Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Japan Itinerary

We traveled the middle part of Japan as shown in the zoomed out map below. The adjacent map shows all the places we visited on this trip (listed in detail below).

Day 1:
  • Arrived in Tokyo (A)
  • Checked out Asakusa Temple, Imperial Palace (which doesn't have much to check out), Akihabara neighborhood (electronic/gadget town) and ended the day at the ritzy Roppongi Hills

Day 2:
  • Explored Tokyo Tower and surrounding areas, Ginza, Shinjuku, Harajuku and Shibuya neighborhoods of Tokyo. Dined in Shibuya at the hole-in-the-wall mentioned in the previous post
Day 3:
  • Took the Shinkansen (bullet train) to Kyoto (B) and stayed at the night at the Ryokan mentioned in the previous post
Day 4:
  • Explored the Gion district, known for its Geisha sightings, but unfortunately didn't catch a glimpse of any
  • Also visited the Kiyomizudera Temple, Sanjūsangendō (Hall of the 1001 Buddhas and other statues of Hindu/Buddhist mythology), Nanzenji Temple, and Sagano Arashiyama Bamboo Grove (not as impressive as the guide books made it seem; easily passable)

Day 5:
  • Day trip from Kyoto to Nara (C), a beautiful and serene place
  • Followed the tourist map on a circuit. We went there during their lantern festival where hundreds of lanterns were lit at night and lots of press had congregated to cover the festival
  • Visited the famous Todaiji Temple with the Great Buddha Hall, the Kofukuji Temple and the Kasuga Shrine among others
Day 6:
  • Half day trip from Kyoto to Himeji (D) via the Shinkansen, where you can take a guided tour of the Himeji Castle that looks like a white crane perched atop a cliff
  • Then on we went to Hiroshima (E) - A beautiful city if you didn't know about its somber history. From the Shinkansen JR train station, we took a local tram to the ferry port, and then hopped on the ferry to check out Miyajima, the site of the famous floating red Torii of Itsukushima Shrine
  • We then went to the Atomic Bomb Memorial and the museum before we boarded the Shinkansen back
  • Stopped over in Osaka (F) on the way back to Kyoto (B) for dinner. We also checked out the famous Umeda Sky Building, which resembles the Petronas towers in Kualalampur
Day 7:
  • Back to Tokyo (A) on board the Shinkansen
  • Checked out the Tsukiji Fish Market, the largest fish market where most of the fresh fish shipped to America are from
  • Visited the Sony building and went back to Roppongi Hills
  • Watched a Japanese play at a nearby Kabuki theater
Day 8:
  • Day-trip to Mt. Fuji-Hakone National Park (G) via the Shinkansen

Day 9:
  • Day-trip to Nikko (H), which is a gorgeous member of the UNESCO World Heritage List, is home of intricate and ornate mausoleums of the Tokugawa Shoguns. It is surrounded by a cedar tree forest, which gives you a feeling of being in a meditative retreat at some fabled hilltops. We didn't check out the waterfalls there as we figured the snow would not have melted yet to have enough water, but as Nishant and others enjoyed some authentic ramen, my friend and I thoroughly immersed ourselves in the authentic shojin riyori at the amazing Gyoshin-Tei restaurant
Day 10:
  • Day-trip to Kamakura, another gorgeous city by the ocean side! Wish we had more time to explore more of this amazing city!

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