Our last day in Japan was supposed to be rainy and we were tired already of walking long distances and seeing too much beauty. So we decided to go to Osaka. There were some other reasons – Osaka is close by, only half hour with a fast train (not bullet), it is in an area where the weather is warmer, not so windy and very humid. Also – it has a circle train route in the very center of the city, so we couldᅡᅠ see a lot while sitting in the train and also hopping on and off of it. And finallyᅡᅠ -Osaka was the city of World Trade fair when I was a child. Growing up in Lithuania I heard news on TV about it and my imagination went into colors, beauty of all kinds and forms, tents with super interesting things and lots of happy people.ᅡᅠ But growing up there I could not dream of seeing Japan with my own eyes-ᅡᅠ capitalist world was forbidden for us, unless you or your parents decided to work for KGB, which my family did not. I never planned that on my 61-st year of my life I will be seeing Osaka with my own eyes. Life makes its twists and turns, sometimes -towards better, sometimes – towards worse.ᅡᅠ So here is Osaka’s train station: Lots of concrete, lots of modern architecture, several empty weedy lots (!!!), but in general the city looked fully built. Only later we figured out that it was severely bombed during the 2nd world war, hence still empty lots. The train station was fancy, we could see some skyscrapers, also fancy:A little park by this super high skyscraper for people to rest:Persimon trees have a very fancy foliage in the fall: But in totality the city left a sad impression…The cloudy weather did its contribution, the sweat running our bodies and faces, but mainly the number of multistory apartment buildings with little balconies witnessing little flats – they looked definitely unhappy. To rebuild such a city – people are toiling like slaves here. And that could be felt on the streets, which were empty, everybody at work. On our way to the central park we saw a big temple with a big cemetery and lots of interesting sculptures: Very strange artwork by the modern entrance does not fit well with my understanding of any religion and people entering to pray or meditate: Very close to this one temple we saw something peculiar through open doors.ᅡᅠ The building was just a plain cube, but inside we saw like some “sugar cone”, all covered with golden Buddhas or so: And through the inner doors there was an opening to the inside of the cone – a big hall that definitely looked like a church. It felt inspiring and sacred. It was worth going to Osaka because of this temple!On the way we saw some very traditional stones and pines by an ugly hotel:And a restaurant decorated with scrapᅡᅠ metal (almost a Japanese version of Gaudi):There is a big park in the middle of the city with a hill and a castle, as is their tradition:

Lots of Chinese excursions in the park. What caught my attention were those little bird figures on a vehicle barrier. Oh those Japanese, they try to make every little detail nice for an eye:

This wall reminded a wall in Bellagio, Las Vegas. The one in a Bellagio restaurant was built by Japanese with the rocks brought from Japan and has the same design: The castle is rebuilt in an old style, but we had no willingness or enthusiasm to climb more steps and see what is inside… A view from Osaka castle hill: Even on such a gloomy day there were colorful families!: This street reminded me a street in my city Kaunas – Vyduno alley.ᅡᅠ Only in Kaunas it looks like this at the end of September – beginning of October. Here – it is the second day of December:Once we came back to Kyoto train station – we walked around it or up it because the station is like a museum of modern architecture. There are elevators to go very high up above the station or watch the Christmas light show on the stairs from the bottom: The same stairs – one view is from the bottom, the other two pics – from the top: Andrei in our little room in Kyoto guest house, we liked it! Though the room was small, but high and that made a difference – we felt no lack of space there and loved the wood everywhere! One more pic of any train station in bigger cities to show how clear it is for anyone where to wait for a train, where the line starts and how to be orderly and stand in it, how the fences are made to protect you from fast trains coming to a stop:On our way back in Shinkansen – the bullet train to Tokyo and then to the airport I saw Mt. Fuji from far away. I so wanted to see more of it once we came closer, but strange as it is on such a sunny and clear day – Mt. Fuji was all in clouds…Here is my last glimpse at it :Farewell Japan, the most beautiful country, till next time. I hope it happens!


