Jun 2, 2015

Japan Itenerary

We spent a little less than two weeks in Japan, which felt impossibly short. Here is how we spent our time.

5.20 Late landing at Narita airport. 2 hour bus ride to Yokohama, where Saori's mom and dad picked us up and drove us to thier house. Pan fried fish for dinner.

5.21 Recovery day shopping in Aobadai in Yokohama UNIQLO shopping, Mr. Donuts, long walk to the local mall to hunt for pressure cookers with Yoshiko-san, fake French cafe, talking to Yoshiko-san's english classes.

5.22 Up and out early to central Tokyo. Tsukiji fish market, sushi bowl lunch at the fish market. Walking through Ginza, more UNIQLO shopping at the flagship store. Watched half of a Kabuki theater performance at the main Tokyo kabuki theater, standing at the back. Hibijako-en park stroll, stumbling across Japanese Oktoberfest, talking with Japanese brewers about smoked german beers.

5.23 Early train to Tokyo central station. Met Dew's friends who drove us all to Nasu for Dew's wedding festivities. Dew's surreal and fantastic and wonderful wedding. After party at the 'Gaijin house' until 3 AM.

5.24 wake up in a guest house full of people, take down of the wedding site and distribution of leftover flowers, vases, etc. Caught a ride with Sekizawa-kun (bride's dress designer) and Sebastian (german photographer). Drove over to a remote and beautiful ancient resort town at the bend of a mountain river, iced matcha on the riverbank, discussion of art and ceramics in the town with Sekizawa's friend who is reluctantly the 17th generation to take care of the old inn. Showa cafe coffee and cake. Crazy ride through night time Tokyo with a frozen navigation system, and a new driver with a lead foot.

5.25 Family engagement and wedding photos taken in a studio with full ceremonial dress, which took about four hours but we ended up with a full USB stick with all the photos. Small earthquake. Coffee in Matchida where the photo studio was. Meeting up with Dew and Yoshimi and  Hiep in Shinjuku, driving over to Gonpachi, the restaurant where they filled the "Crazy 88" fight in Kill Bill. Walk over to hidden trendy bar These library for expensive but delicious custom fruit and spice cocktails. Night drive through Mejidori to see Omotesando new architecture and Harajuku.

5.26 Up at 5am to drive to Kyoto. Stopped to eat at Biwa-ko (lake) for a rest stop lunch overlooking the lake before heading on to Kyoto to join the crowds visiting the Golden Pavillion at Kinkaku-ji. Pressed on to the zen rock garden where we sat and counted the 15 stones, and then walked along the river and Arashiyama. Soba and grilled eel dinner, and then walking through Myushin-ji zen buddhist temple complex to the traditional inn with wood floors, tatami floors in the rooms, one shared bathroom, and paper screens.

5.27 Up at 5:20 am to to hear the buddhist monks chant. Stumbling like a zombie through the ancient temple complex. Breakfast at the inn of the tradiational vegan monk's breakfast. Kiyomizu-dera temple, walk through the historic wooden neighborhood of Kiyomizu, throwing our own noodle bowls on a potters wheel. Yasaka shrine,  walk through Gion, and coffee break. Counting the 1001 life sized buddhas at the temple Sanjusangen-ji, quick visit to see the funereary statues at Aoashino Nenbutsu-ji, the lovely moss gardens and towering bamboo groves at Gio-ji, and lastly the Jojakuko-ji temple to see the renovation of the main hall. Luxury bath at the Ranzan hotel, large set dinner in our yukata, night stroll along the river with Saori in our yukata and sandals.

5.28 Elaborate breakfast at the Ranza hotel, mandatory $5 coffee break at the hotel lobby. Toji-in temple with the  paintings of Daruma, bamboo garden walk. Fushimi Inari shrine with the torii covered mountain paths and stone foxes, household protection ceremony administered to Saori and I by shinto priests. Yakisoba lunch from one of the stands outside of the shrine. UNESCO Phoenix hall at the Byodin temple complex, museum, and tour of the interior. Drive across the mountainous green interior to the pacific coast, to the tiny fishing village of Hamajima. Elaborate traditional seafood dinner, inn bath with a whale fountain, falling asleep on tatami with sound of waves outside.

5.29 Seafood breakfast, drive to Ise, visit to the grand shrine of Ise, sweets (akahuku) and cold tea, ferry ride from Toba to Irago, drive back to Yokohama.

5.30 Saori's parents drive us to just recently opened Nezu museum in Omotesando by Kengo Kuma to look at swords and fashion accessories from Edo Japan. Coffee and cakes at fancy cafe, Jioya and makisushi dinner. Large, long earthquake, watching "Thermae Romanae".

5.31 Slow morning, wandering through Matchida for shopping, ramen lunch at a famous ramen bar, last spin through UNIQLO and MUJI. Saori's mom made us a big dinner of grilled fish, drinking beer and sake, packing.

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