Japan: Fun things

Typical Vending Machine

Japan is the land of the vending machine. I never saw so many. They are everywhere, but bring your coins for as techie as Japan is they don’t take charge cards.

Final words: Red buttons are hot drinks, Blue buttons are cold drinks.

I wish we had these vending machines in our US airports. Though I always bring an empty water bottle through TSA to defray cost, these vending machines might be a job for the disabled or profits to charity if we used them in the US?.

I would love to send this picture to other Asian countries. With a few extra pieces of metal Japan has neatly organized their wire infrastructure. Anyone who has traveled Asia knows what I am talking about. Enough said.

Toilet Occupancy Sign

What America has done for parking garages Japan has done for toilets. Yes, in every rest stop along the highway there is a sign similar to this designating what is open and what is not for your needs.

They also have signage for special needs. Those who need sinks in their bathroom have this listed on the sign. And if you are Chinese and prefer to use that type of receptacle the sign directs you to the

Chinese bathroom

appropriate lavatory.

Once inside the bathroom there is a variety of items on the wall to make your stay more comfortable.

The Wall unit

The seat, covered or naked, is warm. Upon completion of your business a decision is

made asto which type of cleansing is required. The amount of spray, force etc.. is handled by these buttons. The toilet automatically flushes upon departure from the stall.

Wee Folk Toilets

The rest stops also planned for the wee folk. Separate bathroom areas with small toilets close to the ground and low level

Little Boy Urinals

urinals are present as well. These rest stops were an interesting departure from our US rest stops. Bathroom etiquette will never be the same…

Till the next blog…. Kathleen

Japan: Day 9

Today was our last official day of the tour. We started with Kuromon Market, a noted Japanese fish market. Popular with the locals and well-known around Japan it was interesting to watch as vendors cooked the various fish.

Cooking Oyster

I sneaked away from the tour finding several furniture stores. The cabinetry, couches, tables and appliances were a third less in size from what I am used to. One of the refrigerators was totally plexiglass and the washing machines also small with dryers not used in Japan.

After the fish market we went to the Umeda Sky Building.

This structure is actually two skyscrapers with a mid air connection known as the floating garden. There is no actual garden but an open air roof with 360 degree views of the city of Kyoto. The building is considered one of the top structures in the world.

An interesting spot along the view is a where lovers, “lock their hearts,” a similar practice as done on European bridges.

There are walled gardens at ground level.

After seeing such an architectural feat the rest of the day paled, however we soldiered on to Nara Park. While the Park held a beautiful temple the main attraction was the deer who come daily from the mountain for food from tourists.

Look innocent but they aren’t

Our final stop was Kyoto Castle, a museum of Japanese history. Here the crowds proved too much for me and I left to stroll the grounds. To my delight I came across an authentic Japanese wedding.

Japanese wedding

The traditional head gear the bride wears is done to veil the horns of jealousy, ego and selfishness.. Gosh, what about the groom??

Think I will end on that note. Japan is a fascinating culture and vastly different from anything I have seen. It was a pleasure to visit and meet such charming folk who go out of their way to help.

In my daily blogs I have missed some things I wish to discuss so will add another piece or two of Japanese things to know.


Japan: Day 8

Venturing to the Arashiyama District our group took in the area gardens and Sagano Bamboo Forest. Many Japanese and tourists rent kimonos as they tour these historic spots, however, there are only 200 actual Geishas remaining. It is a dying industry and their artistry costs in the neighborhood of $500 for a 2 hour period.

The Bamboo Forest is a man made creation and impressive. It has an eerie quality, and the potential for a Stephen King book??.….

The most peaceful place on this trip was the Fushimi Inari-Tasisha Shrine. This shrine has a walking path through a tunnel of toril gates. Each of these gates were sponsored by a Japanese business. Walking through the gates was a profound yet crowded experience. I took one of the paths off the gates and there found the sound of birds singing. I am told at 7 am prior to crowds the parks allure is even greater due to the solitude.

The round trip journey takes 2 to 3 hours for completion. If you have the time, do it, as your soul will thank you.

Japan: Day 7

Our next venture was to Kyoto. This city known as Japan’s cultural center is also a mecca for manufacturing.

Nijo Castle is the 17th century residence of the Tokugawa shogun family and was our first stop. This UNESCO protected site, the 17th century Nijo Castle was surrounded by walls and elaborate gates. Those who visited would wait for many hours in waiting rooms before their meeting with the shogun. Elaborate murals of lions and the like adorned these waiting room walls attesting to the shogun’s strength. The murals were done in an effort to elicit fear in the visitor.

