Archive for September, 2007

Tentative Itinerary

Only two weeks now. I’ve written out my itinerary with problem days indicated.

• October 15: arrive, Ginza Capital Hotel Main
• October 16: Tsukuji Fish Market, Hama rikyu garden, trip up the Sumida River if I wake up early enough; Suntory Museum, Riccar Museum (both museums are important to me)
• October 17: Imperial Palace East Garden, Nijubashi Bridge: This could also get postponed. Idemitsu Art Museum, Mitsui Museum, Shitamachi Museum
• October 18: Tokyo National Museum (very important), Ueno Park
• October 19: no hotel yet. This is one of my problem days
• October 20: Kyoto, Japanese style accommodation reserved by my Japanese contact, need details
• October 21: Kobo San Market, Toji Temple
• October 22: Jidai Matsuri, Kurama Himatsuri (if possible), Palace Side Hotel
• October 23: Kyoto
• October 24-25: Matsue, Izumo shrine no hotel yet. Another problem. I could go to Mt. Koya on these two days and change Izumo to another time.
• October 26-27: Hiroshima, Miyajima
• October 28 through November 8: Palace Side Hotel. I have not made detailed plans for Kyoto. Obviously there is much to see. Among the things that are important to me are: Katsura Imperial Villa; Nijo Castle; Kyoto National Museum; many temples and shrines, which seem to have special events at this time, including Tofuku-ji, Kodai-ji, Daitoku-ji; Kyoto handicraft center and traditional craft center; and Orinasukan Handmade Fabrics Museum. I am still working on this part of the trip.
• I intend to make day trips to Nara and maybe to Shiga and Otsu. I would also like to get to Osaka and Mt. Koya, but I have not figured that out entirely, either. I could cancel one or two nights in Kyoto, stay in Osaka and make a day trip to Koyasan.
• November 9-13: return to Tokyo; day trips to Nikko, Atami, Sakura (National History Museum), and if time permits, Yonezawa to see the Uesugi screens.

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Plan for my first week

I use the Google calendar to keep track of my life. I decided to use the calendar in Japan as I would here. I have entered many of the places I want to visit in Tokyo during my first four days. I don’t consider any of this written in stone, except the hotel reservation, and will modify it as I go along. This is a screen shot of the first week. Time indications are completely bogus; just a way of getting multiple entries without those big blue blocks. As you can see, I still don’t have a hotel for Friday night. I am waiting to hear from my Japanese contacts before I make a decision about what to do.

First week calendar

Here are links to the places I plan to visit in these four days:

Tsukuji Fish Market: Work starts here at 3 am. If I wake up at that time (it will be 2 pm for my body), I’ll try to get there. Otherwise, I’ll save these sights for the week before I leave Japan.

Hama rikyu garden: A trip up the Sumida River begins here.

Suntory Museum: The current exhibit, Biombo: Japanese Heritage as Legend of Gold, is of particular interest to me. It will only be on display until October 21.

Riccar Museum: This museum specializes in ukiyo-e prints.

Imperial Palace East Garden, Nijubashi Bridge: This could also get postponed.

Idemitsu Art Museum

Mitsui Museum

Shitamachi Museum

Tokyo National Museum another link here

Ueno Park

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The hotel in Kyoto was recommended to me. I found a website for them and have had no trouble communicating directly with them. I made a reservation for my first four nights in Tokyo through an agency. They have a lot of rules and I’m not entirely comfortable with them. I still need one more night in Tokyo. I made a mistake with that reservation; it should have been for five nights. I got two nights in Hiroshima through the Comfort Inn chain. I still need reservations for six or seven more nights.

I sent emails to two different hotels for reservations and haven’t heard back from either of them. I have reservations for most of my stay, but have a few nights to fill in. Since I sent the first request last Thursday I think I’d better try another means of communication. The second email, to a hotel in Tokyo only went out Saturday night, so I’ll give it another day or so. They should have someone who reads English. The first place is in a town called Matsue, on the Sea of Japan. They may not know what to do with my email.

