We thoroughly enjoyed our 3 weeks in Japan.
Just to recap a little, we spent the first 4 nights in Tokyo (Shiba Park Hotel); the next 2 in Yudanaka (Ryokan Biyu no Yado); 4 nights in Kyoto (Ryokan Hatoya); 4 nights in Osaka staying with Japanese friends; 3 nights in Hiroshima 1 in Kurashiki and, our final 2 nights in Tokyo at Shiba Park Hotel again.
In Tokyo, we had two pre-arranged tours you booked for us. A half-day Tokyo tour and a full day Mt Fuji / Hakone tour. Both of these tours were excellent. As we were travelling with our 11yo daughter, having English-speaking tour guides made everything so much easier for her … and for us too.
Shiba Park Hotel continues to be a friendly, comfortable and conveniently located as well.
I’ve already mentioned Yudanaka and Ryokan Biyu no Yado. What a wonderful little town and a brilliant inn. The Snow Monkey park was my wife’s choice, so I didn’t know what to expect. However, the two nights we spent there could easily have become ten!
We had the best time there with Yuki, Masao and Craig. They couldn’t do enough for us.
Kyoto and Ryokan Hatoya was a different story. This was my third visit to Japan, and third to Kyoto so, I’d seen most of the touristy things already. My wife and daughter enjoyed it though.
Ryokan Hatoya was excellently located, so close to the station. It was very comfortable. Some of the staff spoke quite good English, but it was hit-and-miss as to whether they’d be on duty when you needed them. Their onsen was good too.
One area that was curious to us was breakfasts. Not only at Hatoya, but it was highlighted there. There seems to be a notion that Westerners eat huge breakfasts. Here, and at Yudanaka, our breakfasts were far, far bigger than we could eat. It resulted in a lot of wasted food and a feeling that we’d ‘let down’ our hosts.
My last visit to Japan was 18 years ago and, back then, the breakfasts were not nearly as big as they seem to have become. Maybe there could be some education of accommodation providers to offer a ‘tick the box for what you’d like’ for the set breakfasts.
Some of the places we stayed at, offered buffet breakfasts (Shiba Park Hotel and APA in Kurashiki). We found that a good option too.
While in Kyoto, we did a day trip to Arashiyama. This was a very pleasant, easily accessed area. The unfortunate part for us was that we chose a long weekend to be there. Naturally, that meant we had several thousand of our closest friends there too. Oh well, you can’t do much about that!
If you were lucky enough to be there on an average weekday, it would be quite scenic and a lovely day out.
Apart from the very well conducted Kyoto/Nara all day tour, we also found Nishi-Honganji Temple; walked the Gion District and found some great places to eat.
Can’t say too much about Osaka. We stayed in the home of friends in the southern suburb of Yao. They showed us around their town, mainly the Tennoji area and, we went to Horyuji Temple, one of Japan’s oldest temples and a truly amazing place! On top of that, we saw the Osaka Aquarium, Tempozan Harbour Village and Osaka Castle.
Our daughter loved all these. Tempozan Village was new to all of us and the Ferris wheel afforded great views of the city.
In Hiroshima, we did all the usual things; the Atomic Bomb Dome, the Peace Park, Shukkeien Garden (beautiful … and so close to Flex too!) and, Miyajima (always good to visit).
Next stop was an over-nighter in Kurashiki. In hindsight, I’d not recommend an overnight stay in this town unless there was no other choice.
The Canal Area of town is beautiful and well worth a day trip, even a long day trip to take in as much as possible. However, we didn’t find too much else to interest us in the 24 hours we had there.
Forget the Museum of Natural History … it seemed like it hadn’t been updated since it opened in the ‘80’s.
From Kurashiki, we went back to Tokyo and the Shiba Park Hotel for our final two nights. It was nice to be back in an area we knew well. Jane and Mia went to Disneyland on the following day, while I checked out some motorcycle shops.
On our last day, with an evening flight home, we just took things nice and easy, got to the airport early, shopped, ate and, thought of what awaited us at home.
We had a fantastic trip, made so much easier by the efforts of yourself and JTB. Thank you for your efforts … especially after we re-arranged everything following the March disaster.
Jeff & Jane and Mia