We were in Japan for 16 days. We started out in/around Tokyo, then took the Shinkansen up to Aomori, then took the Shinkansen back down to Kyoto. It was a fun trip. If you plan to go to Japan, plan on taking mass transit. A cab in Japan is quite expensive. We took the high speed train (Shinkansen) for our long trips but otherwise just used the city bus or the subway/train system. Plan ahead, read the guide books and look for the signs in English. Sometimes they can be hard to find, but they are usually there. Or ask someone. English isn't spoken much, but if you gesture and speak slowly, people are more than willing to help. Plus, it will save you from wasting 7 hours of your life on a train going nowhere, like us.
The exchange rate is okay, we got between 104 & 109 Yen to our US Dollar, depending on where we exchanged money. Japan is expensive though. I was going
to order a Coke with dinner one night and it was $5 USD. I had water instead.
If you are in the military, or retired from the military, I can't recommend the Hotel New Sanno in Tokyo highly enough. It is dirt cheap, and is absolutely fabulous. Something is wrong with blogger, I can't enter web links without adding a bunch of HTML code, so use your Google-Fu and look it up if interested.
Anyway, on to the pictures. My apologies to those with slow connections.
Tsukiji Fish Market
Gas Station outside of Tsukiji Fish Market
Guy directing traffic at Tsukiji Fish Market
Commercial sales stall at Tsukiji Fish Market
This is a park right in the middle of Tokyo. Very nice and peaceful.
Tsukiji Hongwanji Temple
Pretty stained glass window over doorway at Tsukiji Hongwanji Temple
Yum, Yum! Don't you want some of these for dinner?
These were right in between two really tall buildings. It was a nice little spot to look for a couple of minutes as traffic zipped by you.
Zojo-Ji Temple with Tokyo Tower in the background
At Zojo-Ji Temple
Tokyo station (train)
At some temples, you can get your fortune told. The way it was explained to us is that people pay a few dollars, then shake a wooden cylinder, they then look inside and see what number is there. The person behind the counter gives them a sheet of paper with their fortune on it according to the number. They then tie it to these lines. We saw some tied to tree branches also. I don't know if this is correct, but it is how it was explained to us.
At temples, you can purchase these little wooden plaques and write your wish or prayer on it, then hang it up. Makes a very interesting display.
Hirosaki Castle in Hirosaki
Lantern at Hirosaki Lantern Festival
Snow slide at Hirosaki Lantern Festival
Snow Sculpture at Hirosaki Lantern Festival
Hello Kitty is crazy popular. This is at the Lantern Festival
Pagoda at Showa Daibutsu
Showa Daibutsu, Japan's largest outdoor Buddha (this was a very neat park)
Barrel of Radishes at a market stall
Gion, the Geiko (Geisha) and Meiko (apprentice Geiko) district in Kyoto
Back side of tea houses in Gion
Better view of tea house in Gion
This is a boarding house (Okiya) in Gion. Girls live here as they are learning to become Geiko (Geisha). Each wooden plaque is the name of a person that lives in the house. So, this house has 4 Meiko (apprentice Geisha) and the large plaque on the right is the family name.
At the Yasaka Shrine, Gion, Kyoto
People rubbed this bull for luck
Kinkaku-ji (Golden Pavillion) also known as Rokuon-ji Temple. This was absolutely stunning to see. It was snowing all morning, which made the view much more dramatic.
Entrance to Gion-Shimbashi
Buckets of water are placed outside of homes and businesses in Kyoto. This goes back to when everything was made out of wood and the fear of fire was on everyone's mind. The buckets are more symbolic now, but there are quite a few all wood structures remaining.
Barrels of Sake at a Shinto Shrine
The entrance of Todai-ji Temple and Deer Park in Nara
They will eat anything and love to be petted as long as you are feeding them
Todai-ji Temple, the Daibutsuden (Great Buddha Hall) is one of the world's largest wooden structures.
Buddha in bronze
View from Kiyomizu Temple. You can see the city of Kyoto in the distance.
Along the river in Kyoto. Yards & space between buildings is non-existent.
Ginkaku-ji Temple (Silver Pavillion)
Bronze lanterns at a temple
I have a ton more pictures to show, but I wanted to get these up. Next post will be pictures of us in Japan. Again, use your Google-Fu to look up any of these spots that look interesting. Or ask me.