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golden temple

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.

four of us

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)

Best Day:

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)

EM: Hiroshima

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

EM: Gardens

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:

ET: Cosmopolitan

BT: Awesome (would return)

EM: Rivers of People

RM: Quiet

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:

ET: Pizza

BT: Burrito

EM: Nothing

RM: Chinese food

Wished hadn’t packed:

ET: Hair dryer

BT: Umbrella

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.