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Sunday was sunny and we decided there is so much to see in Kyoto- to start from a temple within walking distance form our guest house – the Toji temple. The walk was through a not so fancy park. but still it was not bad: The Toji temple itself was not our point of interest. The antique market on its premises was:So many Japanese precious beautiful things in one place, wow! Of course, I could not sustain from buying… We ended up with two kimonos and some sake cups. Lower is a decorated carᅡᅠ -people were admiring it from all ends, to me it looked crazy. Tastes differ.That was a rare moment to catch some of their clergy in their garb: From Toji it was already not so far to the train station where we caught a bus that belongs to JR and we could use our pass to take a ride to the Ryoan-ji temple. That name sounded in my ears for many years. It is where the famous stone garden is for dzen meditation. And this is the only temple were we felt some sacredness, even with crowds visiting it: The fantastic moss and maple leaves on it-ᅡᅠ it is the epiphany of beauty to me! Stairs to the temple: The path were only monks walk: This burial place reminded us of stupas in Thailand, the first one we saw in Japan: Evidently, when some trees mature and their park design requires some straight lines-ᅡᅠ they cut the tops in a whole area: This is a vegan restaurant on the temple grounds: ᅡᅠ Some old trees get special attention and care!: It is the second time we saw this flower -like dahlia but the stem is like bamboo: Here we accidentally entered a closed temple for the day – the gate was opened and we went in. While wandering in its gardens we found cemetery and part of it was definitely devoted to sumo wrestlers. My guess – the whole temple was, too: Then we walked through an area full of temples, they all are in behind the walls-ᅡᅠ so there were a lot of walls. I am wondering- why so many walls, were enemies attacking those temples? Or is itᅡᅠ for us tourists not to see their immaculate gardens without paying a ticket? (tickets are from $5 to $9):We reached Hanazono train station on foot and took a train toᅡᅠ Arashiyama:A nice path leadsᅡᅠ from train station to the Bamboo forest. It is a rest area for urban people and boy they use it! We never saw so many people, such crowds as we saw there, but also a lot of beauty: Prices go sharply up where tourists walk: It was getting towards the evening and especially the bamboo forest was already too dark for taking good pictures. But still, to get theᅡᅠ idea: A very rare findᅡᅠ – cats! it is the second time we saw them, so I have to share! When I think back – it was a rare view to see their beautiful flag of The Rising Sun! Once you get from the bamboo forest you find yourself on a slope down or on a slop up. There are temples and views if you go up, but as it was getting late we went towards the river down: There is a monkey park on the other side, but the sun was setting… In the middle of the town we saw some jewels. First – a long hill full of sculptures-ᅡᅠ mostly smilingᅡᅠ saints or Buddhas, some of them resembling Catholic saints. One can have hours and hours of fun in that town… Behind a corner-ᅡᅠ here it was, another stone garden, just on the street side ofᅡᅠ a temple garden for everybody to enjoy!Kissing rocks: You want to enter a temple -ᅡᅠ firstᅡᅠ enter a ticket office: And that is that. We have to visit Kyoto again, so not enough what we saw here, so much to be seen. But one has to have a lot of energy in one’s legs to see it all! We spent the last day in Osaka. Rain was predicted in Kyoto,. not so much in Osaka and also – we figured out that Osaka has a ring of train tracks almost in the center of the city – so we could hop on and off giving some rest to our legs. So next blog – Osaka!


