We began our trip by flying out of Vancouver to take advantage of the Canadian exchange rate to buy our airline tickets. By staying over the night before at an airport hotel, it made our day of flying very calm. Everything was done and all we had to do was eat breakfast and take the shuttle to the airport.
The most difficult part was getting all of our luggage from the shuttle drop off to check-in. This isn’t our usual “pack light” adventure. We are skiing at the end of the trip after two weeks of touring in a winter climate. But we made it with plenty of time to spare and the Vancouver Airport is quite nice, with an artificial forest stream in the waiting area and a large aquarium.
Jim was excited to fly the Boeing 787 Dreamliner with its large windows and better air circulation. The only oddity was that the reclining seats in our flight’s Business Class didn’t lay down flat (as they did in the two Delta Airlines 777’s we have been on). Instead, our seats almost reclined flat but then left us at an angle something like Frankenstein’s table in the old movie. Still we were able to sleep for a few hours of our nine hour flight to Tokyo.
The service from Japan Air Lines (JAL) couldn’t have been better and I transitioned to my Japanese cultural experience by ordering the
After landing our first experience in Japan was fast and efficient. The luggage came right out and customs was a breeze. Interestingly, Japan takes finger prints and photos of all foreigners. We were not offended.
Our driver met us, sweeping us and our luggage to his car. Our 2 large bags, 2 small bags and massive ski bag was on a cart. We panicked as he approached the escalator only to learn that the clever Japaneese have created carts that adjust so that they can go up or down escalators without a problem.
Once again we chose a wonderful travel agent to plan our trip and we weren’t disappointed at our first quick stop in Tokoyo. The staff took care of all our needs including helping us ship our ski bags on to Myokokogen and our larger bag on to our Kyoto hotel.
After getting our bags settled we headed out for a nearby walk to see a bit of downtown Tokyo. Our travel agent gave us lots of walking and touring suggestions. This evening we headed out to find a local SIM data card for our IPAD. On the way we walked past the beautifully lit Tokyo International Forum
building built on the former site of Edo Castle. Bics Camera store was a hopping potpourris of technology and although no one spoke English well and we don’t speak Japanese at all, we all spoke technology and quickly procured a SIM card which the staff tested and is working beautifully.
From there we went to a nearby building that offered a variety of international restaurants. We settled on some Tapas because they had a no smoking section and made it through a meal and the walk back before collapsing in bed. Other than the large number of smokers, the Japanese are very clean — there is no graffiti, almost no litter of any kind anywhere, and yet there are almost no public garbage cans. On our 90 minute drive from the airport to downtown, we didn’t see a single dirty car or even a dirty truck!
Breakfast was lovely and our job was to take a walk to Dimelers department store and their food section to procure Bento boxes for our train trip later that day.
Back at the hotel the staff was waiting to walk us to our train. Although we felt a bit lazy and self-conscious by this service, we thoroughly enjoyed the stress-free transfer.
The trains in Japan are exceptionally clean, comfortable, smooth and fast, and run like clockwork, especially the “super express” bullet trains. We boarded and left promptly only carrying our overnight bags as instructed. Jim loves trains and this trip will be full of train travel.
Our excursion southwest along the coast took us past Mt. Fuji, lasted most of the afternoon and included one transfer, which thanks to detailed instructions we navigated on our own without a problem.
After 2 mores shuttles (one big and one small), along a surprisingly narrow and winding coastal road (and by many oyster operations) we were welcomed with Japanese bows by the staff at “The Earth” healing waters resort. Our room is amazing, the views of the ocean and rugged coastline are vast, and the food is artistic and scrumptious.
Originally, we were supposed to go for a train excursion on Monday to a local important shrine. But we decided instead to just stay here, enjoy the healing waters and watch the big wind storm that blew in overnight, raised the surf to over ten feet of loud crashing waves, and then gave way to a sunny late afternoon.
We ended our day yesterday with a facial for me and a shiatsu massage for both of us. Here in Japan facials include massages, because your face can’t relax if your body isn’t relaxed. The shiatsu massage was very different. Two people swept into our room pointed to the bed where we both told to lay down with our clothes on. They then proceeded to press very firmly on every pressure point in the body. They never touch you directly, there is always a cloth between us and them. It was different, but surprisingly relaxing after it was done.
Very few people spoke any English here and we were the only Americans. But we felt totally welcomed and well cared for at all times. Here is a young lady, Shinba, that practiced her English with us while we were here and was delightful. She lives near Mt. Fuji but works here and stays in the staff housing. We are soon to be Facebook friends!
We end our first blog with a beautiful sunrise from this morning.