Trip Report - Japan 5/2019 UPDATED 9/19!! ABD Day 7 - Seaside Bound - Takayama and the road to Odawara

sayhello

Have Camera, Will Travel
Joined
Oct 28, 2006
This huge bird was just sitting on the roof of this building near the dock.

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After that, we had a bit of a long walk along the river to where our motorcoach was waiting for us. I’d finally run out of water, but fortunately, we passed a water vending machine, and I was able to purchase a new bottle (I’d already gotten James’ last one). I really liked that there are vending machines all over the place selling water and other drinks (and food, too!). As long as you had the change, it was really easy!

We eventually made it back to the hotel. Dinner this night was on your own. We were given the option to get back on the bus and go to the Dotonbori Food District in Osaka for a short tour and then being set free to buy dinner there, or stay at the hotel and find somewhere in the area or at the hotel to eat. Since the next day was a travel day, which meant I needed to get re-packed, I chose to stay at the hotel to have dinner there, relax and pack. I kind of regret not going on this optional outing; it sounded like folks had a lot of fun. But it definitely was a lot less stressful for me this way because we had an early start the next morning to try and miss the crowds at the very popular Fushimi Inari Shrine and Torii Trail.

I ended up eating in the restaurant in the hotel in the same area where the breakfast buffet was in the mornings. I had a really delicious scallop dish.

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Every evening, they had a Maiko show in the hotel, but the times just didn’t work out for me to see it. However, while I was sitting having my dinner, one of the Maikos was going from table to table, saying Hello, answering questions, and offering to have your photo taken with her, which I did.

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It was then off to finish packing, and get to bed, so that I could be up & ready for our first big travel day - off to the mountains and Takayama!

Up next: Day 5: Do you Dohyo
 
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distravel

Mouseketeer
Joined
Jun 29, 2013
Loving your trip report. You took some great photos! The boat ride and the drumming look like a lot of fun. These activities are one of the reasons we travel with ABD. If we decide to skip the bike ride is there anything else to do in that time frame? Thanks.
 

sayhello

Have Camera, Will Travel
Joined
Oct 28, 2006
Loving your trip report. You took some great photos! The boat ride and the drumming look like a lot of fun. These activities are one of the reasons we travel with ABD. If we decide to skip the bike ride is there anything else to do in that time frame? Thanks.
So glad you're enjoying my report! Thanks! :) They were fun, and it's the kind of activities that draw me to ABD, too!!! The folks that didn't do the bike ride spent time in Takayama. I think they'd arranged a guide for them, but they ended up deciding to spend most of the time shopping.

Sayhello
 
  • scottmel

    <font color=darkorchid>Does my logic in my origina
    Joined
    Jul 28, 2002
    So fun and such great memories. You guys were definitely in a smaller room for drumming. It must’ve been loud!
    Caligirl - what was your take on the boat ride? And the drumming? Recommend?

    SayHello - enjoying your report! Thank you!
     

    CaliforniaGirl09

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Dec 4, 2009
    Caligirl - what was your take on the boat ride? And the drumming? Recommend?

    SayHello - enjoying your report! Thank you!
    We loved both. We went a little later in the season (i.e. hotter) so they had the tarp up for cover, which was really nice. It was very relaxing and tranquil--beautiful scenery. We also loved the drumming. It was one of those activities that I wasn't really expecting much from but which turned out to be really fun. It was also easy enough for my special needs son to be able to take part in, which was really nice. Both were thumbs up!
     
  • dvcterry

    DIS Veteran
    DVC Gold
    Joined
    Jul 14, 2010
    So here we go, starting my actual Trip Report! Sorry it took so long to start, but I had the worst jetlag *EVER* coming back from Japan. I'm pretty much over it now, but it took forever! BUT it was TOTALLY, COMPLETELY worth it to take this magnificent trip!

    Day A – Travel and Arrival in Kyoto

    Getting to Japan was a LONG travel day for me. I started in Columbus early morning, had a 2 hour lay-over in Chicago, flew straight to Tokyo (13 hours), then a two and a half hour layover in Tokyo to fly to Osaka. It was honestly a pretty un-eventful flight, which was great for me! The only issue was the layover in Tokyo, because I rushed to get to the domestic terminal, and there was practically nothing there (just a stand selling noodles that didn’t smell particularly enticing, and only TWO toilets for everyone!) It was also really hot. But overall, that was not a big deal in the grand scheme of things.

