Our Weekly Recap: 6/18/17 – 6/24/17

Hi everybody and WOO HOO, IT’S THE WEEKEND!! Here’s a quick recap of our posts this week:

Joe wrote about:

Sharon wrote about:

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#TBT: Japan April 2005: Laundry in Nagoya, Travel to Hakone, Hakone Ryokan

Laundry Day!

We woke up at 7am and packed everything except our week’s worth of dirty laundry. Went down to the front desk and got directions to the coin laundromat (this place is way too fancy-shmancy to have its own laundry facilities on site). The girl at the desk said it was about a 20 min walk and, after I valiantly (and stubbornly) tried to carry my share of the clothes we needed to wash, we decided to take a taxi. The girl in the main lobby would not let me hold my own bag, which turned out to be a good thing because the taxi driver had NO idea of what we were talking about or where this place was, even with a map. And even with the main lobby girl’s help, he still had to ask for directions as we got closer.

The washing machines in Japan are decidedly smaller than in the US and with that, along with Joe wearing clothes that are significantly larger than the average Japanese (and mine only slightly smaller), we wound up having to do 9 days’ worth of clothes in 4 loads (grin). Took about 2 hours, give or take. Prices were ¥400 (“big” washer…yeahright), ¥300 (medium) and ¥200 (small), and ¥100 per 10 minutes of gas dryer time.


“How to use the washing machine,” with cute little mermaid character to help you follow the precautions


“How to use the dryer” too.


At one point, I think the 3 of us were using every machine in the room


Proof that it’s REAL gas in the gas dryer…see the flame?

After our laundry was done, we went back to our hotel and did our final packing. Japan has a system where you can mail big packages, including luggage, to another destination. So for our next leg of the trip, which was only for 2 days, we packed our carry-on luggage and sent our “big” luggage on to Tokyo Disneyland, which was our destination for Sunday. It was less than $25 per bag and saved us the hassle of shlepping our big pieces with us (MODERN-DAY NOTE: Japan still offers luggage transportation services and let me tell you, it is WONDERFUL and SO convenient! We used Takkyubin, which is the company that Japan Rail Pass recommends. Because their logo is a mother cat holding a kitten, we started referring to it at the pussycat service).

After finally checking out, we had bell services hold our carry-ons (which still weighed a ton…Joe’s backpack was a good 35 pounds and his overnight bag was probably well over 40 pounds) while we had lunch at the hotel’s Chinese restaurant. The food was OK, although part of the meal was somewhat unidentifiable (grin).

Picked up our luggage and made our way to the train station. Spent quite a bit of time looking for postcards as well as for the place where we could make our Shinkansen reservations. Finally got that done and went on the Shinkansen for our 2-hour train ride to the Odawara station of Hakone.

We had misjudged the amount of time it would take to get to our next hotel (MODERN-DAY NOTE: Joe wrote about the issue in his post called “My Most Embarrassing Travel Mistake“), which was actually a ryokan (Japanese-style bed & breakfast) called “Hotel Taiseikan,” that also served us dinner. So we bought some bento boxes (pre-made meals in a box) in case we got there after the 6:30pm “last serving” deadline (and since I’m typing this at 6:55pm on the train from Odawara, I don’t think we’re gonna make it (wink).

Later on…

Well, it’s now 9:05pm and no, we didn’t make it anywhere near 6:30pm, but after our arrival at 7:50pm, they said they would serve us in our room at 8pm. After Joe called to let them know we would be late, they kept their ONE employee who (kinda, sorta) spoke English, so she could serve us. And what a dinner it was – I think there were 10 courses all together! 2 or 3 kinds of soup, and rice and Japanese noodles and vegetables and meats and fish and geez, I don’t remember what else. Oh yeah…cooked baby squid. I’m proud to say that I did TRY the baby squid…and hated it (wink). We specifically asked ahead of time for meals without sashimi for me…so at least I didn’t have to worry about anything raw(MODERN-DAY NOTE: my culinary tastes have broadened TREMENDOUSLY since 2005 and, short of raw horse and whale, there is very little I will not eat in Japan nowadays). Steve has gone to Morimoto in Philly (the place run by The Iron Chef) and he says a meal like that would have cost about $200 each at a restaurant. Usually they would serve us course by course, but since we had gotten there so late, they gave us everything at once. Here’s an idea of the spread they gave us:


I have no idea what I was holding in my chopsticks but, even if it was not raw, there was NO WAY I was gonna eat it.

