Category Archives: Reise 5 .. JAHRESWECHSEL

Diese Reise ist aus der Not geboren, den 2-Jahre-Rhythmus einzuhalten. Auf der anderen Seite gibt mir dieser Wintertermin die Gelegenheit, Neujahr in Japan zu feiern.

The hotels of 2012 (chronological) – part 2

Ryokan Hanaya / 波 奈 屋 旅 館
1811 Tsumago-juku, Nagiso, Kiso-gun, Nagano, 399-5308 Japan / P: + / F: +

Because of its location this ryokan was not my first choice. Originally I wanted to stay in Magome but everything was booked. So I decided for Tsumago. Also here the location outside of the town was not perfect. But, there was this feeling, that it still is a good idea. And I was not wrong.

The building is a little bit confusing. It looks like it was expanded twice. My room was in the new appendix. The tatami was standard size, but without shower and toilet. They were right next to my room. The onsen was downstairs. The personal was kind and helpful, like always in Japan. But I still have to thank the owner of the ryokan for the help on my arrival. He allowed me to arrive far after curfew and he also ordered a taxi to pick me up.

Surrounding: The Hanaya is located outside of Tsumago at the Nakasendo. Around the ryokan there is nothing to see. A walk downhill to Tsumago takes 15 minutes. But the location is still ok if you want to visit Tsumago and Magome. Because is lies at the Nakesendo you can pick up some proviant before you follow the Nakasendo.

Getting There: A bus is going from the nearest train station to Tsumago. Some busses go further to Magome and stop close to the ryokan. I suggest to take a taxi. Don’t walk. The way is uphill and long. If covered with snow and ice, it is nearly impossible to walk it with heavy luggage. If you still want to try it: You have to pass the old city center and walk further until you leave the town are reach at street 256. Turn left. After a little bit more than a quarter mile the street 7 is on the right. Follow the street until you cross the bridge. The Hanaya is the first building on the right side.

Hotel Edoya (Tokyo) / ホ テ ル 江 戸 屋:
3-20-3 Yushima, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo, 113-0034 Japan / P: +81.3.3833.8751 / F: +81.3.3833.8759

I believe it is official now: The Edoya is my second home. Like on every journey before I stayes there twice. And I lived in room 307. For a description of the hotel ust refer to my Journey 2010. This time a reognized a brand new air condition in my room. Many thanks to the personal of the hotel. At every ourney the provided me with good information and help that then became a highlight of my holiday.

  • 2004: Shrine plates of Yushima Tenmangu / help during the cash money crisis
  • 2008: Nezu Shrine during Azaleen blossom / my kendo armor
  • 2010: dance festival Koenji-Awa-Odori
  • 2012: New Year at Kane-ji

My advise to all tourist: Book a small ryokan and ask the personal for things to do. Ask them for a good restaturant or Izakaya. The answer never match the suggestions from the travel guide but are always good. The “locals” know where to go.

Uematsuya / 上 松 屋 旅 館
1628 Bessho Onsen, Ueda, Nagano, 386-1431 Japan / P: + / F: +

It is a typical ryokan onsen of the mid-price section. It is a modern concrete-building that provide heated hallways. Breakfast and dinner are served in a big tatami room. I was lucky to be there after new year: breakfast was a little bit bigger than usual. My room was a tatami style room in 6F. The onsen is located in 4F and down the hallway. Like always the inside onsen was a little bit to hot for me but the rotenburo was perfect.

Surrounding: The surrounding. Arriving at the train station the ryokan is on the other side of the village. But Bessho onsen is not that big. There many public onsen available, and also three temples. Discovering Bessho takes 2 hours, the rest of the time is for onsen.

Getting there: The train to Bessho onsen is not Japan rail, therefore the JRP is not valid. From the station you just have to follow the main road thru the village. It is a 800m walk slightly uphill. You pass a temple on the left. Behind the temple you see a small public onsen. The Uematsuya is now on the right side ahead of you. Look for the Kanji.