    I and my luggage all made it safely to Osaka in the early evening, where I and another couple were picked up and vanned it to the Hyatt Regency Kyoto. It was getting pretty late at that point, and I was fading fast, so I was really glad I didn’t have to get myself to the hotel! We got checked in, and they had the concierge walk me to my room. She grabbed my carryon and my personal item from me (nicely!) and took me up, showed me the basics, asked if I had any questions, and I asked if my suitcase would be up soon. At which point she flinched, said “Suitcase?” and then said "Yes, of course." Next thing I knew, I had a call from the front desk saying they’d accidentally sent my suitcase up to the other couple’s room, and could they please bring it to my room now? I said “Of course!” They were SO apologetic!! It was just an honest mistake, but they seemed mortified! This was just a glimpse into the service and attitudes I saw in the Japanese people during my trip, and let me just say, it was a pleasure and a joy to deal with them! I don’t think it’s a spoiler to tell you that up front!!!

    The room was a nice size, and quite comfortable. I believe the beds were full-size, not queen size. It was OK for one person, but I'm not sure how it worked for 2 people who wanted to be in the same bed.

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    The hotel had an actual room that was both the shower and the tub. You closed the frosted glass door, and the drain was just in a corner of the room. It was really nice and spacious. I enjoyed it.

    The only problem I had was the toilet (as turned out to be common here) was an ultra-fancy Toto toilet, with all sorts of features and controls, and had a heated seat. I guess it's sacrilegious, and I was definitely in the minority, but I really did not care for the heated seat. I found it uncomfortable, and it made the little room the toilet was in ridiculously hot & humid. Luckily, I was able to figure out how to turn the heat off, so I was good at least at this hotel.

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    I exchanged messages with a woman, MB, who I had met in an online group, who I had found was also going to be on this trip with her sister. We exchanged some messages, and decided to meet up for breakfast the next morning. I unpacked enough to get ready for bed, and then crashed! The next day was the first day of the ABD, but there was really nothing going on, so my plan was to sleep in, then see what happens!

    Day 01 – OYO and Konnichiwa Kyoto

    Although today is officially the first day of the ABD, there is nothing going on for this first day beyond meeting with our Adventure Guides and an "at your leisure" included dinner at the hotel. I woke up at a pretty reasonable time, considering, finished unpacking (since I was in this hotel for 5 nights), got ready, set up a time to meet MB and her sister at the buffet for breakfast, and then decided to head to the local 7-Eleven where there was an ATM. Somehow, I had completely forgotten to order Yen before I left! I really meant to, but forgot, and by the time I realized, it was too late. The concierge gave me directions to the nearest 7-Eleven with an ATM, which was a 10-minute walk away, and since I had plenty of time until I was meeting MB, I headed out. The weather was truly spectacular! Sunny and crisp with blue skies. I loved the walk!

    I then headed back to meet MB for breakfast. We ended up in the “quiet” room (which ended up being where breakfast was with ABD the next morning). They had the same food as the main buffet area, which was apparently totally full. It was a decent buffet. I really enjoyed meeting MB and her sister; they seemed like people I had a lot in common with, and would enjoy spending time with!

    After breakfast, we then headed over to meet our Adventure Guides, James and Tomomi. What wonderful, sweet people they are!

    We discussed the trip, my food restrictions, etc. I got some ideas for what to do with my morning, chatted some more. They also mentioned that they’d rearranged just a bit, and the “at your leisure” dinner for the first night had been moved to Day 7, which was supposed to be Dinner OYO. But since they’d advertised that first night’s dinner was included, they gave us a voucher to have dinner in one of the hotel restaurants good for that first night only. So we actually got an extra meal included.

    On my way out of the hotel, I stopped by the concierge desk to get directions for my afternoon activity. I’d signed up through Viator for a “Lunch with a Local”, where I was paired up with a Kyoto local who would do a cooking demo, and then we’d lunch on what she cooked. I ended up being asked to join an existing group, which was fine with me. It didn’t start until 1pm, so I decided to head over to the Sanjūsangen-dō Temple, which is just up the street from the hotel.

