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03-11-2003, 08:05 PM
~~Hi all! In about a month I'm going to Japan for a couple of weeks. I've got a number of places in mind to visit while there but wanted to ask "What shouldn't I miss?" to anyone who's visited/lived there. Thanks!
You have NO idea how envious I am right now.... :D I have never been there myself, but I really hope to one day.
I don't know exactly what style you practice or whether you expect to get to train some while you are there, but I would definately like to se Hombudojo - perhaps view a training session with Doshu and a couple of the high ranking shihans. Just seeing dozens of highranking aikidoka's flippling eachother around on the tatami must be a big experience.
On the non-aiki issues I would also beyond any doubt try out a good sushi-restaurant, a nice ryokan and a public bath. I could really enjoy a cold beer in a hot tub right now :D
It probably wouldn't be possibly, but I would also love to visit a sword-smith and watch him work (preferably if he's making a new sword for me :)), but then again - two weeks are not a long time, and these things are hard to arrange.
I wish you a very nice trip.
Depending on how far you're going to be travelling within Japan, one of the first things you should look into is a JR Pass. A weeklong JR Pass which allows you to travel on almost any Japan Rail transportation (including the bullet train in the non-reserved section) costs about the same as a round-trip ticket from Tokyo to Kyoto or thereabouts. You can only purchase the JR Pass from outside of the US.
Also, I think the answer depends on the purpose of your trip and where you're going. The last time I was in Japan (~10 days), I purposefully left my dogi here. I was tempted to stop by a dojo in Kamakura but didn't since I wanted my trip that time to be aikido-less.
In any case, I'll provide a few generic suggestions. First, don't spend too much time (if any) in Tokyo. Not that most other big cities in Japan is any better, but Tokyo isn't very pleasant. If you're going to be in the kanto region (near Tokyo), I'd head out to places like Kamakura and such.
If you're going to be in the Kansai region, visiting Kyoto is always worth it. Last time I was there, I stayed in a place for ~5000 yen a night (shared with another person), rented a bicycle for about 500 yen a day, and visited a few temples/shrines each day.
Rather than spending an arm and a leg at a fancy, expensive restaurant, I'd probably steer you towards a good ramen shop (ask around for recommendations) or an "ippin ryori ya" where they serve a bunch of Japanese "side" dishes for ~300 yen.
Two weeks is a short time to visit Japan,, though. If you had more time, I'd recommend getting away from the big cities and going out to the less populated areas. There's a lot more "humanity" out there in the "inaka" that's more representative of the heart of Japan...
There are at least a few people here on AikiWeb who live in Japan (Peter Goldsbury in Hiroshima, Peter Rehse in Himeji). Maybe they'd be willing to help you out if you happen to be in their area.
In any case, I hope you have a good time. Please feel free to post a trip report here if you wish...
03-12-2003, 07:34 PM
Well Himeji castle is the most beautiful in Japan. The Kansai area also has Nara with the great park full of vicious attack deer (hold out deer cookie and work on your taisabaki) and temples. Personally I would spend at least half a day in Nara.
Hiroshima has the Peace Park and Museum but personally it ended up just something I did. Far better in the area is Miyajima Island with a really nice temple. You can also stay at a Ryokan on the island although when I last visited I stayed in a Ryokan in hte heart of the city.
I usually stay in C class - reasonable and very nice. They come with a beautiful supper and breakfest - if you want to eat out stay at a western hotel.
Links to good ryokan site below plus Miyajima Island, Himeji, Nara
Plenty of deer on Miyajima also.
03-12-2003, 07:34 PM
PS. If you are in Japan for two weeks get the rail pass for two weeks - its the best deal on the planet.
03-13-2003, 02:23 AM
I agree with Jun and Peter, the JR pass is an absolute must. One point to note, the pass normally covers you in the unreserved section, but you can reserve seats with the pass as well, you've just got to go to the ticket office and ask! Also, it does say on the ticket, but you can't use it on Nozomi trains (the fastest), you have to pay the full fare if you want to use them.
Kyoto and Nara are two of the best (read beautiful) places to visit in Japan. In Kyoto you can choose from literally hundreds of temples, but should probably head for the more famous (and spectacular) ones if your time is limited, Kinkaku-ji, Ryoan-ji, Kiyomizudera, Ginkaku-ji, Sanjusangendo are must sees. If you have more time, then definately head out to Arashiyama and Saga on the western edge of Kyoto, the TenRyu-ji is one of my favourite temples with a very beautiful garden, and you can wonder up through the bamboo forest in Saga finding a whole host of smaller temples and some great bamboo and pottery gift shops. In Kyoto you should also visit the Nijo Castle. For gift ideas, not necessarily the best place to go, but certainly useful, visit the Kyoto Handicraft Centre, 5 or 6 floors of souvenirs with demonstration son how wood block paintings or laquer ware are made, it also happens to be located about 100 metres from the Kyoto Budokan which may be worth a quick peak. One of the things that may be worth considering in Kyoto, money permitting, would be to hire a taxi for the day, haggle the cost and you might pay about 80 - 100 bucks, you can give them a list of the temples that you want to see, they will take you and wait for you etc.
