"Land of beauty and magnificent treasures"
Our last stop of this wonderful trip was the island of Japan. Bidding good-bye to Ken and Darla who were flying home today, we boarded our flight for Singapore where Anne and I would connect to the redeye for Tokyo and arrive early the next morning. Arriving in Japan the first thing we did was stow luggage we would not need while in Japan, and then we made arrangements for bus transportation to the hotel. Japan, as you may have heard, is outrageously expensive. A taxi from Narita International Airport to downtown Tokyo would have exceeded a hundred $US. The bus, while a bit slower, was considerably less expensive. By the time we arrived at the hotel we were exhausted and in need of a short nap. We proceeded to our room and did just that, laid down to take a nap. Several hours later we were awakened by a phone call from the bell stand. It seems that I was so tired I left my camera bag, a metal case, on the bus. Discovering the bag the bus operator called all the hotels on his route to see which one we were registered in. When he located the right hotel he delivered the bag on a later run. I was thankful and impressed considering the contents were worth a considerable amount. But, they are insured!
Our stay in Tokyo would be a short one as we had plans to visit friends in Osaka, and we also wanted to visit Peach Park in Hiroshima. Tokyo being our initial arrival point we only slotted two days in the city, and we slept most of the first day.

That evening we, at Anne's insistence, decided to go to a kibuki theater on the Ginza strip. This was an experience. We arrived late and the only seats left were in the balcony. The only way to the balcony was by stairway and there were many steep stairs. Something we would learn is common in Japan. We arrived midway through the performance and it was enjoyable. OK, not the best night's entertainment I've ever had, but it was different from what I was accustomed to. Following the performance Anne and I walked around the Ginza strip and enjoyed the sights and sounds of Japan. We find it interesting to walk the city streets and look into the different shop windows, especially food markets, and there were plenty in Tokyo to view. What immediately struck us was how expensive everything was. We knew and expected Japan to be expensive, but, the prices we saw were outrageous! We would learn much more in the days that followed exactly how expensive Japan really was.

Tokyo's Ginza Strip
Returning to the hotel that night we picked up a few of the tourists flyers in the lobby and returned to our room to plan the next day's activities. Referring to the guide book we brought from home we decided to visit Nikko, the home of Japan's first Shogunate. Nikko was about an hour away by Shinkaseen, the Japanese "Bullet Train," from Tokyo. I checked the flyers we brought to the room and found one for Nikko. These tour flyers are excellent because they give you a short "to do" list and show you some pictures of the area that you plan to visit where the guide books usually contain only a written description.

Now the question was" "How do we get there?" We had already learned that Japan would offer some special challenges in getting around because of the language. Visiting foreign countries where you don't speak the language always has its share of challenges, but Japan, because of their character set, would be especially difficult. You can't just look at a sign and tell anything about what it says, and we found English signs were not widely posted. Because of this I thought about taking the guided tour to Nikko. To some extent it would have been a waste of money since we already had an unlimited travel pass for the Japan Rail System, but it might be worth the little expense, or so I thought, to go ahead and book the tour. When I converted the per person charge for the tour from Yen into US$ I was shocked to see the cost right at $200 per person for this one day tour with lunch. That seemed ridiculously high to me for a day's tour so we decided to do it on our own. I'm glad we did because it forced us to learn how to get around and take the trains.

We left the hotel and proceeded to the local subway station where we would take a train to the train station. We made it with a few wrong turns and having to ask directions just a couple of times, and we were soon on our first ride aboard the Shinkaseen. Traveling throughout the US on business you learn that trains are not a preferred method of travel. They are to slow to get around any great distances and, as a result, I usually avoid them. The only times I've taken trains was in snow storms when my flights were canceled and I was close enough to home to get a train. In Europe the trains are a much better way to get around. They are safe, clean and convenient and they run on schedule, a far cry from what I've experienced here in the U. S. Japan's bullet trains are wonderful. Not only are they safe and clean, they also run very close to schedule and they are fast allowing you to cover great distances in short periods of time.
Press "Next" below to go to the next page and see pictures taken at Niko, Japan, home of the first Shogun and the Toshogu National Shrine ...
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