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Trip Report My Japan Travels - Follow-along with me

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Hi All, thought I'd post a day-to-day update of my one-month travels in Japan.

I left IAD Tuesday, May 9th, 2017 at 12:20pm flying first class (which IMO if you can afford to for such a long haul is the way to go) that was scheduled to arrive at Narita at 15:25, May 10th, 2017. The flight was uneventful until an announcement came about mid-flight asking if a doctor was onboard. Fast-forward about one-half hours we're told that the sick passenger was not getting any better so we would be diverting to Anchorage, Alaska for an emergency landing in 20 mins to let off sick passenger. We set down in Anchorage at about 3:30 local time give or take and was met by paramedics to off load sick passenger. Thereafter, the Captain announced that he's securing a new route to get us on the way to Tokyo while the plane is being re-fueled. After about 2hrs. on the ground we received clearance to take off and are on our way. We then continued uneventfully to Narita and touched down at about 5:40, a bit over 2hrs., of our original scheduled touch down. (Haven't never been to Alaska, I'm thinking I can cross it of my bucket list now, after seeing the snow-capped mountains from my window on the plane.)

Clearing immigration went quick and very smoothly. Picked up my luggage and headed upstairs (4th floor) to pickup up my portable WiFi which I rented from Advanced Global Communications. After picking up wifi I then headed to ATM to withdraw some Yen and went back downstairs to purchased my ticket for the Keisei Skyliner at ¥2470 to Nippori Station. I intended after purchasing my ticket to transfer my Japan Rail voucher but the clerk at Keisei counter said I had no time since my train was already on platform 5 and would be leaving in a few minutes at 6:48 so I'll need to run, but run where when there a many of us heading in the same direction to get on the same train. I made it to the platform, which was super easy to find, and onto the waiting train. Once on the train all the bottom racks for storing your luggage was taken, but I was helped by a very kind Japanese gentleman who saw my struggles. I immediately took the first available seat until a couple came on looking at me and their tickets and pointing which made me look at my ticket only to realized that I was in the wrong seat. My reserved seat was 3A. So up I went to seat 3A only to be told no this is not your seat, you're in 8 (will figure that out later). So back I went to a gentleman who I thought was in my seat only to be told no I'm not. Back again to seat 3A pointing to my ticket "no this is my seat". The kind lady, who never seemed perturbed by this crazy lady telling her she's in her seat, finally explained to me that I'm currently in car 6, but my ticket is for car 8, seat 3A. Humbly apologizing for my error, I grabbed my suitcase and glided 2 cars over to car 8, seat 3A and all's right in my train travel world. So note to anyone catching the Keisei Skyliner, all seats are reserved which is being announced on entry on the train, but who's paying attention to this when you're trying to get on and get settled. (In also the confusion, I left my glasses holder in car 6, but only realized this as the train was pulling into Nippori Station...oh well I swapped one case I had)

The train ride to Nippori Station was on time and fast. I would say in less than 20-30 minutes I was at Nippori after leaving Narita. So if you're staying in the Ueno area (Ueno being the last stop) the Keisei Skyliner is fast and cheap option. Once at Nippori, I had told my host that with the lateness and rain (it's now almost 8pm), I would prefer to take a taxi, which she said was okay but call her once I got the taxi so she could give him directions to her studio which was about 5mins away driving and about 10-12 minutes if I'd walked, but with luggage and me being directionally challenged when arriving at a new location, I imagined it would've taken me much longer. The taxi driver stopped on the corner of the street where my host was waiting and cost ¥570. (One note, with this being my only taxi ride so far, the driver never got out to help me put my luggage in the car even after seeing me struggling to lift a heavy suitcase, not even popping the trunk. So not sure if this is standard Japanese taxi practice or not, if it's standard, I guess I won't hold it against him, but common courtesy dictates that such should be done, especially when a woman is struggling to lift a heavy suitcase).

Anyway, I settled in for the night too tired to even venture out to grab something to eat. I made a cup of tea and as tired as I was sleep eluded me so I tried catching up with some work emails and watching a nature documentary on Netflix until I finally decided to turn it off and tried to sleep which I finally did at about 11:30pm.

So that is my travel day 1. It's now 6:15am and I've been up since about 3am, still on USA time and wondering when or if jet leg will set in and kick me down. I have breakfast with my host at 9am and then I'll head over to Ueno Station, which the attendant at Nippori Station told me can exchange my Japan Rail voucher. Then I'll check out this neat neighborhood before my real adventure begins, trying my hand at actually riding the Tokyo subway to meet my Japanese friends for dinner at Yokohama Station, but I'm armed with the Tokyo subway app, Navitime and Japan Travel apps.

Will update my day 2 adventure tomorrow.

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    Thank you guys for following along.

    Day 2: sleep still eludes me. Up earlier than I should be, but hey I'm on vacation so time is of no importance unless you have a specific train to catch.

    Met my host at her office next door for a lovely Japanese-style vegetarian breakfast of tofu, pickled veggies, miso soup, rice and a very savory tart made mostly from tofu and some barley tea. It's becoming very difficult to find decaf coffee here so far.

    After breakfast I decided I'll head to Ueno Station to exchange my Japan Rail voucher, which my host says I can walk to Ueno Park and the Station is also close to park. So off I went and had a chance o enjoy the neighborhood which is mainly older yet modern with many alleys in which one can duct into and explore, I didn't however. Turns out while I was happy the sun was out, it was starting to be uncomfortably too hot for me and I needed a hat (which I hadn't thought to pack) to block some of sun from baking me. I saw a dollar mart across the street and decided to stop in to see if the had any hats. Luckily they had a wide-brimmed black-brown which was perfect. I purchased and put it on. Feeling better I continue on my way and stopped to grab a croissant from a bakery. Ueno Zoo and Park are located right next to each other, never been into Zoos, I bypassed the Zoo and headed for the Park which is as large as I've read it is and lovely. As I entered I stop to take a few pics admiring the park. By this time the croissant I bought was calling for me to take a bite so I sat to enjoy the park while I ate the croissant. I've had many croissants in my life, but this was by far the best croissant I've ever eating. It's was flaky, had just enough butter that the paper bag it was in was not oily and it was deliciously moist. So good it was I decided I'll have to stop on my way back and grab a couple more. After finish eating the croissant, I continued walking through the park still admiring its beauty and watching all the folks who were there either strolling, relaxing, drawing, picnicking, running, etc. the sun was really getting to me despite the hat so I decided to head to Ueno Station, but as I'm heading in that direction it occurred to me that I didn't put the voucher in my back...wholly-crap as Frank Barone would say.

