Big in Japan

Japan 2019

For 2019, we decided to travel to Japan. But we did not want to do a pure city trip but also to see something of the landscape. So besides the classic destinations Tokyo and Kyoto, Nikko and the old capital Nara are on our program. We will also visit the city of Takayama in the Japanese high mountains and climb Mt. Norikura. At the end of the journey will we drive to Nagoya.

October 1, 2019

Our journey starts on October 1st at Dusseldorf Airport. After 11 hours and 30 minutes we will land in Narita.

October 2, 2019

Thanks tailwind we landed an hour earlier than expected in Tokyo Narita. The first impression:

Passport control and customs were done quickly. While in Germany at the passport control at the most two maximum grim-looking federal officials work a whole aircraft of passengers, in Narita we met fifteen friendly coworkers, who worked coeval. The employee, who was responsible for me, even addressed me in German when he saw my passport.

There are several ways to get from Narita to Tokyo. We chose the Keisei bus for the trip. It took about an hour and unlike buses in Germany there was open, free and super fast Wi-Fi. At Tokyo Central Station we took a taxi to the hotel. The cost of bus and taxi was moderate, a total of about 15 euros.

Then it was time to explore the area. As our hotel is close to the Tokyo Dome (ballpark), we first looked at the local shopping center there.

Here we also had our first sushi at a takeaway – still better than all the sushi we had ever tasted outside of Japan.

Afterwards we were guests in a British Pub. Here on TV there was a rugby match (New Zealand versus Canada – and Canada did not look good …). Apparently this is as popular in Japan as baseball. The people went crazy on every turn.

October 3, 2019

The first night was marked by a big jet lag – at 1.00 o’clock we were still awake, then we got up at 9 o’clock. Traveling east is cruel!

The breakfast was „continental style“ and very basic. Ham and egg are no longer allowed to be served for health reasons, the toast and croissants are individually wrapped. Now I really worry about the world climate.

After breakfast we walked to Tokyo Taito. On the way we saw this window cleaner.

In Taito we visited a Bunny Café „Moff Rell“. For little money you get something to drink and – rabbit food. This allows one to indulge the present Bunnys for 30 to 60 minutes. The rabbit attendant even spoke English quite well. In Tokyo you can also find Cat Cafés and Dog Cafés.

Afterwards we went to Yodobashi Camera, the probably largest electronics store in the world. For mobile phone covers alone there are about 200 m shelf. At the age of fifteen I would have moved in here.

Then we had lunch – curry special – very good and spicy. On our way back we were able to catch some impressions of this not so busy part of Tokyo.

The weather in Tokyo is fine so far, sunny and about 28 degrees. The humidity is quite high. In the evening it was a little cooler. So we took another walk to Kanda. There are a variety of restaurants but mainly noodle shops, small bars, yakitori stalls and grills „under the bridges“. This area called Izakaya is located under the train tracks. Here you can have really excellent dinner. The snacks cost between 200 and 1.000 yen.

On the way back we photographed the shopping malls, which look even more impressive at night than during the day.

At the end of our first full day in Tokyo, we had covered just under 19 km on foot. Tomorrow we will take the subway.

October 4, 2019

Today we visited the larger of the two rivers in eastern Tokyo – the Arakawa River. We took the subway from Suidobashi to Hirai station. This way of traveling is very cheap. The trip cost the equivalent of 1.50 euros. The way along the shore is very nice. Here we found our first geocache in Japan. We walked for about 6.5 km along the shore towards the harbor.

The right picture shows the view of the last bridge in front of the Pacific – after that comes a lot of water and eventually Los Angeles.

We did not look at the port of Tokyo today. Instead we took the subway to the business district at the central station.

The Chioda Park with the Imperial Palace is very close. The photo shows the entrance to the western part of the park. The park can partially be visited several days a week.

October 5, 2019

For today, the shopping district Shibuya and the Skytree were on the program. This seemed to be a good idea, because the weather forecast predicted sun and 30 ° C.

Shibuya we reached by subway. The intersection just outside the subway is considered one of the busiest in the world. In rush hour up to 15,000 people change the street side – per traffic light phase! From the roof top of the Magnet building you can see the crowd from above. This photo was taken in the morning, it gets much busier on the afternoon.