Kiyoshigekan / 清 重 館 旅 館
280-4 Kusatsu-machi, Agatsuma, Gunma, 377-1711 Japan / P: + / F: +

Kiyoshigekan is a typical Onsen Ryokan. Breakfast and Dinner are served in a big room. You can sit on tatami or at a table. My room was a tatami room with private toilet but without a bath room; you use the onsen area anyway. There is a public onsen with rotenburo and also a private onsen and another one with rotenburo. After 8pm there is also the option to convert the public onsen into private onsen. The inside onsen was to hot for me. The rotenburo was ok thanks to the 17°F air temperature.

Surrounding: The ryokan is located at the rim of the city. You walk 10-15 minutes to the city center, where all the attraction are. In winter time, on icy pavements, not easy. The street is very quit the buildings next to the ryokan are private houses. Therefore the ryokan is quiet and relaxing.

Getting There: The bus terminal of Kusatsu is at a main road. Follow that road in east direction until you arrive highgway 292. Turn left. It is a quarter mile walk downhill. You arrive a super market on the left. A few meter behind the market there is a small street on the right side going uphill. There is also a small sign with the name of the Ryokan. Follow that small street. At the you go left and turn left on the second street. In total it is a walk of a little bit more than a half mile.

Richmond Hotel Narita / リ ッ チ モ ン ド ホ テ ル 成 田
970 Hanasaki-cho, Narita, Chiba, 286-0033 Japan
P: +81.476.24.6660 / F: +81.476.24.6661

The last stop of this journey was a business hotel close to the airport. The are usually cheaper than a ryokan. I decided for the Richmond that is 8 min away from Narita train station.

The Richmond is a business hotel. You get a western-style room, breakfast bueffet and a small bar at the evenign. Everything in the hotel is functional: The breakfast room is the bar. The room is small /compact with a bath-room-cubicle. The design is minimal and modern. You can check-in with your credit card, either at the reception desk or a terminal next to it. Check-out only requires to give back the key card.

Surrounding: Narita is compact. There a nice shopping street from the train stations down to be temple. The hotel itself is not at this street, but I mentioned that the train station is only 8 min away (with luggage, 5 without).

Getting there: Follow the street, that is parallel to the train tracks, downhill. Change to the other side of the traintracks and you see Hotel at the next street cross.

Ryokans in winter time:

The hall ways are not heated. There it is always chilly outside of your room. But single glas windows and no heating covering the hallways is normal for Japan. Something you have to know before you start to plan. The same goes for th bath room. Outside the tub it can be cold. If you don’t like it, you need to book a high price ryokan or a western style hotel.

[deutsche Version]

Conclusion of 2012

Top 6: It was hard to decide. Do I vote for whole days single events. The compromise I made is ok.

  • Ainokura und Shirakawa incl. the stay over night
  • Koyasan
  • Neujahr am Kane-ji
  • Kisodani (Magome, Nakasendo, Tsumago)
  • Tokyo Jissha Tour
  • Dezome Shiki 2013


Again there is one rule that saved the day: Matsuri. If you are travelling to Japan, also plan to visit at least 2 festivals. They are always give you memories you can tell your grand children.

Worst 5: It was also hard to declare the worst 5 days of this journey. All days were somewhere in the middle. No really outstanding highlight or disappointments.

  • The Stop in Inuyama. This day sucks. Everything went wrong. There was a lot of bus and train involved but the last 10 miles killed the mood: missed train connections, rain, half of the attractions were closed, the other half was not that impressive. It all ending with the unwanted stop in Kisofukushima.
  • 30. Dezember. Travelling back from Kusatsu to Tokyo is a nightmare if you miss the one and only good connection between bus, train and Shinkansen. It was worse that the change from Ainokura to Kisodani.
  • 31. Dezember until 23 Uhr. This day I lost to bad planning too. The Metropolitain Garden was closed, the sky tree had an unexpected queue. In the end I was running around without aimless.
  • Amanohashidate. I expected more. But in the end end it was not worth the long trip. This day falls into the category: I was there, now the next entry of the to do list.
  • Asuka and Eihei-ji. Again a stupid plan that ruined the day. Never try to change to visit two places in one day. In Asakusa the shrine was far away from the train station. I lost a lot of time. And in Eihei-ji I already lost a lot of time before arriving. Again the temple was far away from the train station and only one bus. But the other half of both days was fine.

