 2011.