But that’s nothing compared to being in the middle of the crowd. This is confrontation therapy for social phobics.

Then it was time – we boarded Shibuya 109 – THE teeny-girly-mega-hype – populated by hundreds of teenaged Japanese girls in outfits that elsewhere leads to forensic repriming. Some wear kimonos, others look like a mix of Drag Queen and Hello Kitty mascot (I did not dare to photograph them all).

After this experience we needed a cold beer. This is available on the 7th floor of the Magnet building. Then we took the subway to the Skytree. This goes straight with the Hazomon Line and lasts 32 minutes. The Skytree is really worth seeing. At 634 meters, it is the second tallest building in the world. For 30 euros you can get up to 450 meters and have a breathtaking view of Tokyo there – especially after sunset.

The photo above shows the districts Taito and Koto. In the background you can see the Arakawa River.

The next photo shows the business district of Tokyo, to the left of it the Tokyo Tower, a 1958 build „only“ 333 meter high replica of the Eiffel Tower.

The Skytree is almost twice as tall as the Tokyo Tower.

The tower is well visited, especially on weekends. Nevertheless, with a little patience you have the chance to take good pictures.

In the evening we had our dinner in Suidobashi. We had tsukemen – cold noodles that are combined with any ingredients and dipped in a soup. Sounds funny, but tastes great.

October 6, 2019

The 6th of October started rainy. Nevertheless, today we walked through the university quarter to the Ueno Zoo. The University of Tokyo is considered to be very well-known with only 28,000 students. It has a total of five locations, we visited the main campus. The picture shows the Yasuda Auditorium.

The Ueno Zoo at the park of the same name is the oldest and largest zoo in Japan. However, compared to some other zoos in the world, it is manageable. Despite the rainy weather, it was well attended. The admission fee was very moderate with converted 5 euros.

Due to its age, the zoo still has very small enclosures for many animals, but it is built diligently. Tigers, pandas and many monkeys can look forward to plenty of room.

Zoo and Ueno Park are located in a densely populated area. From the green you can see the skyline of the city.

The zoo has many animal species that are not so common in zoos for example prairie dogs, flying squirrels, aardvarks, many species of monkeys from Madagascar and the giant panda of course.

Seeing the giant pandas is not so easy. You have to queue for about 40 minutes, then you come to the enclosures. We were unlucky and just got to see a hairy panda butt.

Other animals were less shy:

While most Japanese use Ueno Park for boating, we had something else in mind.

At 17.00 clock we had planned a geocache event. At our meeting point in Ueno Park right next to the zoo we met some cachers from all over the world: Joy came from Taiwan and was geocaching for a week in Tokyo, one couple came from Pasadena, another German-Japanese couple lives in Tokyo and came with their kids.

We exchanged Travelbugs, chatted and searched for some caches in the area until it was dark.

Back in Suidobashi we bought beer in the supermarket – they are also open at night. Coming out of darkness into these neon-lit stores can really shock you.

October 7, 2019

We really wanted to use this Monday for a day trip to Nikko. The city can be reached by train from Tokyo in about two hours. Unfortunately, there was raining weather for today, so we decided instead to visit the new fish market in Tokyo.

Since it was still very early, we got an impression of a really full subway. It was empty again in the harbor district.

The fish market has a new location in Toyosu since November 2018 – not all people in Tokyo agree with it.

Of course you can not only buy fish in the market halls, here you will find everything you need to cook – or before. For example, there are several booths owned by knife manufacturers that grind their goods directly on site. They offer everything from a vegetable knife up to a 1.6 meter long carving knife for cutting tuna fish.

We would have liked to buy such a slicer, but it would not have been welcome in our hand luggage.

For the fish auction we were too late, it starts at 4.30 clock. But the loading of these four speciemen we could still photograph.

After the fish market we spontaneously went to the city hall Tokyo in Shinjuku. The building is 243 meters high and on the 45th floor it has a observation deck that can be visited free of charge.

The photos taken from here are better than those from the Skytree, as it is less hazy due to the lower altitude. This photo shows well how Tokyo is – a nearly endless sea of ​​houses. The photo below shows the two towers of the Tokyo City Hall from below.

This is not just a building – it’s a statement.

Right next to the town hall is the small Shinjuku Central Park. Here you can spend your break.