Our “room” (more like a freakin’ condo!) is HUGE:


As you enter, there’s a 4’x11′ entry foyer where we leave our slippers (we already left our shoes near the front desk…the amazing thing was that when we’d leave our room and go to the hotel lobby, our shoes [and ONLY our shoes, no one else’s shoes] were already out, waiting for us! Anyway, you have to walk either barefoot or just in socks in the rooms…Japanese tradition, plus shoes or even slippers would ruin the delicate tatami floors)


There is a 8’x8′ entry room that we used for our luggage (sorry it’s blurry)


This is our 15’x18′ bedroom/eating room


The beds are Japanese-style futon mattresses on the floor, by the way. Not nearly as uncomfortable as you’d think. Either that or we were just too exhausted to care, by the end of the day.


This was a 6’x21′ porch that overlooked a garden and waterfall (we didn’t get to actually SEE the garden & waterfall until the next morning…but we heard the waterfall all night long. Made you have to pee. And the toilet was 20′ down the hall, in the parts of the room/condo that weren’t heated. With overnight temps in the 40’s. Oh joy.)


and a 15′ hallway that led to 2 of the 4 double closets on the right and a water closet (with a heated seat on the toilet) on the left (from this picture…I’m at the far end of the hallway…the entry foyer is the opening on the left side and 8′ x 8′ “luggage” room is directly in front of me, at the end of the hall). By the way, you see where the archways of the rooms are? Joe and (especially) Steve hit their heads on those ALL the time…..


Water closet with the weirdest toilet tank water-refill system we ever saw…the water was fed through a pipe to be OVER the tank and then poured in, like a water fountain.

Nearly all of this (except the water closet) has tatami mat flooring. The only thing we haven’t found yet is a shower

Tomorrow is Saturday and I believe we’re going to visit the Japanese-style baths. Joe found something like a Japanese-style “bath theme park,” where you can wear a bathing suit instead of the normal nude bathing. Good thing, huh?

Joe is trying to set up the computer for dial-up here in Hakone so I can get this note out. If you can read this, it worked (grin). More when I can…

Saturday morning…well, the good new is that we found our room with the tub. We just didn’t know how to use the doorknob (grin):


This hallway has closets on the right side, with extra blankets and pillows. At the end was what we thought was just a wall with wooden slats for decoration.


But nope! Turned out one of the slats was actually the “latch” to open what was not a wall, but a door that lead you into:


A modern-day sink setup. And if you walked through that tiny room, you discovered this:


A Japanese-style bath, made out of rocks! You sit on the little wooden stool, wash yourself and rinse with the bamboo buckets that are next to the tub (there are separate faucets, outside of the tub, to get the water from), and then sit and soak and contemplate in the rock tub, which is fed by the hot spring water.

The bad news is that Joe still can’t get the dialup to work, so I’m not sure when y’all will be able to read this.


Update…he got it to work! Yippee!

#TBT: Japan April 2005: World Expo in Aichi (Day 1)

The 2005 World Exposition in Aichi (just outside Nagoya) opened at 9:30am today so we woke up at 6:30am, got ready, and had a quick coffee and doughnut at the nearby Starbucks. I noticed that the Starbucks here was not as fastidious about recycling as they were in Kyoto…they only asked you to separate the paper vs plastic and had a garbage can that said, “Please dispose of your liquid here.” However, they also offered real  ceramic mugs if you were not “to go” and the employees helped you to empty your tray…though the latter might’ve been because they figured us foreigners didn’t know any better (grin).