    Right across the street from the hotel is a Museum, I forget the name. It was quite an imposing looking complex!

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    It took minutes to get to the Temple.

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    There was a Guard at the entrance who was really quite adamant about where you could and could not walk in the parking lot. I'm sure it was for safety reasons.

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    The Sanjūsangen-dō Temple is really beautiful, in a green, serene setting. It’s the first place where I had to remove my shoes, place them in a cubby, and walk in stocking feet.

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    The grounds are lovely, but the highlight of this Temple is the 1001 wooden statues of Kannon. I didn’t really know what to expect, but you walk into the area where they are, on bleacher-type steps above you, 10-deep, which means there are 100 rows of these statues, all standing shoulder to shoulder with each other. The impact is really quite overwhelming! No photos are allowed, but I actually don’t think photos would in any way convey the vastness of this display.

    After that, I did a little more wandering on the lovely grounds.

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    I then eventually headed back over to the hotel to change for my lunch. Then I caught a taxi, and gave him the map and instructions that the concierge had given me. (The concierge had actually called my hostess, because the address was a bit ambiguous - it wasn’t really in a commercial area). I got to the spot where the map said to drop me, paid the taxi, then off he went. I looked around, and couldn’t quite reconcile the map to what I was seeing. I stopped a man walking by, who spoke perfect English, and he puzzled it out with me, and we eventually figured out what building it was, and I headed down the outside walkway.

    Unfortunately, I found the address I had was in regular numbers, but none of the doors had numbers over them, just Japanese characters. So I walked up & down, and found a mailbox that said “Cooking School” on it. (The woman doing the demo, Midori Nukumizu, ran a cooking school, and did these small groups on the weekends). The demo was in her studio. I rang the bell, and she opened a window, and asked “Tobi-san?” I replied, "Yes, Midori-sensei", and felt quite proud of myself (except I think that was pretty much the only time I remembered to use the Japanese honorary). She came and opened the traditional sliding door. I took off my shoes and put on a pair of slippers she had, then waited for the other couple who were in the group to arrive.

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    Continued in next post.
    Amazing pics, thank you for sharing!
     
  • sayhello

    Have Camera, Will Travel
    Joined
    Oct 28, 2006
    Day 5 – Do you Dohyō

    Day 5 started with an early call to have your luggage outside your door, then head to breakfast. Today was our transfer day from Kyoto to Takayama.

    A few staff members of the Hyatt came out to wave goodbye to us as we drove off. This happened more than once. I honestly quite enjoyed it!!

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    Our first stop for the day was at the extremely popular Fushimi Inari Shrine and Torii Trail in Kyoto. James & Tomomi told us we needed to get an early start to beat the crowds there. This was another spot where the motorcoach had to park kind of far away, and we walked a bit to get to the Shrine. It was not that far, but we did get to see some local trains crossing the street. And got to witness James’ obsession as a train Otaku – or “geek”. 😊 James really loves trains, and stops to take photos of them as they pass. That’s OK, because I’m a bit of a train Otaku myself!

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    We walked through the front Torii gate, and up to the area where you could wash and pray before proceeding into the main shrine area. Our local guide showed us how to wash, and the very precise method for praying, including donating a 5 yen coin (5 yen is “go en” in Japanese, which is similar to “go-en” which means a connection or relationship between people), ringing the bell to get God’s attention, bowing, praying and clapping. We all gave it a try after her.

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    After that, we headed over to the start of the Torii Trail. We stood at the start for a while as our local guide, as well as Tomomi and James, told us about the area and some of its history. We were told about the practice of writing your names or wishes on “ema”, which are small pieces of wood in various shapes, that are hung up in the shrine. They are eventually gathered up and ritually burned shortly after New Year.

    We were given a small Torii gate-shaped ema that we could leave or take with us (I chose to keep mine). Further up the trail, they also sold ema shaped like fox heads (I forget why, but the fox is symbolic of the Fushimi Inari Shrine). I bought 2 of those, one to write a wish on and leave, and one to keep. The money is used for the upkeep of the shrine.

    As you can see, the gates are continually being cleaned up and refreshed, on varying schedules.

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    As we were standing there, one of the priests from the shrine walked by.

