Day 8-Kyoto: The city of 10,000 shrines and tourists!

In truth, Kyoto contains only about 2,000 temples and shrines, but receives over 30 million tourists each year.   The former Imperial city is certainly a popular travel destination and as the day warmed up, so did the crowded streets.  The city attracts both foreign and domestic travelers.  It was also a popular place for many Japanese school trips. You also couldn’t walk more than a few steps without running into scores of men and women dressed up in the tradional costumes.      However, some costumes were better than others and left us guessing as to whether they were real or not.  Umbrellas were … Continue reading Day 8-Kyoto: The city of 10,000 shrines and tourists!

Day 8-Camellia: Japanese Tea Ceremony in Kyoto

We were all smiles as we waved Kitamura-San goodbye and walked back to the tea house.  Along the way we caught a glimpse of a woman in full traditional costume and secretly wondered is she was a true Geisha or even a Maiko? The street echoed with the clipped gait of her wooden shoes striking the pavement and was a fitting way to set the scene for our authentic tea ceremony at Camellia.   Wikipedia describes the ceremony as follows: The Japanese tea ceremony, also called the Way of Tea, is a Japanese cultural activity involving the ceremonial preparation and presentation … Continue reading Day 8-Camellia: Japanese Tea Ceremony in Kyoto

Day 8-Kiyomizu pottery

A visit to a local potter’s studio and a tea ceremony were on the agenda for our second day in Kyoto.  I would be remiss if I forgot to mention that we had quite a bit of help in planning our trip.  In addition to Selena and Mr. Nagata, we’d also like to thank Mandy Bartok at Uncover Japan. She provided us with some really useful information regarding trains, phones, ATM machines, in addition to several suggestions on what to see and do in Japan.  She was also the one that referred us to Atsuko at the Camellia Tea House. … Continue reading Day 8-Kiyomizu pottery

Day 7-Yoshida Steak House

Raise your hand if you’ve ever been to a Japanese steak house. Was it in Japan or someplace else?  Growing up and in my own family it was always one of our favorite places to go for birthdays and other special occasions.   So it seemed only fitting that we should have dinner at a “real” Japanese steak house.  Ironically it’s not all that different than what I had experienced back home. Even the description on their website is translated as a “Japanized Western Restaurant”.  So what exactly does that mean? Regardless it was still a fun experience. Probably the … Continue reading Day 7-Yoshida Steak House

Day 7-A Kiseru, eh?

On our way back to our hotel, Mr. Nagata had promised Brad that we would stop at a local pipe shop since he had hoped to purchase a traditional Japanese pipe, called a kisuru.   It was not particularly easy to find, even for Nobu, but eventually we stopped on a very narrow street right in front of the shop. In Japan, you will often see curtain-like banners hanging in the doorways of many stores and restaurants. These banners typically signify that the establishment is open for business. Here is the banner for the pipe shop that I took from … Continue reading Day 7-A Kiseru, eh?

Day 7-Kyoto: Off the beaten track

After our visit to Matsumoto Kobo we didn’t think the day could get much better.  But Mr. Nagata, or Nobu, continued to impress us with his thoughtfully planned itinerary.  Next Mr. Nagata drove us to the Sagano area so we could see the majestic bamboo forest. Typically this is a very popular tourist attraction, but Nobu’s sleek Toyota Crown cleared a path through the crowded streets.   It was pretty cool to feel like a celebrity for the day as we drove past the onlookers who looked inquiringly into the deeply tinted glass of the car as we slowly made our … Continue reading Day 7-Kyoto: Off the beaten track

Day 7-Matsumoto Kobo

For our first full day in the Kyoto we pre-arranged to have a personal guided tour of the area (similar to what we did in Tokyo with Selena). Mr. Nagata came highly recommended to us and he arrived at the hotel promptly at 9am.  Our goal for the day was to have someone local take us to all the places that would be difficult to get to or find on our own.  Mr. Nagata, or “Nobu” as he insisted we call him, far exceeded our expectations.  In fact, it was just as magical as our day in Sendai with Selena. … Continue reading Day 7-Matsumoto Kobo

Day 6-Train to Kyoto

On Monday we packed and loaded our suitcases into a cab and set off towards Tokyo Station.  There we arranged to have two of the suitcases left behind at the historic Tokyo Station Hotel, where we would be staying when we returned to Tokyo in one week.  Then we boarded the train to Kyoto and snapped a picture of our soon to be conductor.   At the Tokyo station I purchased a few things to eat for lunch, including a traditional Japanese lunch box, which proved to be quite the adventure and the source of much laughter and tears!      I think Japanese food … Continue reading Day 6-Train to Kyoto

Day 5-Last day in Tokyo!

Our last day in Tokyo was very chill and laid back. We spent a relaxing morning just catching our breath since we had gone non-stop since we landed.   However we were in need of two additional suitcases and so we caught a train to a nearby shopping center. There must be thousands of shopping malls in Tokyo and there is no shortage of things to buy.  So is it any wonder that along the way we managed to find a few more shops and sights? A Milwaukee shirt in Japan!  Harley-Davidson is very popular here.   A Mister Donut!    A natural … Continue reading Day 5-Last day in Tokyo!

Day 4-Kichijōji

On Saturday we took the JR Chuo line to Kichijōji, which is a neighborhood on the northwest side of Tokyo.  The area is one of the most popular areas for younger people to spend their weekend, due to the fact that it features one of Tokyo’s most varied and complete shopping areas, as well as the almost constantly crowded Inokashira Park. On the platform, we spotted our first smoothie bar in Tokyo.After enjoying our smoothies, we decided to split up and meet in a few hours for lunch. Brad went in search of more vintage shops and I went in search … Continue reading Day 4-Kichijōji