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Kyoto, Japan

Hey everyone!
Finally I am in Kyoto, Japan, staying at the house of 2004/2005 ARI-Volunteer Fuji.
I uploaded some pictures from Sri Lanka and wil try to upload some from Indonesia tomorrow.
Hai, thats all for now, I am fine and happy to be back in Japan!!!
I'll leave for ARI on Sunday...
All the best!!

permalink written by  Malle on June 20, 2008 from Kyoto, Japan
from the travel blog: Asian Adventures
tagged Japan and Kyoto

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Gaijin House

Osaka, Japan

When I arrived in Osaka on November 3rd it was 7am and really freakin' cold. Amazingly, no one was awake that morning except for me (and it was a holiday in Japan), so I had a hard time finding breakfast near the apartment where I'm staying. Finally found a McDonald's that served breakfast about 10 minutes away. Thank goodness for American junk food.

The "dorm" as I call it is filled with expats who are all so good in Japanese, and that makes me feel a little bit jealous.

My room is a small studio with a little kitchenette and a really small bathroom. So far, the only complaint is the majorly uncomfortable futon the place provided for the room, but hey.... I'm just an intern. Beggars can't be choosers.

permalink written by  milkita on December 1, 2009 from Osaka, Japan
from the travel blog: Kansai For Business and Pleasure
tagged Apartment, Japan and Osaka

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On the way to Nara

Takada, Japan

The first weekend in Kansai, my new friends from the office decided to take me to Nara to see the huge temple there and let me play with aggressive deers. I love animals, so I thought any chance to have a one-on-one connection with another creature other than a human being would be refreshing. After all, humans are usually whiny... Animals just stand there in silence. Or when they're not silent, I have no clue what they're saying.

So off the three of us went to Nara, but not without getting lost first. You see, my friends from the office are also new in town. One of them is an intern as well and the other one was just assigned to Osaka around five months ago, so we were all pretty naive about the train system in Japan. And not to mention we were in a hurry and just followed random people like lunatics.

So we got on the wrong JR and took a long detour to Takada, which is a place in Japan that even the Japanese haven't heard of... At least the people in my office have no clue where Takada is. Finally figured it out. You know, maps really do help. I should read them more often.

permalink written by  milkita on December 1, 2009 from Takada, Japan
from the travel blog: Kansai For Business and Pleasure
tagged Train, Japan and Takada

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Day 9: Okinawa, Japan (3rd cruise day)

Okinawa, Japan

Day 9: Sunday, December 20th, 2009

3rd cruise day: Okinawa, Japan (port of Naha)

The ship docked right at 7am and it was a relief to finally have less boat swaying. We ate breakfast in the buffet and were surprised it wasn't more crowded. People with tours probably ate much earlier as we didn't get up there until 7:40am. Hunter was very drowsy from the 2 Bonine he took the night before and I still felt a little queasy in my stomach. Last night we were given a card with our thermal screening assignment and a little before 8am they called Group 2 to report to the Cabaret Lounge. We walked right in, passed a thermal scanner and then placed our index fingers in a fingerprint machine and took an electronic photo for the immigration officials. The whole process took no more than 5 minutes and then we were walking down to Deck 3 to exit the ship.

We had decided to book the shuttle in both directions, partly because I was afraid I would run out of money for a taxi. Also, they moved up the departure time from 2pm to 12:30pm and since the last shuttle was leaving at 12pm, that was the time we would have wanted to depart for the ship anyway. So once getting off the gangplank, we walked right to the waiting shuttle bus and in about 10 min it was filled with people and we started the 15-min ride into town. We had been given a free map which was wonderful and had close up sections of Shurijo Castle and Kokusaidori Street. The shuttle bus dropped us off in front of the Official Government building, which was directly in front of the Kencho-mae train station. Perfect! We walked across the street to the station and asked the attendant to help us buy two tickets to the Shuri station (last stop of the metro-rail). He was very friendly and spoke enough English to help us with the tickets, but of course the machines didn't take credit cards either! The total fare was 520 JBY for 2 tickets. We had to wait about 10 min for the train as we had just missed one, and the schedule was slower because of the weekend schedule. But the monorail soon came and we boarded the very fast, quiet, and clean car.

