Brian's brother often travels to Japan. And he has often invited us to join him. There is a great advantage to visiting a place with someone who is familiar with such things as public transportation and local etiquette and who has a smattering of the language. So, right before Christmas, the three of us went to Japan.
Japan at Christmas is a wonderful place. It seems that the Japanese have embraced the concept of Christmas decorations. Everywhere we went, we saw Christmas lights, decorated Christmas trees and Santas. It was magical!
|Christmas tree in Hida-Furakawa|
We stayed at the Metropolitan Hotel near Ikebukuro station in Tokyo. The view outside our hotel window was pretty magnificent.
Public transportation in Tokyo was amazingly convenient. We could hop on a train, subway or trolley and end up a block or two from our destination. The first day in Tokyo, we did a lot of the "touristy" things. First up, a stop at the Imperial Palace. But we were disappointed -- when we arrived, we found that police had cordoned off the Palace grounds and we couldn't get in. Twenty minutes later we found out why: the emperor was on the move.
|The emperor's coach|
|Sake barrels at the Meiji Shrine|
Our second day, we boarded the shinkansen (bullet train) and headed to Hida-Furukawa. Hida-Furukawa is a very small town way up in the mountains north of Nagoya. The shinkansen was fun -- we zoomed through the Japanese countryside at 170 mph. We had purchased first class rail passes, so we traveled in style.
|The shinkansen moves fast -- hard to get a good picture!|
We were traveling to Hida-Furukawa to stay the night at a Ryokan, a traditional inn. Bruce had stayed there several times. It was cold and snowy, and thoroughly charming.
Our room had tatami on the floor, and a Japanese table. Our sleeping futons were not laid out until bedtime.
|The three of us in front of the Ryokan|
There were a few (thousand) people around......