Thursday, May 31, 2012

Jotaro's TravelTips

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             JOTARO'S TRAVEL TIPS -                 
Tips, web-site links, apps., etc. to help travellers plan a better trip and leave their worries behind.


Cambodia - Phnom Penh
- Japan 2012 - Kyoto, Osaka, Nara & Arashiyama
- Japan 2013 - Tokyo, Kamakura & Hakone
- New Zealand 2014 - South Island

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Travel Tips - Japan: Osaka, Kyoto & Nara

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                     JOTARO'S TRAVEL TIPS                   
These are tips we picked up during the course of preparation for our trip to Japan & while we there (... see Japan: Kyoto/Osaka), hope it helps. This page provides : useful net sites, hand-phone apps, maps and a simple discourse on the Japanese people. Hope this is helpful.

Useful Net Sites:

For Travel Spots

Kyoto Travel Guide          - Welcome To Kyoto
OSAKA - INFO                 - Nara Travel Guide

For Transportation & Hotels

Hyperdia (Rail Transportation)
Welcome To Kyoto (for Bus Transportation & Taxi)
Sagano Romantic Train
Air Asia (for Air Travel) (Hotel bookings - this site is good as no deposits required, pay at counter)
- (Hotel bookings)
Tripadvisor (Hotel users' reviews)

Useful Apps:

Hyperdia Lite (for rail-transportation)
Learn Japanese Phrase Book (Basic Japanese - resides in memory, no internet required)

Japanese People:

The Japanese are disciplined, honest, courteous, helpful, clean, etc.
Disciplined - you won't see queue jumping, no bumping into people, etc.
Honest        - No worries about leaving things behind and getting them stolen. No snatch-thieves.
Courteous  - They greet people with warm smiles. In shops they will thank you profuesly, whether you make a purchase or not. "Arigato, Arigato! Unlike some other countries, where one will face sultry looks and rude remarks if one does not purchase or ask to many questions.
Helpful         - They will go out of their way to help lost tourist (like us) in their limited English. One helpful chap who hardly speak English even went looking for a directory book to direct us more easily. Another (who worked in Malaysia before) disembarked at one of the train stations to help us change trains and then re-boarded another train to continue his journey.
Clean           - Most streets & alleys are clean, hardly any rubbish around. No lazy throwing of rubbish anywhere, even if public bins are scarce (many were removed after the subway poison attack). We noticed that in fast food outlets, they will clean up after finishing - even to the extent of wiping the tables.
Neat              - Products are nicely packed and arranged even in the wet markets. A lot of effort and detail made to ensure packaging is neat and beautiful.
Workers sifting out fallen leaves at Sogenchi
Meticulous - Japanese are meticulous in maintaining their image. At Sogenchi Gardens, workers could be seen sifting the ground to remove fallen leaves.
No Smoking!
Smoking Zones - Many areas are designated non-smoking zones, especially in Kyoto. Smoke only where there is a public ash-tray stand.
Urinals for elderly and the blind
Handicapped Friendly - Special embossed floor tiles are there to help the blind. Raised line for normal walking and raised studs for junction points, top of stairs - and even for urinal standing positions. Railings for elderly - even for urinals.

Useful Maps
(click on map for better view)
Map of Kuala Lumpur Rail Links (More Info)

Map of Kansai Airport (More Info)

Osaka Rail/Subway Map

Kyoto Bus Route Map

Click here for (Kyoto Sanjo Station PDF Map)

Click here for (Kyoto Kawaramachi Area PDF Map)

Click here for (Interactive Maps of Kyoto)

Click here for (Nara PDF Map)

Click here for (Osaka-Namba PDF Map)

Map of Arashiyama

Kyoto Tourist Spots Map

Kinkaku-ji Temple Plan

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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Japan : Kyoto/Osaka - Day 3

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               Footsteps - Jotaro's Travels                   
Japan (Osaka & Kyoto) May 5th to 11th 2012
Kyoto Tower

Day 3 - Kyoto (7th May 2012)

After a good night's and really sound sleep, we were ready for another day's adventure. Woohoo! But today we will be going for a 5-hr guided off-the-beaten-track walking tour of Kyoto downtown district. More walking! (Sigh...)

