Trip Report - Japan 5/2019 UPDATED 9/19!! ABD Day 7 - Seaside Bound - Takayama and the road to Odawara

Cousin Orville

Inventor of Air Cooling
Joined
Aug 27, 2000
This brings back great memories! We really had a wonderful time in Kyoto. I'd love to go back and visit more of the temples. I love that photo of James with the samurai sword. Classic James! What a hoot! Interesting that you mentioned the dancer was a Maiko. They kept referring to her as a Geisha and our table was trying to figure out which she was. I guess it doesn't really matter, but it makes a lot more sense that she was a Meiko. Seems unlikely a Geisha would entertain a tour group. Did you happen to see the Maiko perform in the hotel? We were told the Hyatt was the only hotel in Kyoto that had a Meiko (or Geisha) dancer.
 

sayhello

Have Camera, Will Travel
Joined
Oct 28, 2006
Your report looks wonderful. I love that you settled in to watch GOT. I'm also a long time watcher and I was in Prague when the final episode aired. Shockingly, our hotel had HBO so I set an alarm for 0200 and watched it real time.
Hey, some things (GOT) you just gotta do! The free time was just timed perfectly!
It sounds like ABD knocked it out of the park with this itinerary. Looking forward to hearing more.
They really did!! More soon!
This brings back great memories! We really had a wonderful time in Kyoto. I'd love to go back and visit more of the temples. I love that photo of James with the samurai sword. Classic James! What a hoot! Interesting that you mentioned the dancer was a Maiko. They kept referring to her as a Geisha and our table was trying to figure out which she was. I guess it doesn't really matter, but it makes a lot more sense that she was a Meiko. Seems unlikely a Geisha would entertain a tour group. Did you happen to see the Maiko perform in the hotel? We were told the Hyatt was the only hotel in Kyoto that had a Meiko (or Geisha) dancer.
James was in his glory!! :)

Kyoto was really great. I could have used some more time there, too!

We were told she was a Maiko. Like you, I can't really see a Geisha talking to us like that & entertaining us. I did not see the Maiko at the hotel. It just never worked out time-wise. But one evening, I had dinner at the hotel, and one of the Maikos was going table to table, getting photos taken with folks. I figured she *had* to be a Maiko, because she had lipstick on her teeth, and I just couldn't imagine a Geisha doing that.

Sayhello
 
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Cousin Orville

Inventor of Air Cooling
Joined
Aug 27, 2000
I figured she *had* to be a Maiko, because she had lipstick on her teeth, and I just couldn't imagine a Geisha doing that.
Uh, no... Haha! Funny, Kate and I were watching a Youtube Disney Cruise Line Mom's Panel where she had lipstick on her teeth in one of the scenes. Editing fail! Bet the Mom was upset when she saw the finished vlog.
 
  • sayhello

    Have Camera, Will Travel
    Joined
    Oct 28, 2006
    Day 3 – Gateway to Peace

    I have to start with an apology, because I realized that I have totally forgotten the names of all of our Local Guides. ☹ I do not know why; I usually manage to remember most of them. So, I will be referring to our “Local Guides” with no names. Sorry! [I actually started writing this ages ago, but just today read @CaliforniaGirl09's summary, and had to agree that most of the local guides were good, but not great. China certainly had AMAZING local guides; Japan did not. As obviated by the fact that I forgot all their names...]

    This day was not a really early day, but it was a day where James & Tomomi stressed we *HAD* to leave on time. We had tickets for a very specific Shinkansen train departure, and if we missed that – well, we might be spending the day in Kyoto!

    I am SO glad that nothing and no-one delayed us, because this was such a spectacular day (once again!) As much as I loved Day 2 and the Bamboo Forest, I think this day in Hiroshima/Miyajima was the day that stayed with me the most, and was my favorite. (The day in Shirakawa-go is close up there, too). It was just an amazing mix of enjoyment and impactfulness. (I doubt that’s a real word, but it fits for me!)

    After another buffet breakfast at the hotel, we headed out to our motorcoach for the relatively short drive to Kyoto train station.