October 8, 2019

Today we went to Akasaka to do some streetphotography. Using the subway in Tokyo is always an adventure. Even when it’s full, people still find a way to read in the crowd.

The escalators are one size bigger here.

Akasaka has many narrow streets with bars, restaurants and small shops.

It is an ideal place for street photography. You just have to capture this mood as authentically as possible. Here are some impressions…

In the evening we wanted a change of sushi and girl band and drove to Roppongi to visit the Hard Rock Café. There is Ribs & Wings, good drinks and good music.

  Before we took the subway to the hotel, we visited the Tokyo Tower. Although not as big as the Skytree, the tower is still an impressive sight.

October 9, 2019

The last week in Tokyo was eventful. Although we were traveling every day, we feel like we have hardly seen anything of the city. Tokyo will be a wonderful memory. The people here were incredibly nice and accommodating. The city is just great. But everything comes to an end, even our stay in Tokyo. Today we go to Kyoto, our next stop, with the Shinkansen.

For the Shinkansen from Tokyo to Kyoto we booked the „Green Car“, the first class with seat reservation. This is hardly more expensive than the standard class, but also offers only a few advantages. The seat reservation is not needed on weekdays and legroom and comfort are good in the standard class too.

If you want to see Fuji on this way, you should reserve seat „D“, which is the window seat on the north side. We had the right places but unfortunately the summit of Fuji was hidden in the clouds despite the good weather.

In Kyoto we arrived punctually on the minute and left our luggage in the hotel to explore the area. The first impression of the city is sobering. But like everywhere else there are sights and less beautiful places.

First, we visited the To-ji Temple and the current art exhibition.

This place is very quiet and tranquil. You can not feel the hustle and bustle of a big city.

Then we hiked to the nearby river, the Kamo River.

In the evening we took the bus to Gion, the historic geisha district of Kyoto. The area is characterized by low wooden buildings and a small river along the Shinbashi Dori. Of course, there are many tourists and many guided tour groups, whose leaders reflect the past of the district, romantically transfigured.

In the immediate vicinity there are a variety of small bars and restaurants, all in the upscale price range.

And you can find interesting temples here.

October 10, 2019

In Kyoto we had our first traditional Japanese breakfast. It takes a bit of getting used to but you start the day stronger. This was necessary today because we visited Fushimi Inari Shrine. It is located in southeastern Kyoto on Mount Inari. This mountain is not particularly high, only about 240 meters. But it goes up and down many steps. At the beginning of the route there are many tourists, higher up there are fewer.

The shrine is a sanctuary and the pillars are protected – even Hachiko must not pee on it.

This image of the colonnade is a well-known motif – you will find it in any Japanese travel guide. It’s not that easy to photograph it without tourists, it takes a lot of patience.

On the way down, however, the sows are more interesting – here you can see the inscriptions, which consist of very individual wishes.

On the wayside you will always find these statues of foxes. Inari means in Japanese Shinto „goddess of fertility, rice and foxes“. Foxes are generally considered sacred in Japan in many places.

After a good one hour ascent (we were not the fastest) we got to see this collection of smaller shrines.

Shortly afterwards we arrived at the top of Mount Inari. It was much emptier here. The installation is lit at night and can be seen from Kyoto. From here you have a nice view of the city.

The descent is less difficult.

Some tourists complete the ascent to the shrine dressed as geisha. That should be very uncomfortable, the tight clothing should interfere with the rise. In spite of the traditional clothes, smartphones are used for selfies.

Then we walked back to the station and took the subway to Kyoto Central Station. That costs 150 yen per person.

There we noticed that what we thought was the main train station was actually a subway station. Kyoto Central Station is above it and eleven stories high, as big as a city of its own with a roof over it. The large staircase to the roof garden has an integrated light show.

From here you have a good view of the Kyoto Tower opposite. 

We had dinner at Kyo Dining Hachijo, a great bar right in the train station. They have a very delicious house beer, Japanese whiskey and good food.

October 11, 2019

Today we have received our rental car. That was rather complicated. Driving in Japan presupposes that one translates the German driver’s license beforehand, as the international driver’s license is insufficient here – for whatever reason. This costs 65 euros and takes about six weeks. The site can help.

