lovely day, with Fuji's snows glistening on the horizon.
Guy went off to check his shares on the Internet and send messages
back home whilst Barbara and I shopped for lunch. Back at the local
Lawsons (a supermarket chain) we bought nori rolls and sandwiches
to eat on the train.
Maiko arrived with Anne at 9.45 and we met them in the lobby. Here
they arranged for our excess luggage to be sent to KIX by Pasco,
a local forwarding company.
We knew all
along that we had too much luggage but we had little option. Having
spent 2 weeks on the QE II in warm tropical weather, we needed
lightweight clothing and glamorous evening dresses and suits for
Guy. Then in Japan, we needed warm winter gear suitable for backpacking.
Flying back via Singapore, we needed lightweight clothing
the problem by taking a suitcase and two backpacks in the case of
Guy and I and in Barbara's case, taking three suitcases. We kept
the clothes for Japan in the two backpacks and one of Barbara's
suitcases and the rest of our luggage was to be despatched to await
us at Kansai International Airport.
a local forwarding company called Pasco who would pick up
luggage from our hotel in Tokyo and transport it to Kansai International
Airport and keep it for us until we collected it one week later.
This cost Y8400 (A$125) for 4 cases in total and whilst
expensive by overseas standards, it was a bargain by Japanese standards
and saved our backs a lot of strain.
do have a website - http://www.pasco-bag.co.jp - but it is
in Japanese. Translate it with babelfish - http://babelfish.altavista.com.
(Now there's a great service - thanks Alta Vista!!)
|Happy to be down
to backpacks, we set off for Shinjiku Station hoping to get our Rail
Passes validated. However, it turned out the local JTB didn't open
until 11 am so we paid subway fares to go into Tokyo Central and organised
the Rail Passes from there. Believe me, it wasn't easy and if it hadn't
been for Ian and Maiko, I have grave doubts we would have made our
train to Himeji at 11.45am.
JR RAIL PASS
The JR Rail
website will give you most of the information you need on this pass,
which is terrific value. A
7 day Japan Rail Pass, costs A$457.00. This entitles
us to unlimited travel on all JR trains, buses and ferries. Wow!
It can only be purchased outside Japan and saves heaps of money.
It can repay itself with a Kyoto-Tokyo-Kyoto trip alone!!!
purchased these rail passes in Australia. You have to validate the
pass before it can be used and your time clock starts to tick immediately
validation is done. This can prove a problem. The passes are only
able to be validated at large railway stations and JTB offices but
JTB offices as a rule don't open until 11am. So you lose half of
your first day's travel.
very difficult to find the JTB office to get the validation done.
We were lucky that we had help from Ian and Maiko. Even so, it took
Maiko, a Japanese-speaking Tokyo local, over an hour of questioning
to find where the correct office was to validate our cards and actually
get them validated. We also had to produce our passports.
you have a rail pass, allow plenty of time for validation.
said this, once you have the pass validated, nothing could be simpler.
You just produce it at every ticket collection barrier and can reserve
seats by going to the Green Window at most stations.
are somewhat more difficult but if you persevere, eventually the
bus drivers will allow you to travel free with your pass.
great system. I can't recommend it enough!!! One of the few bargains
had selected this shinkansen because it had limited stops but we
were in such a rush we got into a smoking compartment. Yuk! When
Japanese people smoke, they SMOKE. Every one of them seemed to chain
smoke throughout the entire trip.
Maiko gave us lovely T-shirts as a parting gift - as though they
hadn't done enough for us!! They were so wonderful to us and it
was tremendous to get to know them better. We shall have to reciprocate
in Perth - I promised to take Maiko shopping!!
trip was uneventful,if smoky, and we admired the Japanese Alps on
our right as we passed through Nagoya. We passed back through
Kyoto but stayed on the train. Just before Himeji, we caught a glimpse
of the Akashi Kaikyo suspension bridge, the longest suspension
bridge in the world.
Station was a much easier proposition than Kyoto or Tokyo and we
had seen the Washington Plaza Hotel from the train. This
was the hotel we had selected from the Lonely Planet Japan Guide.
Unfortunately, it turned out to be far ore expensive than the price
given in the guide - Y15500 (A$232) a double and Y8700
(A$130) for a single. However, Barbara was very tired and
we decided to stay. Our room was tiny and the window faced a brick
wall one metre away but we still had a bidet, a TV and a small fridge.
The tiny bathroom was a one piece moulded capsule with walls, ceiling,
floor, hand basin, shampoo and soap dispenser as part of the moulding.
Only the toilet was added on afterwards. Quite amazing.
thing we noticed was that we were still given slippers, yukata
(happy coats - thin cotton kimonos) and towels even in these hotels
which are definitely cheap accommodation by Japanese standards.
in to see Barbara and tease her about having the better room (she
had a view of the main street), sank a couple of quick beers and
headed for the shops leaving Barbara, already garbed in her happy
coat and with her slippers on, to put her feet up for a while.
turned out to be more of a shopper's paradise than Tokyo and I bought
shirts for the boys back home in one of the many shopping arcades.
These shopping arcades stretch the entire length of a street and
are mainly under cover with shops on each side and roads insecting
to buy an apple (about A$5) for Barbara, we spotted a sign
that advertised curry so we took Barbara there for dinner. It turned
out to be Japanese curry, which is basically fried breaded pork
cutlet (Tonkatsu) with a glutinous gravy-like curry sauce
but she enjoyed it - so we had a first! Some Japanese food that
she liked and could eat!!
was still hungry so we popped into one of those revolving sushi
bars where Guy selected several pieces of sushi - only Y150 (A$2.25)
each which was very reasonable. We finished the evening with coffee
and cake in the tearoom of a local department store, where two giggling
assistants couldn't work out what the gaijin wanted. We ended
up with coffee and cake ... and icecream and cookies.
in Himeji are lovely. We pored over some exquisite kimonos with
matching slippers and handbags. The handbags were lacquered and
amazingly expensive - Y58,000 (A$867) or more! Of
course, the kimonos were pricey too - around the Y300,000 (A$4,500)
mark, but I expected that more.
been told by a guide on one of our tours that every Japanese girl
is given a "good" kimono by her parents at around this
price. Unfortunately, she can only wear this kimono while she is
young and single. Married or mature women wear a different type
of kimono. So she only gets to wear this vision once or twice before
it is put away as a family heirloom for her daughters. What a waste!!
||We could see
Himeji-jo, Castle of the White Egret, beckoning and
went to bed early to prepare for a long day sightseeing. I spent some
time reading up my Lonely Planet guide and mentally allocated at least
two hours to walk through the castle, supposedly the best example
of its kind.