    At this point I'm like it's getting too hot to have to go get the voucher and walk back down here, so I decided that'll head back, get the voucher and walk to Nishi-Nippori Station which is much closer to where I'm staying and take the train back to Ueno Station. Of course, on the was back I had to stop and picked up a couple croissants. When the clerk recognized me I said in my limited Japanese 'oishii' to which she smiled.

    After getting the voucher I headed to Nishi-Nippori where I took the Yamanote Line to Ueno Station. At Ueno I located the Japan Rail Pass counter, exchanged the voucher for the Pass and went to the JR Office (they're located right next to each other) to get my tickets and reserve my seats. After that I just wondered around the station trying to find something to eat before meeting up with my friends for dinner, but nothing vegetarian really jumped out at me so I ended up only purchasing some bottled water and what appeared to be to slices of whole wheat bread wrapped in the package and walked back to the studio. By the time I returned to the studio it was about time to get ready to go meet my friends.

    My friends had gave me instructions to take train back to Ueno, then take JR Utsunomiya line to Numazu leaving at 14:20 and get off at Yokohama Station at 16:53. However, when I got to Ueno the tracks (13-15) that was listed for the Utsunomiya didn't make sense so I went to the JR Office to inquire and was told I needed track 7 (glad I asked). This now caused another cunnundrum as I'd used my Suica card to enter Nishi-Nippori to get to Ueno and I was still inside the system, so again I headed to the JR Office to inquire if I could use the Suica card or would I be able to use my JR pass to get to Yokohama. The clerk told me I can use my JR Pass and personally took me over to the gate to get a refund to my Suica card and told me to now go to track 7. As I was heading to track 7, I head heels running behind only to turn around and saw it was the clerk who took me back to the window haven't realized that my Pass was set to be activated on Saturday the 13th not the 11th and expired on the 2nd. So they stamped it to activate the 11th but the expired date is still the same. Of course, I didn't realized this until after I was on the train. So not sure what to do since I already have my reserved seat tickets.

    Anyway, I arrived at Yokohama Station to have coffee with my friend while we waited for her husband. We decided to have coffee at Starbucks, but there was not a seat to be had for 2 people. I told my friend the Starbucks here is worst then the ones in the USA because I've never not been able to find a seat at any Starbucks I've went to. So we found another cafe to have our coffee while we waited and catch up. Once her husband arrived we went to the Yokohama Sky Building 29th floor and had a 6-7 course meal of mainly vegetarian dishes with lots of tofu at Umenohana. It was quite good.

    End of day 2. Day 3 coming next.

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    Are you a crafter/sewer? Nippori (walkable from Nishi Nippori) is also known as Fabric Town and is a mecca for anyone who works with textiles. Back to your first day - you must have got the only rude taxi driver in all of metropolitan Tokyo! Will follow your trip with interest.

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    Thank you all for continuing to follow along.

    @Boveney, I'm actually staying close to the Nishi-Nippori Station but since the Keisei Skyliner only stops at Nippori my host asked that I get off there. I definitely found the taxi driver behavior very strange, if not rude.

    @mrwunrfl, since I haven't yet been to Alaska and although it's my plan to do so someday and in the event I don't get a chance too, I may as well check it off now.

    @thursdaysd, I love hats and have bought quite a few for those hot days.

    Day 3, was rather uneventful as I felt the jetlag finally settling in. I met my friend Mari in Kanagawa for an early lunch by taking the train from Nishi Nippori (JR Keihin Tohoku line to Ofuna) and got off at Shinbashi and from Shinbashi transferred to (JR Yokosuka line to Kurihama) and met her at Musashikosugi Station. Since I had my JR Pass she gave me those directions because it was much quicker. Plus she enjoyed seeing how well I would use the trains here. She's beeen very impressed so far. In fact, after spend a few hours with her I made my way too Ginza which really impressed her, but making it to Ginza was through trial and error as it wasn't where I intended to go but it was a blessing as I found another way of getting back to Nishi Nippori without using the Yamanote line, which really impressed Mari. At Ginza, I wondered around a bit finding it not much to my liking with all the high end shops and fancy expensive cars. With jetlag now knocking on my door I head to Ginza Station where I discovered I could take the Chiyoda Line directly to Nishi Nippori, which was quick and oh so easy.

    Walking back to the studio I wondered the Yanaka neighborhood where a portion of the street is blocked off to vehicle traffic allowing you to wonder the alleys lined with shops. This is where I picked up a couple nice hats. I also stopped at an Indian restaurant and picked up an order of sumosas before heading in for the day and night. At the studio I ask my sumosas which were really good, showered and before long I was out for the count sleeping through the night, which was good du e to having an early day.

    At this moment I'm on the Shinkansen to Mishima (where she said it's raining) meeting Mari and her family for an overnight in Izu before going to Kanazawa Sunday.

    Btw, transferring at Tokyo Station for the Shinkansen was super easy. In fact, Japan train travel is not as difficult as I thought it would be.

    More to come.

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    Hi, following along also.

    Son took Japanese in college so we are thinking about a trip to Japan together. My DH does not like to travel as much as I and at my age of 71 am hesitant to travel alone as I fear I'll fall and break a hip or something.

    I wasn't keen to visit Japan as I thought they eat a lot of fish so am interested in your vegetarian meals.

    Stay safe and have fun.

