Location: Okinawa, Japan
Housebound due to typhoon "Shanshan"- a category 5 storm when it passed 170 miles to our west. Winds weren't too bad here though- maybe 70 kt and everything is very hardened for storms on Okinawa. Took the opportunity to upload a few more pictures-looking through them again reminded me of what an incredible trip this was.... Jay
Location: Ocean Springs, MS, USA
Sept. 13--I have been gradually uploading pages of photos listed at the section on the right. As I get a chance I will try to organize them a little better and add some captions, eliminate some similar shots.
In retrospect, what a great trip. Jay and I got to take advantage of a rare chance to get together after two years since we used to go kayaking together around Ocean Springs when his family was here and stationed at Keesler AFB in Biloxi. We had been trying seriously for about a year to find a way to meet to go for a paddle or hike somewhere and finally managed to pull it off. I didn't know much about Japan and feel like I learned and experienced something significant culturally as well as having a great visit and a bit of the outdoor advanture we had been missing. Jay and the family have another year scheduled in Okinawa and we are looking forward to the time when all of us can get together in the States.
Labor Day week was "off season" in Japan so I got a better airfare and things were less crowded in the mountains than in summer or fall seasons--seems like a perfect time for our trip. Jay's experience with driving in Japan, knowing some words and phrases and experience with food, etc. really smoothed things. Staying at a couple of Navy facilities and renting the car there was a huge help with expense and English language info.
Location: Narita, Japan
10:25am Saturday at Narita Int'l Airport. Got in last evening to Holiday Inn on shuttle about 6:00. No internet available without my own computer, but adequate place to repack, clean up and sleep. Woke up about 5:30 am so came on in on 7:00am shuttle. American counter did not open until after 9:00, but I had pleasant time at Tully's until I could check in. So far this is one of the best big airports I've been in, and that very friendly Japanese service. Anxious to be home.
3:15pm--as reply to Lisa earlier:Hey, I still miss you all today even though I have been very busy. Jay got off in cab to train station at 8:00am, and I got ticket for shuttle to Narita for 3:40. I hiked as far around town as I could and took as many pictures as I could, allowing time to get back to post this collect bags and go. I am at the New Sanno Hotel, Navy/Government facility where we stayed last night. Very nice hotel--really first class. We mostly visited and went out for a good Japanese dinner at a place fairly nearby (walking) last night. "Casual Japanese" but quite fancy by our standards--dark wood, little rooms with sliding doors, surrounding fountain, etc. We shared "hot pot" pork and vegetables and grilled skewers (don't have time to check spelling or I'll miss shuttle) [skewers are yakitori] Anxious to be home tomorrow.
On way to Tokyo yesterday, we drove down alternate route through Fuji lakes region--pretty, although towns were not as nice as in Alps. Too cloudy to see much of Mt. Fuji--glad we did the trip we ended up with instead of Fujisa earlier
Location: Narita, Japan
6:00pm Narita--At Internet Kiosk at Starbucks, Terminal 2. Next trip is to find complementary shuttle bus to Holiday Inn. Yes, Jay, I made it with no problems, thanks to use of your map that got me through town and back to the New Sanno in plenty of time to catch that bus. Ride was a good chance for a "windshield" view of some more of Toyko and surrounding area that I hadn't seen.
Location: Tokyo, Japan
Pouring rain last night prevented much exploring, other than the stools in the rear seating area of the Old Rock pub (Bass Ale on tap, as well as Yona Yona- a pretty good Japanese microbrew ale). Woke up early this AM in Matsumoto- the rain finally stopped. Got an early start back on the expressway toward Tokyo. Took a side trip through the Fuji 5 lakes region and Gotemba but had absolutely no view of Fujisan because of a low cloud ceiling. Still, the lakes region is very beautiful and it looks like hiking and kayaking opportunites abound. Turned in the "Sunny" at Atsugi NAF and took the trip into Tokyo (1 taxi, 3 trains and a walk) and wound up at the New Sanno hotel. I head back to Okinawa in the morning- Ken heads back to MS on Saturday.
Location: Matsumoto, Japan
11:00pm Matsumoto--forgot to mention that we saw monkey walking along side of the road from taxi on the way out of Kamikochi last night (just thought you should know)
It has rained all day today, apparently the effects of the recent typhoon in Pacific. Wasn`t heavy until this evening so we explored countryside north of town and hiked around Japan`s largest wahsabi farm. Had wahsabi ice cream--not bad, although not quite in the league with tabasco. Interesting place and quite a big operation. Also one of few things in Japan that is free (they seem to count on selling a lot of related merchandise and products, although they don`t seem to sell the actual wahsabi paste. I get the impression that a self-respecting Japanese would expect to by the root and chop/grind it themselves.)
Lots of time to actually visit and catch up this evening. Mostly talking about our families and how much we miss them.
