Tag Archives: japan

Winter Illumination Wonders of Japan

Welcome to Monday!

We hope you all (in the USA at least) had a fabulous Thanksgiving weekend — we sure did!

Today, let’s step halfway across the world to welcome winter, with enchanting illuminations!

Here in Portland every year the city rolls out its annual light parade, complete with floats, installations, sculptures, performances—even lectures on Light itself at the science museum! But did you know that, across the Pacific ocean, Japan also goes all out with the wintry lights? And we’re not talking a couple of small towns, or even just Tokyo—dozens of cities all over the nation have gotten caught up with the illuminations craze. So if you’re in Japan this winter, be sure to catch the closest one near you!  Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Asia, Japan

Pam in Japan! : FAQs

Our readers might remember that our own agent WIT Pam spent two weeks last year in Japan visiting her son Matt, who is living and working in Tokyo. As it has been years since anyone from Willamette spent time in Japan, we were thrilled when she came back with such great firsthand feedback!

Have you been thinking about travel to the Land of the Rising Sun? Pam will be happy to answer your questions about travel in Japan and arrange a spectacular trip for you. Call her for a chat at 503-224-0180 or email pamd@wittravel.com. 

Pam used Delta nonstop, and booked a package plan with a prepaid hotel in Kyoto, which saved a lot on airfare. Whilst in Tokyo she visited the famous Asakusa, Shinjuku & Ueno areas–each with their own unique flavor. She took a day trip to Kamakura, where you can tour the many temples without the throngs of visitors found in Kyoto. And she did take the Shinkansen train to Kyoto, spending a fabulous 3 nights there.

Here are a few quick questions we had for her on logistics while traveling in Japan: 

What is the link for the portable wi-fi you used? I used http://www.japan-wireless.com There are a lot of companies that do this, but this is the one where Matt has his phone and they are one of the larger providers in Japan. The device cost $55.00 U.S. for 9 days. It allowed me to use Google maps and their GPS function on my I-phone. I could sync it to 4 different devices. It can be delivered to your hotel.

Is there hardware that needs to be returned to the company you rented from, and if so, how is it returned? In the package you get they include instructions for syncing it to your device and a prepaid return envelope. You can drop it in any post box in Japan and it will be returned to them. It is about the same size as a cell phone.

Prepaid ticket for the airport bus: How did you pre-purchase the voucher? I got the bus voucher from JTB in Los Angeles at the same time I got the Japan Rail Pass. It would have been ok to purchase the bus ticket when you got there – it was a little hard finding the booth. I went out to where the buses left and found the bus, and they directed me back inside the terminal to the place where the voucher had to be exchanged. If I were doing it again, I would opt to take the train into the city – it is faster and goes to more stations than I realized.

Green Class Japan Rail Pass: There are multiple train companies in Japan – Japan Rail is the only one you can use on the pass, so depending on where you are traveling you sometimes may still have to buy some tickets. They do go most places, though. You also have to watch what kind of train you are taking – some of the newer high-speed trains still have supplements that you have to pay on top of the pass. I think that for tourists it is worth getting the Green Pass – I can’t stress how crowded and miserable the trains are around Tokyo – and if you are in the Green Car at least they are a little less packed. The long-distance trains from Tokyo to Kyoto can be reserved – there is a small fee for doing this, but you are guaranteed a seat and car number. This can only be done in Japan at a ticket office. I got a 7 day pass so didn’t use it on my arrival. The passes are for consecutive days only, so it didn’t make sense for me to have it validated until I was within 7 days of leaving Tokyo, since Matt isn’t on a JR line. I used it from Tokyo to Kamakura and back as a day trip, from Tokyo to Kyoto and back, for a side trip from Kyoto to Nara and back, and for the return Narita Express back to the airport. The pass price was about $316 and Matt’s ticket purchased from Tokyo to Kyoto round trip around $210. So I figure it was good value for me, but I wouldn’t do it for somebody who was just traveling one way from Tokyo to Kyoto to Osaka, say.

Suica or Pasmo card: Are the kiosks all over so they can easily be re-charged? Are they loaded only with cash, or can they be loaded from a debit card or credit card? These are 2 different cards both pre-loaded with money but they are universally accepted. The kiosks where I bought the cards were self-service – located in the train stations, and I think Matt said that you could buy them in convenience stores also – like a 7-11, of which there are thousands. We ended up reloading the cards at the train stations – Japan uses a lot of cash and you end up with pounds of small change, so we would take the card to the machine, toss in the cash and change, and it all got loaded on the cards which was a good way of getting rid of it. There were instructions on the machine that could be switched into English.

This feedback was also featured in our Winter newsletter. Give us a call for a hard copy in the mail!


