Savvy Travel Decisions

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JAPAN:

 

  
 

Despite having hosted two Winter Olympics, most visitors are surprised to learn that 80% of Japan’s topography is mountainous.  The Japanese are avid snow skiers with over 600 ski areas with excellent thigh-deep powder runs, from which to choose.  Snow sports play an important role in Japanese recreation.  The major ski areas are Nagano and Hokkaido.

 

DOCUMENTATION: Valid in-force passport

 

LANGUAGE: Japanese; English is widely spoken

 

CURRENCY: yen

 

IDIOSYNCRACIES AND COMMON COURTESIES IN JAPAN:

 

 

 

APOLOGY: In big cities like Tokyo where pedestrian activity is frantic, don’t be offended when bumped by another and a “pardon me or excuse me” apology is not offered.

 

CREDIT CARD ETIQUETTE: Handle your credit card with and extend only one hand, never two.  Business cards are an exception: always use both hands when offering your business card to another.

 

 

 

DRESS IN GOOD TASTE: Men: Anything less than a polo shirt is considered overly casual and in bad taste.

 

Women: avoid tank tops.  Dress modestly.  Cleavage is a no-no.  Women should NOT wear pants - skirts on women is preferred.  Wear neutral colors.

 

Men and Women: Keep knees and elbows covered and button shirts or blouses up right to the collar.

 

NO EATING WHILE WALKING: It is considered poor manners in Japan to walk around consuming food or drink.  Drink your soda NEXT to the vending machine.

 

Never refuse coffee, water, or food from your hosts - it is the ultimate sign of disrespect.  Exception: If alcohol is offered, accept at your own discretion.

 

 

 

NO THANK YOU’S IN RESTAURANTS: Don’t thank the waiter for refilling your glass, etc; it’s considered condescending in Japan.

 

PINCHING YOUR PENNIES: TO TIP OR NOT TO TIP:

TIPPING/GRATUITIES: Accepted only if offered very discreetly in private.  Fold money and place in a small envelope.

 

BEST TIME TO VACATION IN JAPAN:

 

  
 

The best time to vacation in Japan is in March, April (cherry blossom time), May, September, October, and November.  During early May, after April’s cherry blossom time, Japan has lower lodging rates.

 

Japan has four main seasons:

 

  
 

Winter: December through February.  The weather can be very cold in Central Japan and Northern Japan.  Both locations are popular for winter sports.  Conditions are cool and sunny in southern Japan, cold and sunny around Tokyo, with winter snow conditions around Hokkaido.  Hokkaido is known for its very popular Ice Festival.

 

  
 

Spring: March through May.  During these months, Japan experiences cool weather.

 

   

 

Summer: June, July, August, and September.  June and early July are heavy-raining months.  July and August are hot and humid.  Typhoons have been known to occur in August and as early as September.

 

  
 

Autumn: September, October, and November.  These months are an ideal time to visit, especially Kyoto and rural areas.  Forests are beautiful with autumn colors.

 

CURRENCY: Yen

 

MAJOR HOLIDAYS IN JAPAN:

February 12: Funding of the Nation Day

 

 

 

 

AKITA:

 

   

 

MAJOR EVENTS AND FESTIVALS IN AKITA:

Kanto Festival: a celebration of a successful harvest season

 

 
 

Kamakura: popular winter festival

 

 

CHIBA:

 

 

 

Chiba is a 20 minute train ride from Tokyo.

 

TIME ON YOUR HANDS IN CHIBA:

 

  
 

Rejoice: Chiba is home to TOKYO DISNEY!

 

 

 

FUJI:

 

 

 

MAJOR EVENTS AND FESTIVALS IN FUJI:

 

  
 

October 19, 2008: Formula One Grand Prix

 



FURANO:

 

Furano is honored as the number one environmentally friendly city in Japan in 2006.

 

  
 

When you grumble each week, carting your garbage container out to the curb, say a kind word for the poor residents of Furano, who must separate their garbage into 14 different categories!  Eco-conscious extreme?

 

 

 

HIROSHIMA:

 

  
 

Hiroshima is an international city of peace and culture.  From the ashes of World War II, the city has arisen as a handsome, well-planned city.

 

TIME ON YOUR HANDS IN HIROSHIMA:

 

  
 

Peace Memorial Park and Museum is dedicated to those who died on August 6, 1945, and its aftermath.  The A Bomb Dome is a vivid reminder of the devastation of World War II.

 

From Hiroshima, take a side trip and ferry to UNO KO/OKAYAMA.

 

 

 

HOKKAIDO:

 

  
 

Hokkaido is on the northern-most island of Japan and is a major ski resort area.  The best resorts are clustered in Niseko and Furano.

 

  
 

Heli and cat skiing are available options.