The walk to the train station during the daylight (without luggage. Or rain.) gave us a much better idea of the part of Nagoya we were staying in. It seems to be a larger city than Kyoto, if not in size (not sure…haven’t checked a map), definitely in “new world modern,” as opposed to Kyoto’s traditionalism. Nagoya has MANY more stereotypical “Japanese businessmen,” as well as neon signs, restaurants open until 1 and 2 and 3 o’clock in the morning, etc. A definite change of pace from where we’ve spent the past 5 nights.


“Our” train station in Nagoya. It’s a LOT easier to negotiate the stairs without luggage!

After switching trains, we had to get on a HUGE line to get on the Linimo train, whose stations were built specifically for the Expo (but will remain a permanent part of the cities once the Expo closes its doors in September 2005).


I sure wouldn’t want to wait in THIS queue when it was filled up!

While on line the 3 of us were talking away, with our usual cynical and sarcastic senses of humor. I noticed there was an Asian-looking (and we assumed Japanese) man who seemed to understand everything that we were saying (he laughed at all the right places in our conversations). Turned out the guy was from Hawaii but was now living in Japan. It was nice to talk to someone in “unhalting” English, besides each other.


The line of people entering the fair from their tour buses. Picture taken from the Linimo train.

Finally got off the Linimo train and there was the Expo. It was HUGE!


Joe and I standing outside the Expo. Those 2 green guys are Kiccoro (the smaller, lighter green one) and Morizo (the one who is larger and darker green) the Expo’s mascots. EVERYTHING in Japan seems to have a mascot and Japan is the leader of “synergy”…Kiccoro and Morizo had their own cartoon on TV for months before the Expo started and they are EVERYWHERE a the Expo and, for that matter, in surrounding cities (i.e. department stores in Nagoya and even our hotel have racks with Kiccoro and Morizo merchandise).


The theme of the fair was Nature’s Wisdom, so the importance of “living in harmony with nature” was played on EVERYWHERE. Case in point…this recycling area outside the gates of the Expo…with spaces for paper, white plastic, clear plastic, liquid, wood, you name it. The Starbucks in Kyoto would’ve been proud!

Fortunately, we got to bypass the huge ticket line, because we had bought our tickets online. So, with tickets in hand, we went in.


Besides having to go through metal detectors before you could enter, guards checked all bags for not only dangerous items, but PET containers and any other food holders that couldn’t be recycled. THOSE had to be left behind.

The fair really is set up like Epcot, with big pavilions set up by corporations (Mitsubishi, the Shinkansen, etc) and smaller ones from dozens of countries from around the world. All of the pavilions have themes in the realm of Nature’s Wisdom (albeit sometimes with some poetic license…the U.S. Pavilion, for example, focused much more on it being Benjamin Franklin’s 300th birthday this year).

I won’t go into all of the details of all of the pavilions we went into, because we went into a LOT of ’em . Suffice to say that we went into about 6 or 8 corporate pavilions and probably a good dozen countries’ pavilions over the course of 11 or so hours. Some of the pavilions had foreign language headsets available for visitors who spoke English, Chinese or Korean, which was VERY helpful and VERY appreciated or we’d have definite problems in figuring out what was happening. The technology of some of the pavilions was just amazing, with HUGE high-def screens. And one of the hosts at the US pavilion had heard of Toxic Audio!


Joe and I were being geeks and wearing matching Toxic Audio shirts that day

We had lunch and dinner at the Expo, which, although tasty, were still pretty much “fair food.” Lunch was Japanese food:


Joe’s lunch


Steve’s lunch (Steve is a friend who traveled to Japan with us)


Sharon’s lunch (note the Kiccoro and Morizo on the…whatever it was [grin]!)

Dinners were Korean and I had my first taste of kimchee. YUCK!


