Sunday, May 28, 2017

Signs in Japan

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We're fond of interesting signs, and we encountered a number of them in Japan.  The text above appears to be "watch out for (or yield to?) pedestrians," though looks like the cyclist is running next to his bike, which makes it all the more confusing.

Google Translate interprets the text below as "pets are not allowed to bring in."  It's always interesting to see what specific dog breed is pictured in signs like this.

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Saturday, May 27, 2017

Osaka

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The saying goes that while people from Kyoto will ruin themselves financially for fashion, people from Osaka will do it for a good meal. We came to Osaka to eat, but enjoyed the city for so many other reasons as well.  After dropping our bags at the hotel, and then switching rooms to one that hadn't been smoked in (there were No Smoking signs everywhere), we headed out to check out the area around the hotel. We'd chosen to stay in Dotonbori, because that is where the food stalls are, but also because it was said to be a very interesting area and close to trains and subways.

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Saturday, April 22, 2017

Miyagima

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We took a day trip to Miyajima  on Itsukushima island, just south of Hiroshima.  The island is covered in maple trees, has a large, historic shrine complex, and a massive torii in the bay, in front of Itsukushima Shrine. 

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Sunday, April 9, 2017

Hiroshima

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We started off on the wrong foot on our trip from Kyoto to Hiroshima.  We’d reserved seats on the bullet train the day before, which had always been enough in advance, but apparently that Monday was a busy travel day; there was only one train that wasn’t fully booked, and we had to pick seats that weren’t together on that one.  That morning, checking ourselves out of the AirBnB took a little longer than we expected, and we missed the local subway car to the main station by seconds, which then cascaded into missing the J.R. train to Osaka that would have given us a comfortable amount of time to transfer to the bullet train we had reserved seats on.  We took the next available train, 30 minutes later, and which was scheduled to arrive 10 minutes before our bullet train would depart.  As we rode towards Osaka, we used our MiFi to download a map of Shin Osaka, and set to committing a series of escalators, stairs, and turns to memory.  We’d be arriving on the ground floor, on platform 16, and if we were fast and lucky, we’d be departing from the 4th floor on platform 20, after passing through the main concourse on the third floor, where we’d have to present our J.R. passes to get admitted to the shinkansen platforms.  We definitely appreciated our back-pack luggage, as we ran up four flights of stairs,  Fortunately, the signage was excellent as always, and our shinkansen was clearly labeled, so we had no hesitation at jumping aboard the very nearest car.  We’d boarded car 4, and our seats were in car 8, and as we started walking towards our seats, we felt the train start to move.  We’d made it, but we weren’t feeling the least bit cocky, just very lucky and out of breath.  The upside to this adventure was that although the train was nearly full, the seat next to Lana’s was empty, and we decided to sit together and see if the person who’d reserved it had missed their connection—they must have, as we got to Hiroshima without incident.

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Saturday, March 18, 2017

Kyoto

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We stayed in Kyoto for three days in a small AirBnB apartment just around the corner from the Higashiyama station of the Tozai subway line, which was really convenient for getting to some of the further flung sights we wanted to visit.  For our first outing, we headed out on foot though, walking east to one end of the Philosopher's Walk.

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Thursday, February 9, 2017

Kyoto Station: Cat Posters and Lego Models

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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:
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Sunday, January 29, 2017

Kanazawa

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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.

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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

Jigokudani Monkey Park

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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. 

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Saturday, January 21, 2017

Ryokan in Yamanouchi

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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.