View Full Version : Turning Japanese.... I really think so. Spring '17

13-04-2017, 10:50 AM
Hi All,

I'm just back from a couple of weeks in Japan with my wife, and thought I'd do a quick trip report with some photos. Not sure it will quite be up to the standards of Neil Mac's trips to the far east, but expect plenty of photos of robo-toilets, monkeys, weird signs, odd food, nice beer, fast trains and the occasional cultural item.

So, where to start... well, Japan was somewhere we've always wanted to visit, but have always been apprehensive due to the language barrier, challenging food (I have crohns disease so need to be quite careful with my diet), distance and cost. We decided earlier this year that it was now or never (I'm 40 in 6 months or so, #midlifecrisis) so started our research, booked a couple of weeks off work starting late March to coincide with cherry blossom season over there and got booking the flights and accommodation.

Never ones to take the simple package holiday type, we tend to plan and book everything individually, and really enjoy travelling around in foreign countries, usually by car (ROAD TRIP!) but also via public transport to see a decent variety of the scenery, different areas etc. Having done a couple of USA and Canada road trips with silly huge rental cars, we quickly established that this wouldn't be one of those, but using trains in Japan was the way to go. No rental car can beat a bullet train! We did hire a car for a couple of days to see some more remote areas though but no Dodge Charger, or Ford Mustang here, something small and more suitable.

We established that the must see/do points for the trip would be:

1. Tokyo - modern madness
2. Kyoto - old cultural stuff
3. Alps - scenery
4. Ryokan (traditional Japanese inn) - hospitality & sleeping on the floor
5. Hot spring outdoor onsen - traditional public bathing action
6. Bullet trains
7. Monkeys

So we set about planning a route to encompass these items. After reading loads of reviews for accommodation on Trip Advisor, asking advice on here, reading guide books, talking to my sister who visited Japan around 10 years ago and watching Joanna Lumley's recent programme where she tours Japan we came up with something like this (shown as if driving, we'd mostly use trains):


The only driving but would be the northern most parts with a jaunt into the alps to stay at a couple of interesting spots to fulfil the ryokan / onsen / alps / monkey points above:


We continued the planning, booking and preparation, packed as little as we thought we could get away for a couple of weeks in changing weather conditions to ease transfers between trains, planes and automobiles and were ready to go... :happy:

13-04-2017, 11:19 AM
So, the day came to set off to the airport. We took the luxury Swedish turbo tank to start the trip in style... parked at Manchester airport long stay thing (booked with Tesco clubcard points, too expensive otherwise!).


And flew first to Helsinki en route to Tokyo Narita airport. The plane to Helsinki was pretty small by jet terms (not sure on the model) and the turbulence coming in to land was a little un-nerving but we kept our breakfast down, then changed onto this much larger aircraft - the Dreamliner.


We were in economy as usual but the JAL service was amazing, staff, food, drinks all brilliant and tons of legroom, comfy seats and a baffling entertainment system...


(I did get it into English later).

First plane meal I've ever had with chopsticks (with beer obv).


The flight went really well, around 9 hours from Helsinki I think so we watched a few films ('The Accountant' with Ben Affleck was really good), read some more Japan books listened to music etc. and started to try to pickup on some of the Japanese customs from the staff... bowing, hot towels before every meal, lots of thank you, thank you stuff, announcements all have many apologies in them for putting your seat belt on, turbulence, coming in to land etc. :lol:

Landed at Narita, reasonably strict but pleasant immigration and passport business (not like the US though when you have to do a chuffing bark rubbing or your face, move a camera up and down to read your eyeballs whilst standing on one leg and holding your passport against a reader thing plus give fingerprints with the other hand).

We passed through and out to the airport to look for the post office to pickup the mobile wi-fi we'd ordered and try to find out how to claim our Japan Rail passes. The post office was easy (3rd floor at Narita) and we were soon in possession of a little wi-fi router... this would prove invaluable for navigation later.


We then found the Japan Rail office, filled in some forms whilst queuing with other confused Westerners and exchanged our JR pass 'exchange orders' (bought in the UK, approx. 300/person for 14 days) for the passes we needed:


These passes allow unlimited use of the majority of bullet trains, JR local and regional trains and a few other bits and pieces so I'd worked out before leaving home that to do the route we wanted the pass would prove cost effective and save us quite a bit of cash getting around. Also, we would rarely need to use a station ticket machine which saved some further confusion.

Whilst at the JR office, we asked the nice lady to book us a ticket on the 'airport express' train into Tokyo and also one for the day we planned to leave Tokyo and head to Kyoto in around 3 days time. She did this with precision and efficiency using the combination of a touch screen and a keyboard that looked like it was from a Commodore 64, printed our tickets and pointed out the train number, time, platform, carriage and seat number on the tickets. Very impressive!

On the platform I decided what I really needed after approx. 18 hours travelling was a nice can of hot, premium BOSS COFFEE. If only a vending machine allowed this... oh, hang on...


The airport express train was our first taste of Japanese public transport and it met all expectations - fast, clean, spacious, SO quiet (no talking on mobile phones!) and soon we reached Tokyo station near where we were staying. We navigated out of the absolutely huge station in the correct approximate direction and found our hotel, here:

It sounds minor, but the hotel was our first taste of a Japanese lift as reception was up on a high floor. The lift was near silent, so fast but with little sensation of acceleration or decollation and had strange piped music of a kind we'd not previously heard (like jazz with birds singing over it maybe?). PING! We're at reception, check in and off to the room... Japan already feels awesome, but we are knackered...

13-04-2017, 11:37 AM
Our room at the Ryumeikan was really nice and well equipped with remote control toilet (obviously), weird but very powerful shower, ion machine / humidifier thing, and of course a music system integrated with the bed - oh, you don't have one of those at home? I thought everyone had them? :lol:




This contraption allowed you to set it to gradually dim the lights to simulate the sunset whilst it played what sounded like Jean Michelle Jarre collaboration with some wildlife at gradually decreasing volume, and the highlight being the bed vibrating in time. Ideal! You could of course, set this in reverse to wake you up at an allocated time. We tested this and the reality was not relaxing but in fact a spot light to the eye ball, what felt like a minor earthquake and some god awful racket from the subwoofers!

This was the control panel, there was an extensive manual you could read too for the 'sleep system' which advised it shouldn't be used as a 'guarantee wake up' but best call reception for a wake up call for that. :lol:


We unpacked a bit, tried on the traditional Yukatas and slippers (all quite small if you're 6' 2" with size 11 feet...) and went out for a wander.