All “worst 5” are the result of bad planning. Before the trip a planned every single day for weeks. On the plus side there are Shirakawa-go and Ainokura and the travel to from there to Kisodani.

The conclusion

Looks like I covered all intersting spots in Japan. It is getting difficult to find interesting places. This time Shirakawago and Kisodani were these places. If I look into my travel guide (Lonely Planet) there are more historic places, castles and temple. But there always like something you already know. I am afraid that there is nothing left with “I must ahave seen”.

Left overs … One my to do list remains the last of the 3 famous gardens, three metropolitain gardens and the summit of the Fuji. Maybe a visit of the sky tree at daylight and the Yamanoto day. And there a some meseum, some Kabuki and Noh.

Another result of this 5th journey: I changed hotels a lot. That cased a lot of stress. You are always on the run. Rule: At least stay three days at one place.

End of a journey

I am back in Germany. Just from the beginning it was crap. At the airport I lost all my holiday mood because of these idiots who stand left and right on the escalator and not move aside if you want to pass. And these idiot at baggage claim. You cannot go forth nor back. Germany sucks.

The only good thing was the taxi driver. He was kind. Helped me to load and unload my luggage. The doors do not open automatically here in Germany but the rest of the service really was on a japanese level. He tells me that he is new on the jib. Oh boy. I bet if I wait a few month he will be as stroppy as the rest of this crowd. Sad, somehow.

I unpack my stuff. Looks like I picked up some nice souvenirs. At the top of the list are the bokken and the shinai from 2010, that I “stored temporarily” at Hotel Edoya.

And it looks like I have a lot of sake and chochu brought thru customs clearance. No panic. It was legal, I used the red door. The amount was below the limit. I surely do not risc trouble for a bottle of boze. I also packed a lot of dried ika and atarime. This stuff you do not get in Germany. Different kinds of Japanese rice cake; soba noodles from Ainokura. There are also tenugi, these small towels. You can get them everywhere. And then there is my second stamp towel from Shibu onsen.

2010 I bought some T-shirts in Rishiri, Soya Misaki. This time I forgot this during my journey. But I got some fun shirts in Tokyo.

Then there are some special items. I wouldn’t call them souvenirs because they have a different meaning for me and are rather expensive. I talk about my buddhism equipment from Koyasan. I mean also the Ema from the Tokyo Jissha. And the curtain for my kamidana.

What happened to yesterday?
Nothing.I just didn’t wrote a blog entry. I got up at 8am and after the check-out walked to the train station. Because I packed my luggage yesterday I could afford a 40 minute long breakfast, a mixture of japanese and western cuisine. Then with the Keisei Liner to the airport.

I got stopped at the security check in front of the airport. Shinai and bokken are always suspicious. After I explained my hobbies everything was ok. To be honest, before I could explain the stuff the look on their faces was not very welcomming.

The registration of the luggage caused also some trouble, because they wanted to check the stuff I wrapped completely with tape. I took me 20 minutes to put all togethere after this check. Lucky for me that I always plan one hour backup time. And there is still plenty of time for a visit at the airport lounge. The 10 hour flight to Amsterdam was without any problems. The movie program was average. Bourne 4 and Ted. I also watched R.E.D. and Ice Age 3 again.

The stop in Amsterdam was only long enough for a beer. But was ok. The fligt to Hamburg only takes one hour. Last obstacle: customs clearance. But it was easy. 3,5 liter of sake are within the limits, and the Kendo equipment too. Shuttle bus and taxi. Then I am back home. At 1:30am local time.