 

 

 

KANAZAWA:

 

  
 

Kanazawa is a beautiful city.

 

TIME ON YOUR HANDS IN KANAZAWA:

 

  
 

Be certain to visit Kenroku-en, one of Japan’s most spectacular gardens.

 

 

 

KOBE:

 

 
  
 

Kobe is the large port city located at the top end of Japan’s inland sea.

 

 

 

KYOTO:

 

 

 

Kyoto is the home of Nintendo.

 

BEST TIME TO VACATION IN KYOTO:

 

  
 

Spring and autumn provides the best weather.  Late March through April ushers in the cherry-blossom season: expect massive crowds of locals and tourists.  The same holds true for Golden Week celebrations in late April and early May.  Be forewarned, however, that many tourists and school groups visit Kyoto during these seasons.  June and July are also good months to visit, as it is less crowded, but the weather is much warmer and humid.  Late October through mid-November is prime for fall foliage viewing.

 

 

 

AVOID: The winter months of December, January, and February are very cold, but the tourist scene is far less crowded.  Avoid holidays and festivals unless you like crowds.

 

MAJOR EVENTS AND FESTIVALS IN KYOTO:

 

  
 

April, 2008: Heian Jingu Shrine - Cherry Tea Ceremony – a major celebration of cherry trees blossoming

 

  
 

May, 2008: Aoi Matsuri (Hollyhock Festival) – a graceful procession followed by 400 people dressed in period costumes

 

  
 

October 22: Jidai Matsuri: “Festival of the Ages”

 

  
 

October 22: Kurama no - Himatsuri

 

TIME ON YOUR HANDS IN KYOTO:

Be sure to visit the 14 UNECO World Heritage sites located in Kyoto.

 

  
 

Kaiyukan (Golden Pavilion) is a gold leaf-covered temple.

 

   
 

Zen Temple: Impressive temple and gardens dating back to the fourteenth century.

 

  
 

Kiyomizu-dera: a spectacular complex from the eighteenth century.

 



MIYAJIMA:

 

  
 

Miyajima is the shrine island.

 

TIME ON YOUR HANDS IN MIYAJIMA:

 

  
 

An important Shinto shrine is located in Miyajima.  Shrines and Buddhist Temples dot the hillsides of this island.

 

 

 

 

 

MIYAZAKI (KYUSHU ISLAND):

 

  
 

Miyazaki is a major golf destination with one of the world’s top 100 courses.

 

 

 

NAGANO:

 

  
 

A two hour drive from Tokyo, Nagano is a central location and major ski area with top notch resorts.  This city served as the host of the XVIII Winter Olympics in 1998.

 

TIME ON YOUR HANDS IN NAGANO:

Snowboarding and hiking are also very popular activities in Nagano.  In the summer, water sports: rafting, canoeing, and kayaking, abound.

 

 

 

Don’t miss visiting the huge 1,400 year old Buddhist temple, one of Japan’s largest.

 

 

 

NAGASAKI:

 

 

 

TIME ON YOUR HANDS IN NAGASAKI:

 

   

 

Tour the Atomic Bomb Museum, recalling the massive destruction created by the second atomic bomb of World War II.

 

  
 

Glover Garden is a collection of nineteenth century Western-style buildings set in a hillside park.  It reveals the influence of the foreign community on Japan’s modern day commerce.

 

 

 

NAGOYA:

 

   
 

Nagoya is Japan’s fourth most populated city and the world headquarters of Toyota.

 

TIME ON YOUR HANDS IN NAGOYA:

 

 
 

North of Nagoya is Mount Fuji.

 

BEST TIME TO VACATION MOUNT FUJI:

The best times to visit Mount Fuji are during the months of September, October, April, and May.

 

  
 

AVOID: Be sure to avoid June, July, and August in Nagoya, due to the steam bath heat with high humidity.

 

 

 

MOUNT FUJI: Mount Fuji is a 12,388-foot peak, located only 60 miles from Tokyo.  Climbing season is during July and August.  Climbing Fuji is popular as most able-bodied hikers are capable of scaling it.  Special technical gear is not required.  The average ascent from the bottom to the peak (Tenth Station) takes 12 hours one way.  A shorter hike of 5 - 8 hours is possible by taking a 2-1/2-hour bus ride from Tokyo’s Shinjuku Station to the Fifth Station in Kawaguchiko.  This is a more popular beginning point.  Warning: many climbers develop altitude sickness around the Eighth Station.  It is highly recommended that you pack a couple of oxygen canisters.

 

 

 

NARA:

 

 

 

MAJOR EVENTS AND FESTIVALS IN NARA:

First two weeks of March: Omizutori Water-Drawing Festival

 

 

 

OKINAWA:

 

 
 

 

Okinawa is a very popular beach destination for Asians, as it is a subtropical region with ideal weather.  Impressive coral reefs are conducive to water sports.