Loads to see locally but we mostly fancied a pint so went to the local beer hall (library pic)


This was excellent and as it was around 6pm allowed us to see the after work culture of 'salarymen' out for a drink with their colleagues getting messed up! Guess which one in this pic is me... :whistle:


Great fun, excellent beer too. I banged my head (first of so many times) going to the bathroom as the door way can't have been more than about 5' 8" or so. :lol:

After beers we had a wander around the Ginza area, posh shops, Nissan crossing (one for you, Neil!) and also tracked down a pint of milk and some cereal for the room in case of dietary emergency.




Time for bed. First night in Japan, can't quite believe it.... :shock:

13-04-2017, 11:48 AM
Brilliant! Continue :thumb:

13-04-2017, 12:09 PM
Over the next three days in Tokyo we saw many things, I'll post photos and describe some. We mainly stuck to the East side as we'd be returning to the city at the end of the trip and staying further west to explore that area.

We generally used the JR pass to get around on the Yamanote Line as that provides a loop around the centre of the city and gets you close to most of the areas. We occasionally used the subway but generally stayed above ground for this part of the trip.




Old mini!


Imperial palace and grounds:





Pop concert on at the Budokan, que lots of oddly dressed kids...



One of the things we'd booked in advance was the MariCar (Mario Kart) tour of the night streets of Tokyo. It seemed a great idea, gently sight seeing from a guided go-kart tour around the key areas, all the bright lights etc... whilst dressed as Mario and Luigi! We were not disappointed, but the pace was a little quicker than expected and generally full speed ahead wherever possible which mean around 50km/h on the flat and up to twice that downhill at times, amongst normal (full sized!) traffic. Absolutely mental but amazing fun, and surprisingly well organised so it felt almost safe at times :lol:

10 kart convoy stopped at a busy crossing - all the passers by start taking photos and waving :lol:


At one point, well twice actually (once in each direction) we went over this bridge which I took a pic of the next day in daylight! I nearly lost my hat as I had to duck down to minimise wind resistance and keep up with my wife ahead who weighs considerably less than me and drives like a demon so kept leaving me behind at 100+ km/h!


The bridge looks like this (library pic) at night by the way and is called 'rainbow bridge' - quite exhilarating to take on with a go-kart!


I've got loads more pics of the go-karting, lots are blurred but I'll come back and edit some decent ones in here hopefully! Not entirely sure you need to see what a particularly tall Western Mario looks like...?

More assorted photos:


My wife trying to work out train prices to get us to Odiaba island so I could see the Toyota MEGAWEB




More soon....

Neil Mac
13-04-2017, 12:12 PM
Yay! :veryhappy:

13-04-2017, 12:26 PM
Really enjoying this :thumb:

13-04-2017, 12:35 PM
Good work!
thanks for posting.

13-04-2017, 02:52 PM
Cheers, chaps - lots more to come :thumb:

Here are some pics of Toyota MEGAWEB, which is a kind of theme park sort of thing for (mostly) Toyota cars. Kind of like VW's AutoStadt if you've been there, and indeed it had a German themed Nurburgring cafe there where you could get food in the shape of cars, the 'Ring track outline and all kinds of stuff :lol:

As mentioned above, it's on an island off the South East coast of Tokyo accessible by train. In the main area we saw lots of concept cars, racing cars, Toyota Racing Developments parts you can get for your GT86 and various interactive displays.



(I imagined the rental Vitz I'd booked would be like this one above. It wasn't).



This was a weird concept car, I quite liked it, transparent floor and all, kind of like a hot rod style



I loved this, but then I do like caravans...


I didn't take any photos, but there was also a very interesting (particularly, to my wife as she's an occupational therapist) part with cars adapted for disabilities with lifts, hoists, hand controls and all kinds of assistive technology too.

Then, over the road to the 'history garage' which was oddly located inside a shopping mall? :fish:

Loads of nice stuff in here, but here's a selection of my favourites.







Loved the wide arches on this one






There was quite a large reference book and toy car display area too...


Mazda Cosmo


Non Japanese section





13-04-2017, 02:52 PM
Downstairs there was a competition car area, gift shop and a part where you could watch the engineers restoring cars. The guy was working on a Citroen DS when we were there.














There were lots more, but that's a selection anyway. Thoroughly enjoyable for a browse and free entry :thumb:

13-04-2017, 03:22 PM
A few more Tokyo pics. What isn't shown, I now realise, is all the folk wearing face masks on the streets and trains. We found approximately 50% of people seemed to have them on, primarily due to pollen levels from what I read, but also to avoid passing on any coughs or colds to others. How considerate. Quite un-nerving at first, but you do get used to it.

I will say that the Japanese people are extremely friendly, helpful and humble and we didn't encounter a single angry person, queue jumper, road rage merchant or anything like that, aside from the odd Westerner, unfortunately.

It's interesting too that the culture of no tipping anywhere means that service staff, waiters, bar men and everyone else just seems happy to do a good job for the pride in their work rather than the US type culture (which is increasingly common here too, I think) of sucking up and bothering you to earn tips. None of that in Japan that we saw.

Anyway, pics... this is a typical street in Sumida area.


We took the train north to Akihabara and changed to a train out east a few stops across the water to find a place called 'Pop Eye beer club' to try some of their ales after reading good things on Trip Advisor. It was good fun, loads of ales and during happy hour they kept bringing a small plate of food with each beer - good job really to offset the extortionate cost of beer in Tokyo.

As the exchange rate wasn't great at the time of our trip (approx. 130-140 yen to 1) it meant that generally a pint of beer would cost around 10!

Anyway, not to be deterred we tried some lovely Japanese beers at a little place back near the hotel too...



That bar was very small and cosy, really nice actually in a kind of 'Grand Designs' glass box way! :lol:


This was the view back towards the hotel around 5 mins walk away, taxis everywhere as usual


I think that was our last night in Tokyo, for the first spell anyway, as the next day we were bound for the bullet train to Kyoto. I was extremely excited about this in a nerdy engineer type fashion :thumb:

13-04-2017, 03:43 PM
So, the next morning we got up (not via the sleep system bed vibration thing, just an iPhone alarm!), packed our stuff and popped to a cafe near the hotel for a typical (not) Japanese breakfast...


I know you expect everything to be small in Japan, and it generally is, but you still get a surprise that coffees are the size they used to be in England years ago before Starbucks introduced all the different sizes. It's quite nice, but I did tend to have to really drink slowly to avoid just downing a latte in one gulp.

Then over to Tokyo station, and to the Shinkansen (bullet train) lines. Our train was number 511, of the Hikari type, leaving at 11:33 and we had the platform, carriage etc. info from the tickets too so it was easy to find.



Good advice...


One thing you see a lot of at airports, train station and even bars sometimes, is smoking rooms. Here's a pic of one. Hmm... lovely. I would imagine there's no need to actually smoke in their but you could just inhale your surroundings?