Gate at Nijo Palace

From here we visited the Golden Pavilion. A gorgeous site with the grounds built for relaxation. Lovely Japanese gardens abound and in particular cherry blossoms.

Golden Pavilion

Cherry blossoms typically peak in April, however, if you can’ t make it to Japan, Newark, New Jersey and Washington DC could fulfill your dreams. There’s always a way…my lifetime motto. 🙂

Japan: Day 6

After a long bus journey we arrived at the pinnacle, Mount Fuji. There are five stations but due to ice, winds, and -40 degree weather no one was allowed further than station one. However, seeing her majesty from a distance is an even greater experience and this can be done via boat and gondola ride of which we did both.

Staying overnight across the lake from the mountain different views can be experienced.

At our hotel was a hot springs, an en sui. The Japanese are firm believers in these waters. And after the long bus ride I became a believer as well.

En Sui at our hotel

Japan: Day 5

Today was another busy day visiting the shrines at Kamakura and the city of Yokohama, Japan’s second largest city. The Japanese follow two religions, Shintoism and Buddism. Worshipping and asking for favors of the god’s or Buddah at these temples involve cleansing of the hands and mouth. The next step is to appear before the god/Buddah, bow or clap hands to gain the god’s attention, then make your request. A donation is also given. Observing and participating in this practice was fun, with no disrespect intended.

It was here I discovered a premature cherry blossom opening. What beauty!

Cherry blossom tree

And they even had an Amish restaurant in town. Wish the owner sold their baked goods but when I asked I was met with a quizzical look…

Amish restaurant

Another stop in Kamakura was at The Great Buddah. This bronze fella weighed in at 121 tons and he’s hollow. Here’s a picture of him front, back and inside. This is the land of the Samurai..

Yokohama revealed a modern, well maintained city on the waterfront. We stopped at a historic hotel where the likes of Charlie Chaplin and Babe Ruth stayed and enjoyed the waterfront park near the hotel.

After our City tour we visited a mall. Malls in both Japan and Thailand are quite different from American malls. The floors are open and stores blend from one to the other with a curtain or thin barrier between each store. I know it sounds weird but it’s beautifully done as is everything in Japan.

Here is a pic of an enormous ferris wheel from the top of the mall. The Japanese love these.

As I viewed my pics from today I wanted to share this quote from The Great Buddah Park in Kamakura. Hope you enjoy it.

Japan Day 4.5: Another Kindness

I woke several times throughout the night with breathing problems. Since I am in a foreign country it is a challenge to get medical help. Grateful for my 43 years as a nurse I decided to venture out at 6 am and obtain over the counters to get me through the trip.

Little was open at this time. In 7/11 a tired clerk who spoke little English said no cough medicine or drops. The Japanese take English from junior high through high school. Because their teachers don’t speak they learn written English, however, this is changing our tour guide told us. From here I ventured to a grocery/all purpose store. It was there after asking 5 shoppers if they spoke English I found my angel.

This angel was fluent in English and told me there was a 24 hour medical clinic next door. I left for this destination and found it closed. I decided to return to the hotel and as I did my angel came running down the street after me. She had decided to check after giving me this information and saw the clinic was closed.

She took me back to the grocery/all purpose store and reviewed the cough drop selection telling me what she felt was most effective. After many thanks I was on my way back to the hotel.

As I said prayers for my angel I thought who does this stuff? Actually me, but a kindness repaid will encourage another kindness.

Thank you my angel. Things happen in “3’s.” Looking forward to my next kindness.

Japan Day 4

Today we started our day with a visit to the Imperial Palace. It is only open 2 days a year and today wasn’t the day, but, we had a bit of a view. The current emperor is retiring this year at 85 and his son who is 59 is taking over beginning May 1st. An enormous celebration is planned.

Imperial Palace

After this we traveled to the Asakusa district seeing a famous Buddah and then conducted some retail therapy. How clean Japan is!

Our final stop was the Ginza district where the price of a shirt can be 400 USD. Since Ross is my store of choice I politely removed myself journeying a half mile away to the fish market. Chaos is more my style and this certainty was found here. The sounds and smells intrigued as well as the flurry of activity.

Back to the main meeting point I found television station personnel with cameras. This was a solemn day in Japanese history as 8 years earlier a level 9 earthquake and tsunami left 20,000 dead or unaccounted for. A private moment of silence reigned at 3 pm.

Returning to the hotel I prepared for my evening event a traditional Kaiseki Dinner.