The information from the car rental service was very capacious. They even told us what you better should do and not do and what would be the penalty: For example parking at the roadside costs 25,000 yen, to refuel diesel instead of normal petrol costs up to 400,000 yen. They inform you really thoroughly. Apparently not so many foreigners have the crazy idea of ​​driving a car in Japan. I think they were really worried about their car.

We have had our navigation system set to English. The rest of the car only speaks Japanese with us. This together with the steering wheel on the wrong side, the left-hand traffic and the impossibility of reading road signs, makes driving in Japan a fascinating experience – not to mention Typhoon Higabis that will hit us tomorrow.

Our first trip took us to Arashiyama for the „Bamboo Grove“. Here there is the ancient Togetsu-kyō bridge over the Hozugawa River – originally a wooden construction from the year 848.

Here we had the first contact with endemic species. And yes, this is a monster hornet. It was over 4 cm long. I wanted to put my hand next to it for size comparison but my wife thought that was not a good idea. I learned today that these hornets live mainly in bamboo forests. Hey, what a coincidence, we’re going there for a walk!

Again, there are tourists who like to dress up as a geisha. Some are driving around the Riksha.

The bamboo grove is well visited. It’s difficult to get photos without tourists …

… but possible. The path through the bamboo forest is not too long but worth seeing. The bamboo trees grow over 10 meters high and very dense. That looks impressive.

Today there were many schoolchildren here. Some probably had the task of interviewing tourists – almost as a homework assignment.

October 12, 2019

Due to the approaching typhoon, heavy rain and wind speeds up to 117 km/h are announced in Kyoto. The photo below shows the pagoda of the To-Ji temple in the early drizzle.

So outdoor activities were canceled today – instead we drove to Lake Biwa. It is the largest lake in Japan. With 674 km² area it is slightly larger than Lake Constance in Germany.

The landscape on the west and north banks is a bit hilly and should be very beautiful. Unfortunately, we could hardly see it in the bad weather. The picture below shows the harbour of Sakamoto.

As the storm gusts got worse and the first trucks started to lurch in front of us, we decided to return to Kyoto in the early afternoon.

At least we know now how to get to Takayama tomorrow, if the highways should be closed because of the storm.

October 13, 2019

The weather in Kyoto is better again. The sky is partly blue at 19 ° C at 7:00 o’clock in the morning. The typhoon, which tragically has cost more than sixty lives, is now over Hokaido losing his strenght.

After a quick breakfast, we left early for Takayama. On the way, we had the opportunity to photograph Lake Biwa once again in reasonably good weather. The photos show the northern part of the lake.

The ride was long and exhausting. We did not know if the highway was closed and so we drove north on national streets. Although most Japanese drive 70 instead of the allowed 50 km/h, the city passages were a test of patience – especially in Gifu and Mito City.

Behind Mito, the landscape became very beautiful. Wooded mountains, streams, wild rivers and first fall foliage could be seen. In between came a Japanese village again and again. Only the above-ground telephone lines disturb the picture.

At about 3:00 pm we were in front of Takayama and realized that our navigation system in the car refused the hotel address.

In the end we found the hotel after 58 km more at about 5.00 pm. The „Nakao Kougen Hotel“ accepts only house shoes (no boots!) indoors. The rooms are huge not only by Japanese standards. Among other things, they all have their own onsen, which is fed from an in-house hot spring and is continuously filled. We had a fantastic dinner with plenty of wine and sake.

Tomorrow we will climb Mount Norikura. It is a volcano with a crater lake about 15 km away. It is part of the Hida mountains and has a height of 3,026 m. A part of the mountain can be reached by car, a few hundred meters to the summit you have to climb on foot.

October 14, 2019

Today started with good weather. Unfortunately, the fog quickly turned into rain, so we had to postpone our planned trip to Mount Norikura until tomorrow. The photo below shows the view from our hotel terrace.

In addition, the area around the summit can only be reached by bus. In this area, visibility was very limited today. Instead, we explored the landscape around Kamokochi. Here it is wildly romantic. The vegatation is lush. Due to the rain of the last few days, the rivers carry a lot of water.

October 15, 2019

On the third day in the Japanese high mountains, the weather was excellent. We got up early and took the bus to Mount Norikura at 8.50 am. The bus goes uphill for about an hour and drops off the visitors at a mountain station. The price is 2,340 yen (about 19 euros) per person for round trip.