Once aboard the bullet train, which was on time to the second, we read, listened to music and I used a GPS speedo on my iPhone to be a nerd and record the speed (saw 180mph max but very regularly 'cruising' at 170+). We also tried the facilities and were pleased to find important safety info in English...


So, off we go to Kyoto around 300 miles west of Tokyo which the train covers in a couple of hours. The sensation of speed is strange because it's so smooth accelerating and feels more like a plane really, kind of looks like one inside too, relatively low and wide compared to UK trains.

13-04-2017, 04:17 PM
We arrived at Kyoto station (an engineering marvel in itself with 12 floors of restaurants, shops etc. and just huge above and below ground) around 2pm and walked the few mins south to our hotel. We'd intentionally booked a hotel near the station for ease of travelling around to the various sights of Kyoto as lots of the temples, shrines etc. are a little out of the city and into the countryside hills in one direction or another.

The Lonely Planet guide had warned us not to be down-heartened on arriving at Kyoto station with it being modern rather than expecting to roll into a historic area, so we knew what to expect. Mostly.

We'd chosen this hotel - http://sakuraterrace-gallery.jp/en/ based on location, reviews, price and facilities. We liked the fact it has free washer and drier machine facilities (we pack light!), onsen and bar with live music most nights. We didn't know 'til we checked in that your first drink each night was free, as was the coffee machine so made mental notes to get our money's worth there... :lol:

We checked in and found our room, which was over the road from the open plan hotel reception which seemed keen to list the facilities via wall signage...


I was hoping this wasn't the onsen as it seemed a little exposed...


Room was a decent size by Japanese standards, had a fridge, TV, very limited hanging or storage space as started to seem normal... I like minimalism, but you need more than two coat hangers really...


My wife by this point had become increasingly interested in the ION machines all rooms seem to have, presumably as it's such a dry climate so was keen to fire that bad boy up and IONise us thoroughly? I remember from one of Neil's reports that IONs are big business in Japan so wasn't alarmed and checked to see if the toilet was robotic. Thankfully it was, phew! Imagine having to pull a lever or something so primitive to flush...? Heated seat present too, adjustable washer pressure too, though disappointingly only around 10 buttons on the remote, I was expecting more.

I also tried on the standard issue traditional gear they'd left us in the room. This time not a kimono type thing but some sort of pyjamas, I think intended for wearing to go to the onsen? One size DOES NOT fit all, not posting a pic as they were a little 'snug' to say the least and the trousers barely went beyond my knees. Also, why are all the slippers so small...? :lol:

Just to add, my wife at 5' 1" with tiny feet found everything fit perfectly!

Time to go out for the afternoon and wander Kyoto. We asked at reception where all the good stuff was and they issued us a nice tourist map with all the bus and train routes required to get to various sites. Very useful, plus they sold us some day passes to use the buses and advised how to get similar that cover the metro / subway too.

We walked back to Kyoto station, out to the bus area and worked out which direction to go in to see some temples :thumb:

13-04-2017, 04:40 PM
The first temple we visited, mainly because it seemed easiest to get to on the bus and looked impressive on the tourist map was called Kiyomizu-Dera on the east side of Kyoto. We walked up from the bus stop with some other tourists who seemed to be going the same way, walking by a graveyard and up into the hills...


As we got closer and higher, we started to see cherry blossom and temples peeking out of the trees, also girls dressed in traditional clothing which was lovely, so bright and elegant. I was wearing shorts and a t-shirt with trainers like a typical scruffy English person :lol:






I loved this shot, surely worthy of a Lonely Planet guide?


As we were exploring the sun started to set. It looked quite nice!




Wandering back down a different way brought us into the old town area, which had plenty of people around, shops and small business and was set against the steep hills.



Blossom starting here:



We explored some more and then took the bus back to Kyoto station to try to find a restaurant we'd heard about to try something called Tonkatsu (which seemed a little like schnitzel and definitely didn't involve any slippery uncooked fish). The restaurant was very popular and had a queue, but we didn't mind waiting a while as we had the menu to look at plus all the dishes displayed in the window...


Once we got seated and served, I was pleased to find they'd cut the food into chunks I might stand a chance of eating with chopsticks!


It was really nice, had a beer with it but also started to try green tea and see if I could get a taste for that as it seemed to come free in unlimited supply with meals, whereas beer as above, cost a fortune. This also reminded us about the free 'welcome drink' at the hotel, so we headed back to take advantage of that...

First night in Kyoto done. Still can't believe we're in Japan! :happy:

Dave B
13-04-2017, 05:17 PM
Great, 'different' trip report. :thumb:

It's interesting too that the culture of no tipping anywhere means that service staff, waiters, bar men and everyone else just seems happy to do a good job for the pride in their work rather than the US type culture (which is increasingly common here too, I think) of sucking up and bothering you to earn tips. None of that in Japan that we saw.

Sounds like my sort of place...just spent some time in the US and tipping was a bloody nightmare. :angry:

13-04-2017, 05:40 PM
Great write up. Brings back memories for me of skiing in Happo, and days in Matsumoto and Tokyo. :thumb:

14-04-2017, 11:31 AM
Cheers, Chaps - lots more to come when I get time :thumb:

14-04-2017, 03:11 PM
What a fantastic, unconventional (and comprehensive!!) trip report! :veryhappy:

Thoroughly enjoying it, thanks for taking the time & effort to share all this Stu! :thumb:

Already looking forward to the next installment... :happy:

15-04-2017, 09:54 AM
Wow! Brilliant! Thoroughly enjoying this read!

I was out there ten years ago so lots of pleasant memories flowing back :thumb:

Really appreciate you taking the time as it takes an age to write a trip like this up :veryhappy:

19-04-2017, 09:29 AM
Time for an update. When I left off last time, we'd had a night in Kyoto, seen a temple, ate something with chopsticks and had plans to visit more cultural and historical sights. So, next day we took a short ride on a JR train around 8am before the hoards of tourists (like us!) descended and went to see the Fushimi Inari-taisha shrine. This is the king of shrines, and quite photogenic!

See here for info:

We got off the train in what appeared a small residential area, and saw this - looks like we're going the right way...


The start of yet another long uphill walk, and at the entrance to the main shrine we found the cleansing area


Plus this guy standing guard!


The site map indicated there might be a fair bit of walking and stair climbing to do...


Probably one of my better photos...


These tori gates wind off into the hills for miles, and are really quite surprising in scale and also just how vivid the colours are against the forest surroundings...


This pano shot with me in centre gives some indication of scale and spacing


After a few hours and a decent climb, we descended back down another path to near the train and popped into a coffee shop with an Australian waiter (obv!). Thankfully, their facilities had some important info in an approximation of ENGLISH! :lol:


We took train back to Kyoto centre and decided to explore Nishiki Market and find some lunch, plus some nice fabric samples for my Mum as a present as she was very keen I tracked some down for her crafting purposes. It was quite busy, but luckily I was approx 6 - 12 inches taller than anyone else there so could see over the crowds...