    Karen

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    I'm not concerned about safety, I am just not comfortable traveling alone in a country where I cannot speak the language. I use Grand Circle Travel and OAT but plan excursions on my own while on these tours as I often do prefer to do my own thing.

    I want someone who can get me to a hospital and translate for me if something happens. I am a chicken.

    I so admire you who travel solo. I wish I was brave enough to do it. Since my son speaks a little Japanese, I feel comfortable planning a trip with him, otherwise I would use GCT/OAT.

    Karen

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    Hi Karen and thanks for following along. After having the pleasure of meeting you, I have to say you look wonderful at 71 and please put your fears of falling in Japan to rest. I am absolutely loving my time here in Japan. As thursdaysd and mrwunrfl have said Japan is truly a great country for the elderly who I've seen out and about on the trains, biking and walking just taking their time (hunched over and all) so I'm sure you'll be fine traversing on your own if your son or husband can't join you.

    With respect to vegetarian meals, well that is another situation all together. I'm fortunate to have my Japanese friends here who's been absolutely the best knowing that I'm vegetarian and ordering for me, but for the few hours I've been on my own it was difficult. I have eaten lots of bread here which I don't do when I'm at home as I bake my own bread, but the Japanese bread is unlike any bread I've eaten which is so good. I was happy to run into an Indian restaurant which thankfully I'm at least familiar with their food.

    My host was even kind enough to write down in Japanese that I want decaf coffee but I have not have to use it as yet.

    I'm now in Izu with my friends and after leaving here today will be on my own until I return to Tokyo in June and will have them with me. They took me to the grocery store yesterday to familiarize me with what I will need to purchase which is a godsend. So I was able to buy decaf coffee, cream, oatmeal, granola, raisins, etc. Mari will also write and draw that I'm vegetarian so I can have with me. I've already emailed my host in Kyoto that I'm a vegetarian and he said not to worry he will point me in the right direction. I'm also armed with the happycow app which can let you know where the closest vegan/vegetarian restaurants are, although I haven't had to use that yet.

    Some vegetarian dishes I've had thus far are brown rice, the most amazing Brussel sprouts ever, cabbage slaw, carrot and ginger soup (delish, wish I could have bagged that), of course, tofu, vegetable samosas and miso soup. Mari took me a the restaurant in Mishima where she got married, which required reservations, and was super kind to let them know ahead of time that I'm vegetarian so when we arrived I didn't need to order anything. The lunch consisted of carrot/ginger soup (this one even better than the first), the best Caesar salad and a mixed of veggies on a potato gallete finished with gelatin type pudding dessert.

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    Today, Sunday May 14th, 2017, I'm on the Shinkansen Hakutaka headed to Kanazawa.

    Yesterday I arrived at Mishima to pouring rain (rained all day) where I was met by Mari and Kengo for an overnight in Izu. Before driving to Izu Mari wanted to take me for lunch at the restaurant where her and Kengo had their wedding reception La table de Kudo. Before arriving Mari made reservations (which is require) and informed them that I was a vegetarian.

    After lunch I told Mari I'd forgotten my tennis shoes and would like to go running while I'm in Kanazawa and Kyoto as I had I inquired about running areas close by. We drove to a mall where I purchased a pair of running sneakers. After that we head to the grocery store so Mari (who was determined to cook for me) could pick up some groceries as well as showing me how to find what I would need for my stay in Kanazawa, Kyoto and Hiroshima. At the grocery store I picked up oatmeal, decaf coffee, creame, sugar, granola, almond milk and raisins. She also showed me (and I took pics) of other items I would need. We then hit the road for our drive to the Izu Peninsula where they'd rented an airbnb with a wonderful view of the Pacific Ocean. It was hard to enjoy the drive as the rain continued to come down. On any other day, the drive would have been very scenic, driving into the tree lined mountains via winding and very narrow roads. We arrived at our host at about after 6:30. The host had given them very detailed instructions once they arrived which was followed to enter the house. The house proved to be everything as advertised. With most of the day gone, it was time to get dinner ready so Mari suggested I take a shower while she prepared dinner. I offered to help but she says I trust her to make dinner.

    Mari's dinner consisted of a delicious mix salad, spinach marinated in sesame dressing, grilled mackerel, rice, miso soup (I've been enjoying this soup as I've never had it before, especially the seaweed) and some pickled marinated vegetables of artichoke, mushrooms and tomatoes. Everything I ate was delicious sans the mackerel.

    Since we lost so much the day before we wanted to get an early start the next day so after dinner we all turned in for the night.

    We awoke today to no rain, had a lovely Japanese styled breakfast of more mackerel, rice, miso soup, Japanese omelette, green tea and Mari wanted me to try fermented soybean which she says has some good health benefits and staple in Japan. I'd told her I would at least give it try and while it's not something I'll like eat again it turned out to have an interesting taste with its sticky gooy-ness and I ate it all which really pleased Mari.

    After breakfast we drive up to see Mount Omuro which was so amazing. Cold and windy offering 360 degree panoramic views of the entire Izu Peninsula. Only thing missing was to see Fuji-san who was mysteriously missing. Having had to catch the 12:23 Shinkansen from Mishima we headed back hoping to avoid any traffic. Driving proved to be a bit difficult for me, not sure if the altitude was getting to me from the decent but I was starting to feel very nauseous and actually tasted the fermented soybean trying to make an appearance, but once we leveled off I felt better.

    We arrived at Mishima with only a few minutes to spare before the train arrived. And this is where I'm writing my report from. All in all, in enjoyed my few days in Tokyo but especially seeing and spending time with Mari and Kengo. My overall take of Tokyo is that I loved it and am looking forward to my return where I'll spend 4 days including a day in Kamakura and shopping at Kappadashi. I especially enjoyed getting around on the trains that runs like fine tuned machines and probably rival train travels in Switzerland for their promptness.

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    You should be proud of yourself. Natto is very much an acquired taste, and not many people even get past the smell, much less the texture!

    Sounds like you are off to a great start. Hope all continues to go well.