Nara is one of the old capitals of Japan. It is an hour train ride from the main Kyoto station. Well, an hour is a relative assumption – some trains are faster than the others, some stop in all stops, some don’t. You have to immerse into the whole science of their train schedules if you want to figure out the best one for you. Or you just come to the station and take the one that comes first. You come out of the station in Nara – and here it is, the nice almost pedestrian street leading to the famous park:Side streets from the main streetᅡᅠ are for shopping, prepared for rains:Closer to the park – temples start to appear: The park is famous of its tamed deer:There are many kiosks selling 10 waffles(I am not sure if it is a health foodᅡᅠ for deer…)ᅡᅠ for $2 – so the deer could not wait to get the waffles from tourists and went to ask for them by himself: Some deer get aggressive, catch people by their clothes insisting for a waffle. Some are very polite, they bend they heads 2 times and get a waffle, that is the rule:A scary sculpture at the entrance of one of the temples: We figured out thatᅡᅠ there are so many temples and shrines and the park is so big – it would be worth to spend in Nara not a day, but at least 3 days… We headed towards this so called waterfall and were not disappointed, not inteh waterfall, in the temples on our way: There was a rest room, like a real rest room, not a toilet, with ikebanas, statues, TV showing their celebrations and hot tea for everyone! A really welcoming place is Nara’s park! I liked that rich woman with her dog. I say rich – because we happened to enter a pet store in Tokyoᅡᅠ and were shocked at dog and cat prices. Therefore-ᅡᅠ almost no dogs on the streets and definitely no cats. Cats are in cat cafes – where they charge you per hour to have a chance to pet a cat.Only now looking at this picture I noticed the form that those colorful several trees are made into- into a circle in the sky! Every little detail in their parks. temples and maybe homes is so polished and thought of.ᅡᅠ I wonder about their lives, is it the same?What an elegant lady: We saw lots of kids dressed in kimonos that sunny Saturday, I guess families were celebrating theirᅡᅠ 3-5-7 year old kids, their custom: This mother was so glad I took a picture of her and her kids-ᅡᅠ and I was shy to show that I was taking pictures of them… :A cutie: Seems like a train will come – but it is a shrine: For me personally their shrines are too colorful…And here is one of the happy families: Not all paths in the park are full of people: A little ninja and his mom: Big respect for old trees are felt in all their parks: Every train station has candy shops – evidently it is a habit to bring a box of very decorative candy to their family and friends from a trip: Next day – we spent in Kyoto, it was only the 2nd full day there, not enough…

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When I am preparing the pictures for this blog I feel amazed how much we managed to do in one day, how much walking, how much looking and admiring! But that is how we travel. because there are so many things to see in Kyoto – we didn’t make precise plans what to see every day. So we started the luckily sunny first day from taking two trains and going to Inara – the shrine of Fox the Goddess, or that is how we understood, for fox sculptures were everywhere, even by graves: It is a popular shrine, lots of people, but many of them are dressed in kimonos, a pleasure to my eyes :-). Also-ᅡᅠ shinto shrines are more colorful than temples: The main buildings of the shrine are at the bottom of a hill. But then you inevitably start climbing and paths (not one, a couple!) lead to peculiar structures or corridors made of Tories, shrine and temple gates: Tombs with Tores and little foxes: You can easily spend a day on that temple mountain…A lot of vermilion corridors and a lot of paths, good views towards Kyoto from the top: Andrei is pretending that he is symbolically washing his hands, but he is not: What a strange structure and strange colors amidst those browns and vermilion: There is such an abundance of different shrines and temples, one can choose the best for praying or meditating, or leaving your wishes,ᅡᅠ or just admiring: An altar for wishes – they are written on the little boards you can buy once you enter temple grounds: This is the view form the train station positioned very conveniently for the Shrine. The hill or mountain in the distance – is the one you climb in those vermilion corridors. Seems not a high one form here:Only two train stops and you reach the main Kyoto station with the view to the TV tower: The futuristic Kyoto station: We walked from the station straight ahead – for a long time, maybe even an hour. There was a Budhist temple on our way Nishi and Higashi Hogan-ji: We could walk on their perfect polished floors in the temples (of course-ᅡᅠ without our shoes), see the art on their walls but I had no feeling-ᅡᅠ just super neat, no clutter, like even sterile, and I felt bad about not feeling any sacredness…And here is a traditional house already in the park where Imperial gardens are. We reached after a really long walk, now I would suggest to figure out a bus and take it to there from the station. Once you enter the big park – the house is on the left for people to see how emperor’s guests or some prominent family lived. What impressed me most of all were the floors! The palace gardens are all surrounded with a big wall. But even the park outside the walls was outstanding! The pine trees reminded me of our Lithuanian park in Palanga: There are not one but two compounds of palaces with their walls in that park – one can investigate them for the whole day… Luckily the main Imperial palace was still open and we could have a glimpse of what kind of buildings were there and what kind of paths their holy feet touched: And no, nobody would let you in, only yards and gardens…They didn’t let us into the part of the gardens that were for the Empress and the kids. Then again we walked through the park towards Philosopher’s walk… There was another Sento Palace compound on our way but to get into it-ᅡᅠ you have to make reservations on the internet in advance. So we enjoyed the sun and the colors of teh park:So Japanese…The white thing is a lantern, it is lit at night and it has a chrysanthemum shape on the side, seen only at night:We reaches the Philosopher’s walk only in dusk and it got dark very soon. It is by a deep running stream, in a fancy district with rich big houses. I think it is so advertised because of the sakuras that grow by the stream, so it is really impressive in spring. Now even the Philosopher’s cafe was absolutely empty…nobody to philosophize with…On the way we saw several temples further, had no strength to go to them, just the decors by the street:This is the theater with some information on those little boards: This is one of the few streets (Shijo-dori) very lit, very commercial and very crowded:ᅡᅠ And so managed to reach our guest house, very tired. That was a full day. Luckily there was a supermarket close by where we could find very interesting and very tasty foods!Next day we took a train (1h) to Nara.



