Just returned from one of the most memorable holidays ever. I have been once before with work but did not manage to see what the country had to offer. Myself, wife and 2 children- girl and boy(ages 15 and 13 respectively)arrived on a lovely Friday morning. We had previously booked a taxi to take us to Tokyo (from Narita airport). I'm glad we did as we were shattered, and it took the hassle over trying to get or bearings (it cost £160 for the return trip, but worth every penny). Arrived at the hotel at 11am (couldn't check in till 2pm but the staff took our luggage and we went off in search of a coffee). The hotel (Park Hotel, Shimbashi-Shiodome)is a short walk from Shimbashi station overlooking the Sumida river and the famous Tsukiji fish market).
After finally settling in and getting a shower we got our bearings and went for a meal at Hard Rock cafe, Rippongi (just a short trip on the Oedo subway line). Whatever you do try and set your watch as you get on the plane to Japan time and work around that. Get some sleep on the plane, if you can tear yourself away from the on-board entertainment. It does work (sort of!!).
We had 6 nights in Tokyo, 2 in Hakone, 5 in Kyoto and the last night in Tokyo. In all cases we used a pre-purchased 2 week JR rail pass (at £220 it seems pricey but worth every penny if you use it, and we did but more of that in a later blog).
Suffice to say, we had a wonderful time. The people are friendly and although my Japanese is very limited it was great fun just having a go at asking for a table for 4 in a restaurant, although holding up 4 fingers seemed to work most of the time. Picture menus are a bonus, but don't tell you if the meal is going to be hot or cold (one upset son when a plate of cold noodles arrived, but cheered up when I shared my food with him). Just point, hold up 1 or 2 fingers and hey presto meal ordered. I was OK with 'beeru' and coca-cola is universal.
Just jump straight in, go with the flow and enjoy. I've too much to relate in one go, so some highlights:
1. get a rail pass if you plan to move around a lot
2. try the language, it shows you are trying and it makes the natives smile
3. Hakone (lots of hot springs etc) can be done in 1 day from Tokyo. Get a 1 day free-pass from Odawara (you will have to change from the main JR line here) or direct from Shinjuku stn(private Odakyu line)takes you direct to Hakone. It's worth it (try the black eggs at Okinadawi)
4. Go to Nara and feed the deer!!
5. Visit Kyoto, both old and new together
6. If you have time, its only 3.5 hrs to Hiroshima by bullet train
That's it for now, I'll post another blog when I recover.