29 April 2009

The First of Many...

Kyoto Temple

One of the many temples in Kyoto. More to follow.
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Tuckered out in Takayama

From yesterday...

As I type this Charlton and I are hanging out in our Yakutas provided by our little budget Minshuku, ours is more like a b&b. We got to Takayama late yesterday afternoon as the JR was delayed in the hills of Japan for three hours. So when we got to Takayama the town had rolled up its sidewalks. We trekked out to our place which is like three doors down from a gorgeous shrine. Once we dropped off our bags we headed out to find some grub, and had a hard time finding anything. We finally found a little hole in the wall noodle shop where the locals had packed. We both got huge bowls of yakisoba and some pot stickers to split, because you know being on a train all day can make you hungry. We got back to our place and were freezing! We settled in early hoping to get a jump on the city today since we had missed precious time sitting on the train.

We tackled the city bright and early today. There is a morning market not too far from where we are staying so we went straight there to get some breakfast and to see some of the local handicrafts. Charlton couldn’t pass up the region’s delicacy of Hida beef, and got a beef and dumpling skewer and a marshmallow like thing for breakfast, while I got an apple from a local vendor and supplemented with a pastry from the convenience store.

We then made our way to the other side of town, getting a little lost along the way (a common theme of our today) and went to the Hida Folk Village, basically a Williamsburg for old time Japan. They didn’t have the people dressed up in costume, but it was interesting to see the old buildings and such. Then we made our way back to the main part of town and got lunch at Ebisu (recommended by the tourist info guy), a soba restaurant that has been in business since 1890s (yum!) Then we went on the Higashiyama shrine walking trail. We got to see some beautiful shrines, and had some great views of the city. However, toward the end we went a little off course and ended up in the middle of some farms and had to ask for directions (again!) All we had left of the walk was to see Takayama castle, and we really had to work for it! It was at the top of a huge hill and took us forever to get there. Was definitely worth it though, and we celebrated with green tea ice creams at the bottom. From there we went and walked down the streets of old private houses and then went to a park on the other side of town (up another huge hill!) We were both pretty exhausted at this point so we came back to our place and took a little nap before heading to the convenience store to pick up some dinner.

Finished off the long day by using the public bath downstairs from our room, was really nice to relax there and come back to our warm room (swear it’s the only heated room in the house!) We are all packed up for tomorrow as our train for Kyoto leaves at 6:50, and we are about a 30 minute walk to the station. Hopefully we will have better luck with the trains tomorrow. We have really liked it here, but I think we are happy to get to a little bigger city for a bit.
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Blown Away in Hakone

From a few days ago...

Today was the day that Kristen and I left the safe confines of Tokyo and ventured deeper into Japan. Our destination was the resort town of Hakone, pronounced Hah-cone-ay. We got a bit of a later start since we decided the night before we were going to take it somewhat easier so that we don’t burn ourselves out after one week. We had an enjoyable train ride with highlights of asking for directions from a nice lady and husband who spoke very little English and me finding a comic book on the train only to discover it was a nudie one.

Once we got to Hakone we picked up a Hakone Free Pass which basically entitles you to take what ever transportation you wish in Hakone. This can include, a bus, train, cable car, rope car and pirate ship. Great deal right? Well, we thought so.

The first step to getting to Hakone is taking a train ride from Odawara station to Hakone-Yumoto. We ended up doing this by sneaking on to the “Romance Car” which was supposed to have a surcharge. We were trying to get out so we could get on the correct train but the door closed, so free fancy ride for us. At the end though, Hakone ended up winning the battle.

Basically while today was very nice and sunny, it was also extremely windy. This wind took the pirate ship and rope car off our plans. However with the free pass, if a ride or attraction is closed, you get a refund. This lead to a day of many bus rides down windy roads, which can get old after a while (which it did). We ended up returning to our hotel around 5:30pm which gave a nice time to relax. After Kristen fell asleep at 7:30 (seriously), I decided to step out and try to take some picture of the city after dark. It was quite amusing getting some good pictures as well as seeing Japanese men and women in their Yakutas heading out for a night on the town.

Tomorrow takes us (or took depending on when this gets posted) to Takayama. Also, no word yet if I’ve gotten brave enough to try an onsen. Maybe tomorrow I’ll try. Maybe (I tried an onsen in the morning. It was very nice, a little awkward but the view was unbeatable).

Kristen note: Yes, I did fall asleep at 7:30, but a day of riding a bus down mountain roads can wear a girl out. But seriously, the best thing about Hakone since we had to miss so much of our planned trip is 3 words….RED BEAN CAKES! I ate my weight in free samples from every shop I could, did cave and finally bought one because it was black and it was delish!
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