We purchased and ate something that appeared to be a potato fritter type item served on a stick, but disappointingly had some slippery fish content we later discovered via it's taste!

Also, it had started raining so we detoured to Daimaru department store and my wife bought a nice umbrella. They do an excellent array of umbrellas the Japanese, all ornate, tasteful and thoroughly well engineered. There were approximately 2000 to choose from. The customer service is unbelievable too, very friendly staff, demonstrate your product with white gloves on (in this case opening and closing the umbrella about 50 times to reassure us!), then take your money, come back with change and very carefully present it to you and stand around bowing to you whilst you gather your things to leave. What you don't realise though about the umbrellas is that they won't necessarily fit in your luggage for bringing home.... more on that later :lol:

19-04-2017, 09:45 AM
After 'lunch', we decided that now we were equipped for rain we should take on something called the 'Philosopher's Walk' which links some key historical sites of Kyoto. Bit of info on this wiki page:


I'll add some pics from along the way... scenery was amazing, if damp :whistle:


An aqueduct



I know this stuff is old, and Japanese people were probably even shorter then generally, but seriously?


A bit more climbing and up behind those temples there were little shrines embedded into the hills, and we had the place to ourself due to the weather so it was very atmospheric.


Further along the path we found this pram / trailer / caravan type thing full of cats?


We finished off the walk a few hours later (it was quite long) and headed back to the hotel for a free drink and some food. Checked my iPhone later when my feet were aching, seems this may be why... quite a lot of stairs climbed and a fair distance walked too!


19-04-2017, 10:54 AM
Continuing on a theme, we got up early again this next morning (April fools day!) and took a couple of trains out to the north west of Kyoto area so see this weird bamboo forest we'd read about in guide books. Apparently there were monkeys there too, but we didn't plan to see them as we had SNOW MONKEYS planned for later in the trip. I was quite excited about that.

Anyway, the bamboo place was called 'Arashiyama' bamboo grove. Info here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bamboo_Forest_(Kyoto,_Japan)

Naturally, wandering from the train to the area using our map we came across another temple with lovely gardens, so had a nose around there. Didn't take too many photos here, but I did attempt some arty ones of flowers, see what you think...





Then onto the bamboo. Really odd, cold and eery feeling in here... it was huge too


Ooh, maybe near some monkeys?


This was the view up behind the bamboo forest across the hills. Rather nice!


Wandering around on a walk described in the Kyoto Lonely Planet book we passed through old villages, tea shops and some gift shops too, mainly focused on bamboo goods...


Up one of the roads at the entrance to some gardens I spotted this stereotypical Japanese Taxi - lovely!


This money looks quite angry, wonder what he's saying?


The gardens in this area were very mossy, but supposed to be and it added a lovely sound deadening, peaceful quality to the surroundings. Extremely relaxing in here...


On the walk back down through a village towards the train station I spotted a couple of retro cars


In the afternoon we went back to Kyoto main town area to explore some more and found many small vehicles and quite a bit of cherry blossom, sometimes both together. I love these little vans and quite want one now :happy:


Lunch was at a steak place, but Japanese style. You stand up to eat, they give you a bib to wear (no pics) and you order your steak by type and exact weight from a butcher guy behind a counter, who chops it in front of you and weighs it on a very accurate scale until you agree it's ok, then cooks it. It arrives looking like this...


The next day we were getting bit tired of temples (there are loads) but did want to see a big gold one we'd read about, this camp security guard seemed happy to see the crowds...


It looked pretty good as it happens... :shock:


Green tea and sugar cake after the temple tour


Other non-temple related Kyoto shots. The uni computer club seems to have the right idea for recruiting nerds...


Oh, this is a temple I suppose, but it's a zen gravel garden




Polaroid cameras for sale in the LOFT shop!


Also in LOFT, I had a sit on this and it started pounding my back. Doctor Air really pummels you, I quite enjoyed it actually!


Wasn't sure if I needed this?


Nice old Merc


We tried some food called Yakitori that evening, which was nice. The menu looked like this and you ordered via pressing a button on the table to make a waiter appear. We visited another similar establishment in Tokyo later in the trip which had replaced the button with a tablet computer, all in Japanese where you could press food pics and they arrived - ideal!



The best part was that all dishes or beer, or anything really, seemed to be 280 yen a go, so easy to work out the bill!

We wandered back to the hotel to pack, for we would be leaving Kyoto the next morning, but spotted an amusement arcade so popped in for some Mario Kart! I was Yoshi, and won!


Japanese amusement arcades are exactly as you'd expect, so noisy, bright and chaotic, but great fun. I also played a game where you had to smack large bongo drums which was fun.

Back to the hotel for a few beers whilst packing, off to the mountains tomorrow! :thumb:

Neil Mac
19-04-2017, 11:12 AM
Japanese amusement arcades are exactly as you'd expect, so noisy, bright and chaotic, but great fun. I also played a game where you had to smack large bongo drums which was fun.

ahem... Taiko drums :karl:

I hope you adopted the correct stance:


My 3 favourite JDM-only arcade games are:

1. Taiko drumming to traditional Japanese songs
2. Angry businessman table-flipping
3. Train driver simulator. Driving a train is harder than it looks, and angry passengers shake their fists at you as they tumble past you onto the tracks if you fail to decelerate smoothly... :lol:

Excellent report, though. Keep up the good work :thumb:

19-04-2017, 11:45 AM
Thoroughly enjoying this :veryhappy:

19-04-2017, 12:05 PM
Yep, glad you enjoyed - keep up the good work!

19-04-2017, 01:27 PM
Great read; thanks :thumb:

Glad you had such a good time out there :karl:

21-04-2017, 07:18 PM
Fantastic reading again! Brought a massive smile to my face, Thank You :thumb:

21-04-2017, 07:52 PM
I love the fact you did the mario kart tour and went on rainbow bridge.

I maybe telling you something you know but Rainbow road is a special track on mario kart so it makes it even better (the geek in me!)


I would love to go to Japan but being allergic to fish and the language scares me tbh

Jim Cameron
22-04-2017, 08:45 AM
This is ace.

22-04-2017, 10:30 AM
I missed this at first but saw the update today so clicked on it. Boy, am I glad I did :veryhappy:

Please keep it coming !

22-04-2017, 07:23 PM
Great write up Stu. Ten quid for a pint - Wetherspoons need to break into Japan!

I have spent a fair bit of time in China with work, similar in many ways, by the looks of your report. The instruction on how to use the toilet, well, having been into rural China, I kind of understand why they might post that up, we'll leave that subject there!!