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    @lcuy, thank you. For me the smell wasn't all that bad nor the taste for that matter but I don't think it'll be something I'll be adding to my diet.

    Kanazawa

    I arrived in Kanazawa to beautiful sunny skies and was met at the station by my host who'd offered to pick me up if I can in before 5 since he had an appointment at 6pm. I mentioned to him that it'd rain nonstop in Mishima and the Izu Peninsula and he said I was very lucky because its been the rainiest time in Kanazawa up until the day before I arrived (lucky indeed). Mari had mentioned that she thought Kanazawa Station to be the most beautiful in Japan. Since I still have quite a few more to go through, I'll say it's definitely the most beautiful one I've been through thus far.

    We then headed to the car and made our way to the apartment while my host gave me a brief tour of all the attractions as we passed among them Omi-cho Market, Daiwa Department store and expensive shopping area(as he put it), the business district area, Hirokoji/Teramachi/Nomachi (Ninja Temple), Kanazawa Castle Park, 21st Century Museum, Kenroku-en Garden.

    We arrived at the apartment my home for the next few days. The apartment is in a perfect location across from a Junior High School (easy landmark) and about a 3-4 mins. walk from Kenroku-en Garden and Kanazawa Castle. (In fact, this has been my running route each morning during my stay so far).

    After showing me around the apartment which is more a studio and small by Japanese standard but perfect for me, I headed out to explore the area. I walked along the main road Ohori Dori Ave pass Kenroku-en Garden and at Kanazawa Castle and at Kanazawa Castle Park what do I run into but a wine festival being held at the park. Japanese with their glasses of wine and food sitting out having picnics, belly dancers on stage showing the crowds how to belly dance and everyone dancing and singing along. I could tell that many have been there a while and had their fill and re-fills of wine because quite a few stumbled into me. Unfortunately, I'm no longer drinking but boy do I wish I could've sampled some of the Kanazawa wine. I hung out there for a while before continuing on. I then found the Tourist Office to inquire about going to Shirakawa-go where the kind attendant give a map and pointed out where I could purchase the tickets. By this time it was getting dark so I decided to look for something for dinner. This I must say is turning out to be more difficult than I anticipated, finding vegetarian meals. Finally after stopping at a few restaurants inquiring if they had any entrees that didn't have meat already in it, I settled on a vegetarian sub from Subways. With sandwich in had I headed back to the apartment ate my sandwich with a cup of tea, took a shower Nd it was lights out.

    Next morning I woke at about 5:30 and decided with all the bread I'd consume so far, I'll go for a run before starting my day. My run took me up Ohori Dori Ave where I turned right through the Castle Park through the neighborhood behind the Castle Park where I ran into a group of Japanese older women exercising. As I slowed down to watch them they motioned for me to join them which I did and they were also so excited as was I. Although the instructor they were listening to on their radio was in Japanese, for the next 30 mins. I was able to follow along by watching their movements which I picked up rather quickly much to their delight. We worked out doing a series of mostly arm and leg exercises that includes lots of stretching. After we were finished they asked if I was American and when I said yes, they all started laughing in appreciation and as I thank them in Japanese they all (every last one) give me a high-five. While everything on this trip so far has been a highlight and memorable, that will no doubt be in the top 5. While I've heard is that Japanese tend to be shy, I have to say there was nothing shy about these ladies.

    As I continued with my run beaming with excitement I couldn't helped but stop and text some of my friends back home who too were as excited as I was to have experienced something like that.

    Arriving at the apartment I made myself a bowl of oatmeal and a cup of decaf coffee which I'd purchased while at the grocery store with Mari and brought with me, showered and headed out for my first full day in Kanazaw. First stop was the Kanazawa Castle Park where I (and must've been hundreds others) spent must've been well over 3 hours just walking around it's ground admiring everything inch of it. Then I headed across the bridge to Kenroku-en Garden where I thought I'd died and ended up in heaven. I cannot and will not attempt to find the adjectives to describe my feelings walking around this majestic, beautiful and serene (okay I found a few) piece of nature and art. It's exquisite in its entirety, so beautiful it is that I couldn't bare to leave. If I spent over 3 hours at the Castle, I lost track of how long I was there. In fact, I was there so long I forgot I needed to eat and when I finally did and made my way to try and find something to eat, which wasn't going to well I wished I was still in that enchanted garden that made me forgot I needed to eat. I ended up at H&M store, not to buy anything but because I saw a sign that a restaurant was serving a buffet so I thought there must be something on the buffet I could eat.

    As I walked in I was met by a nice host and when I showed her my card in Japanese saying I was a vegetarian, she took me to the buffet where she showed me that I can have anything on the buffet which included pizza, but no veggies pizza. Exasperated, I decided a salad it will be. As I sat down I saw next to me were to American guys who were also wearing the same black shirt as the workers so to went over and asked if they worked there only to be told no they go to school here. Turns out of of them was fluent in Japanese. The attendant explained to him that I should keep an eye out because the bring out different items and if anything comes out that didn't have meat she'll let me know. However, the only thing that came out without meat was a pizza with cheese and corn. I enjoyed my salad and left still hungry.

    At this time it was a bit after 5, so I headed to the bus stop getting on the JR bus (figure I'll use my JR pass rather than spend the ¥200) to Kanazawa Station to secure my ticket for Shirkawa-go today but all the bus seats on the time I wanted to return were sold so I purchased a ticket for Wednesday. After getting my ticket I was still hungry and thought I'd better get something to eat for dinner so I headed to the Kanazawa Station to see what I could find. Nothing really piqued my interest until I saw a restaurant named Chili (not like our Chili's) advertising as "vegeful curry linguine", my heart soared as I'm thinking finally a veggie restaurant. However turns out the sauce contained meat. This too would be on my top 5 of memorable experiences. With my google translate I was explaining to the clerk that I didn't want the meat and if she could make it without meat, but she's not able to explain it to me properly. Her manager is on the phone and one of the other clerks I assume who was off or had just gotten off but was walking by came over and the 3 of us was all trying to explain what I wanted which we finally figured out. When the manager got off the phone they explained to her what I wanted, she in turn called someone, I'm assuming the owner and came back and said yes, we'll make it without meat. I then proceeded to pay for the meal and sat and waited for about 10 mins. when the clerk bought a hot bowl filled linguine in the curry-type sauce topped with a bed of lettuce. I don't know how to add a picture otherwise I would post a before and after pic. As I sat there admiring the smell of it, I took a fork full and burned my mouth but I didn't care, it was so delicious, I cleaned the bowl. I then proceeded to the JR bus stop and headed back to the apartment full, where I took a shower and it was lights out.