    On the way, we got instructions on the fact that we only had 90 seconds for the people to leave the train, and for us to get on the train once it pulled into the station, so that we had to be organized and pay attention. (Spoiler, we all did fine!) The Shinkansen are notorious for their punctuality.

    We got there a bit early (WAY better than late!) and had time to watch the trains come and go, and get some photos and videos of the “bullet” Shinkansen trains.

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    When it was time to board, half of us were stationed with James at one door, with the other half at the other door with Tomomi. The doors opened, a few folks got off, then we rushed on. That 90 seconds actually seemed like a lot more time than I’d thought it would, but that was probably because we were there, and prepared!

    Anyways, we made our way to our pre-assigned seats (they had sent our seat assignments to us on our phones the night before – Airdrop for iPhones, and Send Anywhere for Android). Then we settled in for the trip to Hiroshima. The Guides, of course, had brought snacks and water with them. It was a pretty smooth, seamless ride. WHY OH WHY do we not have these trains here????

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    When we made it to Hiroshima, we met up with our Local Guide, and got on our motorcoach for the drive across Hiroshima to the ferry to Miyajima Island. As we drove, we got some cultural and historic instruction from our Local Guide.

    We eventually got to the dock where we boarded our ferry to Miyajima. James & Tomomi told us that we were free to stand or sit anywhere on the ferry, but to meet at the front of the ferry when it docked in Miyajima. They also told us that we’d get views of the famed Torii Gate as we were crossing (but not to worry, that we’d get views of it on the way back, also.)

    I found a spot outside along the railing near the front, and reveled in the fresh breeze, and kept a lookout for the Torii Gate.

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    There it is!

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    After the crossing, we exited the ferry, and then stopped off to the side so that our Local Guide could give us some history, and tell us about some of the myths of the area (such as the profile seen in this mountainside. I can’t remember the story behind it, though). Can you see her profile? :)

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    After that, we walked over to a plaza, and were shown where our meeting place would be after we finished up on Miyajima. We were also warned about the deer that roamed the streets. They were fairly domesticated, but were known to steal food right out of your hand, and nibble whatever they could reach, so you needed to be careful.

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    We then started a pleasant walk along the streets of Miyajima, heading eventually over to the beach promontory where the first really good view of the Torii Gate was.

    This looked like a cool excursion. They paddled these folks out to and around the Torii Gate. We were told this was the same sort of boat we’d be riding in later on, but we wouldn’t get the hats. Darn! They looked cool! 😊

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    The Torii Gate was built as the entryway to the Itsukushima Shrine, which is itself a lovely place built out over the water. The boats would sail in through the Torii Gate and up to the Shrine. When the tide is in, the Torii Gate appears to float on the water. When the tide is out, it goes *way* out, and you can actually just walk out to the gate.

    Our local guide.

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    We got to the promontory on the beach, and waited a bit for a group ahead of us to get their photos, and then had a quick orgy of family photo taking and our first group photos taken with the Torii Gate behind us.

    The money shot. The Itsukushima Floating Torii Gate of Miyajima Island.

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    sayhello

    Have Camera, Will Travel
    Joined
    Oct 28, 2006
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    I know a lot of the future trips won’t be able to see this unobstructed for a while, so I feel so very fortunate that we were able to!

    After we got our photos all done, we continued walking along the boardwalk towards the Itsukushima Shrine, and James & Tomomi pointed out the streets where we would be able to shop and get lunch after we were done at the Shrine.

    I really enjoyed the tour of the Shrine. It was a large and beautiful spot, with some gorgeous vantage points of its own, including an impressive wall of painted sake barrels.

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    After we finished the tour, and had some additional photos taken with the Torii Gate in the background from the vantage of the Shrine, we were given the plan for the rest of the day. If folks wanted, there was an optional hike up to a small temple that Tomomi and our Local Guide were going to lead. Otherwise, we were free to return to the shopping/dining area of the Island for about 2 ½ hours. I decided to skip the hike. (Honestly, I wanted to find a bathroom at this point!) The people who did the hike seemed to really enjoy it.