Leave a comment

Filed under Asia, Japan, News

Where in the World is the WIT Agent? — Kyoto, Japan

Ever wondered what makes Kyoto such a favourite destination for Japanese and foreigners alike? WIT Agent Pam headed there from Tokyo last week to find out exactly why. Call us at 503-224-0180 or email info@wittravel.com to chat the ins and outs of Japan.

Formerly the imperial capital of Japan, Kyoto is known for its rich history, exquisite gardens and ornate palaces. Chief among them is Kinkaku-Ji, the Temple of the Golden Pavilion, so-called due to its pavilion that is lavishly coated in gold-leaf. The gold is meant to purify any negative thoughts towards death.

Screen Shot 2015-08-10 at 19.31.41

Be sure to stop by the peaceful grounds of the Imperial Park, where you’ll find the Imperial Palace, beautiful gates and gardens. The palace was home to the imperial family until 1868, when the emperor moved his residence to Tokyo.

Just a half-hour’s walk away, Nijo Castle was originally built as a shogunate residence. It is famous for its “nightingale floors,” wooden floors that squeak to note any presence that passes through its halls. Toji Temple is also a must-see, if only for its colorful interiors and elegantly carved Buddhist sculptures. The temple grounds is also home to a flea market on the 21st of the month, where visitors can find old postcards, movie posters, traditional crafts and other souvenirs.

Screen Shot 2015-08-10 at 19.33.58

Higashi Hongan-ji temple is worth a stop just for its unusual hair rope, a thick rope of human hair. This is the last remnant of the the hair ropes used during construction of the temple in the late 1800s. Historically, ordinary rope was not available–so women would donate their hair to make stronger ropes.

Other places of note is the Museum of Kyoto, which houses a huge collection of ancient pottery, and the International Manga Museum, home to over volumes and items of 300,000 manga, Japanese comic books. The latter keeps books in both Japanese and foreign languages, and is popular with the 30 and younger crowd.

Screen Shot 2015-08-10 at 19.33.18

But there’s more to Kyoto than temples and museums. Hop on a bike with a small group for a healthy paced, but intimate look into the real former capital. Join a walking tour into the Inari district to learn about sake production from the Gekkeikan Okura Sake Museum. Or hit the culinary path and explore the Nishiki Food Market with a knowledgeable guide.

Screen Shot 2015-08-10 at 19.32.16

If you’re only in Japan for a week or two, Kyoto is the place to go for an immersion of traditional culture. Experience a traditional tea ceremony or samurai sword demonstration. Here you can witness the elegance of Maiko, or apprentice geishas, during an evening of delicious kaiseki cuisine, dancing and festive games.

For a more inclusive experience, delve into the world of Geisha. Follow a private guide into the Gion neighborhood, savor high-cuisine at an invitation-only dinner with a geisha, learn about her hidden world as your guide translates, and enjoy her performance of dance and music.

Screen Shot 2015-08-10 at 19.34.04

Did you know? Kyoto is just a short jaunt from Tokyo on the Shinkansen, Japan’s famous bullet train.

Check out Pam’s photos from her trip to Japan in our Gallery.

Leave a comment

Filed under Asia, Japan, News, Where in the World is the WIT Agent?

Where in the World is the WIT Agent? — Japan

WIT Agent Pam just returned from her fantastic trip to Japan, and she’s come back with some gorgeous photos. Her whirlwind tour included Tokyo, Kamakura, Yokahama, Nikko, Kyoto and Nara. For her pics in our newly updated Gallery, just click here.

Thinking about Japan for your next family getaway? Let WIT plan your trip! We can design air, hotels, trains, day trips, and tours throughout the country. Call us at 503-224-0180 or email info@wittravel.com for more.

For escorted tours, we highly recommend Alexander & Roberts–click here to learn more about their small groups to Japan and beyond.

Leave a comment

Filed under Alexander + Roberts, Asia, Japan, Where in the World is the WIT Agent?

Where in the World is the WIT Agent? — Nikko, Japan

 Picture 4

“Never say Kekkou (“I am satisfied”) until you’ve seen Nikko.” — Traditional Japanese Saying

Our agent Pam is currently in Japan exploring the amazing sights and sounds of the Land of the Rising Sun. We’ve taken a quick look at her stops along the way–Yokohama and Kamakura–and today we’re featuring Nikko. What’s there to see, you ask? A bit out of the way, you wonder? Well, let’s take a look:

Nikko is a small city approximately 140 km north of Tokyo in Japan’s Tochigi Prefecture. The name literally means “sunlight” in Japanese, and whether its the name or the natural beauty that surrounds the city, Nikko never fails to draw the attention of local and international tourists year-round.

