PaGA 2017 began on ANA to Tokyo:
The stewardesses were terrific and the food was exceptional. At the end they gave me one of their hand-crafted cups for being a great customer:
That's my travel bag in the background, plus my walking cane. This device gets me on the plane first, seats on subways, adds a third leg for walking more safely, protects me from marauding dogs...and as I cross the street, cars seem afraid of me.
I catch the limousine bus (about $30), which directly drops me off at the Tokyo Westin, my home away from home. Kind of expensive, but I've stayed here more than 50 times because they store my large suitcase while I Shinkansen around Japan. They always give me a high room facing Mount Fuji:
Right below me is Robuchon (I will be dining at several of his restaurants on this trip) and Ebesu Garden Place, a large mall:
The Executive Club serves an assortment of drinks and a buffet than can replace dinner, and, of course, are all free:
The next morning I went to Shinjuku Station to pick up my Japan Rail Pass, which I purchased in Honolulu, two weeks on the Green Car for $532. I will get four times the value for this price, as just a roundtrip from Tokyo to Nagoya costs $300.
- Tokyo to Hiroshima
- Hiroshima to Nagasaki
- Nagasaki to Osaka
- Osaka to Nagoya
- Nagoya to Karuizawa (which has a Marriott and is close to Matsumoto--Marriott bought out Starwood, but honors my lifetime platinum status)
- Karuizawa to Sendai
- Sendai to Tokyo and back to Sendai just to visit Ueno Park
- Sendai to Tokyo
- Tokyo to Matsumoto (because it was raining in the Karuizawa area when I stayed there) and back
- Tokyo to Jindaiji Botanical Park and back.
Similarly, this is a typical bento meal on a train, something I enjoyed more than dozen times:
The Shinkansen (meaning new trunk line), or Bullet Train, has been operating since 1964. In this period no passenger has been killed in an accident. The line extends for 1718 miles and speeds up to 200 MPH are attained. Maglev trains have been tested up to 375 MPH.
My first stop was Hiroshima, where I stayed at the Sheraton located right at the Shinkansen station. Having the Japan Rail Pass, the Red Bus driver takes a photo of it, and you can ride the system for free throughout the city. First stop, Hiroshima Peace Park and the Atomic Dome symbolic of the first nuclear weapon used on civilians, killing 150,000:
I wonder if I will again visit here, for there are paths throughout the ponds, and so many fish that I doubt I'll be able to find this unique #2 again.
However, if you ever go to Nagasaki, order their tonkatsu, it's a pork cutlet that's so exceptional it's one of the reason why I come here:
The crust is crispy and the pork is noteworthy.
I of course went to the Nagasaki Peace Park:
Here is a copy of Fat Man, the 10,000 pound Atomic Bomb that killed 75,000:
This is a hydrogen bomb:
Back in my hotel room, I saw a sunset that certainly looked like an A-Bomb explosion:
This is ridiculous, but I'm only halfway through Japan....but let me continue anyway. I stayed in Osaka, but JR (meaning free) train ride away was Kyoto, and this is in Maruyama Park, where lives the oldest cherry blossom tree in Japan:
My Blue Bar Pigeon came by for a visit with me in Kyoto:
Next stop Nagoya, the home of Toyota, but a city I never in the past really saw much. They have artwork all over, here you can see my reflection:
I was truly lucky, for a found bench which I confiscated for my lunch. Most sat on the ground:
What a Nagoya sunset:
I actually snuck into Tokyo on the Bullet Train just visit Shinjuku Park, but as I said above, this short jaunt would have cost me $300 if not for the Japan Rail Pass. Here is a tea field:
While I was walking through Takashimaya, I noticed that one musk mellon cost $80!
This was supposed be peak day for the Sakura, so the lines to get into Shinjuku Park were very long. Part of the reason was they checked every bag carefully to prevent alcohol from being brought in. But I've been through this before, they don't body check, and they don't care once you sneak anything in. That soda can is actually the cherry blossom version of Kirin beer.
I use a bench, but the correct way to enjoy a hanami (picnic under cherry blossoms) is sitting on the ground:
This is a Wednesday, I'll continue my E-book on Pearl's Ashes next week, but at this park I next stopped by the site of Pearl's Ashes #23:
My next stay was in Karuizawa, but it was so cold that I didn't think he cherry blossoms would be blooming in Matsumoto, so I instead went to Sendai, where my Blue Bar Pigeon said hi:
It was also too cold in Sendai for the flowers, so I trained back to Ueno Park in Tokyo, which was supposed to be at peak that day. On the train ride, not a minute passed before you saw some evidence of the Sakura. Here is a typical example in pouring rain:
Unfortunately, it was raining real hard when I got to Ueno:
Back to the Westin Sendai, my room view:
On Monday, April 10, I caught the JR and bus to Jindaiji. It was closed on Mondays.
On my last free day in Japan I trained to Matsumoto, only to be surprised by a snowstorm:
It was snowing through my two hour visit to Matsumoto Castle to visit Pearl's Gold Koi. I walked up to where she normally meets me, but nothing. So I walked around and finally saw her, all alone:
It's amazing how the camera hides the snow. Those white flecks are snow. In reality, you could hardly see the scene.
My final morning I awoke to Mount Fuji wishing me goodbye:
I show Mount Fuji like it is always there, but the reality is visitors rarely see this mountain because of air pollution and weather factors. My final breakfast at the Tokyo Westin was as usual, fabulous.
On the bus to Narita Airport, my final Sakura up close:
Wow, this had to be my longest posting. But all the above should have taken you much less than a hour. I was planning to summarize my entire 44-day trip today, but I'll stop here on Day 17 and hope I can complete all 27 days tomorrow.