Door 5 – Fire Department

Another letter from Japan. The Tokyo Fire Department invited me for the Dezome Shiki. This this an annual fire figther parade that takes place all over Japan. Tokyo is one of the biggest. It provides a parade, some traditional acrobatic shows and a big excercise, including fire figthing, Hay Mat and rescue from a desaster area.

Dezome-shiki (Kanazawa)

The fire departments shows that they are prepared for every possible desaster: earthquake, taifun, tsunami, vulcano. The show there knowledge, their training and the special equipment. The have robots for fire fighting or rescue people. I hope I can take some good pictures. I you want to know what I am talking about, check youtube. Here a small overview. Looks like I have to bring a video camera.

I hope I get a good seat. At least I am on the VIP list. No joke. I have to report to the reception desk to be escorted to my seat: “Please let us know your address so we can put you on the list of New Year’s Fire Review visitors!”

Here is an other video from the Dezome Shiki, the parade o the fire trucks. This equiment really is an eyecatcher. Check out the lights of the truck at 13:00 or the big fan at 10:50.

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Door 4 – JRP

Another new thing on this tour is the use of trains and busses other than Japan Rail. Koyasan and Asuka are accessable by Kintestsu. The bus to Shirakawa is operated by Niho. Eihei-ji and Inuyama and Amanohashidate are also not connected by JR. Kusatsu Onsen not to mention.

Therefore there is the valid question: Do I need a JRP or what kind of JRP is suitable.  There are eight different types I could use. The “Seishun 18” for example. Looks like I lost the overview.

nicht-JR-Linien in Kansai
nicht-JR-Linien in Kansai

And then there is all this tiny printed exceptions. The Seishun 18 is only valid on Locals and Rapid Trains but Kanazawa is only connected by Limited Express. The JRP Kansai is outside of the Kansai Pass area. And there is a gap between the Kansai and the Kanto area with Kiso valley right inside it. The bus to Kusatsu is not included in the Kanto bus but in the overall JRP. On the other side the Tobu-Line is part of the Kanto pass.

This goes on and on. I try to write it down. Then I tried a big table and a map. At the end I am down to use Excel. How low can I sink? I try to find a good combination of the several different tickets that are available. Just to save some bucks.


I swap day trips to optimize the usage of the tickets. Putting expensive routes into the time frame of a ticket and pay the cheap trips. But there are still some variables like Kobe and Wakamatsu, Inuyama and Matsumoto. A hotel in Kusatsu or in Narita. All this can have a big influence on the overall price tag.

The first result is shocking: If I buy single tickets and skip the one or other Limited Express or seat reservation, I can save 1200 yen. Single tickets can be cheaper than the JRP. This is basically because I am not using the shinkansen between the hotels. To put it the other way: for $16 I can buy the benefits on speed, seats and comfort.

This is surprising. On the last trip the JRP saved me $65. This time there are many non-JR-routes involved. And this trip is really compact: Kanto, Chubu and Kansai. The first trip in 2004 covered alle reagions of Honshu and a lot of shinkansen rides. Then I saved hundred of dollars.

And another surprising finding: If I sum up all the bus and train fares, they have the same price than the flight ticket: $800. This also means, I spend more than $1500 without a hotel, food or entrance fees; only transportation. Japan is expensive. If I add 7000 yen for a night in a hotel this will add $2000 to the tab. Still no food, entrance fees and fun included but $3500 down the drain.

That’s it for today. The big JRP plan is fixed. Now I have to get rid of the variables in my hotel plan; starting with the onsen problem.

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Door 2 – Flight Tickets

For hours, I started yesterday to be honest, I compare flight tables, prices and connections. Oosaka or Tokyo? Or maybe Nagoya? A open jaw flight? Haneda? There are many possibilities. I write tables and lists. 7 possible starting dates times 7 possible return dates times 4 airports square. I have to reduce the data set. Haneda and Nagoya do not offer any benefit. I am able to reduce the list to a open jaw flight with arrival at KIX and return over NRT.

Now I have to reduce the possible dates. I am allowed to fly for three weeks only. Otherwise the employment center is stopping the payment. Less is not good either. After Dec.20 the prices go up by a factor of 3. And aon Jan.6 is the fire figther parade I want to watch. This boundaries reduce the possibilities from a 20×20 table to a 3×3 table: Arrival between Dec.17 and Dec.19, Departure between Jan.08 and Jan.10. The remaining options are:

  • Finnair via Helsinki with short flight times and surprisingly cheap (620€)
  • KLM/AirFrance with a departure in NRT late in the evening (680€)
  • KLM via Amsterdam (als0 680€)

The Air France-flights starts at 9:55 pm and KLM arrives early in the morning. I could use both days to visit places; means: two additional days.

Now the thinking starts. AF is expensive but I will have an additional day at the end. And the higher price is cheaper than a additional hotel. But. But. The flights goes to Charles de Gaulle (CDG). The most terrible airport on this planet. Even worse than Heathrow. And AF is also not known for keeping their schedule and service. And … The flight takes 13 hours. Are they flying in economy mode? Finnair only needs 10.5 hours. This is a strong argument.

Finnair it is. But, I overead the deadline for the Finnair offer. When I started the booking process it is 12:10am and the offer ended at midnight. It is not available anymore. I AM A IDIOT. Without my thinking, comparing and considering everything would be fine. Now I am back at zero. Now it is: An additional day but CDG or without problems via AMS?