23-04-2017, 07:25 PM
Cheers, All. Glad to hear you're enjoying this. Lots more to come when I get time :thumb:

...I maybe telling you something you know but Rainbow road is a special track on mario kart so it makes it even better (the geek in me!)

I didn't know that, Kev - makes more sense now... well, as much as anything in Japan made sense.... :lol:

06-05-2017, 11:13 AM
Ok, time for an update and following on from above, it was our last night in Kyoto, we were packing up and had trains booked the next morning to take us Takayama around 200 miles north east of Kyoto in the Japan alps.

Whilst waiting at Kyoto station the next morning, we purchased some weird green Kit Kats and coffee for the train ride


And then boarded the bullet train for the first leg of the trip, to Nagoya where we'd change onto a small train suitable for going up into the mountains.


The bullet trains really are more like a plane inside as above. Spacious!

We changed to a smaller but luxurious train at Nagoya with 'wide view', which mean large windows to enjoy the scenery.


Interestingly, the train ran the first 15 mins or so of the trip in reverse back the way we came, then stopped, changed tracks and set off going forwards for the rest of the trip. The (very plush) seats could actually be rotated to face the opposite way, and some passengers insisted on doing this even though tannoy announcement warned it wasn't necessary. How we chuckled when the train started going forwards and they all had to rotate the seats again.

The train was really nice and chugged off up a very steep route with lovely scenery, I didn't get too many photos of this bit but this gives an idea. I was listening to the new Laura Marling album on headphones whilst watching the scenery pass in the sunshine and it was quite blissful...


We soon arrived at Takayama, queued briefly at the station ticket off to purchase tickets (with JR pass) for the next time we'd need the train in a few days and set off over the road to find Toyota Rentacar.

The rental car collection was a straightforward process, though the staff spoke absolutely no English beyond 'ok' and required me to sign a contract (entirely in Japanese), inspect the car, mark any damage on a sheet (entirely in Japanese but with a digram) and all the usual stuff. Asking whether to return the car full or empty of fuel involved various hand gestures and mime.

What was a pleasant surprise compared to using Avis, National, Hertz and all the rest in Europe and the US was that firstly, the car was spotless inside, exactly as specified (4wd, winter tyres fitted, exact model I reserved) and secondly, as I'd arrived at 2pm but received the car from 1pm, they actually reduced the price by an hour's worth of rental which I've never experienced before. Customer service is just excellent in Japan.

So, we set off towards our next stop in the mighty Toyota Vitz 4WD AUTO, which had the usual Japanese feature of wipers and indicators on the opposite sides of the steering column to where you'd expect. Needless to say, the wipers accidentally went on at every junction for the first hour or so!


I found the car also had a confusing auto gearbox that felt like a CVT, but then I realised I had it in snow mode or something so it was pulling off in second, holding onto gears downhill and revving it's knackers off. Perhaps it was a CVT too? Once I'd twanged the auto selector over a bit to some other position, progress improved... the weather did not. It was already cold but as we climbed higher on the mountain roads it became clear that the winter tyres were a good idea... we pulled over when we spotted a little coffee house.



Suitably equipped with a couple of tiny takeaway coffees from the nice shop owners, who appeared to be approx 97 years old, and around 4 foot tall, but in excellent health, we set back off to enjoy the drive...


A lovely mix of blizzard, fog, ice and snow gave varied and enjoyable conditions to acquaint ourselves with the car. My wife figured out how to make her iPhone play music through the stereo, I tip toed around trying not to crash. Lovely.





After approx 90 mins of slow but not crashing progress, we arrived at our stop for the night. The Yarimikan Onsen Ryokan.
Website here: http://www.yarimikan.com

Pic from their website:


We arrived in the car park and a man in traditional Japanese dress came running out with umbrellas to greet us and take our luggage in quickly given the blizzard conditions. We followed and checked in. Things were about to get 'traditional'...

More soon...

08-05-2017, 11:51 AM
Brilliant. Continue. :thumb:

11-05-2017, 03:38 PM
Right, continuing at the Yarimikan up in the Japan alps. I didn't take too many photos here as it was the kind of place where you were encouraged to shake off modern ways of life, leave everything in your room and wear a traditional Yukata and slippers (I have pics, but won't be posting them!), wander around hopping in and out of hot springs, and generally just relaxing. As such, I didn't take my iPhone around with me too much, not least due to the amount of potential nakedness going on with the onsen business.

However, I took a few pics of the room, food and view when we we weren't just boiling ourselves in hot mountain water :thumb:

The entrance to the place looked like this, quite unassuming.


This was the view from reception...


Our room, well suite, was a large traditional three or four floor setup, hard to take pics of but the bedroom looked like this


Dining room like this (below bedroom)...


A nice little viewing area overlooking the water, mountains etc. on the same level as the dining room


Bathroom was well equipped, hair tonic and liquid, milky lotion and water lotion - check!


Then down two floors of stairs there was a little shower room, where you could prepare for the private outdoor onsen


Outside of our room and in the main corridors and reception area, it looked like this!


The whole place was extremely relaxing once you got into wearing the correct attire and getting into the swing of things. We settled in and remembered that it was fully catered and looked forward to our evening meal, which would perhaps be our first immersion into the world of Japanese cuisine. In for a penny and all that.... little did we know... :lol:

11-05-2017, 03:49 PM
For the evening meal, we were guided into a traditional private dining room (slippers off, sitting on the floor wearing your yukata etc.) where a nice waiter chap presented us with something like a 12 course set menu. The menu was hand written in Japanese characters, amazing calligraphy, which obviously made no sense whatsoever to us. The ceremony of it was nice though.

After some attempts to understand what was being served, we just said to bring whatever but nothing that was still alive. The chap told us the 'belly of the fish was still beating' but the 'beef was recently deceased' or similar, so we went for beef! :lol:

I took a couple of pics of a few courses, the presentation was absolutely amazing but there was a lot of asking each other what we thought something was, animal, mineral or vegetable, and then trepidation as we tasted different things. Needless to say, chopsticks, green tea and sake only added to the fun.



We both struggled a little when the chap brought us a fresh monkfish liver on top of a cube of tofu, but you know, 'when in Rome' and all that. It went down ok with a green tea chaser, and where else are you going to try this stuff?

This fish was a little off putting visually (my wife can't stand anything with eyeballs), but I talked her through gutting it which I remembered from my Scouting days as a kid and as it was actually cooked, it was lovely.


After about another 9 courses, dinner was over and he brought us something resembling angel delight that was actually made of beans or something for dessert. Again, it went down well.

We staggered back to the room, recovered from the powerful mix of tastes and textures and then went out exploring the public outdoor onsens under the stars and snow. It was amazing, really once in a lifetime type stuff. I'm not sure I've ever been so relaxed, or full of weird food... :thumb:

11-05-2017, 04:02 PM
We awoke the next morning to early mountain sun coming through the paper window screens, the sound of rushing water (outside, thankfully) and remarkably, no ill effects from the dining the night before. Needless to say, first port of call was a trip down the three or four flights of stairs for some private onsen use. Lovely start to the day with a brew.

