Japan: From Kyoto to Tokyo, Mount Fuji, Kyushu Island, Korea

Japan: From Kyoto to Tokyo, Mount Fuji, Kyushu Island, Korea

From Kyoto

Thanks to its perch in the relatively high latitudes, northeast Asia is the only part of the region that enjoys four distinct seasons-a climatic oddity that makes it curiously familiar for Westerners traveling in Japan, Korea, and parts of northern China. Cherry-blossom time is perhaps the best season to visit Japan (though beware of the crowds), and fall the best for Korea (where the colors easily rival those of New England). In China’s north and Russia’s far east, high summer or midwinter are best-warm sunlit evenings in July or magnificent snowy vistas in December.

Forget Tokyo as a base: Its monstrous international airport, Narita, happens to be so inconveniently sited-at the very least, two and a half hours from the average Tokyo hotel room-that it is actually the very last place to choose. By contrast, Osaka’s handsome new airport proves a very good jumping-off point and is well connected to its neighbor cities, and not least to the exquisite old Japanese capital of Kyoto-which means that you can spend a meditative morning communing with the stones in Ryoan-ji Temple or strolling the Philosopher’s Walk from Eikan-do to Ginkaku-ji before setting out, via what is called the new Kansai airport, on your adventure.

There ate–two further practical advantages to Osaka. First, flights from the Kansai field to Tokyo land not at the far away Narita but at the much handier Haneda Airport, only minutes from Tokyo’s city center; and second, Osaka-where there is a brand-new Imperial Hotel that is well worth seeing-is nearer to the major centers of South Korea, essential destinations for anyone wanting to have the full picture of what northeast Asia is all about.

To Tokyo

This, of course, has to be the prime destination, but it is invidious to offer specific sites of pilgrimage-the Imperial Palace, the Ginza, the 5 A.M. auctions at the Tsukiji fish market. Better to suggest things to do, such as Kabuki theater (marathan sessions are held at the Kabuki-za Theater in Ginza), or No drama (at the nearby Ginza No-Gakudo), or simply the amazing nightlife in such areas as Shinjuku or Roppongi. Whereas in smaller Japanese cities and towns it’s a good idea to have the (incredibly expensive) experience of staying in a local inn, a ryokan, in Tokyo you are better advised to stay at a Western-style hotel, of which the Seiyo Ginza and the Imperial remain among the best.

To Mount Fuji

Mount Fuji and the nearby hot spring region of Hakone are well within the two-hour range for train journeys from Kyoto. You climb the mountain (in Japan they say the wise man climbs it but only the fool climbs it twice), taking about four hours up, two down; warm clothing is essential if you climb at night-as you should, in order to witness goraiko, the sunrise, from the summit.In Hakone, where you can stay at astonishingly costly hotels like the Fujiya, one ofthe oldest Western-style hotels in the country, the attractions are legion-lakes, mountains, mud baths, ancient forests, and, if you’re lucky, morning views of Fuji-san looming over all.

To Kyushu Island

Here is where you come to know Japan best of all, however, by experiencing her traditions and her curiosities rather than by seeing her cities and her sights. But doing this demands same valor on the part of the casual visitor-nowhere more so than in the sampling of the onsen, the open-air bath. Try Beppu, where you can either bathe in a variety of types and temperatures of water or be buried up to the neck in hat sand on a volcanic beach. In Yufu-in, inland and near-by, the scene is more genteel and more beautifully and classically Japanese, and there are plenty of smaIl hotels with adjoining baths.

Also on Kyushu is the reborn town of Nagasaki-famous for its role as the first open city in pre-Meiji Japan and as the second city to be devastated by the American nuclear attacks in 1945. Hiroshima, two hours by train southwest of Osaka and still on the main island of Honshu, is equally well worth visiting.The two other main islands of Japan-the small and temple-filled Shikoku and the large and largely agricultural Hokkaido-are less frequently visited. For those with time (six weeks if on foot, a day if by bus), there is a memorable pilgrimage route that takes in all 88 temple site s on Shikoku; and for those with wintertime energy, the skiing around Sapporo is excellent. The Shikotsuko Hokkai Hotel here offers one of the few affordable Japanese ryokan experiences in the country.