    Sorry for any typos caused by auto correct as I'm on my iPad sitting in a Starbucks.

    More to come...

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    Sorry that eating is proving difficult. Would veggie tempura work? If you eat eggs I think okonomiyaki might and there was a very good okonomiyaki place in Kanazawa when I was there. I did see a few Indian restaurants last year, one of them was in a food court in a department store.

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    Glad you are having a good time.

    Your story of exercising with the older ladies reminded me of a park in China where a large group of women were exercising to music. One song was the Macarena which they weren't doing, so I joined them and showed them the dance. They picked it up quite quickly and I received a lovely applause when we were done.

    Even before I became a vegetarian 30 years ago I wasn't adventurous as far as food goes. I only recently started eating Mexican food, I really think I'll have a problem with food in Japan. In China I was mostly served a vegetable that looked like cooked spinach. Day after day after day, lol.

    If we go, I'll pack stuff to eat.


    Karen

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    " In China I was mostly served a vegetable that looked like cooked spinach. Day after day after day, lol."

    Were you on a tour? I got some lovely stir frys by going into the kitchen and pointing at what I wanted. I have veggie friends who lived in China for three years, I am quite sure they didn't eat spinach all the time!

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    Yes, I was on a tour with meals served family style and this dish was pointed out as vegetarian. Hardly any other options, if I am recalling correctly, but not really a big deal.

    Karen

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    @kfreeland900, thanks for following along.

    @KRNS, despite the food issue (which is getting better), I'm having an amazing time and it's such a wonderful country and people. So don't let the food issue dissuade you.

    @thursdaysd, haven't seen much tempura yet. I did walked by a restaurant that was advertising it but with meat. I meant to go back and asked if they had vegetable tempura but didn't get around to it.

    Today I leave Kanazawa for Matsumoto. But I have to say I fell in love with Kanazawa. The weather has continued to be very much spring-like minus the rain. Yesterday I did a day trip to Shirakawa-go, by taking the bus from Kanazawa Station which takes about 1 hr. to get to Shirakawa-go and what a lovely time I had. Gorgeous scenery and landscapes with jaw dropping vistas every which way the eyes can behold. (Before coming to Japan I was nerve racking myself trying to find the perfect walking shoes/sandals from the Keens, Tevas, Chacos, Naot, you name it I tried them all. Then one day while on Merrel's website I saw a pair on sale for $34 and thought what the heck for that price it won't hurt to purchase. After receiving them they were light weight but I didn't care much for the insole and felt it needed more lift so I took out the insoles from a pair of shoes I have and wah-la added the extra lift and support I needed. I also didn't want to pack my Keen hiking shoes due to them being so heavy and bulky so I purchased as pair of Keen sandals which were also on sale at Nordstrom. These 2 have turned out to be the best thing ever in walking shoes. I've only worn the Keens once relying mostly on the Merrels which are as light as a feather and offer great support especially with the addition of the extra insoles). I mentioned the shoes only to say that I walked must've been everything nook and cranny of the Shirakawa-go village (trying to avoid the hoard of Chinese tourists that had also descended there...no offense to any Chinese) in the time before I needed to be back at the bus station. I took too many pictures to count because at every turn that was something that was worth photographing. I kept imagining what it would be like in the winter with the snow covered roofs with those giant mountains as a backdrop and told myself I'll need to come back during the winter time just to see is winter wonderland.

    I stopped briefly to grab something to eat which was my first time trying soba noodles with fried tofu, seaweed, radish and green onions in a delicious hot broth. Happy that I didn't go hungry trying to find a vegetarian meal, I continued exploring the area until it was time to get to the bus station for the return to Kanazawa. At the bus station I met a lovely family from Australia who were spending the night at a ryokan who were also vegetarians and came with their cards in Japanese (which they give me one even though I told them I had one) that's says "I'm a vegetarian. I can't eat meat, poultry or fish including dashi. Eggs and dairy are ok. Thank you for understanding." After telling them that it's been hard for me, the wife whom I gather is not really fully vegetarian, although of of the sons is gluten free, mentioned if that was the case if she had to eat fish she would. The husband did say that it was his choice to become vegetarian because of the treatment of animals. I suppose we all have our reasons why we become that vegetarian, personal choice, dietary or allergies. After talking with them some more, turns out the husband was born in Oklahoma, grew up in Missouri, lived in Baltimore for a time before moving to Australia. My bus pulled into the station so we bid each other goodbye and says that maybe our paths would cross in Kyoto where they were heading to after Shirakawa-go and where I'll be heading on Monday. So who knows our paths may cross.