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    After the talk & explanations, we were set free to spend some time walking up (and back down) the Torii trail. I believe we were given about an hour. We knew we would not be able to do the entire length of the trail, as there were thousands of gates, and it would take hours to walk the entire thing and back. But we were told there was an area where you could cut across to the trail coming back down. James & Tomomi took the requisite family shots in front of the start of the trail, and then we all headed off at our own pace.

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    Fortunately, since we’d gotten there early, there weren’t a large number of people there yet, so it was possible to get some really nice shots with few if any other people in the shots.

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    sayhello

    Have Camera, Will Travel
    Joined
    Oct 28, 2006
    Part way up, you come to the area where the ema are sold (and left) along with various good luck charms. Each charm was good for a different type of wish for good fortune.

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    There was an area where you could walk out from the trail to a small shrine. It allowed me to look back at the trail, and see what it looked like from the outside. Pretty interesting!

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    This area was on the path back down. Very peaceful.

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    When I got down to the bottom by the entrance to the shrine, a few from our group were talking to a group of young schoolgirls. They were all happily practicing their English. The couple who were also on my Iceland trip were a part of this. The woman from that couple had a hat that had all sorts of pins on it. She let one of the girls wear her hat in the photo that was taken, and then gave the girl one of her ABD pins. The girl looked thunderstruck, and as if she had given her pure gold. It was all SO sweet!

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    Once we were all down, we headed back out to where we would be meeting up with our motorcoach. We saw first hand why we had rushed early to get to the Shrine, because as we were leaving, there were tons of people heading the other way, just arriving. We definitely beat the crowds.

    Next we headed out to Tōdai-ji Temple and Park in Nara. This place is also very popular, and large, and they have actually built a bus parking center outside of the park. It’s a bit of a walk to get to our first destination, the “Big Buddha Hall”, which is purportedly the largest wooden structure in the world. But it’s a pleasant walk, and our local guide was full of stories as we walked.

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    We were also warned to look out for the deer that live in the park. They can be pretty aggressive if they think you have food. Fortunately, we were able to avoid most of them. It was funny, because there was an area with shops where vendors on the sidewalks were selling wafers to feed the deer. But the deer were smart enough to stay away from the vendors’ carts. Don’t bite the hands that feed you, I guess! People were trying to pet them. Don’t do that, folks! They’re aggressive and mostly wild!

    Anyways, we made our way to a large gateway that was flanked by 2 *very* impressive guardian statues!

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    sayhello

    Have Camera, Will Travel
    Joined
    Oct 28, 2006
    One of the guardians.

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    We the passed through the gate, and after some photo ops, headed up to the Big Buddha Hall to see what is one of Japan’s largest Bronze Buddhas, at around 50 feet tall. Photos do not do the building justice. It's HUGE!!

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    We had some free time to wander the building, take pictures of the Buddha (like the wooden structure surrounding him, photos do not really show how big the Buddha really is in person!)

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    The Big Buddha is really quite impressive! The building also houses models of the previous buildings that had previously been on the spot, and a few auxiliary statues that were themselves very impressive!

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    There was also a hole cut into a wooden post, that is supposedly the size of the Big Buddha’s nostril. Apparently, it’s a “thing” to crawl through the hole. I was curious about that, so went over to the post, where a long line of Japanese school children were lined up. They were taking their turns crawling through the hole. Although very big when considered as the size of his nostril, it was not that big when you saw small children worming their way through it. One look, and I gave up any faint possibility of being even vaguely interested in giving it a try.

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    Once we got all the way around the interior of the building (or if you walked counter-clockwise) James was there taking photos of folks with the Big Buddha behind us. I had a really nice conversation with James about my enthusiasm for ABD, and why I really love these trips (and the Adventure Guides!) That was really nice.

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    Tomomi was out at the meeting spot, gathering the troops as we trickled out of the building and out to where we’d been told to meet up.

    Afterwards, we headed across the park. It was still a pleasant day, so I didn’t mind the long walk through the park. Our local guide gave us a fascinating talk on what things were like in Japan after WWII, when they had been forced by the Allies to change their government. I did not realize that the US had re-written Japan’s constitution at that point. It makes sense, but I guess I never specifically knew that detail. A *lot* changed in Japan at that point, and helped it evolve into a less isolated country.