Then it was off to the private dining room again for breakfast, where we didn't know what to expect aside from that it certainly wouldn't be a 'full English'! :lol:

We weren't disappointed... this was just the first course... note salad, raw egg, miscellaneous pink items...


The thing bottom left, which we had one each of, was a little black bean sauce type thing that cooked on a leaf above a candle! Various fish courses followed, salmon that was caught just outside apparently?

After breakfast we were asked if we'd like to participate in a 'traditional activity', who wouldn't? Oddly this ended up being a session with all the other guests where we took turns bashing some green bean paste with a massive wooden mallet whilst clapping and chanting. Interesting and fun!


Once completely mashed, we shared out the paste, with some red bean paste too, and something else I've forgotten. This is my wife attempting to finish it off as I couldn't quite handle the texture, but I had taken on her raw egg and fish at breakfast I think...


*Also note special socks with a big toe in so you can wear the slippers! They fit her tiny feet fine, mine are size 11 so something of a tight fit plus as in Kyoto earlier, the slippers didn't reach my heels :lol:

After that it was time to pack up and check out, for our next stop was about 100 miles North East across mountain roads and higher into the alps... plus, there were going to be monkeys there! :thumb:

11-05-2017, 04:28 PM
Luckily, last nights blizzard had cleared somewhat and though cold and slippy on the roads, the sun was out and things were drying out nicely...


The scenery was very similar to the Canadian Rocky mountains in places, but with smaller windy roads and smaller cars, like the VITZ 4WD which I was only driving at 8/10ths because I didn't have my racing shoes with me and my massive feet didn't really suit the cars tiny pedal box :lol:


We stopped off along the way at a small tourist rest stop type place which was lovely. We tried to work out how to get a coffee and the nice lady in the gift shop showed us how to use a kind of ticket machine to place our order, get a ticket and present it to another lady in the cafe who produced two tiny coffees and two 'presents' for us. In Japan you appear to often get a 'present' when buying a drink, like a biscuit or snack of some kind. I think this is a really nice custom, and I like the tiny biscuits... to be honest, they were 'a taste everybody will be pleased with'...


We continued driving, admiring the scenery and taking photos of various sights along the way...


It was lovely and warm, shown here, though I took this to highlight the functional but pleasant dash layout of the VITZ.


Beaver warning



By mid afternoon, we arrived at our next stop for the night, this place, the Shimaya Ryokan.


(pic from their website):

This accommodation was pretty cheap, around 90/night for the room I think, but had fantastic reviews for their hospitality, and location being very close to the Snow Monkey Park.

It was located in a small town, which seemed kind of stuck in the 60s/70s really pleasant though and such a contrast to Tokyo, Kyoto etc.


We checked in, were really impressed with the owner and staff who were so friendly and checked the weather reports for us, talked us through things we might want to see and even said they'd reserved 'gum boots' for us and we could pick our size. The lady then opened a room full of wellies to find some for us, and even had some to fit me ready for a trip to the monkey park the next morning.

We went up to our room and were greeted with some very retro traditional accommodation, firmly stuck in the past but all clean, functional and really cool! Also, we were going to sleep on the floor...



Very interesting facilities...



After unpacking a bit we went out to wander the town, look for some food and beer and spotted some interesting stuff...





My brother in law had one of these Legacy GTB imports, I remember replacing a shed load of vacuum pipes on it to try and get the second turbo to work!


Found some beer


This was a cleansing area at a little shrine


We rounded off the evening with a nice meal at a place called Hakko about 5 mins walk from the ryokan


After that, an early night as we'd need to be up for breakfast early and out to the monkey park before 8am as we wanted to get there as soon as it opened and was quiet, plus it was a mile or so trek through forest from where you could park.

More soon... :thumb:

Neil Mac
12-05-2017, 01:49 PM

18-05-2017, 11:00 AM
Nice read!

18-05-2017, 12:15 PM
Just caught up :thumb:. More please :wave:

18-05-2017, 03:41 PM

Nice read!

Just caught up :thumb:. More please :wave:

Cheers! :thumb:

18-05-2017, 03:54 PM
Ok, next morning we were up early - it was monkey day, after all, plus we'd been sleeping on the floor. The morning view from our little balcony area was pretty special... mist and mountains...


The view in the breakfast room was equally interesting. We walked down the stairs into the basement to be greeted by plinky plonky music, which turned out to be coming from a pianola (self playing piano!), a few other guests milling around and selection of fascinating old fashioned machinery, like this jukebox which had a chain driven mechanism visible inside!


There was also what appeared to be a 1950s coffee grinder still in use, a dumb waiter type thing (note: not for humans!), old telephones and a kind of bar straight out of history. Lovely! A few pics of said items...




Breakfast was a curious combination of tastes, again...


In addition you got a few massive thick slices of white bread (we'd asked for Western breakfast, you know, for normality) you could toast, some salad (!), various vegetables and other stuff. It was actually really nice.

At approx. 8am the host came down to announce 'YOU WANNA SEE MONKEY?!?', and of course, we did so it was time to assemble in the foyer area, collect the gumboots and roll out. As we had our own car, but were going to follow the host taking other guests to MONKEYPARK, we wandered outside... only to spot these guys on the roof...


The host appeared, loaded up his car with the six or so other guests, indicated we should follow and set off up the hill...

18-05-2017, 04:11 PM
After about 10 mins trying to keep up with the host in his Mazda 5, we arrived at what seemed to be the side of a mountain covered in snow and dense forest. He indicated to walk a mile in a particular direction to find MONKEY, pointed, took photos of us and sent us on our way.

The path through the forest was quite scenic, but we could see why the gum boots were required...


As we got closer we started to spot monkeys...


This shot was approaching the entrance to the park, where you'd pay your entrance fee. There seemed to be some civilisation....


Close to the entrance I bent down to say hello to a monkey, like Dr Dolittle, but also to admire this tiny motorbike and it's snow chain equipped rear wheel!


At the park visitor centre you could buy all manner of monkey memorabilia, read about the history of the place, use Wi-Fi and also the bathroom facilities which thankfully came with this cautionary notice:


With that, it was time to head into the park along the paths and search for the famous monkey onsen where we'd heard these little dudes hang out and pose for photos. The paths were filled with these characters, some of whom were quite vocal and not that keen to let you get by...


When we got to the onsen, the monkey dudes were just chilling out in the steamy water and admiring the scenery...


Some more photogenic than others... :lol:


It was absolutely fascinating, we spent an hour just wandering round watching what was going on. I took loads of photos and videos but won't bother posting them on here, suffice to say, it lived up to expectations.