    Arriving back at Kanazawa Station a little after 5pm, the next JR bus wasn't scheduled to leave until 6:20 so I decided to grab some dinner inside the Station before going back to the apartment since there's not much in the area. I ran into J.S. Pancake Cafe and after looking at the menu I saw something that piqued my interest, a salad of Avocado, smoke salmon (I asked if the could minus the salmon), lentils and black beans with baked potato fries so delicious. With my belly full, I headed to the bus stop where the JR bus was waiting. I got on the bus without paying any attention to its destination and because it was now dark outside, didn't paid any attention to the streets, until I realized the English translation was no longer being announced, but still I should've also realized there were only local Japanese on the bus. At this point I said to myself "hey Dorothy you're not in Kansas anymore", but figured the bus is going in another direction and would eventually end up back on Ohori Dori Ave by Kenroke-en Garden my stop, but the bus just kept going. Eventually with only 3 other passengers on board, I got up and asked the driver who don't speak much English if he was going to Kenroku-en for which he replied no, now that I understand. So I say "Kanazawa Station?" and he said yes. So I went back to my seat as we continued until we came to the final stop when the last passenger got off and it was just me and the driver on board. He waited a few minutes signing his arrival sheet and then checked the bus for anything that was left and then we pulled off back towards Kanazawa Station. Now paying full attention I got off at the only stop I recognized which is Omi-cho Market and walked the 15 mins back to the apartment. Turns out the JR bus that goes my route ends at 5:40. In all of this I never panicked. Not sure if it's because my friend Mari is always telling me not to be too afraid because Japan is safe or if it because I knew the bus will be going back to the station, but I'll say that there probably is that many who can say they got a sightseeing seeing tour of the real neighborhoods where the locals live. As the bus was driving through the different neighborhoods I saw kids riding their bikes coming from school with their headlights and white helmets which reminded me of ET and made me lol. All in all, an interesting end to a beautiful day.

    Back at the apartment I started to pack my bags for departure the next day, showered and went to be. I got up at 5am and went for my last run in Kanazawa head back to the apartment did my last laundry and got ready to leave, took the right JR bus to Kanazawa Station where I am now writing this while waiting for my train to Matsumoto.

    Matsumoto up next. Thanks for following along and pardon the errors.

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    Matsumoto 5/18 to 5/22

    Left the Kanazawa Station on the Shinkansen Hakutaka 562 which departed at 11:56am with a transfer at Nagano where we arrived at 13:18. I think took the Shinkansen Shinano 16 which left at 14:04 with an arrival at Matsumoto at 14:52.

    I arrived at Matsumoto to beautiful almost like Kanazawa except it has been much warmer here. I've truly lucked out with the weather thus far on this portion of my trip after leaving Izu. Mari says it's been raining a lot in Tokyo. I hope the rain is gone by my return in early June (although June is the beginning of rainy season...fingers crossed). Once I got downstairs and realized I didn't know which exit the hotel would be the closest exit East/West. So I pulled out my iPad and plugged in the hotel name and the coordinates came up to head east. So head east and make a right and the hotel with .2 km away. Well, I did as google directed but ended up going well past .2 km. I then stopped a Japanese lady and showed her the hotel name on my iPad and asked if she knew where it was. After looking at the map she said it's the other way, so I headed in the opposite direction but still did not see the hotel so I stopped a gentlemen and asked him if he knew, after looking at the map he told me to follow him where we crossed the street, walked just a couple minutes and turned down a side street and wah-lah there is Hotel Mor-Schein. Mari had called them for me before I left Tokyo and they'd told her that they were directly across the street from the Matsumoto Station but not visible to the eyes so now I understand what they meant. The hotel is indeed across the street from the station and for those who may want to stay here, which I highly recommend, at the east exit of the station go left and cross at the light which is directly in front of the 7-11 (hallelujah), head left and at the end of that block turn right and there's the hotel. Hotel Mor-Schein is a small boutique hotel (and the only hotel I'm staying in on this trip, using AirBnB and a guesthouse) which has everything you will need. The staff is friendly albeit they don't speak much English but they're very helpful. The hotel is also within walking distance to all the sites. The room is your standard Japanese size room, which doesn't bother me, but has all the amenities one would need.

    Finally arriving at the hotel, I told the attendant my name and she immediately recognized my name because my luggage which I'd sent from Kanazawa had already arrived and was in my room. She then told me my bill for the next 4 days which I needed to pay now and thankfully for the 7-11 next door as I didn't have enough to settle my bill, so I told her I'll be right back and ran to 7-11 to get enough to cover my bill and ran back. All checked in I head to my room, settled in just a few minutes and headed out to scope out the surroundings. One thing I was happy to see as I exited the station was Mos Burger which made my veggie heart so happy. As I hadn't eating anything all day, that was my first stop ordering their soy patty burger with onion rings which was recommended by Mari as her favorite. Once my order arrived, I gobbled it down with some orange juice and found that I was still hungry. Japanese sizes are nothing like our sizes, the burger was eaten in 3 bites and the onion rings were about 6 if that much...lol. Still needing something else I headed to another of Mari's favorites and also located as you exit the station Vie De France and ordered an apple turn over (again very tiny) and sat and eat that. Feeling somewhat full (not really but will save that dinner), I continue to explore the area and thought I'd head to the castle. I went in the direction of the sign saying Matsumoto National Treasure which I assumed was the castle, but may have gotten off track somewhere because I didn't see the castle and ended up following a group, who I assume was heading in the castle direction but later realized they were coming from the castle because I didn't go far enough. Oh well, since it was getting late, I decided the castle can wait after all, I have 4 days to see it. I ended up wandering around Nakamachi-dori street and the many other side streets where most of the merchants were closing up for the evening, admiring the many canals/bridges that seems to run the length of the city even crossing over the other red-canal bridge. After all this wandering and with it getting late, I was again hungry (again I hadn't eaten anything before arriving) so headed back in the direction of the hotel along another street and I ventured upon a restaurant Curry House CoCo where the menu was advertising vegetable curry on rice, excited to see this, I went inside and was asked to take a seat. Once seated I asked if they had an English menu to which the waitress said yes and brought one over. I immediately saw that they had a combination of vegetable curry dishes so I ordered one consisting of yams, carrots and string beans. After placing my order it gave me a chance to really look at their menu and turns out there was a special insert advertising vegan/vegetarian options (another hallelujah). My food arrived and in my excitement I motioned by pointing to the gentlemen that brought out my food (not that he really understood what I was saying) that I was happy I can order without meat. At the mention of no meat he finally understood that I didn't want any meat and luckily too because the dish he brought out contained meat in the curry sauce. Apologizing he said he'll be back. Another few minutes and he arrived with a fresh plate of the curry vegetables with rice and boy was it good and worth it. Thoroughly satisfied and happy that I'd found two options for eating in the short time I was in Matsumoto, I head back to the hotel showered and it was lights out.