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    We eventually made our way into the city of Nara, where we walked up to a shop for our mochi-making demonstration. They split us into 2 groups, which would just alternate watching due to limited space. I and others have said this, but it was not a well-organized activity. They had long windows facing the sidewalk, where a few people did the traditional and tricky pounding of the dough, and then ran it through a machine that shaped it and inserted the red bean paste filling. Unfortunately, when we got there, there was already a crowd of people standing at the windows, waiting to watch the demonstration. Since ABD had arranged for us to view this particular demonstration, we were told to go in front of the crowd, which we did. It made a lot of folks in the crowd understandably upset that they’d been standing there for apparently a long time and we pushed in front of them, even though we had a right (the shop owners were there making sure we got our good spot). It was very uncomfortable, and a still a bit hard to see through the window. They slid part of it open during the demo, but that was only big enough for a few to see in directly. I thought the demo itself was fun and pretty interesting, but the setup was just not good, and the demo was not worth it. (It’s gone from 2020’s itinerary). The fresh mochi we were given was delicious, but we could probably have just gotten those & skipped the whole sidewalk thing.

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    sayhello

    Have Camera, Will Travel
    Joined
    Oct 28, 2006
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    We then headed over to Higashimuki Street, which is a covered shopping area. Tomomi walked the length of the street with us, pointing out different places to eat, and when we got to the last place, I looked around, and I was the only one left! The place we were at had a picture of a delicious looking noodle dish out front, so I decided to try that one. It was definitely a locals-type place. All the seating was in long tables with short stools around them. They indicated to just find an empty spot. The menu was in Japanese, French and English, and I found the dish from out front. It was Udon noodles with a pork cutlet and curry. It was SO GOOD! Tomomi and James had told us that it was customary to slurp your noodles as a sign you were enjoying the food, so I slurped away. There was a couple across from me who I believe were Portuguese, and they were giving me looks, but I just shrugged. Not my problem they didn’t get the memo! (I wasn’t the only one slurping, either).

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    Yummmmmm!!

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    If anyone can tell me the name of this place, that would be great! I forgot to ask James & Tomomi. ETA: Thanks to @MKTokyo, the restaurant name is "Udon Mugi no Kura". If anyone wants to try it!

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    After my very yummy lunch, I headed back out to the shopping area, and saw the father & daughter going into the “Mister Donut” shop. Although honestly, the last thing I needed was dessert, a little something sweet sounded good. I joined them at the shop, and saw that they had small cups with an assortment of donut holes! Perfect! I purchased that, and ate one that was a matcha donut. Delish! I headed out to our meeting spot, and offered donut holes to our Adventure Guides and the others. I had a couple, and the rest were thankfully enjoyed by others! 😊

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    We then headed back to our motorcoach, and continued our travels towards the mountains.

    I just thought this was kind of funny. But I was told recently that Pachinko is sort of a way that the Japanese have to get around gambling being illegal there. The pachinko parlor only gives out prizes if you win, not money. However, there are places near the parlors that “buy” your non-cash prizes. So, *technically*, not illegal. Interesting!

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    After about 45 minutes, our motorcoach parked, and we walked up the street to our next activity, our Sumo demonstration at the Kehaya-za Sumo Experience and Museum. As we walked up, the people there were waiting outside for us, playing music and waving flags. I really did feel welcome there!

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    Inside, we were led to the area where the dohyō (ring) was. There were stands at one end, where you could sit on a mat or there were chairs also. I sat on a mat towards the back, so that I had a wood wall behind my back. There were also bags with small gifts, a sweet, and some bottled water at each seat.

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    sayhello

    Have Camera, Will Travel
    Joined
    Oct 28, 2006
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    There was a traditional presentation at the beginning, with recitations and songs, and a commentary that Tomomi translated for us.

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    We were then introduced to the rules of Sumo, and watched some players demonstrate what was described. I had no idea how Sumo worked, so I found this very interesting!

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    I was also amazed at what athletes the Sumo wrestlers were. They have a lot of fat, but there’s apparently a lot of muscle under it. Moves like this are *not* easy!!

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    They finished up with a few short matches.

    Afterwards, they wished a woman in our group a Happy Birthday, and presented her with some sweets. We all then had a photo op with the two wrestlers that had done the demos.