I got some Japanese language CDs from the library and started working with them. The words don’t want to stay in my head, but maybe if I keep repeating them, I’ll get it–at least, please, thank you, excuse me and where is the toilet.

The other big thing is shoes. I’m sure I’ll be doing lots of walking and taking shoes off and on in temples and other non-Westernized places. The shoes I’ve had the most success with are Merrell jungle mocs. I don’t like them in warm weather; otherwise they are great. I’ve been wearing them every winter for years. I think I’ve only worn my snow boots two or three times in the last ten years. I ordered two new pairs of Merrells online. Now I’m just waiting for the weather to cool off.

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Sometimes luck is with me

That expensive hotel I booked cannot accommodate me, so I’m off the hook. I didn’t mind the $15 cancellation fee; it was the 10 to 14 day wait for my credit card refund that bothered me. So that’s one less thing to think about.

I made another change in my plans. I started to think about my plane transfer at O’Hare with only about 2 and half hours between planes. Recalling the number of times I’ve been involved with late planes, waiting to depart or for someone else to arrive, and remembering the distances between terminals at O’Hare, I had second thoughts about my plane reservations. I will leave Pittsburgh on Saturday, October 13, spend the night in Chicago, and depart for Tokyo on Sunday. It seems more likely that both me, and my luggage, will arrive in Japan at the same time.

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Panic set in

Kyoto is my most important destination. I will be there when many of the temples and shrines put significant treasures on display. I also found a symposium, about Kano Eitoku, at the Kyoto National Museum, on November 4. Several of the participants are American. If their talks are given in English, or if there will be English translations, I would like to attend. While I had hotel reservations up to the morning of November 4, I was having trouble finding anything for that night. And I really wanted to remain in Kyoto until November 8 or 9. I spent hours searching the internet for a modestly priced hotel that had vacancies. Finally, in desperation, I reserved a room for four nights at $150 a night, more than twice as much as I wanted to pay, and I had to give a credit card number in order to get the reservation. I brooded over this most of Friday night and again on Saturday morning. I haven’t received the promised voucher from the reservation service, but they said it wouldn’t happen over the weekend.

I went back to the website of the Palace Side Hotel where I had already made reservations and found I could get something for every night except November 4. I have had several satisfactory negotiations with this hotel and decided to go back to them again. I asked for additional nights from the 5th through the 9th, and since they were fully booked for the fourth, I would go out of the city for the one night. I promptly received a revised confirmation giving me everything I requested including November 4. Now I have duplicate reservations. I can cancel the other one, for a fee, but it will be a little messy because of the credit card. I decided to wait for the voucher before I did anything. Maybe I’ll get lucky and they’ll tell me they can’t accommodate me.

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Hotel Reservations

Kyoto is a booming place at the end of October, beginning of November. I am having trouble getting a hotel room for the amount of time I would like to be there. I now have 11 nights reserved; I would like 4 or 5 more, which I may have arranged for a lot more money than I wanted to spend. I’m waiting for a confirmation. I still have to get reservations in Tokyo, Matsue, Hiroshima, Mt. Koya, maybe Osaka. I really understand why most people book tours; I’m just too stubborn to do it.

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A slight digression

Browsing through a book on Mingei in the Frick Art Library, I found a picture of a crouching cat just like the one above. It is evidently a classic folk art piece, not the outsider art I wanted it to be. I was happy to find it, but just a little disappointed to have my theory blown away.

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As of today I will begin with four days in Tokyo (no hotel reservation, yet), then four days in Kyoto (with reservations). I will go on to two days in Matsue and Izumo, then two days in Hiroshima and Miyajima. Returning to Kyoto I have five or six days booked in the previous hotel. Also on my itinerary, but not yet scheduled, are trips to Nara and Ise from Kyoto. I don’t really know how much time I want to spend in Kyoto and Tokyo. I will conclude my trip in Tokyo and from there go to Atami, Nikko and possibly, Yonezawa. All of this depends on how my energy holds up. It’s possible I could spend most of my time around Kyoto.

I found a wonderful website: enter the departure and arrival points and it gives you available trains and connections. It’s been very helpful in figuring out how I hope to manage this trip.

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