last stop of this wonderful trip was the island of Japan. Bidding
good-bye to Ken and Darla who were flying home today, we boarded our
flight for Singapore where Anne and I would connect to the redeye
for Tokyo and arrive early the next morning. Arriving in Japan the
first thing we did was stow luggage we would not need while in Japan,
and then we made arrangements for bus transportation to the hotel.
Japan, as you may have heard, is outrageously expensive. A taxi from
Narita International Airport to downtown Tokyo would have exceeded
a hundred $US. The bus, while a bit slower, was considerably less
expensive. By the time we arrived at the hotel we were exhausted and
in need of a short nap. We proceeded to our room and did just that,
laid down to take a nap. Several hours later we were awakened by a
phone call from the bell stand. It seems that I was so tired I left
my camera bag, a metal case, on the bus. Discovering the bag the bus
operator called all the hotels on his route to see which one we were
registered in. When he located the right hotel he delivered the bag
on a later run. I was thankful and impressed considering the contents
were worth a considerable amount. But, they are insured!
stay in Tokyo would be a short one as we had plans to visit friends
in Osaka, and we also wanted to visit Peach Park in Hiroshima. Tokyo
being our initial arrival point we only slotted two days in the city,
and we slept most of the first day.
That evening we, at Anne's insistence, decided to go to a kibuki theater
on the Ginza strip. This was an experience. We arrived late and the
only seats left were in the balcony. The only way to the balcony was
by stairway and there were many steep stairs. Something we would learn
is common in Japan. We arrived midway through the performance and
it was enjoyable. OK, not the best night's entertainment I've ever
had, but it was different from what I was accustomed to. Following
the performance Anne and I walked around the Ginza strip and enjoyed
the sights and sounds of Japan. We find it interesting to walk the
city streets and look into the different shop windows, especially
food markets, and there were plenty in Tokyo to view. What immediately
struck us was how expensive everything was. We knew and expected Japan
to be expensive, but, the prices we saw were outrageous! We would
learn much more in the days that followed exactly how expensive Japan
to the hotel that night we picked up a few of the tourists flyers
in the lobby and returned to our room to plan the next day's activities.
Referring to the guide book we brought from home we decided to visit
Nikko, the home of Japan's first Shogunate. Nikko was about an hour
away by Shinkaseen, the Japanese "Bullet Train," from Tokyo.
I checked the flyers we brought to the room and found one for Nikko.
These tour flyers are excellent because they give you a short "to
do" list and show you some pictures of the area that you plan
to visit where the guide books usually contain only a written description.
Now the question was" "How do we get there?" We had
already learned that Japan would offer some special challenges in
getting around because of the language. Visiting foreign countries
where you don't speak the language always has its share of challenges,
but Japan, because of their character set, would be especially difficult.
You can't just look at a sign and tell anything about what it says,
and we found English signs were not widely posted. Because of this
I thought about taking the guided tour to Nikko. To some extent it
would have been a waste of money since we already had an unlimited
travel pass for the Japan Rail System, but it might be worth the little
expense, or so I thought, to go ahead and book the tour. When I converted
the per person charge for the tour from Yen into US$ I was shocked
to see the cost right at $200 per person for this one day tour with
lunch. That seemed ridiculously high to me for a day's tour so we
decided to do it on our own. I'm glad we did because it forced us
to learn how to get around and take the trains.
We left the hotel and proceeded to the local subway station where
we would take a train to the train station. We made it with a few
wrong turns and having to ask directions just a couple of times, and
we were soon on our first ride aboard the Shinkaseen. Traveling throughout
the US on business you learn that trains are not a preferred method
of travel. They are to slow to get around any great distances and,
as a result, I usually avoid them. The only times I've taken trains
was in snow storms when my flights were canceled and I was close enough
to home to get a train. In Europe the trains are a much better way
to get around. They are safe, clean and convenient and they run on
schedule, a far cry from what I've experienced here in the U. S. Japan's
bullet trains are wonderful. Not only are they safe and clean, they
also run very close to schedule and they are fast allowing you to
cover great distances in short periods of time.
"Next" below to go to the next page and see pictures taken
at Niko, Japan, home of the first Shogun and the Toshogu National