    We had been told that one of the things Miyajima was known for was their oysters, and there were multiple shops selling them. I decided to stop at one that had a lot of people in line, because that’s usually a good indicator that the food is good. I chose correctly! I had two oysters steamed in the shell over hot coals, with butter & garlic. OMG, were they DELICIOUS!! Tender and flavorful. Yumm!!

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    I then walked around a bit, and came across Tomomi and our local guide. The local guide was eating a very delicious looking steamed bun. She gave me directions to the shop where she got it. I headed there, and ended up getting one stuffed with eel. It was also very yummy, and not at all fishy. I also had one of the maple-leaf cookies that are a Miyajima specialty, and some matcha ice cream. What a wonderful lunch!

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    CaliforniaGirl09

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Dec 4, 2009
    See, I'm so glad I leave all the detail to you!! You remember so much more than I do. What a fabulous day that was, and your pictures just bring back all the great memories. I forgot about the deer there. They weren't nearly as aggressive as the Nara ones, but you definitely had to leave them alone. We were able to get Kit Kats that had that maple cookie flavor in Hiroshima :)
     
  • sayhello

    Have Camera, Will Travel
    Joined
    Oct 28, 2006
    I thought this was kind of interesting!

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    I also did some shopping. I picked up some rice paddles that are a standard Miyajima souvenir (for my neighbors) and a few other small trinkets. The shopping was really great here. I kept crossing paths with others from the ABD, doing some shopping with them, buying a treat, etc. As it got to be close to the time to meet back up, I and another couple headed back to the meetup spot near the ferry terminal. When we got there, I didn’t see anyone else there yet, and there was still some time, so I decided to cross the street and hit one last shop, which was an artists’ collaborative. They had some beautiful carved wooden items. I ended up buying a small carved wooden plate with the Torii Gate etched into it in various bright colors. It was so beautiful; I was really glad I’d made that one last stop.

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    I then went back across the street, and met up with the group (although I swear they’d told us to meet by the statue where we were standing at the time, apparently we were meeting on the far side of the square. But I spotted James, thank goodness!) and once we had everyone, we headed back to take the ferry back over to Hiroshima. It was literally the voyage there in reverse, even to the views of the Torii Gate as we floated away.

    Our next stop was the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. This was optional, since it’s a pretty graphic depiction of what happened on the day the A-Bomb was dropped, and much of the aftermath. Those of us who wanted to headed into the museum. You start the museum with a map that transforms from pre-bomb Hiroshima to post bomb-drop Hiroshima. The devastation is just unbelievable. Then you move on to multiple exhibits.

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    I’m one of those people who likes to read every plaque and really absorb what I'm seeing, so I’m sure there’s a lot of the museum I didn’t get to. What I did see was the exhibits where they had photos of the people who were burned by the bomb, the exhibit of artwork done by “survivors” of the bomb, and lastly an exhibit of the belongings of the children who were killed or died soon after from the radiation. The exhibit of the photos of the people who survived but were burned by the radiation of the bomb was seriously sobering. I’ve read about this, but seeing actual photos was WAY different. WAY different. And the artwork some of them did of the immediate aftermath of the bomb drop was very moving. But the biggest impact to me was the exhibit of the children’s belongings and clothes. Apparently, it was a part of their schooling back then that children would take part of their days to do actual work, and many children were outside when the bomb hit, because they were doing repair work on some school buildings. Their families recovered things like their pencil boxes and the outfits they were wearing, and kept them as mementos for years. They donated them to the museum.

    And here I have to mention one of the things that, to me, was the most amazing and enlightening things from this incredible day. There was no blaming. The people of Hiroshima did not blame us or talk about what “you did to us” or anything like that. They said “This is what happened; this is how we’ve recovered and this is how we are going to make sure it never happens again.” I found that attitude amazing. I’m not so sure we’d respond in that way.