It is not a long train ride from Takayama to Kanazawa, by the same river with good views but once we got towards the sea side, towards the flat lands-ᅡᅠ well, they are flat. Kanazawa met us with an impressive station: Then we got into the streets and it was like a concrete jungle. But that is a port big city, and what can you do, you have to walk a lot or stress your brains and look for transportation. The guest house we found was called Red Fish in translation from Japanese Kintaro.ᅡᅠ It had good reviews and was very close to the station, a good feature. It also was very high tech – they send you the password how to get to the house and to your room and you do not need anyone to meet you. Here is Andrei entering the password:But as it is seen -the house is very small and has even 7 guest rooms with one double-deck bed. Luckily we were not on a weekend and therefore were alone or almost alone. That saved our stay…Otherwise -I could not even imagine 14 people in that tiny kitchen, that is how many the house can sleep at a time. Except for the size of it everything else there was very good, we liked a lot and spent our eves in the kitchen with computers. the beds were comfortable, but the size of the room freaked me out a little. In the corridor they have a creature in an aquarium called Kintoto – half fish and half frog, also albino:Kintoto seemed to be very lonely…But you could feels that the owners of the guest house tried to do their best to make you comfortable and cozy. There were several staff people that entered while we were there, one proudly said he is attending English classes and was very helpful in directing us where to go and what to experience. The weather there was not our friend. But at least there was no wind and warmer. The first evening we managed to reach the castle hill and climb it, see part of the park in the evening sun:

There are a lot of Tea gardens around castle hill. A lot. One of the temples in the evening sun, close to where we stayed.The next day we walked and walked…Passed the 21st Century Museum of Modern Artᅡᅠ -we went into it, but visited only some to see the architecture of it. There were several temporary exhibits, but no energy to see it all. Also – there are lines of people to every exhibit, they like art. Here is what I liked a lot:This brown surface looks like flat carpet, but once you start walking on it – it has hills, a very peculiar feeling, seems you are in a smallᅡᅠ earthquake! Lower is the museum library. Some modern buildings on the way: The tea and just beautiful gardens already close to D.T.Suzuki museum – he was an outstandingᅡᅠ Zen philosopher born in Kanazawa: This is all D.T.Suzuki museum surrounded by a meditation pool with a meditation cottage in the middle: So we walked around in the parks, then returned and looked into the strict lines of the structures of the museum and how they matched with the surrounding colors and shapes and the peace of the pool sometimes disturbed by a small bubble in the middle to make the waves and bring your mind to meditative state: Here we are approaching the outstanding one of the three bestparks injapan – Kenrokuen Garde: This pond is surrounded with sakuras…I bet it looks fantastic in spring! The moss in pars is superb! We saw women workers with baskets picking with tiny knives every little grass they find in the moss. That is how they achieve it. The kimono collar opens the considered sexiest most beautiful part of a woman’s body – the neck! I agree with them :-)! That is one old pine tree, all supported and roped: The very famous Kotoji Lantern is in this park: After wandering in the gardens we had lunch and on the bridge between two hills reached the castle gardens: This is the view form the casle: And here is what we saw inside…Nothing much. just the constructions. the castle is restored or rebuilt-ᅡᅠ it is not the original, but who cares :-). The wonder of those constructions that they are built without nails: Their appreciation to old trees is seen everywhere: What a lovely house!: This is their Geisha district – I don’t know about Geisha, whether it is still a popular occupation. But I saw that they have a show by Maikos, the Geisha young students or apprentices. If there are students, there are teachers and they are a big part of Japanese culture. Usually Geisha districts are of old traditional houses, that is their charm: By a bridge, by the river, neat and tidy: Those are little paper strips attached to special frames, you buy them in a temple storeᅡᅠ (most of them are very business oriented), write on them your wishes and attach to the frame together with the others. The one we looked at accidentally was in English. It said-ᅡᅠ God save our White house from all this mess!Next – to Kyoto!