I really liked riding the monorail as it was elevated and stretched around the city so you could get a feel of the city by peering out the large windows. Shuri station was only 8 stops and took no more than 15-min total of a ride. It was then about a 10-min walk from the station to the entrance of the castle and it the way was clearly labeled with street signs. The city seemed very run-down. There were a lot of low, buildings with chipped plaster walls or peeling paint, lots of rubble around some buildings, lots of laundry hanging out windows, etc. We didn't see any upscale or “upper middle class” areas – there may be some, but they weren't on the monorail path or near the main shopping street.

Shurijo Castle exceeded the very low expectations we had of it. We thought it would be like the Forbidden City – all outdoors with unfurnished rooms – but the décor was different and the main palace had enclosed rooms that you toured. You had to remove your shoes to walk through two of the buildings, as they had been restored with gorgeous hardwood floors. I enjoyed that experience – shuffling on the wood in my socks, peering in to the tea ceremony rooms and throne rooms. It was still a very basic palace, but the grounds of Shurijo Castle seemed very nice – the whole thing is enclosed in stone walls, like a fortress – and if my legs had been better and Hunter wasn't so tired and we had more time, I could have seen us walking around the grounds some more. We skipped the mausoleum which was further back and cost another 200 Yen each. We had already spent most of our money at this point (520 Yen for the first subway, 1600 Yen for the castle admission fee) as I only had 3000 Yen for the whole trip. Luckily, the subway ride back was shorter and cost only 460 Yen for both of us. We were very proud that we were able to purchase our own return ticket as we matched up the Japanese characters of our destination station with the characters on the screen and pressed the picture of two stick people (signaling 2 fares) and then put in our coins. It was easy and efficient. Side note – just like in Beijing, you have to keep your ticket to swipe as you leave the station, you don't just use it to enter the turnstile.

We got off at Makishi station with about 1 ½ hours to spare before the last shuttle left for the boat. Makishi station was at the top of the main shopping street, Kokusaidori, and we stopped at a machine to buy 2 cokes with our remaining money (we had 120 Yen left over). The cokes really helped to wake us up.

The shopping street was very touristy and showcased stores that were a combination of Japanese/Hawaiian/Regae-islandish culture. A few Bob Marley and weed references were spotted. There were two large department stores – one at each end – and we went into both. The first one didn't sell Christmas ornaments, which was confirmed by a woman who spoke a little English and called around to departments to check for me and then bowed low to me after I thanked her for checking. The second department store was really nice. It was also 7 floors and had fancy women's, men's and children's clothes. Hunter and I decided that one of our favorite things to do on vacation in foreign places is to check out shopping malls and department stores, because that is where the locals shop and it is a good way to people-watch locals in a natural setting. The best thing about department stores is that they usually always take credit cards, which this one did! I also don't have to worry about being overcharged for items as these are the local prices and are the good quality items that the locals themselves would buy. After shopping we browsed the top floor, which had a little children's play area and we used up the last 100 Yen coin on a grab-a-toy machine. We then walked across the street to the bus stop and boarded the shuttle, which departed less than 5 min later. We were back on the cruise boat by 12:20pm.

Okinawa exceeded our expectations because we had set them so low, but I would still only rank the city a 3 on a scale of 10 for a tourist destination. I am sure that the war memorials and museums were more interesting, but it just wasn't something we were interested in learning about or seeing. We filled up our 4 hours easily but didn't need any more time in the city and are glad we had just a half day there. The weather held out for us. There were storm clouds overhead in some parts, but we lucked into some really sunny parts and could even take off our jackets. I had worn a light weight fleece shirt, a sweatshirt and a down jacket and jeans w/o leggings. I needed the jacket when the sun was hidden, but was comfortable the whole time and finally felt like it was getting warmer!