    Once we’d spent the time given in the museum, we met outside to head over to the Peace Park. The Peace Park is dedicated to the victims of the bomb drop. There is a beautiful arch that frames the Hiroshima A-Bomb dome at the far end of the park. It has plaques in multiple languages that reaffirms their devotion to making sure that the kind of war that led to this bomb being dropped never happens again. It was very moving.

    A photo of the "Hiroshima Dome" before the bomb, from the museum.

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    The remains of the Hiroshima Dome, as seen from the memorial.

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    We then headed across the park, and stopped at the statue of a young girl, Sadako, who was sick with leukemia from the radiation, who had a goal of folding 1000 paper cranes in order to get a wish. Folding paper cranes and leaving them to be used in the display of thousands of cranes they have by the statue has become the thing to do when you visit the Peace Park. Apparently, they get millions of cranes sent to them a year, and some are used in the displays, and the rest are recycled for various uses around the park.

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    After the statue of Sadako, we walked past the Hiroshima A-bomb dome. This building was very near to ground zero, and yet was surprisingly not completely flattened like virtually everything else around it. A large part of the building still stands, and you can definitely see the direction that the devastation came from. The metal framework of the beautiful glass dome that used to top the building survived, and is an eerie testament to what happened.

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    After the Dome, we headed to a tall nearby building that has an observation deck on top (the Orizuru Tower. Orizuru means crane).

    A random sort of photo on the elevator to the top of the Orizuru Tower.

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    sayhello

    Have Camera, Will Travel
    Joined
    Oct 28, 2006
    The first thing we were supposed to do there was fold paper cranes and drop them into a multi-storied chute where the cranes are collected and used for whatever project they’re using them for. But when we got there, we found out that, unexpectedly, that area was being used by some corporation for a social function. Our Adventure Guides had not been informed of this. We were quickly given pre-folded cranes, herded over to the glassed-in area with the chute, dropped these cranes, and then sent out to go up to the observation deck.

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    We had a few minutes mostly by ourselves to wander the observation deck and look out over the Peace Park and the Dome and the rest of the amazing city of Hiroshima that had amazingly recovered and spectaculrly grown up all around the area, as if it had never been decimated. It was an amazing tribute to the resiliency of the people of Hiroshima.

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    Eventually, the business people, carrying drinks, came out & started socializing and getting their photos taken by professional photographers, etc. We were taken over to one area by our Guides to fold our own cranes, and just did that and waited for the business folks to eventually head in for their meal or whatever, and then we got group photos looking out over the beautiful city.

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    After we were done at the Orizuru tower, we walked along the river and across a bridge. I believe that bridge was actually the target for the bomb.

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    We eventually met up with our motorcoach. From there, we headed to the restaurant where we were to have a local favorite – Okonomiyaki, which means “whatever you like, grilled”. There are regional variations on Okonomiyaki, but it’s basically a large pancake-sort of dish made of crepes, noodles, eggs, cabbage and other vegetables, grilled & covered in sauce. It was quite delicious!!

    The restaurant was really interesting. It was a very large area that had a series of large “booths”. Each booth was a small kitchen with a U-shaped grill and seating counter surrounding it. You sit at stools around the counter (I think each held like 16 people) and they put together the Okonomiyaki right in front of you, and, when they’re done, shove them over to a spot on the grill right in front of you. You chop it into pieces, put it on your plate, and devour it. It’s really, really good!! James was blissful. He *loves* Okonomiyaki (he had it a lot during his childhood in Japan).

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    After we finished our delicious dinners, we headed off, back to the station to catch the Shinkansen train back to Kyoto. It had been an amazing day. By the time we got back to Kyoto, I think everyone was pretty much done in, and headed to our rooms to fall into our beds. Fortunately, we did not have to get up early the next morning.

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    Up next: Day 4 – Bento Momento
     
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    sayhello

    Have Camera, Will Travel
    Joined
    Oct 28, 2006
    See, I'm so glad I leave all the detail to you!! You remember so much more than I do. What a fabulous day that was, and your pictures just bring back all the great memories. I forgot about the deer there. They weren't nearly as aggressive as the Nara ones, but you definitely had to leave them alone. We were able to get Kit Kats that had that maple cookie flavor in Hiroshima :)
    It really was a fabulous day! Happy to boost your memories! :) Yes, these deer definitely weren't as aggressive, but you still had to watch out for them.