Outside of the Korean restaurant. Note the international symbol for “soft serve ice cream” outside the door. The Japanese apparently love their soft serve ice cream…it’s EVERYWHERE. I’m personally not a fan of soft serve, but I’ll save my “I saw a picture advertising hard ice cream somewhere and I can’t find the store” story for a Tokyo Disneyland entry.

By 9pm or so, we were cold and tired so we retraced our route back to the hotel and went to bed. Tomorrow (Thursday) is Day Two of the World Expo.

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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary

 

#TBT: Japan April 2005: Cherry Blossoms on Philosopher’s Path in Kyoto, Travel to Nagoya

We have about 45 minutes on this Shinkansen (Bullet Train) to Nagoya, so I can start to write what we’ve done today.

Joe and Steve (Steve is a friends of ours who went on this trip as well) decided that a real, sit-down breakfast was in order today, so they went to our hotel’s breakfast buffet. I’m not a “big breakfast” person (give me a cup of coffee in the morning and I’m good for 3 hours) so I stayed in the room and had a can of iced coffee and the double-chocolate chip marshmallow cookie that I had bought from Starbuck’s yesterday, while I packed.


This is less than half of our luggage, not including Steve’s stuff. And we only brought 8 days’ worth of clothes, allowing time for doing laundry!

After the guys came back from breakfast (choices of scrambled eggs, bacon, Vienna sausages, corn flakes, french fries, grilled fish, beef stew with noodles, coffee, juice, tea and Japanese food), we finished packing, checked out of our hotel and left our bags with the bell check (who gave us a ticket, put our stuff on a cart, threw a net over it all and left it off to the side of the lobby. Hey, it’s Japan and people here are honest – who’s gonna steal it?). We then took a bus to the Philosopher’s Path.

Now, when I went on the Philosopher’s Path in April 1994, it rained. All day. So I was really looking forward to seeing it in sunshine this trip. Buddha must not like that idea though, because it’s been raining today. All day. Sigh.


I’ve discovered that my backpack sticks out so far behind me that when I hold an umbrella, part of the backpack still gets wet. So I went to the “100 yen” store near our hotel and picked up rain ponchos for the 3 of us. I wrapped the sleeves of the poncho around my front and would either hold them or stick them into the pockets of my coat, to make sure the poncho didn’t fly up and let my backpack get wet. I think it made quite a fashion statement, don’t you? Undoing and then re-doing this contraption was a LOT of work!

Anyway, the Philosopher’s Path is a small street along a stream, maybe about 2km long. It’s lined with small shops and restaurants, as well as hundreds of cherry trees. Since it’s spring, the cherry blossoms are blooming, which make for some lovely scenery on the walk on the Path.


Through rain, sleet, snow and hail…Joey can still read guide books and maps (grin). I think he carried about 20 pounds of books in his backpack every day (MODERN-DAY NOTE: Nowadays he has his TripIt all ready, and a bazillion web pages bookmarked LOL! Still a ton of info but at least it’s lighter than in 2005).

We stopped at a tea room and had a short break with some tea and small tea candies and cakes.


Outside of the tea room building.

The snack was served Japanese-style, so we had to leave our shoes in little cubby holes near the door (the employees even helped me take off my poncho and put it in a back room for safekeeping…and to make sure the floor didn’t get too wet), then we sat on small pillows on top of tatami mat flooring.


Window view of the garden that was outside the tea room. It’s hard to tell from the picture, but the ceilings in this place were VERY low…Steve is about 6’2″ and when he got up to go to the men’s room, he nearly cracked his head open on a low ceiling beam.


Joe on the floor of the tea room.


The food I ordered…it was all written in Japanese, so I’m not positive what I had, but it looked and tasted like (from left to right) butter cookies, green tea cake and peach-flavored panna cotta.

About an hour later, at the end of the path, we found a small restaurant and had lunch. I had udon noodles with bits of curried beef, Steve had a beef and rice “stew” called donburi and Joe had eel over rice with a side of soup. This was one of the few places that had “serve yourself” ice water. Steve is an avid iced tea drinker and can easily get a half-dozen refills in the US, but with the tiny glasses he was continually getting in Japan without refills, I think he was thrilled to be able to get up and get his own drink. He must’ve gotten up at least 5 times (wink).