Around 10am it started to get much busier so we decided to hike back to the car, head back and pack up as we were leaving town and off back to the noise and chaos of Tokyo, quite a contrast from this place.

Once packed, we drove the car to Nagano where I'd arranged to return it and get the bullet train back to Tokyo.

On the way into Nagano we spotted this car dealer called Rabbit?


We had to re-fuel the car before returning it, and I'd remembered Neil's tip that an attendant would appear to fill the car, which they did. It was all very painless even with the language barrier. The Vitz refuelled, we returned it to Toyota Rental Car near Nagano station, again completely painless transaction even with no English spoken.

This was Nagano station, quite large...



Back on the bullet train, and off we go South to Tokyo.



More soon from the seedy Shinjuku area of Tokyo :thumb:

Neil Mac
18-05-2017, 08:01 PM
:thumb::thumb::thumb::thumb::thumb::thumb::thumb:: thumb::thumb::thumb::thumb::thumb::thumb::thumb::t humb::thumb::thumb::thumb::thumb::thumb::thumb::th umb::thumb::thumb::thumb::thumb::thumb::thumb:

Japanese giant toast is excellent, even if the bread and butter appear to be made from entirely synthetic materials. Also funny to buy a loaf of bread which only has 6 slices... :lol:


01-06-2017, 08:43 AM
That bread was bizarre, I agree. Something like buying a Warburton's 'toasty' loaf but where every three slices are stuck together :lol:

Not had chance to finish this report yet, but intend to soon, particularly as we booked flights last weekend for our next adventure... :shock:

01-06-2017, 11:35 AM
Not had chance to finish this report yet, but intend to soon
Please do :veryhappy:

It`s fascinating.

14-06-2017, 01:32 PM
Please do :veryhappy:

It`s fascinating.

Cheers, Nige - sifting through photos, update to follow shortly :thumb:

14-06-2017, 02:36 PM
Right, about two months after the fact I've got round to typing this bit up... cast your minds back to April 5th... we were on the bullet train from Nagano (as above) back south to Tokyo and this time staying in the Shinjuku area.

We arrived at Shinjuku station around 4pm, it was quite busy to say the least. Mindful of Neil's advice that it has over 200 exits (!), serves millions of passengers daily, and is in fact the busiest transport hub in the world, we attempted to navigate to the appropriate exits that might be nearest to our hotel. This didn't work fantastically well as we hadn't quite realised that the station would be on about 10 levels, most underground and was ultimately baffling.

After various backtracking manoeuvres, we hiked our bags up to street level and appeared vaguely in the right direction to walk to our hotel, the Shinjuku Granbell
(more info here: http://www.granbellhotel.jp/en/shinjuku/)

The hotel was located in a what seemed to be a pretty seedy area, a few mins walk from Golden Gai area, Robot Restaurant and some other attractions. Very busy (as everywhere is in Tokyo) and plenty going on. We checked in and got sent up to our high floor 'compact' room that we'd booked on the basis that it was relatively well priced and we didn't need much space....


Hmm... it was quite compact, I forget now when we booked what the square metre area was, perhaps 15 sq m, maybe less. It was snug anyway... bathroom was nice though, but strictly one at a time. Thankfully robotic-bog present and correct :lol:
What you can't tell from the pic, and I noticed this elsewhere is that the bath is recessed into the floor, so though only about a metre wide, it's very deep and when you step in for a shower you pretty much fall in.


Nice view!


We had a Subway in the room looking out of the window to acclimatise to the noise and chaos of Tokyo (it was so peaceful the night before up in the mountains!) then went out for a wander. Bright lights everywhere, and Godzilla!



Had a relatively early night and sent an email in to Radcliffe and Maconie on BBC 6music to say they were are regular bedtime listening in Japan (show is 1pm - 4pm afternoons in the UK), which they read out. :happy:

Slept ok having planned a few things to see and do for the next few days in the area...

Neil Mac
14-06-2017, 02:45 PM
Shinjuku is awesome. So colourful (and intense). :thumb:

14-06-2017, 03:02 PM
The following morning we ventured out for a wander, things had quieted down now...



We had breakfast out then took the train along to Ueno park to look at sakura (cherry blossom). It was quite beautiful, already getting busy with people setting up for picnics (with sake!), market stalls, food stands etc.






We then wandered into some shops, didn't take too many pics but here's a few. Traditional dress making shop inside a department store...


Called at 'hello kitty' to pick up some presents for our niece. This was a 6 foot kitty outside!


This was inside a Tokyu Hands store, fascinating as always. This is the stationary area where you can select from approximately 500 pens :lol:


This was their disaster prep section (seriously) with emergency food, supplies, temporary toilets and all kinds of stuff. Interesting but odd.


All shopped out, we decided to try some more traditional Japanese food.... only joking, we returned to Shake Shack - yummy!


We spent the afternoon exploring the Harajuku areas ( info here: Harijuku (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harajuku) ) which was really interesting culturally. Lots of odd fashions, cafes with cats and owls you could pet, toy shops, and general oddness, plus a kind of hipster vibe a bit like Portland, Oregon.

This vending machine served canned bread and stuffed toys, obviously...







We'd read about this place, the 'PDX Taproom' which was supposed to be exactly as mentioned above, a Portland, Oregon hipster craft beer bar. We called in for a beer and confirmed it did feel pretty 'Portland' actually, but far more expensive so only had one drink and continued...


I forget where we ended up for food that night, but we did go to a bar with happy hour called 'Good Beer Faucets' (?) near Shibuya and had quite a few drinks in there. I then wandered into a massive guitar shop, which later turned out to be quite famous, and drooled on some very expensive guitars which ran into millions of yen in some cases. I didn't buy anything. The ones in the glass case here shown are on the left, Eric Clapton's cherry 335 and Jimmy Page's twin neck SG!

(Side note: I did once buy a nice guitar in the US and brought it home in the aircraft hold undamaged, but the exchange rate was about 2 dollars to the pound at the time, Tokyo currently is not the place for such things!)



Time for bed!

Neil Mac
14-06-2017, 03:13 PM
Yay! :thumb:

That airstream-esque caravan in Harajuku/Omotesando was a really cool gourmet burger bar last time I was there. I ate outside in the dark watching a fashion shoot on the street below. Very appropriate.

Tokyo also likes to gather together similar types of shop in a single place. You've heard of "electric town", but there is also a "guitar street".


I've had a look around there, but I actually bought my guitar in a second-hand store by the coast recommended by a friend from work.

Apparently, there is also a "knife street", where you can buy all sorts of high-quality kitchen-based cutting equipment. Not compatible with your hand luggage, sadly.

14-06-2017, 03:25 PM
The next day was our last in Japan, so we started with a traditional Japanese breakfast of bananas on french toast and set off exploring again.