    I did not see the maple cookie Kit Kats! But I did manage to get a couple of the maple cookies! They were so yummy! Especially the warm, fresh-baked ones!!

    Sayhello

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    CaliforniaGirl09

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Dec 4, 2009
    It really was a fabulous day! Happy to boost your memories! :) Yes, these deer definitely weren't as aggressive, but you still had to watch out for them.

    I did not see the maple cookie Kit Kats! But I did manage to get a couple of the maple cookies! They were so yummy! Especially the warm, fresh-baked ones!!

    Sayhello
    Aw, such a cute pic! The maple cookie kit kats were only in a couple of the stores. We grew pretty adept at figuring out what kind of store might have them.
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    I think they were only sold in Hiroshima. There were a few "local only" kit kats.

    I totally agree with you about your observations of the museum. I had the same thoughts as did some of the other people on our tour. The museum was really crowded when we went, which made reading the boards really difficult. That's what i love to do, too. But I agree the kid stuff was so powerful.

    Love all the pics, too.
     
  • sayhello

    Have Camera, Will Travel
    Joined
    Oct 28, 2006
    Aw, such a cute pic! The maple cookie kit kats were only in a couple of the stores. We grew pretty adept at figuring out what kind of store might have them.
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    I think they were only sold in Hiroshima. There were a few "local only" kit kats.

    I totally agree with you about your observations of the museum. I had the same thoughts as did some of the other people on our tour. The museum was really crowded when we went, which made reading the boards really difficult. That's what i love to do, too. But I agree the kid stuff was so powerful.

    Love all the pics, too.
    Fortunately, it was not *that* crowded at the museum when we went (although I hit quite the crowd trying to exit without flowing to the end of the exhibit!)

    I love how the Kit Kat has the maple leaf stamped on it!

    So glad you're enjoying my pics! :D

    Sayhello
     

    tgeorge

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Jul 19, 2013
    And I thought I was the only one who loves to read/ hear about other people’s travel. I’ve actually had someone tell me they thought I was more excited about their upcoming trip than they were 😂 I just love hearing about all sorts of travel. It makes me happy to see so many people enjoying themselves and making memories.
     

    sayhello

    Have Camera, Will Travel
    Joined
    Oct 28, 2006
    Day 4 – Bento Momento

    Today was not quite as early a morning. I woke up and went to breakfast, and ended up being seated in the outside courtyard, which was quite lovely. The weather was beautiful.

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    Today we did more touring around Kyoto. Our first stop was at the Honpo-Ji Temple for a Taiko Drumming lesson! We walked through the grounds of the Temple, and into an area where several Taiko drums stood waiting for us. I’ve seen photos of other departures doing the Taiko drumming, and it looks like we were in a different space than the other photos I’ve seen. Ours was a bit smaller and not quite as open as what I’ve seen. But it was still a great space that really echoed with the sound of our drums. It was LOUD, but fun!

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    Our instructor was a very lively guy who was an excellent teacher. First, he demonstrated some drum songs, and then explained to us how the different “notes” were represented by various combinations of things like chanting “Tsu-Doi, Tsu-Doi, Tsu-Doi, DUM DUM!” or “Ha-KOI, Ha-KOI, Ha-KOI” or things like that. It actually worked really well to teach us which rhythms to put together, and in what order. After he taught us a fairly long combination, we split up into guys and gals and performed with him. I really enjoyed this lesson! It’s a lot harder than it looks, but a lot of fun!

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    After we finished our lesson, we headed out to the studio where we were set to learn how to make a Bento Box lunch. The studio, called Cooking Sun, was in what seemed to be a mostly residential area, so we had to walk a bit to get there. But it was still a lovely day, and the walk was interesting.

