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Where to go?


4 Apr 2003
Hi everybody!

Mid june I'm planning a trip to japan for about 3 weeks. When I'm there I'll be in Tokyo Kyoto and Osaka.

I was wondering if anyone has any tips on places to go while I'm there. If there are spots to see that are just truly beutiful, that I could maybe take a train to and see. I want a couple days to see the natural sights and not just the major cities.

Please if you have some tips I'll be very greatful.
I'll throw you a few starters

Kyoto- There is so much to do you could easily spend your entire time in Kyoto! By all means go see the major guide book places, but here are a few of my favorites.

-Sanjusangendo (temple with 1,001 buddhas). Wonderful statues fantastic for iconography. Also the location of the yearly archery tournament (January) which historically shot the length of the building. Across the street from one of THE major museums in Kyoto. Sanjusangendo takes about an hour if you linger. The place never ceases to amaze me.

-Hiezan (Mt. Hie). One of the major centers of Japanese Buddhism (Tendai sects mainly). Really, anyone who was anyone on the Japanese religious scene spent some time studying there. A place of great natural beauty, the buildings are of a less stunning nature than the major temples of Kyoto. Kind of tricky (bus or cable cars) to get to, takes about a full day, but if the weather is nice you can see Kyoto, Lake Biwa and wonderful mountains. Fantastic in the fall.

-Nanzen-ji (Nanzen Temple). Up in the northwest section of Kyoto, there is a restaurant to the left of the temple (as you face the main gate) that serves yudofu sets for about 30 USD at lunch time. A bit steep for the budget, it is extremely good quality for the price. If you donツ。テ? like tofu, you probably havenツ。テ? eaten this. I like Nanzenji more for its interesting buildings, gardens, and eclectic mix of historical structures (Meiji-era aquaduct next to shrines of famous political figures) and it again does nothave the shock and dazzle of other places.

-Nijo-jo (Nijo Castle) Once a residence of the first Tokugawa Shogun for a very brief time, it has ho-hum gardens but amazing artwork inside. In the city, maybe takes two hours. Not the typical castle image we have, it is not the tower studded location other castles are. What remains at Nijo-jo is more of the administration and living quarters that the other castles no longer have. Visit this and Himeji-jo (see below), put the two together and....wow.

-Places not in Kyoto-

Himeji-jo (Himeji Castle) A day trip from Kyoto or Osaka on the Shinkaisoku (I think, it has been awhile) Express, if you see only one castle in Japan this should be it. There is plenty written on Himeji, it is a World Heritage Site, and I shall leave you to read about it.

Nara Daibutsu- (Big Buddha in Nara) Nara is about as country as you can get and still have something to see in Kansai. Wonderful park complete with aggressive deer you can feed, you can wander for hours. Make sure you go up the hill to the right of the main complex to some of the sub-buildings if they are open. One has a room of amazingly old hollow lacquer statues in fantastic condition (traditional lacquer work used/uses plants that were/are similar to poison ivy in its effect on workers. ouch). Almost no one goes there, but of all my trips to temples in Japan, this one stands out.

Last bit of advice- I was never really impressed with big cities in Japan save Kyoto. The novelty of big city Japan wore off really fast, maybe it was the heat and stench of summer, but I would say hit Tokyo and Osaka for a bit of pop-culture, maybe some clubs, and then get ye to the countryside! Also, read, read, read, as much as you can before you come. I know my first trip to Japan I didnツ。テ? understand a lot of what I was looking at. Now, things are so much more interesting and the places really have a story to tell. Maximize those travel dollars with a bit of homework! Other people can recommend good history books, but searches on the Internet will take you to some good general articles.

I hope you have a wonderful time and let us know how it goes! Cheers-
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