Nara wouldn't be complete without a trip to the Daitoku-ji, largest wooden building in the world and home to the Great Buddha. Try and crawl through the hole in the pillar behind him (the size of his nostril in the statue) to reach enlightenment, I'm 6ft 2in and weigh 13 stone, managed it on my second attempt, to get through that is, don't know about reaching enlightenment! Also, the next station down at Ikaruga & Yamato-Koriyama you can find the Horyu-ji, another great place to visit, but be warned, it's a bit of a walk from the station to the temple.
As Peter mentioned, Himeji is a beautiful castle, and maybe (if you're lucky) it will be swathed in cherry blossom by the time you get there. Miyajima in Hiroshima is also quite stunning, depending on the time that you go! The tide was out when I got there, but made for some interesting snaps of me standing under the Torii gate where there is usually a mass of water! The Peace Museum was quite moving in my opinion, it left me feeling quite overcome, and should be visited by all.
Tokyo is not that bad a place (having lived there for two years), although there aren't that many places that I would recommend. Certainly Asakusa, there are plenty of gift shops leading up to the main temple there. Shibuya is one of the shopping centres, but more for designer shops than anything else, and I'm sure you'd find the same stuff cheaper anywhere outside Japan. If you want electronic stuff, take a peak at Akihabara, wall to wall denkiya san, but you won't haggle much off of their prices, and if you check any three shops, you will find that they are all pretty much the same. You'd be better off going to Yodobashi Camera in Shinjuku, their prices have always been better as far as I am concerned, sign up for their gold store card before you buy anything and you'll get a bit of extra discount. I wouldn't worry too much about Yoyogi Park or Ueno (mainly a market under the rail tracks).
If you do take your dogi, assuming that you are Aikikai, be sure to visit the Aikikai Hombu, costs 2800 yen or there abouts for a day ticket, keiko starts at 06:30 am with Doshu's class, check their website for further details of who teaches on what day and when, you should be able to find one or two good names to train with. There's also the Yoshinkan Hombu dojo, although I haven't been and don't have any info on that for you. There are many more dojo's with a lot of good teachers, but again it depends on your schedule and where you're going.
Kamakura is a must too, the great Buddha left sitting on his own after a tidal wave washed is temple away. Also, if you hunt around (I went by car which was easier), you might be able to find Zeniaraibenten, which is a small temple located in a volcano crater, you need to walk through a tunnel cut through the hill, make sure you wash some money there, and look for the white snake in one of the shops at the back!
Finally, take the train up to Nikko for a visit to the tomb of Tokugawa Ieyesu, quit a splendid trip. Be warned it is a very long walk from the station to the temple, you could taxi it, but the current climate will make it a pleasant walk (rain permitting) compared to the middle of summer when I walked it :-(
There are of course many more places to go see on and off the tourist track, but you can only fit so much into a couple of weeks.
Ryokans are great places to stay, although they can be expensive. Contact your local JTB or JNTB office, they should be able to give you info on the Japanese Inn Group, it's a large number of Ryokans that have got together to offer very reasonable prices.
Hope that helps a bit. If you have any further questions, or require more info, please feel free to contact me directly
Have a good trip
03-13-2003, 03:17 AM
Kyoto. Think of it as a giant oval racetrack with historic temples all around it. The Golden Temple! In the nearby mountain via a short train ride are more great temples. One is over 1500 years old.
At the Budo Center in Kyoto, you can see traditional archery, kendo, and participate in an aikido class taught by Namura Sensei (6 dan?) from Aikikai.
Across the street from the Budo Center is a great little martial-arts store. I bought three nice bokken, a great jo, and a very nice hakama.
The guesthouses are great. Not too expensive.
The food is bland and expensive. I always felt hungry. A good place to lose weight.
I bought a 25-year-old Nikon SLR that looked like it just came out of the factory, for US$125.
Good luck. Bring lots of money — it goes fast. You can always make more money when you get back home — or just stay for a year and teach English!
03-13-2003, 10:09 AM
Kyoto, Nara, Mikimoto.
Spend as much time as possible in onsen. Live well.
03-13-2003, 10:20 AM
I would have to strongly recomend the peace park and museum in Hiroshima. It is not a feel good trip, but I think that it is a vital component in the education of anyone studying this art of peace. (especialy relevant given the current state of international affairs)
If you do end up in Hiroshima, check out the Okonomimura for some authentic local food...okonomiyaki.
I have also been told that Yamagata is a very beautiful place to visit.
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