Once again our children (this time our younger daughter and her husband) have taught us a thing or two.
Although we have traveled much of our lives, we had never included Japan in those travels. My reasoning/excuse was a prejudice that it would be hard to get ‘inside’ the country (the way we have in India), and we would just be “visitors” there.
Well, I, should have known better. Almost without realizing it, we have been drawn to Japanese art and artisans. Two rooms in our house are furnished with the wonderful Japanese-American furniture of George Nakashima, and in our kitchen, our cupboards are filled with pottery, including our everyday dinnerware, made by another Japanese-American artisan (Ikuzi Teraki of Romulus Craft) who is located in Vermont. We also have two small Asian gardens, one outside of the kitchen and one outside of our sun room. And I just learned that my mother particularly loved Kyoto, something I may have vaguely known but clearly had forgotten.
Anyway, a while ago we suggested to our daughter Elizabeth/Beth and son-in-law Brandt that we take a trip together to a place of their choosing. They almost immediately chose Japan.
Promises have a way of coming due, and so we have just spent two weeks in Tokyo, Nikko, Hakone, Lake Ashi, Takayma, Kanazawa, Hiroshima, Kyoto, and Nara.
As soon as Ellen sorts through her 3,061 photos, I’ll post a dozen or so and also a link to a slide show for those of you who want to see Japan ‘Through Ellen’s Lens.’ I’ll also have a couple of other posts about some specific parts of our very good trip — probably one on attending a Japanese baseball game, something about the food we consumed (possibly written by Brandt), and no doubt some more details about particular aspects of an incredibly busy two weeks.
Often we try to summarize some key highlights from a trip on the way home so on our ride from Kyoto to Osaka (for our return flight) the four of us came up with questions and then answered them. Here you go:
The site most likely to remember:
Elizabeth (ET): Tsukijiki fish auction/market in Tokyo and the Bamboo Forest (Arashiyama Bamboo Grove) in Kyoto
Brandt (BT): Bamboo Forest and the Honkawa Elementary School in Hiroshima
Ellen (EM): The Golden Pavilion (Kinkakuji) in Kyoto and Mt. Fuji
Richard (RM): The three Ryokans (traditional Japanese inns) — Gora Kadan in Hankone; Wanosato in Takayama; Sekitei in Hiroshima — and strolling through the gardens (Kenrokuen in Kanazawa and Ryoanji Temple/Zen Garden and Tofukuji Temple/HoJo Garden, both in Kyoto)
ET: The full day Tokyo tour when I walked 24,193 steps
BT: The first day (starting at 3:30 am going to the fish market and ending that night at the Tokyo Dome for a baseball game)
RM: Kenrokuen Garden, Kanazawa
Favorite Japanese Experience(s):
ET: Bullet trains and the baseball game
BT: Eating skewers of Yakitori at Tokyo’s Memory Lane (‘Piss Alley’)
EM: Soaking in the Ryokan baths and enjoying the “advanced” Japanese toilets
RM: Baseball game and losing and getting back my iPad three days later
Something you could have skipped:
ET: Tamozawa Imperial Villa north of Tokyo
Brandt: Tea ceremony in Kyoto
EM: Sake factory in Kyoto
RM: Poor guide in Kyoto
Favorite Meal(s), after the superb “Bohemian” restaurant in Tokyo (Only one table in the restaurant and it was ours for three hours.)
ET: Kakinuma in Kyoto and Heiroku Sushi, our first ‘conveyor belt’ sushi lunch in Tokyo (within walking distance of the Meiji Shrine, Shibuya).
BT: Wasabi ice cream and the first ‘conveyor belt’ sushi lunch in Tokyo
EM: Hida Beef (better than Kobe beef) at Wanosato Ryokan (Takayama) and Yakitori Alley in Tokyo
RM: Burnt Miso Ramen Soup in Kyoto (Kyoto Gogyo) & Kakinuma
What surpassed your expectations:
ET: How much English was spoken
BT: Quantity of food served and eaten
RM: Total enjoyment of a country I had foolishly avoided
What didn’t meet your expectations:
ET: Kyoto style pressed sushi
BT: Some of those bland lunch time, multi-course meals.
EM: Kyoto as a city (much like other cities), although loved the gardens, temples and shrines
RM: Ditto, Ellen
One or two words describing for Tokyo:
BT: Awesome (would return)
EM: Rivers of People
What would you go back for:
ET: Fish pedicure
BT: Cow farm (feeding them beer) and a fishing expedition
EM: More exploration of local artisans, e.g. potters, contemporary crafts
RM: More gardens
First food you want when you return home:
RM: Chinese food
Wished hadn’t packed:
ET: Hair dryer
EM: Rain ponchos
RM: long sleeve shirts
Role taken and/or assigned to each of us:
ET: Step counter (personal total of 176,533 steps (79.2 miles) over the two weeks, which includes some days largely spent on subways, trains and in cars
BT: Navigator (just like Hertz has its “Never Lost” system, we had Brandt to get us wherever we needed to go); taste tester
EM: Photographer (3,061 photos)
RM: Court Jester (provided “entertainment” for the other three with his ‘mishap’ in the Philippines, cracking his iPhone, losing and regaining his iPad, getting shut in an elevator, etc.) and keeper of the tickets and vouchers
Clearly a trip to remember, and one we wouldn’t have done if the ‘children’ hadn’t suggested it. More to come.