Location: Matsumoto, Japan
10:30 am Wednesday--Back at tourist info office in downtown Matsumoto by castle. Drove back after spending the night at cabin at Hirayu campground at national park, about halfway between Takayama and Matsumoto. Pretty place and very peaceful. Nice spartan cabin with `6 mat` main floor and loft with thin carpet to sleep. Rented blankets and ran space heater for an hour before crashing so stayed adequately warm. Couple running campground were very nice and helpful. Stopped in Tuesday morning and looked at cabins and reserved one. We straggled in after hiking/climbing all day and they put on water for us to heat store bought noodle bowls we picked up down the road in village, which seemed to be mostly community of spas and related inns.
Monday evening we looked around Takayama, had a great meal at popular restaurant in 100 year old farmhouse. Great Hida beef and vegatables we grilled at table. Slept at Rickshaw Inn (see Lonely Planet) in so-called Western room with bath next door. Very small, but really was quite comfortable with good atmosphere. Town was unique although there seemed to be a certainly degree of catering to tourist trade with boutiques and we did see a small number of Westerners out and about.
Tuesday morning went to market along river and local cofee shop, then on to Hirayu bus station and rode up to cable car at Shinhotaka. Rode to top and ate lunch at lodge, then hiked up to top of Mt. Nishiho (Nishihodaka) then down long steep descent into Kamikochi. Kamikochi was beautiful as we walked along river back to attempt to catch last bus with late afternoon light, but we didn`t get to ticket window until 5:40 so had to spring for a cab ride to car at Hirayu which set us back about $40US. Hike took us through lush woods reminding me of Pacific NW in US and we saw a lot of great wildflowers and other mountain scenery upclose. Unfortunately the low clouds did not let us much in the way of mountain vistas until we got down to Kamikochi.
Later this morning we head north for Japan`s largest wasabi farm and other adventures.
Location: Takayama, Japan
[Written at Narita 9-9-06] Jay's long entry on the laptop we rented for 30 minutes got scrambled and deleted, so I thought I would fill more in here. This town was a highlight because of its size (about 65,000 pop.) and significant "authenticity". We decided after spending the night that we would be happy to return again that evening, but the Rickshaw Inn was booked and we were uncertain as to where else to stay without spending too much, so we left things open and didn't get back. Area near station was modern and somewhat like smaller version of Matsumoto, but remainder of that side of river had Japanese style architecture, and lots of real and boutique type shops, restaurants and variety of other small establishments of various sorts. Didn't really get much time in older area across river, and didn't do true historical section further east except to drive through, but still benefited from atmosphere.
With more of a tourist orientation, we did see a very few westerners here unlike most places we went [In Tokyo walking around I would see a few western faces here and there, mostly appearing to be business people, except in the Roppongi and Roppongi Hills neighborhoods headed back to New Sanno where there were a few more bohemian looking tourists and a few more glamourous types in the tonier areas.
A specialty in Tokoyama is wooden furniture. Chairs of a wide range of types were especially interesting, as was some of the use of large blocks of wood in their natural shapes. If I could have brought something large and expensive back, that would be the most tempting. Also Hida is famous for beef and one particular meat market/butcher had a big selection of cuts and packages--Jay says this is essentially what is marketed in US as Kobe beef. Jay was happy that we were in Hida specializing in beef, rather than Nagano region where raw horsemeat is among the specialties (I tasted some from Mongol tribesmen from far west of country on my IRI trip in 1999--enough for me, but . .)
Location: matsumoto, Japan
Mission accomplished- we hope. Just visited Matsumoto castle, an amazing wooden Donjon- the oldest in Japan. Very interesting defensive architecture- steep staircases to prevent attackers easy access. Now writing from Matsumoto Tourist Info center- a very helpful staff booked us at the Rickshaw Inn in Takayama-(www.rickshawinn.com) a 2 hour drive across the mountains. Hoping to do some dayhiking along the way. Overall Matsumoto has been well worth visiting \- the highlights being the castle and the Old Rock pub. More to follow.... jk
Location: Matsumoto, Japan
Good morning. We are off to breakfast, then back to castle when it opens at 8:30. We ended up going back later last night to attempt to re-take pictures--I tried to upload some to this site, but the computer here at the hotel uses kanji characters and I couldn`t figure out what I was doing. In my first digital camera disaster I erased my disk.
Matsumoto has turned out to be more interesting than we realized. Very clean and feels safe and quiet walking in central city late at night.
Will have to read up on city`s background with frogs as they are a theme in shrines, pottery, etc. The manhole covers have a colorful array of the most distinctive local craft item, balls covered in bright patters of wrapped thread.
Location: Matsumoto, Japan
10:00pm at Roynet Hotel in Matsumoto. Arrived here late afternoon. Disappointing visit to travel office at train station, but found reasonable hotel nearby on foot. Walked by shrine and old streets, alleys and on north to Matsumoto Castle, which was beautiful at dusk and early evening after closing. Good Chinese dinner and English Pub.
Location: Atsugi, Japan
Sunday, Sept. 3--11:30am We are in the library at Atsugi NAF communicating home via internet and checking weather and a few web sites with travel info for Japan Alps locations from articles in the current Outside magazine and some books that Jay picked up. Ready to hit the road in our Nissan Sunny, a small 4 door sedan.