Hello there! It's me Maize back from my adventure in Japan. And, boy oh boy was it! Of course, we managed to get lost in the subways of Tokyo, climb Mt. Fuji (made a major mistake there--I'm still sore), avoided the typhoon and earthquake and ate lots of yummy Japanese food.
We had a celebrity siting in Los Angeles Airport before leaving for Tokyo. Joan Van Ark (Knots Landing) walked by us with her husband. For a 64 year old woman, she's in great shape but....Man! She's had some baaad plastic surgery. She stood in the Starbucks line, then went to sit and wait for her plane where she proceeded to pull out a large lighted magnifying mirror and pluck her eyebrows. I almost pulled out my camera to take a shot of it but decided not to. It was just too disappointing.
Buck and I saved our air miles to fly business class, which I recommend doing for the extra leg room on such a long flight. They don't waste any time making you feel comfortable. You're given quilted blankets and pillows and a little overnight kit. We each had our own television screen and headphones to watch movies and listen to music. Our seats reclined with leg rests so you could easily nap along the way.
The food and drinks also kept coming. I drank 6 bottles of water throughout the 12 hour flight. Once they're done serving the first meal, dinner, there's a snack bar where you can grab whatever you'd like, crackers and cheese, candy and even pizza. Then you get your second meal, supper, right before you land. In other words, you won't go hungry!
Our first stop was Kyoto. It's a four hour train ride from Tokyo. We decided to head there as soon as we landed. One of the first things you'll notice upon arriving is how nice and polite everyone is. I can't count how many times the hotel staff bowed when we entered or walked through our hotel.
Kyoto is one of the oldest cities in Japan and was the capitol at one time. There are many temples and palaces in Kyoto and this is just one of them. Yeah, that's Buck there with his cleanly shaved chicken skin head. I wasn't too happy about it but he figured he'd get hot and since no one knew him, he decided to shave it all off.
A lot of people in Kyoto ride their bikes. On the major streets, the sidewalks are wide enough to accommodate a bike lane, but most don't use it. You must watch out for those riding their bike, especially the ones who are text messaging on their cellphones. I still can't figure out how they do it without running into people!
This temple is on the way to Kyoto Station. There's a visitor center located on the 9th floor of Kyoto Station where you can obtain a free detailed map of the city, have questions answered and use the internet. There's also a library, newspapers and English television so you can get caught up on the news.
Buck and I prefer to walk around a city first to get our bearings instead of taking a taxi, which can mean that your legs and feet are very tired by the end of the day. We figured we walked about 5-7 miles every day in Kyoto. By the way, the taxis are abundant and the cleanest I've ever seen. Most drivers wear white gloves and the taxi door automatically opens and closes for you. And, get this....there's absolutely NO tipping in Japan for anything. In fact, they consider tipping an insult. They take great pride in their service industry. I really liked that!
I'm including my own free tip-o-day for traveling or shopping in Japan. Today's tip: Purchase a JR train pass before arriving in Japan and bring a compass. Because you have a train pass, you can go anywhere in Japan and it's one less thing to confuse yourself with. The compass really helps when you're trying to decipher whether you're walking in the right direction to your destination! Buck used our compass a lot!