Melbourne time

Hello, こんにちは Kon'nichiwa

Well hello, Kon'nichiwa, or should I say こんにちは.....

This blog is about my trip to Japan later on this year. The countdown has begun, today is Easter Sunday, 27 March, I fly to Japan in 70 days, 5 hours and 10 minutes! I know three words in Japanese - hello, thank you and goodbye. I don't drink beer and I don't like raw fish. But I love meeting people, seeing new places, culture and history. I will only pass this way but once and I feel the need to try and see as much as I can in as little time as I have. .
Cheers. 乾杯

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Sunday, 13 December 2015

9. Nara Walk

The Ancient Capital with Dignified Great Buddha

Looking for a self-guided walking tour of Nara, I found this one Practical Travel Guide 507 - Nara Walk and printed it. While it is good, I find the map hard to understand. I couldn't differentiate between where the park started and the streets ended.

Next, I read this one Nara. Recommended Course which seems brilliant in its simplicity. It also comes with a Map! Below are the walk details.

JR Nara Station - 10-min. walk
1. Kintetsu Nara Station - 4 min. walk
2. Kofukuji Temple - 5 min. walk
3. Yoshikien Garden - 2 min. walk
4. Isuien Garden - 5 min. walk
5. Nara National Museum - 3 min walk
6. Himuro Jinja Shrine - 8 min walk
7. Todaiji Temple - 8 min. walk
8. Nigatsudo Hall - 5 min. walk
9. Sangatsudo Hall - 2 min. walk
10. Tamukeyama Hachimangu Shrine - 5 min. walk
11. Wakakusayama Hill - 10 min. walk
12. JR Nara Station

Please note: The walking times given above are incorrect. I used google maps to plot the walk below with walking times and distances. There is no need to walk from JR Nara Station to Kintetsu Nara Station, it saves time to head straight to Kofuku- ji Temple.

When comparing it (the above) to the map in the LP guide, there are a number of sights which hold less interest for me - call me a philistine if you will, but I'd rather just see the "main" sights. My walk looks like this:

JR Nara Station -  16 min walk 1.4 km
1. Kofuku- ji Temple - 8 min walk, 650 m
2. Yoshikien Garden - 2 min. walk, 120 m ?
3. Isuien Garden (650 yen) - 9 min walk, 750 m
4. Todaiji Temple & Daibutsu-den Hall (500 yen) - 6 min walk, 450 m
6. Nigatsudo Hall - 11 min. walk (900 m)
7. Tea/coffee break stop at Mizutani-chaya - 5 min walk, 400 m
8. Kasuga Taisha - 35 min walk, 2.9 m
10. JR Nara Station

Walking time for the above is 92 min - 1 hour 32 mins.  (7.57 kms) - that's an awful lot of walking! Between Nigatsudo Hall and Kasuga Taisha, is a lovely little teahouse called Mizutani-chaya where I'll stop for a cup of tea. (Alas, I doubt they run to cappuccino.) Their website is in Japanese and although I tried translating into English, only the top line is translated. It does look wonderfully atmospheric.


8. Train Timetables

To find train times in Japan, the best place to find out is on Hyperdia. You just put in your departure and arrival points, the date of travel, either your departure or arrival time and a list of several options will appear. It works best for me to put 'Departure' time except for my flight home ( from Tokyo) where due to having a flight at 12:15, I need to be at the airport (Narita Terminal 3) by 9:00AM, where I have chosen 'Arrival'.

Tip for JR Pass holders:
When the various options appear, scroll down the page and uncheck Nozomi/Mizuho/Hayabusa (Shinkansen), and Private Railway, click 'Search' and the options will give you only those trains that your JR Pass is valid for.

My train routes
I've checked the train times for my trip and rather than bookmark them or have them written down somehwere where I'll forget where they are, am putting them here all in one place. As my trip is not until June (2016), I will need to check again in case the train times have changed. People have advised me that every three months timetables may change, so I will be checking again mid to late March. But for now, here is the train schedule which I will be using.

Narita T3 to Kyoto
Not sure about this one as it will depend on how long it will take collecting luggage, going through customs and getting to T2 where the trains run from. (Trains do not run to or from Terminal 3). Roughly I won't get to Kyoto before 16:00.