We changed trains in Nagoya. There we got out of the Bullet train and had to wait a little for our scenic train. This is the view once you get from the train station, very intricate skyscrapers… Especially the one in the very center and far away. The train to Takayama was a limited express, which meant that it stopped in only 2 or 3 stops-ᅡᅠ it was so fast. much faster than the bullet train super express…Go and guess… it was so fast that I could not take better pictures form my window though the views were outstanding-ᅡᅠ we were riding by or over a mountain river and the fall colors were surrounding us intensively – I had a hard time turning my head – looking this window, then the other then back…! Takayama is a much smaller city, no skyscrapers, very traditional and a big old town protected by UNESCO. You get from the station and you are there – every inch is cozy and pretty. Every. It is like a souvenir town. You walk and admire non stop till you get tired of looking and admiring… The sunset in November and December is close to 5 pm. Days are short. And so there were lots of people before the sunset. But after – everything usually closes and nobody in the streets. No nightlife in those quarters, maybe somewhere else… This maple was seen from our hotel corridor and our room: Our Jaz Hotel Takayama was super good-ᅡᅠ with the only exception to its goodness – all the doors were very low, I had to bend down a lot not to hurt my head, but by that time I already was used to it.ᅡᅠ In the hotel we were served fancy breakfasts, had a small “onsen” on the premises – in bathing rooms, not outside. The bedrooms were of good size and beds were very confy, too. We didn’t need to sleep on futons on the floor like in Hakone. I give it 5 stars! They even gave us nice kimonos to go to the “onsen” downstairs. So the first evening and the next day we walked and walked and looked!Isn’t it a strange interpretation of Trump? And is it their version of Melania? Quite peculiar :-). That was the only mention during our trip of our Orange shame, other than that – they seemed to have no clue of who is ruling the world :-). This is the sky of our first evening there! Loved it. Takayama is a float town – they are famous for their “matsuri” when they take out their intricately built floats form their garages and museum and drive them through the streets, attracting lots of crowds and business.ᅡᅠ We tried not to get into any ‘matsuri’, to be free of crowds. but we saw special garages built for a float, while there is so little space for houses…And I noticed this cat figure on our way to hotel – it seemed that it hides some little float or just to make their little yard orderly and fun. The red bushes were driving me crazy. I never got enough of them… A tea garden that we used to call here – a Japanese garden by city museum, which is in a traditional old house complex,ᅡᅠ extensive and informative. And also beautiful, as everything there :-). Sorry, I have a lot of pics of trees. I could not help but admire them.. Takayama is tucked in among hills, one of them being the castle hill. The castle is long gone, only the foundations are left. But the trails and forests around it are very worth hiking to. You can see the city from above and you can enjoy feeding colorful little birdies from your palm: They even warn that bears live in those forests and people hike with little bells on their backpacks.ᅡᅠ Everywhere there is a little piece of land – it is turned into a neat garden. radishes are big and cabbages are just starting- but it witnesses the fertility of their land and the diligence of people. Most of the temples are high up ᅡᅠ -to reach God is not so easy… Consequently – we didn’t climb to all of them, our legs were tired.ᅡᅠ Most of the little pools for hand and mouth washing have a dragon and water comes from his mouth. But I liked here dragon not as much as the maple leaves… Lots of cedar trees by the temples on the slopes of the hills.ᅡᅠ One can walk there endlessly… The way they shape their pine treesᅡᅠ -could not take my eyes off…ᅡᅠ

