We arrived and departed from Kyoto at the Kyoto Station, which serves both trains and subways; it is topped by a massive 10-story building with shopping and restaurants. We already liked the Station for the series of posters of cats dressed traditional Japanese garb. Then we saw the Lego model of the station:
Thursday, February 9, 2017
Sunday, January 29, 2017
We left Yamanouchi and the snow monkeys, and bade farewell to the Japanese alps as we drove to the northwest coast of Honshu. We were heading to Kanazawa, about 150 miles away, which took 3 hours; all of it was high-speed expressway. We looked forward to seeing the northwestern coast of Japan, but we spent more time in tunnels than we did out of tunnels, so we didn't get to see much of the coast, although the drive was interesting enough.
We arrived in Kanazawa around noon, dropped our rental car off next to the train station, and then walked a couple of blocks to our hotel. We were too early to check in, but they were happy to store our bags. We'd discovered that Japanese hotels simply don't do early check in. When they say 3 pm, they mean it (and 3 pm was generally the standard time). Not that it was ever a problem for us, but it did surprise us in it's absoluteness and universality. We set off on foot to explore the nearby area, and stumbled on a food court with many displays of what the restaurants served. This kid's meal amused us.
Sunday, January 22, 2017
We had decided to stay in Yamanouchi specifically because it was close to the Jigokudani Monkey Park, in a narrow valley full of geothermal springs. The onsens in town are all fed by similar hot springs; the one at our ryokan the night before was fed by an open air trough spilling into each of the tubs.
Saturday, January 21, 2017
Everything we read about Japan recommended staying at a ryokan, a traditional Japanese bed and breakfast, somewhere along our journey. The one that we found was closer to a hotel/ryokan hybrid, which gave us a bit more privacy while still giving us an introduction to the traditional tatami mat, futon beds and low chabudai table.
Wednesday, November 9, 2016
After a rainy night in Matsumoto, we woke up to clearing skies, that eventually revealed the snow-capped mountains around us. We headed north of downtown to Matsumoto Castle, which we were interested in, as it is one of the oldest remaining fortresses in Japan. Matsumoto was another area where we were lucky enough to catch the cherry blossoms in full bloom. It smelled wonderful!