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    After we were done with the Sumo demonstration, we headed back to our motorcoach, and the last leg of our trip, up into the mountains, to Takayama.

    We arrived quite late into Takayama and the Hotel Associa Takayama Resort (it was full-on dark by the time we arrived). This was supposed to be Adults Dinner at your leisure at one of the restaurants at the hotel and the Jr. Adventurer’s night. But by the time we got there, the only thing open was the buffet, so we all headed there.

    Since we only had one Jr. Adventurer, she was given the option to do whatever she wanted for that evening. She chose to have a quiet dinner with James & Tomomi & her father. We were all impressed at that. She really seemed to enjoy herself!

    That night, there was an option to use the Onsen at the Hotel. I hadn’t decided if I really wanted to do this or not, and I was pretty tired, so I just decided to pass, and head to my room to unpack. I could still go the next night if I wanted to.

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    When I got to my room, there was a rose on the table, and a note from the “Director of front office Manager” of the hotel, congratulating me on my Birthday, which was the next day. I thought that was really sweet!

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    After unpacking, it was off to bed. For tomorrow was a day I was really looking forward to – my Birthday in the small mountain town of Shirakawa-go!

    Next up: Day 6 – Go Shirakawa-go!
     
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    distravel

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Jun 29, 2013
    Enjoying reading more of your detailed trip report. The photos are great! A trip to Japan is such a memorable way to celebrate your birthday.
    🎂
     

    aggiedog

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    May 13, 2012
    Great trip report! We're going to Japan with G Adventures next year, so you're getting me excited. It's also bringing back good memories, as we lived in Japan for 2 years, many years ago.

    Your waving Hyatt employees remind me of the gas station attendants, which you probably didn't get to experience. They wave you in, fill your tank, wash your windshield, then run back into traffic to make a space for you to leave again, all the while waving at you.

    As for the girl with the pin, the Japanese don't give gifts (presentos) like Americans do. They expect a quid pro quo, and are surprised when someone gives them a gift with no expectation of reciprocation. I'm sure the schoolgirl was simply thrilled. Adults have small social dilemmas, as they're left hanging without a way to gift you back spontaneously. Same goes with complimenting something. NEVER compliment an item - the owner will try to give it to you. I learned that the hard way. ;)
     

    CaliforniaGirl09

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Dec 4, 2009
    Awesome report as always! You are bringing it all back. Such a fun trip. We had one of our best meals on that street, too. I love cold udon noodles now. Need to find a place here for those ... and melon pan!
     

    sayhello

    Have Camera, Will Travel
    Joined
    Oct 28, 2006
    Enjoying reading more of your detailed trip report. The photos are great! A trip to Japan is such a memorable way to celebrate your birthday.
    🎂
    Thanks! :) It was a really spectacular way to celebrate!
    Great trip report! We're going to Japan with G Adventures next year, so you're getting me excited. It's also bringing back good memories, as we lived in Japan for 2 years, many years ago.

    Your waving Hyatt employees remind me of the gas station attendants, which you probably didn't get to experience. They wave you in, fill your tank, wash your windshield, then run back into traffic to make a space for you to leave again, all the while waving at you.

    As for the girl with the pin, the Japanese don't give gifts (presentos) like Americans do. They expect a quid pro quo, and are surprised when someone gives them a gift with no expectation of reciprocation. I'm sure the schoolgirl was simply thrilled. Adults have small social dilemmas, as they're left hanging without a way to gift you back spontaneously. Same goes with complimenting something. NEVER compliment an item - the owner will try to give it to you. I learned that the hard way. ;)
    Wow! That gas station experience sounds vaguely like what gas stations were like when I was a kid. But I don't think the attendants *ever* ran out into traffic!! :eek:

    And thanks for the explanation re: gifting in Japan. That makes a lot of sense!

    Awesome report as always! You are bringing it all back. Such a fun trip. We had one of our best meals on that street, too. I love cold udon noodles now. Need to find a place here for those ... and melon pan!
    Thank you! :) I'm still working on finding a good udon place. A co-worker has recommended a good local Ramen place, though. I just haven't had a chance to get there yet! I didn't manage to try the melon pan until that amazing rest stop on the way to Odawara. Yumm!!!

    Sayhello
     
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