First I started the heating. I reduced the temperature in the house to 50°F. It is a little bit chilly. Specially if you are overtired. It is cold in Germany. 32°F But it feels much colder than the 18°F from  Kusatsu.

A first sum up: Looks like I have visited all important parts of Japan. It was difficult to find some new places. Shirakawago and Kusatsu were these places. Tokyo is complete. Looks like I need to plan something special for my next trip.  An even more exotic place (Okinawa) or a big matsuri (like 2010).

[deutsche Version]


Check-out at 10am. The last 24 hours in Japan are running. The Keisei-Liner transports me to Narita. This time with my tripod and my Kendo equipment. Arrival at Narita where I walk to the hotel with 60kg of equipment. Check-in. With less weight on my shoulders I am heading for the big temple. The street leading there is a pedestrian area during the day. It is a pleasant walk. Some old houses to the left and right; many souvenir shops. All suited for tourist, specially if they are heading for the airport. I should have visited Narita on an earlier trip. It is really nice here.

The temple area is really big. We have January 8th, but there are still people here for the new year prayer. Stairs. And a gate with a big lampion. I hear chanting and singing form the big hall. Drums. A pagoda on the right side and many more buildings after the next stairway. This temple really is spacious. I can spot another big pagoda, the same style like in Koyasan.

It is 3pm and to late to visit the other attractions in Narita. They are all 6-10 miles outside of the city center and the trains and busses going there are departure in one hour. There would be no time left for sightseeing before everthing closes. No. I stay here. It seems that I am not in the mood for another trip. I decide for a walk thru the park, followed by some shopping and late lunch.

A short break at the hotel. I prepare the bags for tomorrow. At 8pm I start into the city. There was a bar called “Jet Lag”. But too many gaijins there. I prefer something more local. I find a resto that serves Katsudon, after that I take a brief stop for a really expensive cocktail. Back at the hotel I stop at the hotel bar. Nice place. Small but with the right company a really good ending for this holiday. We talk about Anime. Cowboy Bebop and Yoko Kanno. Now finest Jazz is running in the hotel lobby. A nice whiskey. This is how it should be.

At 11.30pm I call it a day. I won’t risk to oversleep and miss the flight. That would be stupid ending.

[deutsche Version]


Today I will visit Kawagoe. The temple museum and the palace are closed but I will check out the rest. The travel will also brings me to Shinjuku. I will give my camera to Pentax for a checkup. The Pentax forum is opening at 110:30am. I can pickup my camera at 1pm. Plenty o time to buy souvenirs in Harajuku and Omotesando. Back at Pentax bad news are wainting for me. The K-10 is a goner. The mount of the CCD ship is broken. The K-m is defocussed. It will take at least 3 weeks to fix it. They try to do a software workaround. I check out the new K-30. This version isn’t available in Germany.

Kawagoe Gallery

At 2pm I am sitting in the local to Kawagoe. There is a nice shopping street for souvenirs. At the end of the shopping area the part with the old houses begins. Kawagoe is called Little Edo. And this area is the reason why. Unfortunately this street is also the major road during rush hour. At the end is a place called candy corner. A small street with a dozen candy shops. Japan is strange. Then I go to the temple. It is closed but I can visit the outside. Next stop is the temple. The activities for New Year are finally over. All booths are closed. I run back to the shopping street. There should a nice bottle of sake somewhere. I am still looking for souvenirs.

Back at Tokyo I totally lost track of time. I forgot Hide. Damned. It is already 8pm when i arrive at the hotel. I am not in the mood for a late night stroll thru Shinjuku or Shibuya. Therefore I check out another bar in Ueno.

I know that this entry isn’t that long, but there wasn’t something happening today. Tomorrow I move to my last stop, Narita. Looks like I visited every important part of Tokyo. There are only two open projects left: The last metropolitain gardens and the Yamanote tour. Maybe some clubs and a matsuri. For the next time I have to find someting really special.

[deutsche Version]