Lots of big branches of the pines or other shaped trees are supported. And lower -those round reddish bushes by a road are azaleas in bloom! At this time of year…This pine tree is like a coquette! Those were Lithuanian flag colors! When it is cloudy and gets dim – my camera is very sensitive to not being stable, and my hand is not that stable. This is the way how they dry their persimmons, also -ᅡᅠ not just hanging, but hanging beautifully! This must have been some occasion described on the board on the right.ᅡᅠ never saw so many mums by anyone’s door, too tacky:I don’t know a more beautiful entrance to a house… When the skies cleared up-we saw snowy mountains form our hotel steps: ᅡᅠ Peculiar – there was a pagoda far in between roofs – and it had a cross:



Their forecast was precise for our third day of the trip- it poured. Not just rained… Like a monsoon all day long and the next day. We took three trains to Hakone, with a stop in Kanawara. Kanawara was also their capital at some point in history. so we left some things in a storage box and went into the rain…With umbrellas, but still. Tried to see something there, but only saw that it is a nice resort town for Tokyo people and that there are temples and nice shops and restaurants. But with sloshing boots we lost interest in the town and took two more trains toᅡᅠ Hakone-ᅡᅠ JR does not go there, you have to buy another ticket to another train on other tracks :-). Lots of walking in train stations…Hakone met us with rivers of water pouring down the hill we had to climb to reach the “K house”. So I entered it not with my best face, but then we were rewarded with a plunge to the hot spring- onsen- right in their own property. And they also had very good devices for drying out boots. They are prepared to lots of rain in their area. So Hakone is a hot spring town surrounded by mountains. You can climb them or you can take a bus , then elevator – and if the skies are clear – you can see Mt. Fuji – the most sacred of their volcanoes, the most beautiful and admired by their artists. But the skies were not clear for us and so we stayed almost all next day at home, just went to see the town a little: Ikebana An automate that was makingᅡᅠ cakes with fillings, turning them over and stamping with a picture.The town is small, but lots of gourmet food souvenir stores. Seems Japanese like their intricate tastes. The fun part – there are plates with their foods to sample and taste. they do not waste plastic containers or spoons, you have to take a little on the spoon form the plate and put it on your hand and taste… There are different pastes with umami flavor, lots of fermented veggies and seaweed. I guess it is this time of year for Buddhas to be dressed like that…

The next morning was already sunny and we took one train, then a bullet train to Nagoya. And we were lucky – for several short moments we saw the top of Mt. Fuji sticking from the clouds! This is how Shinkansen or a bullet train looks like:

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Based on the questions I get from friends I figured out that I never wrote about how we choose where to travel. We can travel only in winter and November not to harm our B&B business.ᅡᅠ So we usually choose a country which is warm during that time or is relatively close to Lithuania where I visit my parents. This year Andrei happened to come across a big discount in plane tickets either to Japan or Australia. So we chose Japan for the reasons mentioned in Tokyo blog.ᅡᅠ But we had to catch some autumn colors which should be the highlight of our trip. They are so admired by Japanese! And they stay much longer intact versus sakura blooms. As we have a lot to do in our gardens and orchards in the fall, we chose to leave on the 18th of November for 14 days, which came to be only 13 days there. So the first advice – do stay there for at least 14 days because of the railway ticket that you buy for them – use it to its full dates. Then I take books from library and read and read and think where we would like to go, how far the distances, how are we going to travel – car, bus or train. Also – we have to pay attention to the weather forecast in the areas we plan to visit. This time the weather channels told us that the end of November is not rainy at all already, but it wasn’t the case as you will see in my next blog. We didn’t expect very warm temperatures, but the cold winds that Tokyo met us with were not anticipated. As I say – nothing is for free. In spite of that we say so many red maples, yellow ginkgo that the locals said usually at this time of the year they are mostly gone. Next we look for hotels or guest houses through Air B&B, booking.com or expedia.com. There are many more websites to look for rooms or apartments. Then we ordered the 2 week JR – Japan Railway pass for $430 each and they send you the voucher for the ticket to your home. Once you are there you have to go to their office and get the actual pass after they check your passport – evidently they give us foreigners a discount and check if you are not on a working visa. Otherwise you can’t get that pass.