Thought: Could I get a job as a food blogger (is that a thing, I like taking pics of food then eating it?) or at least a low class travel writer? That would be far more interesting than IT stuff.... hmmm.... :lol:

Back on track, out on the mean streets I spotted a Swedish super car (like mine!)


My wife spotted this massive electronic animating crab, it was near another guitar shop so I went in there.


We wandered various areas trying to find the Park Hyatt hotel where the film 'Lost in Translation' was set, and in the meantime found some nice stuff. A railway...


An old Saab...


Laundrette, Japanese style...


As an aside, my favourite laundrette ever is the 'Spin Laundry Lounge' in Portland. Starting to sound like I am a fan of Portland today I suppose? I am.

More sakura, and back street flowers but getting closer to the Hyatt I think?



I wonder if I can get any rare but RHD E30 parts here?


Finally, found the hotel we were after - where Bill and Scarlett met!


The view from the bar high up was pretty nice, though we both felt drastically under dressed as it was unbelievably posh, we are not! I was wearing a yellow t-shirt with a San Francisco street car and a sea lion on the roof, I'd actually bought in Uniqlo but in the US a while ago.


Oh, here you go - t-shirt shown here later in the day :lol:


We headed back to the hotel around 5pm, packed quickly and then headed out for our last meal in Tokyo. We went to JUMBO YAKITORI, same type we went to in Kyoto but this one was even more high tech as it had touch screen ordering at your table. Hit the buttons and food and drink just arrives - wow! My wife became an expert very quickly....


Sufficiently full of weird food, we went off to explore the Golden Gai which is a network of tiny (really tiny, like admit five people cubby hole sized) bars - more info here https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shinjuku_Golden_Gai

We'd scoped it out a bit earlier whilst it was shut to see which bars looked good, which didn't charge a cover charge (most did) and then headed back and called at a few.


It was quite the experience, no photos allowed inside really, very cosy and you needed to be able to get on with other people in the bar as you more or less sat on their knees when you weren't banging your head on things, but a really good laugh and great experience.

We returned to the room tipsy but satisfied we'd seen as much as Japan could offer in two weeks, and started trying to accept the fact that life would never be the same now we'd been here and we would want to return immediately! :thumb:

14-06-2017, 03:32 PM
Next morning we were up early and off back to Shinjuku station to catch the airport express train. Various ticket and platform related confusion ensued but was easily sorted.

These guys were taking part in the popular local pastime of sleeping on trains with your mouth open...


The robot luggage tag I'd picked up much earlier in the trip had been with me since and was a bit of a sad sight now on my rucksack headed for the airport.... :sad:


Returned the wi-fi router at the airport (really easy process!), checked in and off towards home via Helsinki again. Japan Airline service was absolutely excellent again.


Arrived back at Manchester airport, dazed and confused. Located old Volvo in the car park, fired up no problems and toddled home. Life really hasn't been the same since, Japan really does get under your skin, but we will go back :thumb:

Over and out! :happy:

Neil Mac
14-06-2017, 03:45 PM
Well done, Stu. Great report. :thumb:

14-06-2017, 04:14 PM
Well done, Stu. Great report. :thumb:

Cheers, Neil and thanks again for all the advice in the planning stage, it really was extremely useful and much appreciated.

Noted re: guitar street, I will add that to my list for a future trip :thumb:

15-06-2017, 03:56 PM
Enjoyed both the words and the photos. Many thanks for taking the time to share it with us :veryhappy:

15-06-2017, 04:17 PM
Brilliant write up, really enjoyed reading it. I will get out there one day!

15-06-2017, 06:18 PM
Child is japan obsessed. I've suggested if she aces her gcse's we will all go to japan for a holiday in 2019. If she doesn't , Helen and I will go to Japan and tell her about it. :lol::lol:

15-06-2017, 09:46 PM
As above, brilliant read & really enjoyed it. Cheers for taking the time to post. :veryhappy:

Would love to go sometime. FIL got back 2 weeks ago with his Mrs from visiting her daughter who lives / works there. Said they enjoyed it but said was rather different :lol:

17-06-2017, 12:13 PM
Cheers, All - glad you enjoyed the report. I liked writing it :thumb:

Next trip is later this summer to the US again, various areas so will be taking loads of photos as usual and may do a report on that one too. :happy:

06-01-2018, 04:02 PM
Just bumping this back up as I remembered UB's photobucket fix tip so working through fixing the photos in case anyone wants a read that missed it first time around :happy:

06-01-2018, 04:16 PM
Next trip is later this summer to the US again, various areas so will be taking loads of photos as usual and may do a report on that one too. :happy:

Please do :thumb:

06-01-2018, 04:27 PM
Ive followed this one with interest as were planning to go in summer 2019.

06-01-2018, 04:31 PM
Please do :thumb:

Completely forgot about that. The US trip in Aug '17 was great, and I took loads of photos as usual. The brief was to attend a friend's wedding in Santa Barbara, but due to our unique idea of logistics, we flew to Atlanta instead, drove the blue ridge parkway, visited Asheville, Knoxville, Nashville (went to RCA studio B tour, amazing!), Memphis (went to Elvis' house too), then finally remembered to fly over to California and drive up to the wedding, which was cowboy themed... then went to a Willie Nelson gig in LA and home via New Orleans briefly :lol:

06-01-2018, 04:32 PM
Ive followed this one with interest as were planning to go in summer 2019.

Do it! We want to go back to Japan, absolutely loved it :happy:

06-01-2018, 04:37 PM
Fixed all photos that I can quickly, may have to re-host some of the ones that don't like the quick '~original' fix. Enjoy :happy:

06-02-2018, 11:35 AM
Mainly for myself & via the medium of someone on twitter, I have located a source of 'more interesting' hire vehicles. And not too expensive either.


Neil Mac
06-02-2018, 12:36 PM
Mainly for myself & via the medium of someone on twitter, I have located a source of 'more interesting' hire vehicles. And not too expensive either.


I see the GT-Rs have the obligatory massive exhaust fitted. Nice :lol: :thumb:

08-02-2018, 02:09 PM
Mainly for myself & via the medium of someone on twitter, I have located a source of 'more interesting' hire vehicles. And not too expensive either.


Cool! I was looking at hiring a classic JDM car on this trip but ended up sticking to trains, go karts and then the VITZ for my alpine excursion. Would probably do it next time. On that subject, my wife and I are pining for another trip to Japan already, not sure if we can make it happen in 2018 but I like the idea of autumn out there so weighing up Avios points, reward flights, time off work possibilities etc... :whistle:

29-07-2018, 04:30 PM
Er... I may have just booked flights for a return trip this October... more weird food, robotic toilets and banging my head everywhere to come... :shock: