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  The Chatter Box : Travel
Messages 1 2 3 

Japan travellers? by rick694uk on 23 November 2002 9:16pm
Hi Palinites,

I've been to Japan four times now, but my stays have been mostly around Tokyo, Yokohama, Nagano, Kyoto, Kobe and the centre of Honshu.

I'm visiting again soon and want to travel a little further - north and south. I have a rail pass and would like to spend one week north of Tokyo and two weeks south. I've never been further south than Kyoto!

I'm particularly interested if anyone has been to the southern islands, what they thought and where they would recommend to visit. Off the tourist trail spots particularly welcomed.

I've got the Lonely Planet guide; but if anyone has stumbled upon anything really great, please let me know.

Many thanks,
Re: Japan travellers? by elizabeth on 26 November 2002 9:20am
Hey Rick

I have been living on the Southern Island of Kyushu for a year and a half now. The main attractions are natural - as opposed to the big cities of Kyoto, Kobe etc. Kyushu has the worlds biggest volcanic caldera (Mt Aso in Kumamoto Ken) and the one of the most active volcanoes in the world (Sakurajima in Kagoshima Ken). Places I recommend in no particular order: Nagasaki City, Unzen (Nagasaki Ken), Amakusa Isalands (Kumamoto Ken), Kumamoto City (esp castle), Mt Aso and Kurokawa Hot springs, Kikuchi Gorge (all Kumamoto Ken), Ebino-Kogen (Miyazaki Ken).

If you re coming in the winter time be prepared for the cold!

Re: Japan travellers? by Passepar2 on 27 November 2002 3:20pm
I definitly recommend Hiroshima, one of the most moving places on earth I thought.
As for north I think Hokkaido is a great island with some great spas and alpine scenery, lakes and frothing volcanos. On the way up to Sendai we stayed in a small shinto monastery that offered early morning zazen meditation sessions...can't remember its name but you should find it in lonely planet and its well worth a try. Josie drew's book 'A ride in the Neon Sun' is a good guide to southern Japan.
Re: Japan travellers? by Lindsay on 28 November 2002 2:14am
This may seem silly, but would any of you who have travelled to Kyoto mind telling me in some detail about what the place is like? I've been fascinated by the area for years but have never had the opportunity to visit Japan, so anything you could tell me of your own experiences there would be listened to very attentively. *grins*
Re: Japan travellers? by rick694uk on 28 November 2002 8:57am
Hi Guys,

Many thanks for your replies. Elizabeth, sorry it took a while to reply. You've lived there for some time. Are you working there?

I think I may take the direct route south through Nara, Kyoto, Kobe and Osaka, where I have friends. Then travel along the Sea of Japan coast, through Matsue, as I have an interest in Lafcadio Hearn, the writer. Continue down the coast onto Kyushu. Nagasaki, Kumamoto, Kagoshima, Miyazaki, Oita. Then across to Shikoku: Matsuyama, Koshi, Tokushima, Takamatsu and then head back. I hope to take in most of your suggestions, Elizabeth, also recommended in the L_P book, so many thanks.

Two points: my Japanese is "limited". Am I going to struggle unless I work very hard to improve it over the next month? And I should be down there around middle-late Feb. I always thought Dec in Tokyo was like the UK in April. It should be warmer in the south, shouldn't it?

Passepart2, thanks for the northern advice. The zazen session sounds a great idea. I cannot find it in my L_P, but I'll keep looking. If you do remember, please post it will you? Although I did find a couple of interesting places listed in Sendai: Fancy Pub Spunky Sugar and Members Bar Rip Off!! :) Ring any bells?

Lindsay, Kyoto for me was all about the wonderful temples. As the former capital, it is steeped in history and culture. You can even see the Geisha walking to work in the streets in the Gion district.

I particularly enjoyed the Nanzen-ji Temple and the Ryoan-ji Temple, famous for its 15 rocks in an intricately shaped "sea" of pebbles. It is often seen on postcards and where I was amazed to witness a tour of well behaved schoolchildren quietly contemplating the meanings of the stones. And not seeing who could spit on the one furthest from the decking, as would probably happen in the UK!

It's probably unfair to babble-on here about Kyoto, other than to heartily recommend a visit if you ever get the chance, but if you want anymore detail Lindsay, let me know and I'll email you privately.

Thanks again to all for their advice.

Re: Japan travellers? by Lindsay on 29 November 2002 1:35am

Thank you so much! It's actually the Gion district that I'm particularly fascinated by, so I'm really quite chuffed that you mentioned it. It all kind of began with a book called Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden, which really captured my imagination a few years back. Since then, I've read several books about Geisha, the area and then began delving into the history a little bit, although I still find detailed information quite difficult to get hold of. If it isn't any trouble, I would love to hear more about the temples you spoke of, and any history you learned would be just gorgeous. Thank you very much for offering to chat to me further about it.

My email address is: [email protected]
Re: Japan travellers? by Lindsay on 4 December 2002 5:18pm

I got a new hard drive for my PC this weekend and foolishly forgot to write down email addresses before I formatted the old one, so I'll have to post here and hope you see it. Anyway, I'm posting to say thank you for the postcards and photographs, they arrived this morning and I'm over the moon! They're absolutely wonderful and I shall be putting them up on my wall this afternoon. :)

Thanks again,
Re: Japan travellers? by elizabeth on 24 December 2002 10:45pm
Hey Rick

Sorry I ve not replied sooner. Yes, I do work out here on the infamous JET programme - teaching English in elementary and Junior High schools. About your worry about the language,
you ve maybe found on your visits before now that the Japanese people will often go out of their way to help you out. This is the same in the south. Kyushu people have the reputation of being warmer than notherners - I think that's a bit of a generalisation. Obviously in the smaller towns and villages life moves at a slower pace and people have more time for you. Gaijin (foreigners) are not so common here and in the real countryside you may find that people are really curious and interested in you.
I d say you do not have to worry about limited Japanese (after a year and a half mine is still relatively useless!)Obviously a phrase book is invaluable and any attempt to speak the native language will be warmly received and highly praised.

The weather in February is still a little chilly but its certainly warmer in the south. I think it averaged around 15 degrees last year. I remember lying in a park sunbathing one day towards the end of Feb so you ve not got much to worry about!

If you have any more questions feel free.

Merry Christmas everyone!


Re: Japan travellers? by agroundhog on 30 December 2002 10:49pm
I went to Japan for the second time last year and made it to Kyushu. I would recommend Nagasaki highly. I also went to Beppu as it was recommended as a place to see the Japanese on their vacations. It was really interesting. Lots of natural springs and spas to visit.

My Japanese vocabulary consists of about 2 mispronouced words, but I have had no troubles travelling there - even off the beaten track - thanks to the extraordinary patience and helpfulness of the Japanese people. And I have gotten to do a lot of schoolkids English homeowrk!
Re: Japan travellers? by rick694uk on 10 January 2003 6:27am
Hi Elizabeth and AGroundhog,

Thanks for your replies. I'm in Kyoto at the moment. Just zapped down on using my rail pass to lay the groundwork for the visit proper starting next Friday. I have been in Sendai, Fukushima and Koriyama in the north this week. Language was a little frustrating, but maybe that's me being sensitive!

From next Friday I'll be around Kyoto for the first weekend then Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Osaka, Shikoku and back to Tokyo. Thank goodness for the JR Rail Pass!

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