    Coming up next, my amazing day at Kamikochi...

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    Still following along. The places you are visiting sound beautiful and you do a good job painting the images. I've not traveled to the Japanese Alps and beyond so all the places you described are new to me.

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    Thank you for posting directions on finding Hotel Morschein - my houseguests here in Tokyo are taking the train to Matsumoto this morning and have reservations there. I'd forgot that it took me a couple of tries to locate it. So - very timely to find your post! It is supposed to be unseasonably hot in Matsumoto for the next few days (33C predicted today) so depending on when your Kamikochi account is posted, I might suggest they head there.

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    @Boveney, glad that my directions are of help. Yes it's definitely not easy to spot Hotel Mor-Schein from the station or even walking along the street because I passed it when I eventually went in the right direction. Thanks to that kind Japanese gentleman, who I ran into a couple days later and we both said hello recognizing each other. Yes, it's is unbelievably hot here in Matsumoto. Even at 8:45 walking across the street to station I could tell it's going to be a scorcher today. I'm headed to Kyoto now where it appears to be just as warm. Heading to Kamikochi may offer some reprieve, although I couldn't have asked for better weather during my time there, which was perfect. Quite the contrary, I was at Norikura yesterday and it was even extremely warm.

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    @tripplanner, thanks for continuing to follow along.

    May 19th

    Today I decided I'll head to Kamikochi for the day. Upon arrival at the train station I'd read that tickets for the Kamikochi Line train can be purchased from the two machines to the left of the station. At the machine, the keys which are in Japanese, I'm trying to figure out how to purchase my ticket when the kind attendant came over and asked where I was going and when I said Kamikochi he asked if I wanted a one way or round trip and I said round trip. I'd read and had a brochure with me that one could also purchase a 2 day pass so I showed him and he said not here only one way or round trip. He then pressed the English but and hit the button for the Kamikochi round trip ticket which is ¥4500 and told me cash only no credit card. I inserted my money and out pops two tickets, I then proceeded to the gate where another attendant stamped the Matsumoto-Kamikochi ticket and told me track 7 where the train was scheduled to leave at 8:41. At the platform I noticed a lot of young people were also waiting for the train but they were not dressed in uniform like all Japanese kids I'd seen so far, but turns out the train makes a stop at Katani which is also the stop for Matsumoto University. The train leaves Matsumoto to the last stop Shin-Shimashima making stops along the way. The total time is 30 mins.

    We arrived at Shin-Shimashima (forgive me as I've already discarded my brochures with the train/bus schedules so don't have the exact times other than the time the train leaves Matsumoto) station and transfers to the waiting bus for Kamikochi. There's quite a number of us all heading to Kamikochi but I was lucky to snag a window seat on the left side opposite the driver which I felt offered some amazing views going up the mountains. The trains and buses at Shin-Shimashima (like trains/buses in Japan) run on a coordinated schedule so the buses are waiting when the trains arrives with sometimes just a few minutes to spare for wondering or to use the restroom. At the appointed time, the bus takes off. There's many stops along the way some stops are designated stops where passengers can get on from either hiking or when parking at the various car lots (Kamikochi is car free and thankfully so). I loved when the bus starts its climb up the mountains on what to me are the narrowest and windiest (can't be a word) roads I've ever driven on. Winding and climbing our way up the mountains I'm both terrified and excitedly-exhilarated, terrified because sitting at the window that hugs the jaw-dropping-gut-wrenching cliffs below with only a hair of space between the bus and the guardrail that you hope can do a good of a job in stopping the bus should it ever have to take a plunge down the rock-infested-fast-flowing streams below and of course, excitedly-exhilarated to be witnessing some of the most amazing views your eyes can behold. My camera was working overtime and I was texting my friends back home with the pics of how exciting it was and they too were excited. By this time, as we continue our climb and as the roads narrows even more and the turns get even more hair-raising, I was lucky that I didn't have much in way of breakfast because I was beginning to get a little lighthearted and nauseous due to the altitude but it sure didn't stop my excitement. At one point the bus came to a stop for quite a few minutes and I'm wondering what's going on, but turns out that we were about to cross over a tiny bridge area that could only accommodate one vehicle at a time. Apparently the buses communicate with each or maybe there's a sign that I didn't see letting the drivers know when there's traffic already on the bridge-pass.

    We arrived at Taisho Pond and it seems like the entire but emptied out at this viewing stop. I didn't because I wanted to go to the bus terminal at Kamikochi to get my numbered ticket for the return bus. This is highly recommended and sometimes it's so busy that without the numbered ticket (which you get on the bus with by your number) you may not get on a bus if it's full. No standing on the buses for obvious reasons. Once at Kamikochi with hundreds of others who appeared to have come on tour buses, I went to the ticket window and got my number for the return bus, explored some of the souvenir shops and headed in the direction of the famous Kappa-dashi bridge.

    More to come...

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    Kamikochi, con't

    This place literally took my breath away. Even with the thousands that had also descended on this beautiful piece of nature, it still caused me to pause to inhale the fresh scent of the pristine clean mountain air. Spring was definitely in the air. I beamed at the still snow-capped Japanese Alps high about, watched in awe and wonder at the Kappa-dashi Bridge suspended over the Azusa River and even marveled at those that were clamming to take pics on, over, around and under this bridge. I too waited my turn to snap and snap away at every angle I could get. I really like that the area is car free which I believe has helped maintain the tranquil and serene setting her. After making my fill of all the pics one could take, I took the nature trail that leads to the Myojin Pond which is a winding, part gravel, mostly dirt with a few wooden man-made walk ways, some like mini-bridges and some are wooden steps (which are steep in some areas so one needs to watch ones step) sprinkled in between. During my walk which took most longer to reach Myojin Pond because we're also still mesmerized by the many scenic views we stumbled upon, especially Takezawa Marsh, where we found a man painting this beautiful area.