We grab a cab & proceeded to the Kyoto Staion, just opposite the Kyoto Tower landmark. Being early we had a quick breakfast in an Italian restaurant at the Station, and also bought some sandwiches (the tour did not provide for lunch).
Having filled our tummies, we waited at the designated place to start the Johnny Walker's Tour. It is a 5-hr 3-km walking tour. No reservations required, just wait at the designated spot, the tour starts at 10:15am. No worries the Japanese are punctual to the dot! And cheap! - at USD20 per head.

Johnny Walker's Tour Map

Johnny Walker's Walking Tour 

Catchy name isn't it? But it has nothing to do with whiskey. Johnny Walker is actually Hajime Hirooka-san, a Japanese (Ok. ok. Maybe he does drink whiskey and I got his name wrong - it's Johnny Hillwalker; the whiskey got to me too!). But a bit of a disappointment though, we were met by Amie-san, a Japanese lady, and not Mr. Walker himself. Anyway, Amie turn out to be a sweet lady, so no loss there. We were given an A-4 photo-stated iternirary (Well, it's a budget tour!).

Higashi Hongan-ji Temple
1st Stop : Higashi Hongan-ji Temple
We went through an underground pedestrian tunnel and came up to - Viola! The Higashi Hongan-Ji is a Buddhist temple with beautiful roofs and an ornate timber structure. It sits on a large temple ground in central Kyoto.
Shinto Gate

In Japan, most temples are either Buddhist or Shinto. The Shinto temples are easily identified by their distinctive Torii (Shinto arch gates).

Interlude - Japanese Bowing
At one of the assembly area in the Temple, Amie-san brief us on a couple of Japanese customs. Why do most Japanese show the V-sign when having their photos taken? Apparently one of the famous base-ball stars showed it and it has been a craze since then. 
But more interesting was her brief on Japanese etiquette on bowing. A 5-10 degree tilt for ordinary "Hello". 30-45 for respectful greeting of elders. A 90-degree bow means "I am sincerely very, very sorry" (No hara-kiri nowadays after this one). 
More than 90? Well, that person is exercising! Haha! Got you there! (Just as Amie-san got us).

Workers At Fan Factory
2nd Stop : Fan Shop & Canister Factory
Next, we stopped at a renown fan-shop, Kyosendo, with workers making these sensu (holding fans)  in the back-rooms. We found visits to these cottage industry more interesting than the temples. It was a peek into Japanese culture. Unfortunately, most of the workers were elderly. Seems like this cottage industry, like many in other parts of the world is a dying trade.

Brass Tea Canisters
After that, it was to Kaidado - a small Japanese tea canister factory. Amie-san explained that the covers of good canisters will slowly sink down, now pushing required! Unfortunately, we could only view from outside, through the shop-front glazing.

Ayako Temangu Shrine
This was followed by some not-too-memorable sites, such as the Ayako Temangu Shrine,  the Renkoji Temple, a pottery cottage factory (again viewing from outside) and a small grave-yard at Chokodo Temple.

Aerial View of Kyoto embossed on floor tiles
We had a short break and welcomed rest at one of the community centers (Phew!). There was an interesting aerial view of Kyoto embossed onto floor tiles at one corner of the ground floor. 
After that the tour continued and even passed by the game designer Nintendo original factory. We were just shown a wall-mounted placard, Nintendo having become successful had shifted to bigger premises.

Japanese Mochi
3rd Stop : Japnese Mochi Factory
This was an interesting stop - the renowned Kyoto Japnese Mochi. We sampled these with ocha (Japanese Green Tea) to wash down the sweetness. A note to those who want to purchase these - buy those with shorter expiry dates (7-10days) as they do not contain preservatives.

Geometric Gateways
Final Stop : Fushimi Inari Shinto Shrine
After the long march, this temple with its lush, serene greenery was a welcomed finale. Although called a shrine Fushimi Inari is a large temple dedicated to another sect of Shinto, this one with distinct orange toriis.

Kiyomizu-dera Temple
Kiyomizu Temple viewed from annex building.
Having finished the sandwiches for lunch (we have learnt to be spartan like the Japanese), it was to the Kiyomize Temple. The temple is located on the eastern outskirts of Kyoto and sits on a lush-green,hill slope, affording one a magnificent view of Kyoto.