    Once we got to the studio, we found our names on papers placed on the little induction hot plates that we were going to be using/sharing to cook parts of our lunches. After we all found our seats, the ladies who worked there started teaching us how to prepare a traditional Bento Box lunch. I have to admit that, based on the photos on the ABD website, I thought we’d be using the fancy lacquered boxes that I generally thought of as Bento Boxes. But they pulled ours out, and they were these adorable Tupperware-like Bento boxes that had removable dividers and a built-in spot under the lid for the tiny chopsticks that came with it. At first it looked kind of small to hold an entire lunch, but it actually held way more than it looked like it would!

    The first thing we learned to make was an individual omelet-like egg roll. A special small, rectangular pan is used to make these eggs.

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    They make it look so easy. I have to admit, my first attempt was a disaster. It was so bad, they took a little bamboo rolling pad used to make sushi, and used it to try and reform my eggs into something resembling a roll! Fortunately, the second one I did came out much better. We also had some cooked chicken and broccoli. Then we made some rice balls in a Mickey head mold, and decorated those (although I tried to make mine with as little rice as possible, as I usually don’t eat much rice). All in all, I think my Bento Box lunch came out pretty good! 😊

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    Once everyone had their Bento Box lunches made, and James & Tomomi got photos of everyone with their boxes, we ate them for lunch. It was a really good lunch. The instructors also showed us how to make rice balls, and some folks ate those, too. After we ate, we washed out our Bento Boxes, and they became a souvenir. Pretty cool!

    After that, we headed back to our motorcoach, and headed off to where we were to catch our Hozugawa River Boat Ride. There was a gift shop/convenience store there. We were there a bit early it seems, so we hit the restrooms, looked around the gift shop and the Guides took photos of some of us in the pointy straw hats they had in the gift shop (the same kind that the folks on the boats on Miyajima were wearing). After a while, our long boats were ready for us, so we headed out to board them. The group was split up into 2 groups, one with James and one with Tomomi, to fit the size of the boats. I was in the boat with Tomomi.

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    It was not the simplest thing stepping down into these long, narrow boats, but the men working the boats were very helpful, and got us all in and settled. There were flotation belts on each seat that we were required to put on. Once we were all in and ready, they pushed off, and we started to float down the river.

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    At first, we just floated lazily down the river, with the 3 men switching off who steered and who was at the oar. The person who steered did so with a long pole at the front of the longboat, pushing off rocks or the riverbank. The riverbanks were very lush and green. We spotted several water birds, and there was a section with a lot of turtles sitting on rocks.

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    Eventually we got to an area where the river was running much faster, and they would steer us into these areas so that we’d get a bit of a thrill without any danger besides the danger of possibly getting splashed a bit. The weather was still lovely, and the water splashed just enough to be fun. Tomomi acted as our translator, as the men running the boat did not seem to speak much English. They were constantly cracking jokes through Tomomi’s translation, and providing us with tidbits of information about the area and this mode of transportation which had been used to navigate this river for ages.

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    sayhello

    Have Camera, Will Travel
    Joined
    Oct 28, 2006
    The men running our boats had been doing this for decades. I think one of them had been doing it for over 40 years. They were not youngsters, but they appeared to be in great physical condition.

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    We floated past some areas where you could see some of the trees and foliage had that had been flattened by the typhoon they’d had in that area last year.

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    We also passed a train station for a small train that runs through the area.

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    The tarps that apparently they put up if it’s too hot or raining or whatever were rolled along the sides of the boats, so if they warned us we might get wet, we could pull the tarp up a bit to protect us.

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    It was a very fun, interesting, and relaxing ride (except for the few spots where the drivers deliberately ran us through some very soft rapids). I really enjoyed myself. I’d say, hit the bathroom before you go, and bring along some water. Otherwise, just sit back and enjoy yourself!

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    Eventually, we started heading back into “civilization”. We passed some covered boats with other tourists heading in the opposite direction, we then glided up to a doc, and clambered out of our boats. It turned out that we were once again in the Arashiyama district of Kyoto. The river really did tie the parts of Kyoto together.

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