For this trip we chose to the as I call -“the main part” of Japan. Where their old capitals were, were most of historical action was. So: Tokyo 2 days 3 nights to get out of jet-lag, Hakone 2 nights to try to hike on a mountain and see Mt. Fuji (that didn’t happen due to pouring rains), Takayama 2 nights, Kanazawa 2 nights and Kioto 5 nights. Takayama is not as big and has a preserved and big old town, Kanazawa has one of the tree best Japanese gardens and also a castle and Nara is close to Kioto, we can see it on a day trip. When we look for rooms to stay – we take into consideration the places of interest in each town or city and also the proximity to the train station. And then we look for train schedule once we get to Tokyo, how are we going to reach our hotel, that is all. Then we have to have faith that everything will be fine. Nowadays even Tokyo didn’t seem hard to navigate-ᅡᅠ you download its map on the app Maps-me and you see where you are each time you are thinking which street to take. In the train stations – it is also easy to find the right track – they have English speaking people in bigger stations who would direct you where you need to go, or you just look on the information screens and figure out. Here is the catch! The pass does not cover all train rides. The trains there have numbers and names. So you have to read a little before the trip about them. There can be a bullet train as we call it, and they call it Shinkansen – and if it is written “super express” on it- it may mean that it will stop in every stop and will be slower that the train which is leaving is 20 min after it… On other trains “Limited express” is the best bet – it stops in a limited number of stops. I felt that they have a little different way of thinking than we do :-). Best luck traveling!







At some point in my life when I was young but already grown up I got mesmerized by Japanese arts, the old ones.ᅡᅠ Their calligraphy, their ukio-e prints, their red maples.ᅡᅠ But at that time I lived in the Soviet Union and we could not have dreams of visiting developed countries.ᅡᅠ We also had no money even to think about it. Times have changed and we decided that I have to see the country of my dreams. So this autumn on the 18th of November we flew to Tokyo from Las Vegas via San Francisco. The flight from S.Fr. is over 11 h, but it was not boring for we flew over the north end of the ocean, the skies were clear, I could see the coasts of California, then Oregon, then Alaska, Aleutian islands and even volcanoes in Sakhalin! Then Japan, which was not very impressive from the airplane. Narita airport is pretty far from Tokyo. Not so much fun after a long flight to look for money exchange, then train tickets, then train. But we did it, actually we had to take 2 trains to get to Asakusa – the area in Tokyo where we had a reservation for 3 nights at “Oyo Urban Stays”.ᅡᅠ This is the first view from the bridge we had to cross to get to our street:“Oyo Urban Stays” is a good hotel, we got a room on the 7th floor with all the amenities, even tooth brushes. With bathroom and shower en-suite. Of courseᅡᅠ – the room was very small:

But for two days it was fine. We had one of the biggest jet lags, we also had a big program, so we managed. What were the first surprises – the seats in metro were heated, the streets super clean, the the taxi cabs had funny sticking out lights, and it took 6 people to register us, the only customers into the hotel…

As we could not sleep since 5 am in the morning, we left the hotel at 7 am and the streets looked kind of grey – all the stores were shut closed with the metal shutters. Japan is considered the safest of all Asian countries and here you go…better safe than sorry. But the temples are colorful and the sun was shining, though very cold.

The first temple we went to was the biggest in Asakusa Senso-ji. A temple is a Buddhist house of prayer and a shrine is for Shinto, their old religion with lots of gods, often connected to nature. Both of those sacred places are usually in a park, with several buildings (we could not figure out what was their function), sometimes a pagoda,ᅡᅠ lots of beautiful trees and bushes and maybe even a water feature. Strange as it is – trees played the biggest impression on me, not the temples…yes, those sacred structures are beautiful, no doubt about it, but you were not easily permitted into them, or if you were-ᅡᅠ you had to take your shoes. In that cold weather, who wants it. And after seeing one or two – we got the idea that parks around them are best for us. I guess it is not what we understand as “swastika” and usually have not a very pleasant reaction.A ginkgo tree-ᅡᅠ boy how it is pruned! But looks good and so yellow…

We were freezing and children were marching to their schools with bare legs and apparently heavy backpacks:There is a big public park past the temple and a lot of museums are in that park. But having your head dizzy from jet lag and seeing the long lines toᅡᅠ museums long before their opening time-ᅡᅠ we decided to leave for the next trip. Yes, the feeling we got was that Japanese are very much into culture. So instead we admired trees. The oldᅡᅠ ones seem like they are so appreciated, all taken care of. supported, just to have them there as long as it is possible.