The gang at Kiyomizu's entrance

Landscaped Grounds at Kiyomizu
Walking around the ample, green grounds of the temple, our tired feet (from Johnny Walker's walk) were soon a thing of the past. Somehow we felt serene and eager to see more.

Fountain Shrine at Kiyomizu
There is even a shrine with natural stream water coming out for drinking per the Shinto Custom.

Going through Shinto Ritual of drinking water
We joined the long queue and drank in some blessings too.

After this long day, we made our way back to Kawaramachi and had dinner at our favorite ramen shop (the one with the runny yolk which Marina liked).

Me and Cheong went back to the hotel to conk off. The girls, being girls - got a second wind of strength - went shopping!

Related Blogs :

Japan : Kyoto/Osaka - Day 1 & 2

Japan : Kyoto/Osaka - Day 4

Japan : Kyoto/Osaka - Day 5

Japan : Kyoto/Osaka - Day 6

Japan : Kyoto/Osaka - Day 7

You may also be interested in :

China-Yunnan Day 1

You are at - Jotaro's Blog / Footsteps / Kyoto - Day 1& 2 / 03     |     Jump To - Day 04 / 05 / 06 /07
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Sunday, May 27, 2012

Hotel Review: Kyoto Royal Hotel & Spa, Japan

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                      JOTARO'S HOTEL REVIEW                         
Views& ratings are my own, based on my travels & experiences)

Address             - Sanjo Area, Kawaramachi Street, Kyoto, Japan.

Period of Stay   - 6th to 9th May 2012

Length of Stay : 3 nights / 4 days
Cost per Night     - approx. USD78-00 (inclg. 30% discount for stay above 2 nights)

Nearby Attractions  (within walking distance) -
Shops at Sanjo & Shijo Streets,
-  Cupola Shopping Avenue - Sanjo Meiten-gai.
 - Night-life at Ponchoto Alley next to Kamogawa River

Pros   : Centrally Located, Good staff service, Room size above average (by Japanese standards), warm water always, clean. Multiple-sockets available, even some at bed head-board.

Cons  : No Wifi at room. Slow Wifi only at lobby. Only 2 nos spoilt p.c. provided at lobby.

Review / Rating :

Overall Rating : 7.6/10
Recommendation : Good Stay. 
1. Location : 
(Rated : 9/10) - Excellent centrally located at Sanjo & Sijo district with easy walking access to shopping, nearby temples, train stations.

2. Room  :
(Rated 7/10) - Above average size, clean, nice & clean bathroom, many sockets. No wi-fi and TV channels limited.

3. Staff Servicing :
(Rated : 7/10) - Good & polite staff, but at times a bit stand-offish.

4. General Facilities :
(Rated 7/10) - Ice available at Vending room at each floor. Internet only at lobby & slow speed.

5. Value for Money :
(Rate 8/10) - Cost reasonable for good location and room size.

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Friday, May 25, 2012

IC*U - Reviews

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          I C* U  -    JOTARO'S REVIEWS            
(Views are my own - based on my travels and experiences.)
Hotels - Hotels I stayed in.
(Note: Food reviews have been relocated to YummY! Access it from the Footsteps Main page)

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Footsteps - Jotaro's Travels

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These are my various travelogues. Links added to make it easier to follow my footsteps.

Travel Tips : Travel Tips to ease your journey and acquaint you with the country.
YummY!  : My escapades into the sumptuous world of food!
I C* U - Jotaro's Reveiws  : reviews of food, hotels, sites.
Travel Sites  These are Wonders of the World, UNESCO
Heritage and other notable sites I have visited.
Art Gallery : Photos of beautiful artwork that I took during my travel, sorted by countries.
Photo Gallery : Nice photos that were not included in the Travel Blogs.
AhPek Biker : Old Dog Rides Again! An old dog riding adventures around the world.


Cambodia - Phnom Penh Museums : December 2012
A surprisingly educational visit to the National Museum of Cambodia.

Thailand 2013 : July 2013
A quick, crazy one nighter to Bangkok but we managed to cover temples, an art museum, local markets & shopping malls.
Be captivated by the water-puppets and awed by the beauty of Ha Long Bay

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