Kyoto to Kanazawa
10:10: Depart Kyoto - LTD. EXP THUNDERBIRD 11 [ Departure track No.0 ] (travel time 127 min)
12:17: Arrive Kanazawa [ Arrival track No.7 ]
10:40: Depart Kyoto - LTD. EXP THUNDERBIRD 13 [ Departure track No.0 ] (travel 136 min)
12:56: Arrive Kanazawa [ Arrival track No.7 ]

Kanazawa to Takayama
12:06: Depart Kanazawa - SHINKANSEN TSURUGI 708 [Departure track No.11 ] (travel time 23 min)
12:29: Arrive Toyama [ Arrival track No.11 / Departure track No.2 ]
13:05: Depart Toyama - LTD. EXP (WIDE VIEW) HIDA 14 (travel time 90 min)
14:32: Arrive Takayama

There is an earlier train I could get which leaves Kanazawa at 9:56 and arrives in Takayama at 12:29, but this involves two changes of trains, but for me, I'd rather get the later train which is easier (only one train change) plus allows me just that little bit of extra time (in Kanazawa).

Takayama to Shinjuku (JR)
9:38: Depart Takayama - LTD. EXP (WIDE VIEW) HIDA 6 (travel time 144 min)
12:02: Arrive Nagoya [ Arrival track No.3 / Departure track No.14 ]
13:27: Depart Nagoya SHINKANSEN HIKARI 520 (travel time 96 min)

15:03: Arrive Shinagawa
15:26: Depart Shinagawa - LTD. EXP NARITA EXPRESS 28 (travel time 13 min)
15:39: Arrive Shinjuku (JR) [ Arrival track No.6 ]

9:38: Depart Takayama - LTD. EXP (WIDE VIEW) HIDA 6, (travel time 144 Min)
12:02: Arrive Nagoya [ Arrival track No.3 / Departure track No.14 ]
13:27: Depart Nagoya - SHINKANSEN HIKARI 520 (travel time 96 min)

15:03: Arrive Shinagawa
15:17: Depart Shinagawa - JR Yamanote Line(Outer loop) for OSAKI
15:19: Arrive Osaki
15:21: Depart Osako
15:37: Arrive Shinjuku (JR)

Tokyo to Narita Airport
07:06: Depart Shinjuku (JR) LTD. EXP NARITA EXPRESS 7 [ Departure track No.5 ] (travel time 87 min)

08:33: Arrive Narita Airport Terminal 2
08:33: Walk (time 18 min)
08:51: Arrive Narita International Airport Terminal 3

If I arrive at the airport at 9:30 instead of 9:00, instead of catching a train around 7:00AM, I'd be able to leave almost an hour later (7:53) which would get me to the airport at 9:18, but I would rather not risk it. I always prefer to arrive (too) early at the airport, check in my luggage, then have the rest of the time to relax. I'd rather be bored witless than arrive just in time and have to worry about not getting to the departure gate in time!

Day Trips From Kyoto

Kyoto to Hiroshima (Thursday 9 June)
7:20: Depart Kyoto SHINKANSEN HIKARI 491 [ Departure track No.13 ] (travel time 105 min)

9:05: Arrive Hiroshima [ Arrival track No.12 / Departure track No.1 ]
9:15: Depart Hiroshima JR Sanyo Line for IWAKUNI (travel time 28 min)

9:43: Arrive Miyajimaguchi
9:55: Depart JR Miyajima Ferry for MIYAJIMA (travel time 10 min)
10:05: Arrive Miyajima

Hiroshima to Kyoto
17:47: Depart Hiroshima - SHINKANSEN SAKURA 562 [ Departure track No.14 ] (travel time 83 min)
19:10: Arrive Shin-Kobe

19:25: Depart Shin-Kobe - SHINKANSEN HIKARI 482 (travel time 30 min)
19:55: Arrive Kyoto [ Arrival track No.11 ]

Kyoto to Himeji (Friday 10 June)
9:16: Depart Kyoto - SHINKANSEN HIKARI 501 [ Departure track No.14 ] (travel time 14 min)
9:30: Arrive Shin-Osaka [ Arrival track No.22 / Departure track No.20 ]

9:35: Depart Shin-Osaka - SHINKANSEN KODAMA 737 (travel time 39 min)
10:14: Arrive Himeji

Himeji to Kyoto
15:11: Depart Himeji - JR Special Rapid Service for YASU [ Departure track No.6 ] (travel time 62 min)
16:13: Arrive Osaka
16:15: Depart Osaka (travel time 29 min)
16:44: Arrive Kyoto [ Arrival track No.2 ]

16:01: Depart Himeji - SHINKANSEN HIKARI 476 (travel time 54 min)
16:55: Arrive Kyoto [ Arrival track No.11 ]

I may not do the following after having already done two long day trips.