The mountain station is located at 2,702 m altitude. The highest peak is 3,026 m high. Mount Norikura is a (potentially active) volcano with several volcanic craters. The craters are clearly visible, two of them form a plateau at the bottom of which there are small crater lakes.

Up here there was blue sky but also a cold wind. The temperature was just above freezing, but felt far below. We used the nice weather for plenty of photos. Here we also foung our „highest“ geocache.

There is a research station near the main summit. They carry out solar astronomical observations here.

Almost all peaks in the region can be climbed. After warming up in the mountain station we climbed Mount Maou (2,764 m) – rather a small hill than a mountain. The warning of the bears is meant seriously. Many hikers have hung their equipment with small bells to protect against bears. Fortunately, we did not have to find out if that helps. There could also be musical bears …

Back in the valley, we used the good view for another photo of „our“ river.

October 16, 2019

Unfortunately, today we had to go back to Kyoto. We would have stayed in the mountains for another day or two – there is so much to see and to discover here. But in Kyoto there are still some sights waiting for us. 

At 9.15 am we drove off. Our navigation system predicted a journey time of 10.5 hours. The drive through the autumnal mountains with blue sky was very nice. We stopped several times and took pictures.

At Mino City it got bad. After Gifu we only progressed at a walking pace. 30 km/h was already a lot. In Japan, unfortunately, there is only the possibility to use the highway – and that is very expensive – or national streets. They are one-lane and allow a maximum of 50 km/h. Overtaking is almost impossible.

We have reached our hotel in Kyoto at 17.30 pm. The driving time was 8:15 hours – for 295 km (!) The picture shows the central station of Kyoto. The windows reflect the Kyoto Tower.

At the end of the day we were in the bar „Man on the Moon“. There are 7 draft beers on tap (English, Irish and Japanese), 30 whiskeys and good food. We had Jambalaya, or what they thought, Jambalaya should be – but it was delicious. The beer is very expensive here. A pint of Guinness costs 1,100 yen (9.30 euros). Besides, there was a geocache in the bar, which we had to find, of course.

October 17, 2019

Today Nara was on the program. Nara is the oldest of the former capitals of Japan. It is 35 km south of Kyoto – we needed about an hour by car. On the way we refueled. That is quite cheap in Japan. The liter of gas costs between 1.10 and 1.25 euros.

Not only for tourists, but also for many school classes Nara is a popular destination.

Today, Nara is best known for its sika deers that live freely in the urban area. In the meantime, they are very used to the tourists from which they are fed. This one obviously could not read.

The deers are found troughout Nara Park and are always a nice photo opportunity.

Meanwhile, the deers are even conditioned to bow to people when they do that.

In Nara Park there is also the Tōdai-ji temple. It houses one of the largest wooden buildings in the world – a hall containing the Daibutsu, a 15-meter-high bronze Buddha statue.

In addition, there are other portraits of deities, all of which look very scowling.

Since it was still early, we decided to go back to Kyoto and visit the Golden Temple „Kinkaku-ji“. That is also very worth seeing. It is located in a park, which is lovingly laid out.

October 18, 2019

Unfortunately, we have submitted our rental car today. In total we drove 1,063 km in Japan. The Japanese drive quite defensively and are also polite when driving. But everything is slow and leisurely – if you are in a hurry, the car is not a good choice. One gets used to a few peculiarities in traffic quickly: horizontal traffic lights behind (!) the intersection, funny road signs (examples follow), lack of standards in the painting of the road, too early start in red. Most important finding: Always use the right lane, if available. The left is used for short parking (actually prohibited) and left turns.

As promised here are the examples of funny street signs …

Later we took the train to the Imperial Palace in Kyoto and visited the park there. Without a car we had the pleasure again to find the right subway connections …

The Park around the Imperial Palace in Kyoto is very spacious and quiet. That may be because you can not visit the actual palace.

The palace walls cover an area of ​​approx. 300 x 500 m.

This is one of the entrance gates.

Here live a lot of birds, herons, ravens and others.

However, there are guided tours of the Sento Palace next door. Originally 1630 built for the emeritus ruler, it burned down three times and was renewed. Today it serves the Tenno and his family as accommodation when visiting Kyoto.

The garden around the Sento Palace is more than 90,000 m² in size and an example of Japanese garden art. That was absolutely worth seeing, even in the rain.