We caught a bus back to our hotel, where we JUST made the shuttle to Kyoto Station. Got our reserved seats for the 16:00 Shinkasen and now here we are, on our way to Nagoya. More later…

Okeedoke…it’s later. I was writing the first part of today’s notes around 4:30pm. It’s now close to 9pm. We had to take a subway from the train station to the hotel…which took us up and down 2 flights of stairs…with 3 HUGE suitcases, 3 carry-ons and 3 knapsacks. Now THAT was fun. Not!!! Fortunately, our legs have gotten stronger from 4 or 5 straight days of walking and steps to and from temples, but I don’t think any of us were in shape enough to carry all that crap those kinds of vertical distances. But with lots of rests, we eventually got to where we needed to go.

Our hotel, the Nagoya Tokyu Hotel, is just GORGEOUS and Joe thinks that it’s the first time in all the years we’ve been using it that Expedia actually “did us good” (grin) (MODERN-DAY NOTE: Yeah, Expedia. Joe was already dabbling in “points and miles” during this trip, but not to the extent he does now). I mean, this place has TempurPedic pillows in the rooms! (grin) When we entered from the rain, the hotel staff came with, not only umbrella holders, but towels to wipe ourselves off! Just an incredible place. I think the fanciest place Joe and I have ever stayed was The Plaza in NYC and although I like the decor of The Plaza better, the service here is just amazing.


The outside of the Nagoya Tokyu Hotel.


Front lobby, looking towards the check-in counters.


Front lobby, looking in the other direction.


Japanese people LOVE to shop and this hotel had almost a mini-mall in it!


LOTS of shopping.


And, of course, each storefront was perfect.

Anyway, once we were checked in and had our room keys, the first thing we did was unpack and take pictures of the room:


A view from the doorway.


Triple adult occupancy in Japanese hotel rooms was pretty hard to come by, so we had requested a day bed for all of our hotels, since the best we could get was “2 twin beds,” and we figured we’d take turns sleeping on the cot. We discovered in EVERY hotel that offered “twin beds” that “twin beds” are the equivalent of slight smaller than an American double bed. So although you see 3 beds in this picture, we got rid of the 3rd bed after the 1st night. Joe and I just cuddled close. Such a sacrifice (wink).


Joe getting the computer hooked up. ASAP. By my request. Of course (grin).


The problem with always having the camera is that you’re hardly in any pictures. Thank god for mirrors!


And THIS is why I married someone 6′ tall. To help me take pictures of stuff I’m otherwise too short to take pictures of.


This is what we took a picture of, together. Exciting, huh?


View outside our window.

After taking shots of everything including the bathroom…


We thought this mirror, which had an area that did not fog up, was SO cool. In my humble opinion, it would’ve been even cooler if the non-fog area was about 9″ lower (wink) (MODERN-DAY NOTE: When we re-did our guest bathroom in 2006, we got a mirror with an anti-fog option).

…we went out in search of dinner. I was pushing for the nearby Denny’s, just to see how it compares to Denny’s in the US, but I was outvoted. We finally settled on a British-style pub called “Queen’s Head.”


Not the greatest picture of the Queen’s Head menu.

I had fried chicken and chips (fries), Steve had a pasta and eggplant dish and Joe had fish & chips. My fries were perfect, but I now know why the Japanese are not known for their fried chicken (wink). Joe said his fish and chips were “right”…just that the tartar sauce tasted different from what we’re used to. But hey, it was closer to “home food” than we’d had in days (wink).

After a quick stop at Circle K for dessert, we went back to the room.

The guys are currently watching TV (they think it’s a Japanese version of “Antique Road Show”) and I’m going to contemplate going to sleep pretty soon.

Tomorrow is the World’s Fair….

BoardingArea