Kyoto to Nara
9:33: Depart Kyoto - JR Nara Line Rapid Service for NARA [ Departure track No.8 ] (travel time 44 min)
10:19: Arrive Nara

Nara to Kyoto
13:54: Depart Nara JR Nara Line Rapid Service for KYOTO (travel time 47 min)
14:41: Arrive Kyoto track 11

Monday, 7 December 2015

7. Kyoto to Hiroshima/ Miyajima Day Trip

6:30am - Head to Kyoto Station by bus or walk
Have a coffee, a few fags, and grab a bite to eat.

Kyoto Station: Depart 7: 20 train
Take reserved seat near window

9:05 Arrive Hiroshima
9:15 Take train JR Sanyo Line to Miyajimaguchi Station (25 minutes)
9:40 Arrive Miyajimaguchi Station. Short walk to the ferry pier.

10:00 JR Ferry to Miyajima.
From the ferry terminal, it's a ten minute walk to Itsukushima Shrine. All the other sights are located within walking distance from the shrine.

Miyajima, Itsukushima Shrine (120 min)

Itsukushima Shrine is a World Heritage Site. Established in the 6th century, famous for its beautiful Shinden-zukuri style structure (architecture representative of a nobles' residence in the Heian period). See the vermillion shrine sitting in a lush environment facing the deep blue sea and enjoy the picturesque beauty.

12:00 - Miyajima Port to Hiroshima Station
Catch ferry back to Miyajimaguchi, then train to Hiroshima Station.  (Shinkansen-guchi Entrance). Get on the Sightseeing Loop Bus "Hiroshima Meipu ru-pu"bus to Atomic Bomb Dome and Peace Memorial Park. (Bus free with JR Pass)

The loop bus runs every 15 minutes from the Hiroshima Station to major tourist spots of Hiroshima City including Peace Memorial Park, three museums and center of the town. One ride is 200yen and a one-day pass is 400 yen. Catch the bus at the Hiroshima Station (Shinkansen-guchi Entrance; in front of Hotel Granvia) and other 13 stops (bus stops and timetable vary according to a route).

Atomic Bomb Dome
The Atomic Bomb Dome is a symbol of the disastrous atomic bombing during WWII, the first atomic bombs used in human history, and has been preserved as it was to promote peace and elimination of atomic weapons around the world

Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park & Museum (100 min)
This large-scale park was established in 1949 after the Pacific War ended, and is visited by countless visitors as a symbol of peace. The museum within the park is an Important Cultural Property of Japan, and was built to remind future generations of the terror wrought by atomic bombs.

17:00 JR Hiroshima Station
Be at Hiroshima station by 17:00.
17:47: SHINKANSEN SAKURA 562 (Departure track No. 14)
19:10: Arrive SHIN-KOBE

19:25 Depart: SHINKANSEN HIKARI 482
19:55 Arrive: KYOTO (Arrival track No.11)

Hiroshima Transport

How to get to Miyajima
1. Hiroshima Station: JR Sanyo Line to Miyajimaguchi Station (25 minutes, 410 yen one way, covered by the Japan Rail Pass).
2. Alternatively, you can take tram line number 2 from central Hiroshima bound for Miyajimaguchi. The tram is slower, but costs only 260 yen one way (not covered by the Japan Rail Pass).

Miyajimaguchi Station: Short walk to ferry pier. Two ferry companies - JR and Matsudai. Both take 10 minutes and both cost 180 yen one way. The Japan Rail Pass is valid on JR ferries.