October 19, 2019

Our stay in Kyoto is over now. We took the Shinkansen to Nagoya this morning. We reached this port city with about 2.3 million inhabitants around 11.00 o’clock. The station was extremely busy. Even for a taxi you had to queue. Here are some things you should not do in a taxi:

Since it was too early to check in at the hotel, we explored the area. Directly opposite is the Oasis 21, a shopping mall with a bus terminal. There are also events here, such as this kendo show.

The shopping area has a glass roof that is designed like a U.F.O.

The roof is walkable and has a pond in the middle with a total of 150 tons of water. The floor consists of transparent panels. Through the pond you can look down into the shopping center.

Then we photographed Nagoya at night. Like almost every big city, Nagoya looks better at night than in daylight.

October 20, 2019

Due to the best weather (up to 27 °C) today we visited the harbor of Nagoya and the aquarium there. There are dolphins, killer whales and belugas among other sea creatures. The pools for the marine mammals are said to be among the largest ever – the species-appropriate attitude is pointed out. But of course you have to see these claims under the fact that some of these species also like to end up on the table here.

The area of ​​the aquarium is quite large, the admission fee is moderate 2,030 yen (about 17 euros).

The Dolphin show was not great – we have seen a better one in Duisburg. The pool for the dolphins was actually quite large. The killer whales we would have wished a much larger pool or better – freedom. This visit has actually shown us that marine mammals do not belong in such a show, which is only for the amusement of the masses. In the future, we will not visit such events anymore

The rest of the aquarium we liked. Here were some of the species – especially from the deep sea – that we had never seen in a zoo. The aquariums for the sea turtles and the tropical fish were huge and nicely laid out.

Here we had to think of the last night’s sushi dinner …

Afterwards we went over the harbor bridge to the Antarctic exhibition. It’s on a ship – the Fuji. That was from 1965 to 1983 a Japanese expedition ship, with which the first Japanese Antarctic station was built and supplied. It serves as a museum today.  Admission is 300 yen (2.50 euros).

Many rooms of the ship can be visited – here the bridge.

Back in Nagoya City, we caught the blue hour and were able to take some nice shots of the bustling city.

For dinner we were in a „pork bar“ today. Almost all dishes were made of pork. Unfortunately, this time the translation was missing, as the drinks menu shows.

October 21, 2019

There is a castle in Nagoya (Nagoya-jo). It was built in 1532 and destroyed shortly thereafter. After the reconstruction it played a central role in the Edo period. It was destroyed again in World War II. Today, exactly 60 years ago, the reconstruction of the castle was completed – reason enough to visit it. We made the way to the castle on foot.

On our way we noticed once again that it lacks an important thing in Japan: Garbage cans. There are very few public garbage cans here and no private ones. The bars and restuarants stack their garbage on the sidewalks until the garbage collector picks it up. Of course this attracts interested parties …

The castle itself can not be visited due to renovations but the garden and the surrounding buildings.

In then moat live a lot of fish.

The park can be visited free of charge. The entrance fee for the inner park and the buildings is 500 yen per person (about 4.20 euros). The surrounding streets are busy. Of course you can also arrive here by taxi. In the picture the probably most common model in Asia, a Toyota Crown.

At an advanced hour we did some night shots of Nagoya in the rain.

October 22, 2019

This morning, we made our way to the Nagoya City Science Museum, weather permitting. On the way there we found this sign. We were not sure – is that an indication of a hedgehog café or a menu …?

The Science Museum already impresses architecturally. Between the main buildings about 10 meters high, there is a sphere with a diameter of 35 meters. It houses the planetarium.

Today the entrance was free, as today was the second of three ceremonial days of  the enthronement of Emperor Naruhito. Usually the entrance fee is 800 yen per person (about 6,40 Euro).

The museum is very much geared to bringing science closer to children. Power, energy, acoustics, optics, waves – everything is practically tangible. Among other things, there is a tornado lab where twisters can be created.

Even without a visit to the planetarium you can spend half a day in this museum.

For dinner we drove into the inner city. The two round towers stand above Nagoya Central Station. They house the headquarters of Japan Rail. It is the eighth tallest building in Japan. This is where the money ends up, if you buy a Japan Rail Pass …

On our way back to the hotel we met a drummer. She often plays here until late at night.

