I again took advantage of United Air stopover privileges in Japan on my way back from my trip from Thailand and Myanmar. This would be the last leg of my air travels that cost 65,000 United frequent flyer miles. On April 13th I departed Bangkok on United Air and arrived in Japan around 3 pm.
After hitting up an airport ATM, I found my way to the Japan Rail Pass office where I exchanged my 7 day travel voucher for the 7 day pass along with a reservation on a bullet train to Nagoya. I wanted to follow the cherry blossoms.
These trains are amazing, clean, spotless and exactly on time. Once I got to Nagoya, I walked around and checked out 5 hotels before I settled on the Grand Hotel. They quoted a price of 8,000 yen and I got the hotel staff to lower the price to 5,800 yen--about $54USD.
I found a nearby noodle shop and had the waitress just order for me which was udon with strips of chicken along with a beer and the total was 1186 yen--about $11. I left a tip for the waitress, but she came running out of the shop with my tip and returned it to me. I had forgotten that they do not accept tips in Japan.
Took a long soak in the hot tub at the hotel before turning in for the evening.
From Nagoya, I took a slower mountain train up to Takayama for their festival.
I wanted to see the parade with all of these large floats, but because of the rain they cancelled the parade. You could still walk around and view them in their open storehouses.
The cherry blossoms were in full bloom so it was a delight to be there despite the rains.
The restaurants were great as well since many had set ups so they would bring you all of the cut up vegetables and meats so that you could cook them on the brazier at your table. I had lunch with over 9 plates of various types of foods at the Suzuya Restaurant for 1,600 yen--$15.
After lunch, I headed to Niigata and began to look for likely hotels to stay at and I accidentally stumbled across several "Love Hotels" with prices around 3,800 yen not for the night, but for just 4 hours. After checking some other hotels, I found the Leo Palace hotel where I bargained for the room from the first quoted cost of 7,500 yen down to 4,800 yen--$45. Another hotel room complete with a soaking tub and heated spritzing toilets.
Every where I went, I found NO garbage. It was ever so sparkly clean.
On the 15th I got to the train station in time to take the train to Nagano where I toured the nearby temple festooned with cherry blossoms. Then it was back on the train for travel to the north to catch the remaining cherry blossoms in the chillier climate of the north. By nightfall I made it to Hakodate where it was considerably cooler and ended up at the Shroom Hotel at 4,200 yen--$39.
On the 16th I got to the train station early and caught a train to Sapporo which was the one time site of winter Olympics. It wasn't a very pretty town compared to others I have seen, but I could see the heavy pack of snow up on the mountains to the west where the Olympic games were played.
From there I rode the train south to Hachinohe and checked into the Hotel Mets, a business hotel, that cost 5,670 yen--$53--that was right by the train station. The dinner was great with a conveyer belt loaded with sashimi treats of salmon, shrimp, eel, and tuna for a cost of about $12.
On the 17th, I wanted to head to the Kyushu, the most southern island of Japan, and by night time I had arrived at Fukuoka.
I began looking for hotels around the train station area near the entertainment area, and found the Hotel Cabinas which turned out to be a "capsule" hotel for 3,465 yen--$32--which included breakfast and dinner but not the massage.
What an experience. When you first check in, you leave your shoes in little lockers near the reception desk. After that you go to the second floor where you take your clothes off and put them in another locker, sit on a small stool and soap up and wash your self off, take a shower and then you put on the bathrobe and given some PJs for use after you finish soaking nude in the various spa pools. You are given several towels, razors, and toothbrushes.
The pools were located on two levels. Some were hot, others were cold, and one was filled with minerals that gave off a sulfur smell. The upper pool was open to the skies so you could see the stars above and enjoy standing or sitting under the waterfall surrounded by decorative rock walls. I forgot to mention that this hotel is for men only and I understand that they have similar hotels just for women.
After soaking and putting on your PJs and bathrobe, you are free to go to the restaurant followed by a massage. The massage room must have had 50 massage tables out in the open and most were taken. The women masseuses were really pounding on these guys as I joined in. It was one of the most painful massages I have experienced and to realize I paid about $35 for the one hour massage. I think the women really enjoyed getting even with the guys.
I then figured out where my particular capsule was among a beehive of capsules. They were double stacked and I got the upper capsule. Inside the capsule I had my own A/C and TV--Japanese language only.
The following morning, I had a regular breakfast of ham and eggs eaten with chopsticks---a challenging task.
It was back on the train to Hiroshima where I visited the Hiroshima National Peace Memorial Hall for the Atomic Bomb Victims. With your admission ticket you get a code that you enter in a machine and it pops up a picture and description of one of the victims. Mine was a 10 year old girl named Kimo Sakuni.
In several displays were lots of origami folded cranes made by children from all around the world that had sent or brought them here to honor the dead and to plea for peace.
After touring the memorial I caught a train for Nara. Once there I went to the Fujita Hotel that cost 5,775 yen--$54. I enjoyed touring the temple complex in Nara as the cherry blossoms were nearing the end of their season.
On the 19th, I headed up to tour a bit of Tokyo before heading down to Narita for the night since it was close to the airport for my flight home on the afternoon of the 20th.
I visited the Imperial Palace among other sights in Tokyo.
I ended up staying at the Kirinoya Inn in Narita where I had dinner
and breakfast with all of the guests and inn owner who were all Japanese---many of them were English fluent.
The following day after looking around Narita, the owner drove me to the train station that would take me to the Narita airport.
For 7 days in Japan, the lodging costs were $324 or $46 per night, food costs were $225 or $32 per day, and travel costs were $296 which included $275 for the seven day Japan Rail Pass. The total cost was $845--$121 per day.