Miyajima Island

Miyajima Ropeway
Hours: 9:00 to 17:00
Fees: 1000 yen (one way), 1800 yen (round trip)
Miyajima Ropeway

Sunday, 6 December 2015

6. Japan Itinerary

Well now, I've written and deleted and written and re-written my itinerary, which is pretty much what I had been thinking earlier, except now it's more "finely tuned."

Should I do it in reverse?
Once I found out I probably wouldn't arrive in Kyoto until after 4.30pm, I started thinking perhaps I should do it in reverse with Tokyo at the beginning instead of at the end. The advantage of this is once I've caught the NEX from Narita (airport) to Tokyo, I could just go straight to my accommodation and relax a bit rather than spend the next two and a half hours sitting on another train to Kyoto. Part ot the problem for me is Jetstar fly into and out of Terminal 3 which is the shitty one.

All the other airlines land and depart at Terminal 2, but not Jetstar - on no! It ain't called Crapstar for nothing over here. That means an extra 30 minutes getting between terminals - either a nice long walk (they say 18 minutes, but I've always found they underestimate) pulling a hefty suitcase, having to change hands constantly when each arm starts to ache from the weight. OR, there is a shuttle bus which is somewhat quicker (so the site reads) but it's still extra time to add to an already long trip.

Ten hours (9 hours 55 minutes) on the red eye flight, the last thing I want to do is lug around a blooming suitcase. It's going to be a nawful long day. For me especially, as I find I always get a migraine by the afternoon of my arrival and have to go straight to bed after taking medication.

Reason for sticking with the original plan

Although relaxation wise and a bit easier at the beginning staying in Tokyo at the beginning, I decided against it because it meant I would lose a day as I have to be in Tokyo the night before I depart - that meant I would have five nights in Tokyo in total (four at the beginning, one at the end). This was really the big decider for me, plus there is the added bonus of after a hectic seven days in Kyoto and long daytrips, the three days in Kanazawa and Takayama will be the relaxation time - a much slower pace without having to rush around here and there like a headless chook! Just take it easy, nice leisurely strolls or catch the local town/tourist bus, no hurry, no rush, before the pace picks up again in Tokyo. Anyway, the backbone of my itinerary is done, all it needs is to organise what I'll be doing and seeing in Kyoto and Tokyo. I sort of know pretty much the things I would like to see, just have to work them to the best advantage. Accommodation in Kyoto is still undecided, but that's for another post another day. Whew! I didn't realise how much I'd written, I hope dear reader you aren't bored.

Day 1 - Mon 6: Arrive at Narita Airport
Arrive at Narita Airport and take the train to Kyoto. Spend the evening exploring Kyoto.

Day 2-7: Kyoto with sidetrips
Spend six full days in Kyoto, with two days spent on daytrips to Himeji and Hiroshima/Miyajima. Look at some suggested Kyoto itineraries.

Tue 7:
Wed 8:
Thur 9:
Fri 10:
Sat 11:
Sun 12:

Day 8 - Mon 13: Kyoto to Kanazawa
Leave the city in the morning for Kanazawa (2 hours) and spend the afternoon and night in Kanazawa.

Day 9 - Tue 14: Kanazawa to Takayama
In the late morning, (noon) travel from Kanazawa to Takayama (2.5 hours) and spend the afternoon and evening exploring Takayama

Day 10 - Takayama
Spend a full day in Takayama.

Day 11 - Thur 16: Takayama to Tokyo
In the morning, travel from Takayama to Tokyo (4.5 hours) and spend the afternoon and evening exploring Tokyo.

Day 12-14 - Tokyo with sidetrips
Spend three full days in Tokyo with one of those days spent on a daytrip to nearby Kamakura or Nikko. Look at some of the suggested Tokyo itineraries.

Fri 17:
Sat 18:
Sun 19:

Day 15 - Mon 20: Depart from Narita Airport
Leave Tokyo early morning in time for flight departure 12.15pm, arriving at airport by 9.30am.

5. A Favourite Song - 梓みちよ こんにちは赤ちゃん

I heard this song when I was a child and always loved it - Konichiwa Akachan sung by Michiyo Azusa. As this blog is about my trip to Japan, it seems appropriate to post it here. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do. I had another version in my Youtube playlist which I liked better, an old B&W version sung live, but alas, it has been deleted. English translation is below.

I have found two translations in English, and as I'm not sure which is correct, I print them both here. If any reader can advise which is correct, please let me know.

