Japan 2010 – Trip Overview

I just spent 11 marvelous days in Japan for vacation.  It’s a beautiful country, with lots of history, culture, and innovation.  Japan and China are probably the two most influential nations in Asia.  I’m glad to have the fortune of visiting both places.

This trip was very memorable and rewarding.  Lots of things to write about (and I’m not done yet).  Here are some topics:

Note: the articles appear in reverse order when you view my blog site in full.

Three of us went on this trip.  Mo, my faithful traveling sidekick (ha), was finally able to go this time.  Last year, he and I tried to go to Japan, but some red tape with U.S. immigration prevented him from leaving.  Instead, he was stuck in Mexico for a few weeks.  We refer to this period as Mo’s Exile.  Ingrid was also able to join us as well.  It was her first time traveling with us (poor girl, stuck with two dudes).  Nonetheless, good times were enjoyed by all! 🙂

Japan is an island nation.  Although several thousand islands make up Japan, almost all its landmass comes from four islands.  Most of the good stuff is on the biggest island in the middle, Honshu.  Our travels were solely within Honshu.

Japan is located just east of Korea and Russia.  Since it’s east of all its neighbors, it is known as the Land of the Rising Sun.  I knew it was close to Korea, but I didn’t realize how far north it goes.  The big northern island, Hokkaido, seems like just a small hop from Siberia.  Japan is pretty far away from China too.  Now I know why Japan is so much more similar to Korea in language and culture than it is to China.

We spent the entire trip in two main areas of Japan – Tokyo and Kyoto.  We flew into Tokyo Narita Airport (1hr train to Tokyo).  Tokyo is Japan’s capital and is the largest city on the planet.  We spent six days there, including a day trip to nearby Nikko.  The remaining four days were spent in the Kyoto area, which is a 3hr bullet train ride from Tokyo.  Kyoto is Japan’s center of traditional and religious culture, very different from Japan.  We also did a day trip to nearby Nara and Osaka while based in Kyoto.

You can get everywhere in Japan via train.  However, train tickets are expensive.  Our solution was to buy a Japan Rail Pass, which gives you unlimited train rides over a certain number of days.  Just one round trip between Tokyo and Kyoto almost makes up for the price of the rail pass.  In addition to that, we got “free” rides to Nikko, Nara, and Osaka, not to mention some local rides in Tokyo and Osaka.

In Tokyo, we stayed the the most excellent Conrad Tokyo Hotel.  Gotta love traveling with consultants with lots of hotel points and elite status.

In Kyoto, however, there weren’t many western Hotel chains to choose from.  We ended up staying at a hostel! Talk about a change of scenery…

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