Japan: Top 10s

Its been a month since we’ve touched back down in the USA from our trip to Japan.  Reflecting back on our two weeks there, we wanted to share our top 10s about Japan. Top 10 Things We Loved Politeness and courtesy.  Everyone is so polite.  People respect each other’s space.  Nothing is ever locked up.  For instance, in Kyoto, we walked through a sea of literally hundreds of bicycles at Kyoto University not one of which had a lock on it.  This was common everywhere, a bike just sitting against a building unlocked, patiently waiting for its owner’s return.  And what’s not…

Tokyo – a great place for park lovers

We both love a good park and one judge of a city for us is the easy access to some green space. With Tokyo, we were not disappointed. As we mentioned in our first post, we visited Hama Rikyu gardens near Tsukiji on our first full day (see Tokyo – part one). On our third day in Tokyo, we visited Yoyogi Park and the Meiji Shrine and timed it on a weekend and a day when there were several Shinto weddings taking place. The park itself is relatively new (established in 1967) but the shrine was created between 1915-1920 to…

Back to Tokyo

As promised, we returned to Tokyo today with much anticipation for our final two days. We are staying at the Tokyo Station Hotel, which has a lot to offer with several restaurants and bars but better yet is in Tokyo station which in addition to being the main connection point for many subway and train lines, has a full suite of restaurants and shopping options. We ate at Ramen Street, a collection of Ramen spots, which is on the Yausen south exit of the station. It is a little tricky to figure out the kiosk ordering system, so stop by…

Our days in Kyoto (aka is there a temple around here anywhere?)

Kyoto is the historic capital of Japan, from 794 until 1868, when the capital moved to Edo (now Tokyo). There are two palaces, 400 Shinto shrines and approximately 1,600 Buddhist temples. So, suffice it to say, if you dig Japanese history, this is the place for you. Some of the most famous temples are here, so expect the crowds, but you can also wander into some pretty special non touristy places easily. Kyoto is laid out on a grid, so it is easy to navigate compared to Tokyo’s winding streets.  Think New York City’s grid compared to downtown Boston’s confusing…

Hemiji Castle

We have much more to share on Tokyo, which we will get to when we return there next week, and are still building up our blog content on Kyoto, but yesterday we day tripped from Kyoto to Hemiji to tour the Hemiji Castle. The castle walls are completely covered with white plaster made from slaked lime, shell ash, hemp fiber and seaweed. The castle has seven stories but appears to have five from the outside. You can climb to the top up steep and increasingly narrow stairways (no shoes allowed, only socks, but they give you plastic bags for carrying…

One fish, two fish, red fish, blue fish (our tour of Tsukiji Fish Market)

We spent the better part of a morning visiting the Tsukiji Fish Market the other day (pronounced skee-gee).  This is one of those things we most looked forward to on our trip to Tokyo and it did not disappoint. We wandered around the shops (the outer market) first for several hours. You can purchase both fresh fish, cooked or prepared fish or knives, dishes, etc.  Be ready for the crowds, at least on a Saturday. The guidebook says it is closed on Sunday, though we didn’t test that theory for obvious reasons. We ate some of the best grilled scallops…

Touring Tokyo, part one

On the verge of starting our third day in Tokyo, we’ve spent the first two days touring the Ginza, Tsukiji fish market, Asakusa and Senso-ji temple and the Roppongi  Hills. We are staying near Ebiso at the foot of the Roppongi Hills (a great residential area from which to launch). First, let’s talk subways. So clean and organized. They are easy to navigate and have signage in English. You can pay as you go at the kiosks. Just find where you are and where you plan to stop and it will tell you the yen you owe on the sign…