    I finally made my way to Myojin Pond after about 1 1/2 and paid the ¥300 to enter. This too is a lovely scenic area and after taking some more pics, I headed over to Myojin Bridge and just as I'm getting to the bridge what do I see crossing the way but a snow monkey of this area the ones with the pink face. In my amazement I tried to get a pic of him, but it appear that they are very shy retreating into the nearby brushes instead. I followed from a distance trying to get more pics and a few more crossed over. I did manage to get some good shots of them before crossing over the bridge and taking some more pics. By this time, I realized I won't have time to make it to Taisho Pond as it was getting late and I didn't want to miss the bus, so I decided I would come back early the next day and get off at Taisho Pond this time.

    Walking back was faster as while I was still enjoying the views, I was on a timed-mission so didn't want to stop for fear of missing the bus. Back at the bus terminal, the bus arrived and we headed back down the mountains. I think it's safe to say that everyone was dead tired because most were sleeping even quite a few snoring. I didn't sleep though because again going down was just as hard as going up and again, I was lucky I didn't eat much all day. This time instead of getting off at Shin-Shimashima, I took the bus directly into Matsumoto getting off at the bus terminal there. Since I didn't have lunch I decided to grab dinner. While I was on the bus, I was texting with Mari and had mentioned to her how hungry I was so she looked up an Italian place named Trattoria Girasole in the same building as Mos Burger where she thought I might want to try and said they also served pizza. Once I arrived at the place and looked at the menu, nothing appealed to me so I ordered a simple salad and simple it was. I ate it just to satisfied my hungry stomach but was still hungry so I went downstairs to Mos Burger and ordered another soy bean burger and then went over to Vie De France and had my usual apple turnover. Now fully satisfied I headed back to the hotel and stopped at the front desk to ask if I could forward my luggage to Kyoto and was told that I needed to have it downstairs by 5pm the next day. As I had planned on going to Kamikochi again, I quickly decide against that because I didn't want to take the chance of not getting back by 5 so I decided that I would spend the day visiting the castle. So I headed upstairs showered and hit the sheets.

    Next morning I woke up bright and early hoping to get an early start and visit the castle and then head to Wasabi Farms. Although, I now knew where the castle is located, I headed in the direction of the Matsumoto City Musemu of Arts. Once I arrived it is clear that it was not open as yet (opened at 10) because other than myself there was a group who appear to had arranged for a tour. So I took that opportunity to take lots of pics without having to dodge others from getting in my shots.

    I then headed to the castle and when I entered the entrance I was awe struck by the beauty of Matsumoto Castle. It was like something that drifted out of a fairy tale novel. I stood there for a while just marveling at its beauty and then started taking pics from every possible angle. When you're traveling alone it's always difficult getting pics of oneself and even though I'm armed with my iPad and it has a timer, it's not easy to find something to put it on to set it to take pics. Today I was lucky that a gentlemen also traveling alone approached and asked if I wanted him to take pics of me and I happily said please. Once he'd taking some nice shots, we introduced ourselves. He's from Belgium and had been traveling for a couple weeks where he was in Osaka and showed me a lovely pic of Osaka's white Castle which he said I should definitely visit, Miyajima where he taught was too crowded and didn't quit enjoy for that reason, he also enjoyed Kanazawa same as I and when I told him I was headed to Kyoto next, he said I would enjoy that too (which is where I am now and am enjoying it). I told him I was heading to Wasabi Farms after the castle and he said that I could miss it because he was not impressed with it. That really surprised me but said I could go and see for myself. I then told him that I'd visited Kamikochi and really loved it as that's where he wanted to go but wasn't sure he could since he needed to get back to Tokyo for his flight on Tuesday morning. I showed him the train/bus scheduled where the first train leaves at 5:45 and if he caught that train he would probably have the place all to himself before the throngs of visited arrived (later I did ran into him at the station purchasing his tickets). Before heading off, he asked if could take a pic of me and I said yes as he was kind and all. We said our goodbyes (ran into each other several times after that and agreed that Matsumoto is a small place.

    After having my fill of the castle (hours), I decided to head back and grab some lunch before going back to the hotel to get my luggage together. Walking back I ran into another Italian restaurant, this one had an English menu outside advertising vegetables with linguine pasta that sounded right up my alley, but when I went in turned out it also had shrimp and when I told the waiter I was vegetarian and if they could just make it with the vegetables he said in the best English he could that he would. After a few minutes my food arrived and it looked so good. I took a quick pic and sunk my fork in and into my mouth to the most delicious pasta primavera I've ever eaten. It was so good that I took out my goole translator and translated "I can't thank you guys enough. It was so delicious" and showed it to the waiter and the chef and they all smiled and looked very pleased. Back at the hotel, I packed up my luggage and took it down to the front desk for forwarding to Kyoto. Afterwards I headed over to the station to see if it was too late to head to the Wasabi Farms and was told by the tourist office that it was. She said I could go the next day, but I had plans on going back to Kamikochi and she suggested that since I've been to Kamikochi I should try Norikura. I was hesitant telling her that I really enjoyed Kamikochi and wanted to see Taisho Pond, but she said Norikura is also nice and added that there was a festival in Norikura that I might enjoy. So I decided I'll go to Norikura instead. She give me a map of the area and how to get there, which is just like going to Kamikochi, but at a certain point head in a different direction.

    By now it's dinner time and I decided to head back to Curry House Coco and enjoyed another fine meal of curry with rice and vegetables, afterwards I headed to Vie De France for my apple turnover fix.

    Thanks for following along, up next Norikura...

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    I'm on the edge of my seat: will you get to Taisho pond?

    In my experience, it's safe to get off there and take the walk into the center--it takes only an hour or so and you'll arrive in plenty of time to make the bus reservation for your return.

    I enjoyed your description of the journey between Shin-Shimashima and Kamikochi! It certainly is exciting and scenic and the serious white-gloved bus driver makes it seem safer than comparable journeys elsewhere.

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