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T-6 days and counting!

Written by Jeff Drake
10 · 29 · 18

Wow, time is flying!

Par for the course for all our other Overseas Adventure (OAT) Tours, as the date for our trip grows closer we’ve now had a chance to talk to our country guide, Hiroshi Ninigawa, and have received a list of our fellow travelers. It looks like this trip will be a full load, which for OAT means 15 people. Our group is from all over – Ohio, California, Michigan, Rhode Island, Colorado, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Iowa – and Oregon (Lisa and me). This looks to be a more diverse group than our trip to Spain and Portugal as there are 4 other men in the group. We were happy to discover that Hiroshi speaks perfect English and is also very helpful.  We’ve come to expect this from OAT, but it’s always nice to confirm it.

On our last two trips with OAT, everyone was very careful to try and not talk about politics, but it was damn hard not to do. When politics did come up, it was not confrontational as each group had at least one or two Trump fans, but the political lines were – mirroring our society – quite clear. Given that we will be on the 2nd day of our tour when elections take place back home, I’m guessing political comments are going to be impossible to repress. This will be interesting.

Lisa and I are going to arrive in Tokyo a day early to give us a little extra time to deal with jet lag and also a little more time to explore Tokyo. We’ve been consuming Youtube videos about Japan travel for the past week. We think we now have a handle on the important immediate stuff like exchanging money (Japan is almost a cash-based society, credit cards can be difficult to use), and getting from Narita airport to our hotel. We’ve opted to use the limousine bus service from Narita. The train would be slightly faster, but we will be arriving at Tokyo rush hour and don’t want to deal with the train station crowd, getting tickets, etc., while also being wiped out from the plane trip. The bus will take us to another hotel than ours, but our hotel is only a 5-minute taxi ride from there.

Our first full day in Tokyo with the group starts on 11/7, but as the tour name implies, this is a cultural trip and not focused on large cities like Tokyo. We’ll get a bus tour of Tokyo and visit the Meiji Shrine, an important historical spot in the city. We’ll also visit with a former Sumo wrestler. The rest of the afternoon is free! Between our extra time in Tokyo and this free afternoon, we should be able to get a taste for the city before moving on. We are A-OK with the free time OAT is giving everyone on this trip.

Some of the videos we’ve been watching are related to food (of course). We are both really excited about eating in Japan! We say that and mean it, but we know that after a while we’ll be hunting for a burger or pizza to give us a break from noodles, rice and fish. Fortunately, there are some rave burger joints in Tokyo (featuring wagyu beef) and like every other country we’ve visited, pizza can be found everywhere.

Our first day with the group ends with the traditional “welcome dinner”. I’m very curious to see where we’ll be eating!

On 11/8 we hop a bus to Hakone. Hakone is a town in the Kanigawa prefecture of Japan. The entire town has been designated as a Japanese National Geopark. It’s famous for its hot springs and Lake Ashinoko. It’s considered a day trip for locals from Tokyo, so it is probably going to be a busy place. On the way to Hakone we’ll be visiting Ashigawa Village, a “day in the life” experience that we always do with OAT tours. The ancient village is apparently famous for its noodles, which we are going to learn how to make! Lisa and I will compare this noodle-making experience to the one we did in Italy. Afterwards we get to eat the results of our labor. If it’s anything like Italy, the food will be delicious! We’ll spend the night in Hakone and on 11/9 we’ll visit a local shop that specializes in wood carving. We’ll also take a boat ride on Lake Ashinoko. This lake is famous for the spectacular view of Mount Fuji it provides (think Trillium Lake in Oregon).

One reason we chose this time of year to visit is for the Fall colors. Sadly, it sounds like the colors are late, so we are probably going to miss it, but it varies depending on the part of country you are in, so we’ll keep our fingers crossed we get some pretty Fall color photos.

On 11/10 we will have a travel day as we hop a bullet train (shinkasen) to Nagoya, followed by an express train to Kanazawa. The bullet travels at 200mph, but all-in-all, we won’t arrive to our hotel until late afternoon.

I’ll tell you about Kanazawa in my next post!

Let us know what you think…


1 Comment

  1. Kathleen

    Looks like an amazing trip! I will be thinking of you following elections!!!!i


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Jeff Drake

Retired IT consultant, world-traveler, hobby photographer, and philosopher.