 

  
 
 

 

 

 

OSAKA:

 

 

 

TIME ON YOUR HANDS IN OSAKA:

 

  
 

Definitely include a visit to the Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan - one of the world’s largest aquariums.  You walk through a transparent tube and are surrounded by fish.  Some twelve huge tanks display over 60 species of fish, including the white shark, the world’s largest.

 

 

 

Do not miss the ornate Osaka Castle, which dates back to 1583, and is the symbol of Osaka.  The castle’s observation deck offers great views of the area.

 

  
 

The Modern Transportation Museum is a fun experience.  It includes, of all things, a retired Van Ness San Francisco cable car, several Japanese trains, and a large model railway display.

 

  
 

The Shitennoji Buddhist Temple was the nation’s first state-supported Buddhist Temple.  It dates back over 1,400 years and houses many national and Buddhist treasures.

 

  
 

The Sumiyoshi Grand Shrine is a must.  It is the headquarters for 2,000 Japanese shrines.  It will celebrate its 1,800th anniversary in 2011.  The Shrine’s beautiful Taiko-bashi Bridge complex is a popular festival, performance and wedding venue.

 

 

 

SAPPORO:

 

  
 

Sapporo was the host of the 1972 Winter Olympics.

 

MAJOR EVENTS AND FESTIVALS IN SAPPORO:

 

  
 

First week of February: Sapporo Snow Festival - Internationally renowned seven-day snow festival.  Ice carved sculptures and snow statues are on display.  Reserve lodging far in advance.  2009 marked the 60th anniversary of the event.

 

 

 

SENDAI:

 

 

 

Sendai is home to many museums and universities.  Nearby Matsushima offers several hundred pine-covered inlets - one of the most beautiful sites in Japan.

 

MAJOR EVENTS AND FESTIVALS IN SENDAI:

 

  
 

August: Tanabata - incredible fireworks display

 

  

 

December: Sendai Pageant of Light: festive lighting displays

 

 

 

SHIKOKU:

 

  
 

Shikoku is the least populous and the smallest of the main four islands of Japan.

 

 

 

 

 

TOKYO:

 

  
 

Tokyo is truly a world-class city, with a population of 12 million.

 

BEST TIME TO VACATION IN TOKYO:

 

MAJOR EVENTS AND FESTIVALS IN TOKYO:

Second week of April: Fertility Festival

August: Japan Jewelry Show

 

TIME ON YOUR HANDS IN TOKYO:

 

  
 

The Tokyo National Museum: the largest museum in Japan, with 80,000 historic artifacts.

 

  
 

Asakusa: home of Senso-ji - a Buddhist Temple built in 645 A.D.

 

  
 

Visit the fascinating Tsukiji Fish Market.

 

 

  
 

The Meiji Shrines - dedicated to the deified spirits of Emperor Meiji (19C) and his consort, Empress Shoken.

 

   
 

Tokyo Midtown in the Roppongi District: a major entertainment area.

 

 

  
 

Tokyo Disney Resort: Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy and the crew are all here, albeit in similar, but slightly altered settings.  You won’t recognize the themed divisions within the Park, as Tokyo has re-named the ports as American Waterfront, Arabian Coast, Lost River Delta, Mediterranean Harbor, Mermaid Lagoon, Mysterious Island, and Port Discovery.  New and unique only to Tokyo attractions, and popular Japanese food are featured along with favorites from the other Disney parks.

 

  
 
 

 

 

 

 

 

UNO KO/OKAYAMA:

 

  
 

Uno Ko/Okayama is known as a castle town.

 

TIME ON YOUR HANDS IN UNO KO/OKAYAMA:

 

  
 

Tour the impressive Okayama Castle and beautiful Korakuen Gardens, dating back to 1868 and Japan’s feudal period.

 

  
 
 

 

 

 

UWAJIMA:

 

 

 

Uwajima is the home of numerous pearl farms.

 

WINDOW SHOPPING IN UWAJIMA:

 

  
 

Get out your cash, as this is the place to purchase cultured pearl jewelry.

 

 

 

YAMAGATA:

 

   

 

Yamagata is home to a scenic mountain range, an important agricultural area, and therapeutic hot springs.

 

MAJOR EVENTS AND FESTIVALS IN YAMAGATA:

 

  
 

Summer: Hanagasa Matsuri - a brilliant festival of safflower blossoms and parades.

 

  
 

Winter: Snow Monster Festival - snow sculptures

 

  
 
 

 

 

 

 

 

YOKOHAMA:

 

  
 

Yokohama is Japan’s second largest city.  It serves as a major convention city.  Yokohama is a half-hour train ride from Tokyo and is a busy port.