Hello, my baby's face
Hello, my baby's cry
Your tiny hand, your round eyes
It's nice to meet you, I'm your mama!
Hello, my baby, to your life
Hello, my baby, to your future
Papa wished for this happiness
It's nice to meet you, I'm your mama!
As a symbol of our love,
I pray To bring you up healthy and beautiful
Hello, my baby! I have a request
Hello, my baby! Sometimes, Daddy and I You see,
we want you to make a quiet night
Just for us so good night
Please, my baby
Good night, my baby! I'm Mummy!

Hello, my baby! Your smile
Hello, my baby! Your cries
Your tiny hands and round eyes
How do you do? I'm Mummy!

Hello, my baby! Your life
Hello, my baby! Your future
This happiness is what Daddy desires
How do you do? I'm Mummy!

This is the mark of love for the two of us alone
I'll pray to raise you healthy and beautiful

Hello, my baby! I have a request
Hello, my baby! Sometimes, Daddy and I
You see, we want you to make a quiet night
Just for us--so good night
Please, my baby
Good night, my baby! I'm Mummy!"

Friday, 2 October 2015

4. My Itinerary

Well I've worked out my itinerary and am happy with the result. I knew I was going stay the first seven nights in Kyoto and the last four nights in Tokyo, but I was stuck on how to spend the three nights in the middle . After asking for ideas and advice and then researching some places (don't you just love google?), this is it:

Day 1 - Mon 6 June: Melbourne to Tokyo to Kyoto
Day 2 - Tue 7 June: Kyoto
Day 3 -Wed 8 June: Kyoto
Day 4 - Thu 9 June: Kyoto
Day 5 - Fri 10 June: Kyoto
Day 6 - Sat 11 June: Kyoto
Day 7 - Sun 12 June: Kyoto

Day 8 - Mon 13 June: Kyoto to Kanazawa

Day 9 - Tue 14 June: Kanazawa to Takayama
Day 10 - Wed 15June: Takayama

Day 11 - Thu 16 June: Takayama to Tokyo
Day 12 - Fri 17 June: Tokyo Sanno Festival at Hie Shrime
Day 13 - Sat 18 June: Tokyo
Day 14 - Sun 19 June: Tokyo
Day 15 - Mon 20 June: Tokyo to Melbourne

This will give me a nice balance and seeing and staying in the Japan Alps will be a rewarding experience. I'm working out day trips and such, most of which will be done by train.

Thursday, 1 October 2015

3. On Using a Communal Bath or Onsen

Would you? In a country such as Japan, where Sentōs and onsens abound, would you avail yourself of them or would you feel uncomfortable? How does a westerner overcome their feeling of self-consciousness and embarrassment on having to parade in their birthday suit? The last person to see me like that was my mother.

Seeing as how I will be travelling to Japan next year, this topic interests me greatly. There are rules which one must follow - The Protocol of the Sento when first I glanced at the photo on the right, I thought they pictured a row of potties! On closer inspection, they are little buckets on which you park your posterior while your wash yourself.

And then having to walk and get into the water - I wonder if you have a good figure if you'd feel less embarrassed than someone who has dangly bits that all head south and gravity has forgotten. I can imagine the thoughts running through the minds of the other bathers - "Gee she's got a big bum", "Look at that stomach and the disgusting rolls of fat", "God, she's obese", "Here comes thunder thighs", while in the men's section they'd probably be thinking, "Mine's bigger than his."

The accommodation place at Takayama has a scenic lookout large communal hot spring bath which has a wall painting over 50 years old and the outdoor scenic lookout hot spring baths look enticing but, well...I don't know if I will have the courage.

Thursday, 24 September 2015

2. Where To Go

Now comes the next part - where to go. On previous overseas trips, I've had a good idea where I want to visit and stay and usually just needed a bit of fine tuning. With Japan however, I'm in a quandary. I know I wish to see Kyoto and have known this for a long time, and of course Tokyo. The rest of the country I'm not sure about. Yes, I've heard of Mt. Fuji (who hasn't?) and Yokohama and Osaka and Hiroshima and Okinawa (I loved Teahouse of the August Moon), but this is, or was, the extent of my knowledge which now that I think about it, is pretty woeful.