13 hours in an AF plane and chnaging the terminal at CDG. I collect more data. CDG really is a nuisance. Either I leave the security zone including customs clearance and reenter it or I wait 2 hours for the first airport bus to take me to the other terminal. And the airport lounge is closed too. All this for the additional day?

I start the booking process via the KLM home page. There I can choose the seat. There is no available aisle or at the window. That’s it. A short brake and visit at the Xmas market later I book the KLM flight. Payed by Amex Platinum. The priority will be used too for a relaxing stop in the lounge.


  • 05:50 – 07:15 .. Traveliner to Hamburg
  • 07:15 – 09:55 .. check-in and airport lounge for breakfast
  • 09:55 – 11:10 .. KL1778 from HAM to AMS
  • 11:10 – 14:30 .. 3:20h waiting in the lounge T3 at Schiphol
  • 14:30 – 09:40 (local time) .. KL0867 from AMS to KIX
  • 10:00 .. leaving custom clearance –> JAPAN !!!


  • (07:30 .. Checkout if I stay in Tokyo)
    10:00 .. Checkout if I stay in Narita for the last night.
  • 10:30 -11:55 .. check-in and airport lounge for breakfast
  • 11:55 – 15:30 (local time) .. KL0862 from NRT to AMS (11:35)
  • 15:30 – 16:45 .. waiting in Schiphol; maybe to short for the lounge
  • 16:45 -17:50 .. KL1783 from AMS to HAM
  • 18:20 .. leaving customs clearance .. back in Germany
  • 19:30 – 20:55 .. Traveliner back to Luebeck

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Door 1 – The OK

Today I received the ok from the employment office. I can go on a 3 week holiday over christmas and new year. I already listed many ideas and selected the important holidays. During the last days I created a list with possible places I can visit. I read the complete Lonely Planet (more or less; I started this in June). Here the first key points for this trip:

  • Kanazawa .. one of the three perfect Japanese Garden;
  • Amanohashidate .. one the three famous sceneries; after that I visited them all
  • Kyoto .. to visit the temples I forgot in 2004.
  • Onsen with snow
  • 31.12. New Years Eve in a temple (maybe ringing the bell)

The list for Tokyo is also done:

  • Tokyo Jissha
  • the new Sky Tree (634m, viewing platform at 450m)
  • Jan.01 .. new year visit of temples and shrines
  • Jan.02 .. visit of the inner emperor palace and new year greetings of the Tenno
  • Jan.06 .. the fire fighter parade (dezome shiki)
  • the missing metropolitain garden
  • Sengaku-ji; the third well known temple; with the graves of the 47 ronin
  • Shopping

btw … The name of this blog entry (door 1) is derived from the tradition of the christmas calendar. In the december you open a door every day until christmas eve. I counted. The flights starts in 24 days. From now on I will open a door every day and provide you with more information about this 5th journey to Japan.

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Ich will fly in 2012 !!!

I just got the ok for my holiday in Japan. Now I only have 4 weeks to plan and book everything. Just in time, like always. Here the key points of the plan:

  • start on December 18. oder 19. to Tokyo or Oosaka (!)
  • return on January 9. or 10. Januar via Tokyo
  • in Tokyo: New Years Eve, visit of the Emperors palace on January 2nd, Dezome Shiki on January 6th (I am on the guest list)
  • also in Tokyo: visit of the Sky Tree, Yamanote Tour, visit of the Tokyo Jissha, and the Metrolitain Gardens still missing on my list.
  • Kanazawa and (mazbe) Amanohashidate

New: Maybe I will not start in Tokyo but be there  in the middle for a brief stop. After New Year I plan to visit some onsen. This list is only the start …

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Zwischenbericht / What’s new

News about this blog

DEZ: Ich trenne Deutsch und Englisch in den Reiseberichten.
Der Abstand der Reise betraegt exakt 1 Jahr.
Masterarbeit komplett es geht weiter
Ich schreibe meine Masterarbeit. Das hat Priorität.
Es wird sich bis Oktober nur wenig ändern und meine Urlaubskasse verdampfen.

Ideas for 2014(?)

For now my plan is “2004 reloaded”, but I will implement one or two changes. I want to redo the first journey and not the mistakes. The following things are on my ToDo-list:

  • Yamanote-roundtrip an taking pictures of every station
  • Visit of Kyu Furukawa Garden in Kita-ku, close to Rikugien
  • Visit of Mukojima Hyakkaen Garden in Sumida-ku
  • Sky Tree at daylight

Im September habe ich etwas Zeit, dann wird es Kartenmaterial unter geben der Rubrik “Reiseführer” geben. Parallel, werden die Texte dort ins Englische übersetzt. Keine Angst, der deutsche Text bleibt erhalten.

In September I’ll some time to upload maps from different places. Maps I collected during my travel. You will find them in section “Reiseführer”. I will also translate all the German text in this section to English.


MAR: completed the reports of “Reise 2012”
I am testing a new gallery option in “Reise 2012”
Ich bin zurueck

— 2013 —
DEZ: Reise 5  beginnt wieder mit live-Blog
Der Text für 2004 geht online
Erste Abschnitte im Reiseführer und englische Texte
alle Bilder von 2006 sind online
Der Text für den Reiseblog 2006 ist online

— 2012 —
OKT: Der Reiseblog 2008 ist online
JUL: Die ersten Teile vom Reiseführer sind online
JUN: Alle 2010er Bilder sind sichtbar; es gibt Artikeltitelbilder

— 2011 —
NOV: Bilder ueberarbeitet
SEP: Der erste Blog ist komplett
AUG: Der Blog startet