Outside Restaurant

Seven of us feasted on raw fish and other delicacies at the dinner. When I signed up for this I had no idea it was something I had seen numerous times in the movies where businessmen dine while kimono adorned gals serve them.

Hallway to our room

We removed our shoes and our waitress quickly took care of them. She was a charming young woman who spoke no English but beguiled us with her grace.

Our waitress

We sat on the floor as our legs dangled in a pit. Our first course was before us in a box.

First course

This course contained fresh, local fish selections of octopus, crab, squid and sweet fish. Our tour guide maneuvered us through the 7 courses.

Course 3 Japanese Black Beef

Interesting enough because of the portion size and timing of the food none of us felt “stuffed,” and fish has no calories anyway, correct? 🙂

Besides the taste the presentation of the items was also exquisitely done. While no business was exchanged all felt like company VIPs during the dinner. Another magical moment traveling the globe.

Japan Day 1, 2, 3

It took 27 hours to get to Japan from Jacksonville, Florida. I journeyed through Chicago and LA and found these airports quite beautiful since my last visits. The layovers were long but the O’Hare Airport refreshing with its teen art work and museum tribute to the airport’s namesake. I also enjoyed LAX. What a classy place.

In LA I had an 8 hour layover so I rented a car and drove to Korea Town. For the cost of baggage storage it was equal to the cost of renting a car. Go figure. I sclepped the bag in the car and took the 75 minute 13 mile journey on a notorious California freeway to my destination. It was fun but must be a drag on a daily basis. I found some great food in Korea Town and an amazing acupressure massage to boot.

I returned to LAX and got on a red eye to Beijing. I slept for 7 hours so that helped to decrease the angst of the 16 hour flight. The movie stuff was challenging and impossible. Why don’t they standardize those things?. Every airline does it differently and quite frankly it doesn’t work. I spent most of the flight trying to figure it out and the flight attendants were clueless, then there was the language barrier.

Once off the plane I explored the immense and lovely Beijing Airport. They have rooms by the hour on site where you can sleep. Someone stole my idea! I’ve been meaning to write to Logan, JFK and Laguardia about this. I spent 2 horrific winter nights in Logan’s baggage claim area this year. I got in after 10pm and having a 6am departure the following day who wants to pay $300 for a hotel and then there’s always the worry of getting back to the airport in time. I digress. What was I talking about.?? Ah yes, Beijing Airport..

This airport is glorious with its designer shops, teahouses and moongates but the overriding concern looms. Here is a picture of what you see out those glorious windows. It is an air quality nightmare.

Beijing Airport

About 1 in 10 at the airport wear masks and after my visit there I developed a cough. When I spent 12 days in China 2 years ago I returned home sick for 3 weeks. No doc knew what was wrong. I did. It’s the air. 500 a day die from respiratory concerns someone reliable told me.

That said Beijing Airport remains a well planned work of art. Below is a pic of one of the two tea houses at the airport.

From here was another 4 hour flight to Tokyo with failed movie stuff. I sat next to a delightful Muslim man who tried to help, but, enough of that.

Arriving in Tokyo at 4 pm was great as I got time to explore the City on my own. I stopped at grocery and drug stores. And since I had a room with a bath tub I needed Epsom salts. This is always so much fun for me playing stump the pharmacist. Honestly, is the US the only country that

uses Epsom salts? The guy in Tokyo at least tried and came up with “laxative.” I got a bit of a laugh out of that one.

From my grocery and pharmacy adventures I then walked to the Tokyo Tower which is an orange replica of the Eiffel. What an engineering feat! And the shops in the basement were great as well with selection and good prices.

Tokyo Tower – pic doesn’t do it justice

As I left I got lost and my map didn’t help since it had gotten water stained from rain. I asked several millennials but they were tourists as well. I put down my packages and as I went for more light a woman my age came along, reviewed my map, said she was going in that direction and walked me within 5 minutes of my hotel. Do I need to say I said several prayers for this gal?

Back in my hotel room I drew a bath with a new found product from my pharmacy visit that was supposed to take away aches and pains. As I hopped in the tub I thought, “Boy, am I glad to be soaking.”

Japan here I come.

Today I am on my way to Japan and I am already ticked off. The airline I am using is not my usual one and they charged me $30 for my second bag. I don’t mind paying the fee, (well hell yes I do), but include it in the price of the fare to be fair.

It’s Kathleen and if you don’t like what I say it’s still Kathleen.

It’s Kathleen and if you don’t like what I say it’s still Kathleen.