Remembering there is a Malaysian Tourism office in my city (from which I found brochures and leaflets), I checked online for a Japanese counterpart but alas, there is none in my state. Not deterred, I emailed the Japan National Tourism Organisation (JNTO) asking if they had any leaflets they could send and received a lovely reply from them.

In it, they said most people travelling for the first time tend to go to Tokyo, Kyoto/Nara, Osaka and Hiroshima. They will send me some general brochures and once I've decided where I will go, can request additional brochures from them. This is good and I can hardly wait until they arrive, which should be some time early next week.

I'm going to do some day trips from Kyoto - Nara and Osaka have been suggested. Researching a bit about Hiroshima at the moment and am taken with the red pillars standing in the water - the floating Torii.

Someone suggest spending the three days in the Japan Alps - one night in Takayama and two in Kanazawa, or three nights in Osaka, with one day trip to Okayama and one day trip to Himeji or three nights in Hiroshima, with one dedicated to Miyajima island and perhaps another day trip somewhere.

At this stage, I have no idea where or what to do with those three days. For the benefit of those reading this, this is my itinerary so far:

Day 1: Melbourne to Tokyo to Kyoto
Fly Melbourne to Narita airport, arrive 9:05AM. Train to Kyoto

Day 2 to Day 7:Kyoto

Day 8: ?????
Day 9: ?????
Day 10: ?????

Day 11 to Day 14: Tokyo

Day 15: Tokyo to Melbourne

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

1. How It All Started

It all began on Friday (18 September) with an ad on the television - Jetstar have a sale. Fly to Japan from $349 and fly back for free! Ooh, that sounds good, thinks I. No, no, no, no, no - you can't afford it, forget about it.

Saturday, I remembered that ad, no, no, no, no, no, don't go there. Don't even look online. Ha! Famous last words.....I did look online, selected some dates, yes, $349 from here to Tokyo, and yes, $0 for the return. But - there's always a but, isn't there? The $349 does not include checked baggage or meals. And you don't get to choose your seat. Hmm. So, automatically the checked baggage comes up at 20kg for each leg at $35 a pop. Now, if you're like me, you'll be smart and know you don't need the same amount of luggage weight setting off on your trip as coming home. After all, most people end up with more stuff coming back than when they set out. Souvenirs and all that.

So, I altered the checked baggage weight from 20kg to 15kg - a saving of $5.00. Meals? At $24 that's a fair whack on money. And you don't need to eat in the middle of the night on a plane when your flight leaves at 15 minutes after midnight, you'd normally be asleep at that time, not filling your stomach. So no meals there. A saving of $24.00. The return flight was another matter. Departing at 12.15PM, you will need food, so it makes sense to book your meals. I chose the chicken something or other - found out it's two meals.

Anyway, getting back to things, what with charges for baggage, meals, seat selection and - get this - a $25 fee for credit card (gee they know how to get at you) it came to over $400. I was already to hit the "Confirm" button, but held back. No, no, no, no, no, I told myself, walk away. Do not pass go, go directly to gaol (Monopoly). So I walked away. Shut down the site and walked away.

Came back later for a second shot now didn't I? This time I did pass go, this time I went directly to gaol! Have booked myself a two week trip to Japan. I would have preferred 11 nights, but the flight out was $100 dearer, so I thought better to have an extra three days in Japan, and spend that $100 on three extra nights. (I will be staying in hostels). I'm very glad I decided to do this (I almost wasn't going to you know), but something held me back. Luckily for me, when looking at the flight on the 9th June, I found it wasn't a direct flight. It was Melbourne to Cairns, Cairns to Tokyo, flying time of around 14 hours. That flight leaves Melbourne at 6.10AM and arrives in Tokyo at 18.45PM.

So, went for the 14 day option, direct flights both ways, flying time just under 10 hours. Will be flying out on Monday 6th June and departing from Tokyo on Monday 20th June. If flights go to schedule, I will arrive in Tokyo at 9.05AM and arrive back in Melbourne at 11.10PM.

Adding fees for checked baggage, meal, seat selection (I always have an aisle seat) and the $25 credit card fee, it came to the grand sum of $478. Not exactly the $349 advertised but a bargain nonetheless. Now all I have to do is start saving like mad.