AnneMarie and Andrew

Annemarie and Andrew – Trekking Asia

Ryokan Second Impressions


Posted on Jul 21, 2014

After our first experience we were not too impressed with staying in a traditional Japanese room. You paid the same as a decent hotel to then sleep on the floor and you even had to make your own bed! It was like camping but inside! For the price you’d expect a bit more. The room itself had been rather small, so you couldn’t relax with green tea and have your bedding out at the same time; you either sat around the table or had the bed out. However, the next place we were staying at was in Magome in order to walk to next post town of Tsumago. Magome to Tsumago is a popular walking route and is raved about in the Lonely Planet and by people who have already undertaken it. It was part of a route from Kyoto to Tokyo though the Japanese Alps. Around this built up post towns. Japan recognised the importance of keeping these towns as heritage sites when they were busily developing. The towns are now designated national treasures and have become tourist honeypots with locally made products available to buy from the beautifully crafted dark wood houses. We had to be at the Ryokan before 6pm. This is because there was a meal package included in our room rate. Along with a room for the night you also have a traditional Japanese dinner and breakfast included. It was not much more than the first ryokan, ¥3000 or £18 extra. To eat what we had for dinner in a restaurant would have cost us ¥5-10,000 per person depending on the quality and reputation of the place. The ryokan was empty when we arrived. We were warmly greeted and shown around. Our room was a family room, it was huge. We had a separate lounge area with a small table as the focal point. Then through the Shoji doors was the bedroom and also a private toilet. It was the only room that has a private toilet, complete with toilet slippers. The bed was already laid out and made. There was also a traditional robe for us. All very civil and polite. We had time to have a quick bath before dinner. The bathing area was quite cosy. There were two showers at the side of the bath, which was covered by a mat to keep in the heat. The bath was in essence a really big version of a British bath, more akin to a hot tub. At 6pm on the dot we sat down to our meal. Neither of us really like raw fish or miso soup but we both wanted to...

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Second Impressions of Japan

Second Impressions of Japan


Posted on Jul 13, 2014

10 days ago Annemarie wrote about our first impressions of Japan. Now we’ve been here a little longer I can write in more detail about why we still love Japan. I suppose I have to start by saying that my impressions of the country are somewhat altered by our experiences across the rest of Asia. Had we flown here directly from Europe we might have thought a little differently, but probably not much. Japan reminds me of Germany. In fact, it is the Asian equivalent of Germany. Everything is clean, tidy and well organised. Nothing is out of place and everything has a purpose and works exactly as expected. Things are efficient and well thought out and everything has been considered. In everything we touch, everywhere we go and everything we buy we get the impression that someone has thought long and hard about the end user and their needs and requirements. In short, most things are easy to understand, work as expected and are clean. It’s almost perfect. In China everywhere was crowded. Every street wound be filled with people and every tourist attraction ruined by huge crowds. I guess in peak season Japan will be far busier but so far everywhere is very quiet. The Chinese also talk loudly. Well, that’s an understatement, they shout. In Japan people talk at a normal volume making the streets and tourist places so much more pleasant. The Chinese, and most other Asian nations, walk around with no awareness of the space immediately around them. When the Chinese walk they don’t care and other people near them, for example people walking four abreast and clearly blocking the path for others. That’s the norm in China. They don’t care! But in Japan the people are incredibly polite and do their best to ensure the minimum impact on other people. They look behind themselves and consider others before taking an action. That may seem normal for most of the world, but coming from a month and a half in China, it’s brilliant. The politeness doesn’t stop there. Everyone is helpful and polite in Japan. From the greeting when entering a store to the thanks when exiting. The same happens in restaurants. If the kitchen is open the chefs will also welcome new arrivals. Traffic wardens will bow a little and greet you as they stop the traffic to ensure a safe crossing of the road. We’ve even had people stop and put down all their bags to come over and ask take a photo of the two of us in front of a building. Getting around is usually pretty simple. We walk into...

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First impressions of Japan


Posted on Jul 3, 2014

It rains a lot here which scuppered our plans as did the lack of international driving licence, which means a big hole in the wallet but also another opportunity to take the Shinkansen. Although slower than the Chinese ‘G Trains’ you can feel the acceleration as it hits 250kmph. We arrived in Japan via a ferry from Qingdao. After checking our temperature we had to sit around for an hour before being allowed into immigration and customs. We were queued up by the staff and then I was interrogated as to the name of the hotel in Kagoshima, which I didn’t know. Then I didn’t have a flight out of Japan, but was still allowed through into Japan. In the next room bags were fully checked and emptied, no x-ray scanners. The lady did a little sifting in my bag and we had a chat about travelling. Then I ended up having to show my passport to a Policeman and we ended up talking about travelling for a good 10 minutes. We were held up again trying to find an international ATM. Asking at the friendly tourist information desk we found ourselves at the Post Office, their ATMs are linked to Cirrus so international cards work here. In the first hour of our journey into Japan we met a number of people who were very friendly, smiling ( apart from the immigration guy) and helpful. A stark contrast to China where people rarely smile. Buying train tickets was a calm experience with no queue and no need to show our passport. Japanese people also accept money with two-hands or use a little tray and are always polite. Getting onto the train was simple, we put our ticket in the machine and walked onto the platform. There was no shoving and pushing, nor were there any people. We got on the local train, which was not full! A quick transfer to the Shinkansen and we were off. No police checks, no men with huge guns and no shoving. The train was pretty much empty, which you’d expect since it was a weekday at 11am. But this was a big change coming from China. With so many people everyone appears to be on the move all the time. We have never been on an empty train, it is always full or nearly full. Walking down the street is also different in Japan. People think about others and move to the side. No-one walks into one another and because there were less people you could walk in a straight line, it was the first time in weeks. I bet Tokyo will be...

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