And the turning leaves, who can not like them!The whale by nature museum is of natural size.ᅡᅠ This temple has a monument for Hiroshima’s victims and an eternal flame there.ᅡᅠ Tori is the red or vermilion gate to a Shinto shrine. Why they like to put a lot of them – we don’t know. Maybe for pictures – Japanese like to have their pictures taken in beautiful places. Or maybe you read what is written on every Tori and get your soul cleansed…

Some trees are made to suffer, to my mind…Maybe all of them, for I just read that plants and trees scream when being tortured…

Kind of strange to see sakura in bloom in November. It can be the proximity to the shrine or some weather craziness that caused it. And so we walked through the park, to big streets with skyscrapers towards the center. I remember reading long ago that Tokyo is so huge and the streets are soᅡᅠ complicated that one can easily get lost. Somehow I didn’t get such a feeling. The streets are wide, too long, yes, but nothing complicated, everything on our map in the telephone or the paper one. So we walked until we saw the sets of foods in a restaurant window that seemed appealing. Sets till 11 am cost up to 460 yen and after 11 am – around 600 yen. You pay into a kiosk and get you food from the counter, good organization. And having in mind how cold it was – that hot miso soup was a saver! Then we walked to the Imperial palace- which is also a huge garden and only small portion of it is available forᅡᅠ us, being not of blue blood. The palace itself is also not seen from where we walked.

Isn’t he a cutie? Like a doll 🙂 The very center of Tokyo – some skyscrapers are quite elaborate, not that I am a fan of them.ᅡᅠ Their infrastructure is amazing… Our street where we lived was facing Tokyo Tree. The next morning we took JR train and went to the other side of Tokyo – to their largest Shinto shrine Meiji-Jingu. You get out from the train in a busy city area and couple of steps up – and here you are on a wide and long path in a dense forest! Lots of locals are dressed in their Kimonos, festive. Some just come to visit the shrine, some have an anniversary or some other occasion. Even guys are dressed in their garb and look very good. And picture taking is their main occupation on such a trip. Japanese have a demographic crisis – ᅡᅠ too few babies, too old the population. So every child is just cherished! They have a custom 3-5-7ᅡᅠ -when a child is of that age-ᅡᅠ they dress him in traditional kimono and take him to a park or shrine, mother will be dressed, too. But kids are kids- they do not pose in a proper way.

The biggest industry in that part of Tokyo at some point was sake making. Those are sake barrels dedicated to Gods. I guess they are empty…:-)Chrysanthemums- They were on that wide path to the shrine. Lower are the ones which are turned into bonsais.ᅡᅠ They are masters in bonsai art…ᅡᅠ This is the only procession we saw in the big square. They came from the shrine so fast and disappeared in another even faster – so I could catch only the end of it… The procession was for newlyweds. Based on my expertise of faces-ᅡᅠ a local guy married an American gal,ᅡᅠ not the other way around, as is more frequent. One of the 3-year olds…He has the most famous pictures on his kimono, but has no clue about it. Here is the Hungarian pepper in the day time. Loved it! Our hotel was behind it.

ᅡᅠᅡᅠᅡᅠᅡᅠᅡᅠ After Meiji-ᅡᅠ we walked and walked towards Ropongi district. It was very long walk but beautiful buildings on our way. Don’t think that we entered any of them, as enticing as they looked…Our legsᅡᅠ were too tired. Passed through a cemetery: Towards are museum. But what a lovely combination of chaotic windows on that house! (pic. on top). And the National Art Center, bottom: Then we reached the river, not to simple, only with the help of a map and concentration and found the pier. We took a boat to Asakusa back – a good choice! The sun was setting and it was fun to see the city from some distance. We sailed under 6 or 7 bridges for some 35 min.ᅡᅠ As it was not very late, the sun is setting there at 5 pm at this time of year,ᅡᅠ we walked to Senso-ji temple one more time to see how it looks in the dark. And were not disappointed, the market on the way was in full swing!Ye, pink chrysanthemums, never saw before…