October 23, 2019

It is the 23rd of October and today we are returning home. Of course, we look forward to being at home, but the holiday could have taken even a week longer – or two. There is so much to see here … By subway we went to Nagoya central station. That was a bad idea, because it lacks the escalators in many places. Compared to the taxi you save 1,500 yen (12 euros). Ok, at this point you should not be frugal.

At the Shinkansen we chose the standard class this time and did not regret it. The seats are a bit narrower than in the Green Car but the legroom is the same.

As a food we had a bento box. This is not just junk food but a really good and fresh lunch. They cost from 800 yen (6.40 euros) including chopsticks an a towel.

Driving with the Shinkansen is really an experience. Hard to beat for punctuality and speed – see the speed indicator on the smartphone screenshot:

And that’s what it looks like when you look out of the window and another Shinkansen comes in:

Then we were lucky and had a clear view of Fuji-san.This time there were no clouds around the summit. The photo may not be missing on a trip to Japan, of course.

If you pass by, the train crew will point you out to Fuji if it’s easy to see.

Tonight we will spend the night in the Narita Gateway Hotel, so we can take the plane tomorrow morning. That means once again Japanese buffet …

October 24, 2019

The last night in Japan was short, at 7:50 am the shuttle to the airport. The plane took off with about 30 minutes delay, but landed in time at 15:50 pm in Düsseldorf.

There were some unmistakable indications that we were back in Germany:

1. It took 30 minutes for the stairs to be on the plane so that we were able to get out.

2. Outside, important-looking employees stood with their hands in their pockets.

3. The bus drove us once around the plane – about 100 meters in total – then we had to get out and go into the building.

4. There were exactly two federal officials responsible for passport control.

5. It was not possible to get from Düsseldorf to Dortmund in less than two hours by S-Bahn.

6. The S-Bahn was late due to „operational conditions“.


Japan was surprising. Some things were as expected: In many places it is full and busy, colorful and blatant. It was also expensive sometimes – at least as far as the food and especially the beer is concerned. However, a lot of things were very different from what we knew from reports: The helpfulness, courtesy and hospitality have always brought us forward despite sparse knowledge of Japanese – no trace of superficial friendliness. Strangers spoke to us in front of the train station in Kyoto, just because we were looking at the area somewhat helplessly – they wanted to help us find the right way.

The mountainous country, where things are calmer, really does exist. We found it in the mountains around Takayama. Traditional Japan, on the other hand, was not present everywhere – the “cultural capital” Kyoto clearly has its dark sides, slum-like residential areas, for example. Famous places like the Fushimi Inari shrine or the golden temple were literally overcrowded. Contemplation was hardly to be found here. Nevertheless, it was good to have visited these sites.

The weather was very good, except for a few rainy days, which we could use for street photos. It was warm but with high humidity. You sweat quickly and some warm clothing could have stayed at home.

The food in Japan certainly deserves a special mention. In terms of freshness and variety, the sushi is something completely different than we knew it. Rahmen soups are fine, also currys and baked goods. Besides that it quickly becomes expensive in the restaurant. Self-sufficiency is difficult if the kitchen is missing and should not be cheap either. By the way, beer is very expensive in Japan, up to € 10 for 0.5l. Whiskey is dirt cheap. So the priorities are clear. Overall, the food was great with single exception.

The convenience stores of 7/11, Familymart and Lawson are also to be named with regard! Here you will find what you need to survive: Japanese and international snacks (hot and cold), soft drinks, water, coffee, beer, spirits, sweets, shampoo, toothpaste, toilet paper, toilets, washing facilities, WiFi and cash on machines. Wow! This is missing in Germany. There is no such completeness here even at the motorway service areas.

Road traffic in Japan is something special. Japanese drive defensively. Unfortunately there are hardly any multi-lane country roads. Overtaking is largely forbidden on most streets and the speed is almost constant at 50 km. Highways are expensive. The next time we would plan our trips differently and drive to the mountains at night when it is less crowded.

However, we were enthusiastic about train traffic and public transport. In terms of punctuality and service, you can’t beat that.

In the end we were very happy with our vacation. We spent far less money on site than planned and came back fit and mentally relaxed. We would travel to Japan again, maybe with a few more days in the mountains.