Here you’ll find the austere mausoleum of Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu, the founder of the great Tokugawa shogunate. There are also many famous hot springs in the area, and nearby Nikko National Park is a popular spot for mountain-hiking and catching glimpses of beautiful waterfalls. Nikko is also home to the 8th-century Futarasan Shrine, the Cedar Avenue, Edo Wonderland Nikko Edomura, and Lake Chuzenii.

Picture 3

The most popular attraction, however, is undoubtedly Toshogu Shrine, home of the Three Wise Monkeys who See no evil, Hear no evil, and Speak no evil. The shrine is adorned in gold and wood carvings, showcasing both Shinto and Buddhist elements. Traditionally, the two religions have not been severely segregated in Japan. Among the colorful decorations are the five story pagoda, the Sozonozo Elephants (carved by an artist who had never seen elephants), the Crying Dragon, and the Nemurineko or Sleeping Cat.

Picture 2

Nikko is best reached by Tokyo’s Tobu-Asakusa Station on the Tobu Nikko line. It’s can be a busy day trip from Tokyo, but is best enjoyed in a few days. Plus you can spend the night at a traditional Japanese ryokan guesthouse and take a dip in their hot springs!

Call Wittravel to arrange your trip to Japan or to discover more about the Land of the Rising Sun, at 503-224-0180 or info@wittravel.com. 

Leave a comment

Filed under Asia, Japan, Where in the World is the WIT Agent?

Where in the World is the WIT Agent? — Yokohama

Screen Shot 2015-07-27 at 9.14.54 AM

Last week, our agent Pam headed to Tokyo to check out the sights, smells and sounds of Japan. She spent the first few days exploring the capital, and is now venturing out to check out neighboring towns. First on her route outside of the capital? Yokohama.

Located south of Tokyo, this prominent port city on Tokyo Bay is just a half-hour, high-speed train ride away. With a population of over three million, Yokohama is Japan’s second largest city. For more than a century, its conveniently located harbor has attracted a diverse gathering of foreigners–a fact still evident in the sizable Chinatown and the historical Western homes in the Yamate district.

Screen Shot 2015-07-27 at 9.20.03 AM

Here you’ll find the Hakkeijima Sea Paradise, an amusement park that combines aquarium with thrill rides and a market. At the park there are over 500 species of aquatic creatures, some of which are featured in a “touch and learn lagoon.”

Other cool museums are the Sail Training Ship Museum, Cupnoodles Museum, and the Silk Museum. At the Nogeyama Zoo, you can catch glimpses of red pandas, peacocks and giraffes.

Screen Shot 2015-07-27 at 9.21.10 AM

Yokohama also has one of the largest Chinatowns in the world, with over 500 shops and restaurants sandwiched in 500 square meters.

Visitors can take a respite from the hustle and bustle of city life at the Sankei Garden, a classical Japanese garden that spans over 18,000 square meters. It’s a beautiful spot particularly in the spring, when plum and cherry blossoms bloom.

Screen Shot 2015-07-27 at 9.09.57 AM

And if you’re lucky enough to be there the season Pam’s there, you may be able to catch the Kanagawa Shimbun Fireworks Festival (August), an impressive summer event in the harbor.

Call Wittravel to arrange your trip to Japan or to discover more about the Land of the Rising Sun, at 503-224-0180 or email info@wittravel.com. 

Leave a comment

Filed under Asia, Japan, Where in the World is the WIT Agent?

Ferrari designer creates super luxurious Japanese train

(From CNN) — What happens when you ask a super-car designer to create a super luxurious train?

Magic, judging by the images released by Japanese rail company JR East.

Yamagata-born Ken Okuyama, well known in automobile design circles, was brought in to style the company’s super slick new Cruise Train, due to start chugging down the tracks in spring 2017.

Holding a maximum of 34 passengers, the Cruise Train will have 10 carriages made up of five suites, one deluxe suite, two glass-walled observation cars, a dining car and lounge.

According to his company, Ken Okuyama Design, he wanted to create a train that would allow passengers “to appreciate the flow of the time and space,” while enjoying Japan’s landscapes and culture throughout the journey.

Some unique features:

  • An observation carriage at the front of the train, which allows passengers to see onto the tracks ahead. The other observation car is at the end of the train.
  • JR Rail says the train will be fitted with furniture that conveys the nobility of traditional Japanese culture.
  • The Lounge, for instance, is wrapped in graceful curves and features decor inspired by trees.
  • All suites will have a private bathroom with a shower and toilet, but the top sleeping space is the split level deluxe suite, which sleeps four.
  • On the bottom are two double beds, on the top a traditional Japanese dining area, with seats on the floor.
  • The train will be able to run on both electric and non-electric rails.

Read the Full Article Here.

Leave a comment

Filed under Asia, Japan, News, Travel by Rail