To Korea

From Osaka Airport, it is quick and easy to reach Seoul, Pusan, and, with a little more effort, the North Korean capital of Pyongyang. While the sight of the Cold War, still very much alive and well at the armistice village of Panmunjom, may enthrall some, the little-known countryside of South Korea remains spectacularly beautiful: The unforgettable temple of Haein-sa near the city of Taegu is among the most notable places.Within locked rooms and guarded by monks lies one of the original Buddhist woodenblock libraries, the Tripitaka Koreana, carved in the thirteenth century; and the temple itself sits in a dreamlike panorama of misty mountains of unparalleled beauty-the perfect spiritual link to the fragile loveliness of the Kyoto temples.

Kamigamo Shrine in Snow, Kyoto, Japan

Kamigamo Shrine in Snow, Kyoto, Japan

Kamigamo Shrine is an important Shinto sanctuary on the banks of the Kamo River in north Kyoto, first founded in 678. Its formal name is the Kamo-wakeikazuchi Shrine Kamo-wakeikazuchi jinja.

It is one of the oldest Shinto shrines in Japan and is one of the seventeen Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto which have been designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. The term Kamo-jinja in Japanese is a general reference to Shimogamo Shrine and Kamigamo Shrine, the traditionally linked Kamo shrines of Kyoto. The Kamo-jinja serve the function of protecting Kyoto from malign influences.

The jinja name identifies the Kamo family of kami or deities who are venerated. The name also refers to the ambit of shrine’s nearby woods, which are vestiges of the primeval forest of Tadasu no Mori. In addition, the shrine name references the area’s early inhabitants, the Kamo clan, many of whom continue to live near the shrine their ancestors traditionally served. Kamogamo Shrine is dedicated to the veneration of Kamo Wake-ikazuchi, the kami of thunder.

Important Facts for Travelers to Japan

Important Facts for Travelers to Japan

Japan’s emperor provdes symbolically over a constitutional government. Language is Japanese. English is spoken by many people in the tourist industry but a phrasebook is an excellent investment (one of the best is Say it in japanese, edited by Dover Publications, New York). ıt is best to have a hotel clerk or someone write out names and addresses in japanese characters, since many people cannot read the Romanized transcriptions.

Buddhism and Shintoism are the major faiths. There are also churches of all Christian denominations.

Flying time to Tokyo from Los Angeles is 13 hours, San Francisco 10 hours, New York 15 hours, Hong Kong 4 hours and Guam 3 hours. US citizens entering Japan require a valid passport and visa. Other nationals should inquire whether a visa is necessary. For stays of more than two months apply for an Alien Registration Certificate. Return tickets are demamnded only for transit stays 72 hours or less. A smallpox vaccination certificate is required.

There are no restrictions as to how many yen a visitor may bring into country. Duty-free allowance: three bottles of spirits, 400 cigarettes, or 100 cigars, or 500 grams of tobacco; two ounces of perfume; two watches. If you have friends in Japan, bear in mind that Scotch and Cognac are extremely expensive and take advantage of the allowance to bring some welcome gifts.

Yokohama have risen from own ashes

Yokohama have risen from own ashes

One of the cities which have risen from their own ashes, and one which today is a world-famous port-city, is Yokohama, the main entrance to Japan. Yokohama is so near to Tokyo (only 20 miles) that most visitors landing there hasten on to the capital. Such persons will see nothing of Yokohama. They merely pass, through decorous sort of roads flanked on either side by drab low-lying, godown-like houses, relieved here and there by towering buildings which may be Government offices, schools or clubs, on to the Yokohama or Sakuragichō station.

To them Yokohama is merely a geographical point from which ships are always sailing. You must spend at least a day or two, making your headquarters, say, at the hotel New Grand, one of Yokohama’s social centers, and by wandering about its characteristic places and ruminating upon its short but dramatic history. For this new city of Yokohama is full of interest, fun and amusement.