Back on board, Hunter and I ate in the Buffet and Grill (I wanted the cheeseburger from the grill). We then went back to the room and I got a call back from Lynne, my cruisecritic.com friend and she came over to meet us. She stayed and chatted with us for a good hour, catching us up on her adventures pre-cruise (she did several days in Shanghai and three days in Xian which she said was well worth the journey) and her plans post-cruise (tentatively Cambodia after her Laos and Burma plans fell through). She also shared some Princess secrets. She is an elite member – better than platinum and has more than 300 sailing nights with Princess. She only paid $3500 for two for this cruise and has the same type of stateroom we have but with half the couch.

After talking to Lynne, I checked out the 3-hour only $10 shopping sale special on Deck 4, but it was all Boijou Terrier stuff which I can buy in any US airport shop. The ship had started moving by 1pm and the captain announced another afternoon of rough seas, thanks to winds at 20-30 knots. Sure enough the swaying started. I avoided putting on my wristbands as long as I could so I wouldn't feel too drowsy or sleepy. I went up to the 10th floor Tahitian Lounge, the lounge at the bow of the ship with the floor to ceiling windows which offers a beautiful vista of the sea. I booted up my netbook and caught up on the journal entries from China, reformatting the emails I had sent to friends and family the past few days. At 3:30pm, the Catholic Mass started in the lounge. The priest was a Jesuit from the New York region who was stationed in northern Thailand for the past 4-5 years and was on the cruise as a way to return to Bangkok to a trip back home. He only boarded the boat in Shanghai. He was young – probably mid 40s – and gave a very nice sermon with a nautical theme tied into the last Sunday of Advent lecture. The boat was really swaying and he came over to us to give us communion so we didn't have to risk walking up to him.

The mass ended at 4:05pm and I picked up an ice cream sundae on my way back down to the cabin to check on Hunter. He was still up, playing games on his iPhone while his netbook charged. We ate the ice cream (mint flavored today) and then he took a nap while I typed furiously away on my journal entries, finally catching up to present time. I then changed into my bathing suit and sat in the dry sauna in the Spa area to loosen up my muscles again, before coming back down in time to shower and dress for dinner. We had called into room service to deliver a corkscrew but it never came. I was eager to get started on the two bottles of wine as I was pretty sure I would be drinking all two bottles by myself the rest of the cruise since Hunter is fighting sea sickness the whole time!

The spa was very hot and the attendant thought it was broken because I went into and out of there so quickly! It was also difficult to stay in there long because the boat was swaying a lot at that height. I went downstairs and told Hunter that we better order room service for dinner because he wouldn't make it past the 4th deck. I had swung by the buffet on the way to the room and saw it was an off night with only the pizzeria being opened at 9pm. I think there was an elite dining only experience going on towards one end of the buffet as tablecloths and china was set and people were looking at plastic menus. We only found out with three days left in the cruise, that the section was the “Bistro” service with a limited set menu that rotated every 4 days, and that anyone could dine up there. We ordered sandwiches for dinner and cookies, and the food came quickly. The waiter opened up our wine bottle for us (room service told us on our second call that they cannot deliver corkscrews but have to open the bottle in the room). I tried the wine, which was supposedly a good one from a 2001 vintage from a California Vineyard but it was very thick with lots of tannin residue on the bottom of the glass. Or maybe it was my nausea that made the wine less enjoyable. We found out later that the winds were at 35-40 knots that night, with high sea swells.

We passed the rest of the night in the cabin, watching TV and using our netbooks. By 10:30pm I was falling asleep and finally got up to get ready for bed. We were both out cold by 11pm.

permalink written by  mohicanfan on December 20, 2009 from Okinawa, Japan
from the travel blog: Beijing/Shanghai and a Princess Southeast Asia Cruise - Dec 2009
tagged Asia, Japan and Cruise

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Wen Won Hotel in Taichung City 文王大飯店, Taiwan


permalink written by  tigerchen21 on November 26, 2011 from Wen Won Hotel in Taichung City 文王大飯店, Taiwan
from the travel blog: JAPAN
tagged Japan

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