Leizel and I had a number of travel opportunities in the Fall of 2009 (some pictures available here) which we seized and our travel season culminated with a 7-day New Year's trip. This year's winter vacation trip was not nearly as epic as last year's, but we enjoyed it nonetheless. Most of this trip was a 5-night stay in the heart of Tokyo which we'd planned to do in September but had to put off. It was nice being back in the capital again, especially during New Year's when it isn't as crowded as normal. On the way to Tokyo we spent two days in the snowy Hida region of Japan which we've been meaning to get to for a long time.
Saturday, December 26th, 2009
We set off the morning after Christmas. Last year, we travelled almost entirely by local trains but this year we'd be going to and from most places by bus. We headed to Nagoya to catch our first bus to Takayama, the city at the heart of the Hida region. What was amazing about this bus ride is that we left the plains of the Nagoya area, where it was sunny and hazy, and within 45 minutes we were in the middle of more snow than either Leizel and I had seen in Japan in these three and a half years. There is snow, and a lot of it, but in the mountains north of Nagoya and it was so nice being able to see it. Snow is one of the things I miss most from home. Even though it's a bother to shovel, it adds a beauty to winter that is not found in the area of Japan where we live.
Upon arriving in Takayama, we immediately hopped on another bus to head up to Shirakawa-go, an area in the mountains that was cut off from the rest of Japan for a long time and so developed slightly differently than the rest of the country until technology improved the ability to travel to and from. It's officially registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site; Japanese people are rather obsessed with this idea of "World Heritage Sites", at least a lot more so than people in Ohio. It's really not a spectacular place, it's just a village, but it's really nice to walk around and take in the old feeling (and the snow). The typical symbol of this place is the tall triangle-shaped roofs on many of the houses, mostly covered in snow.
After finishing up at Shirakawa-go we then rode our third bus of the day back to Takayama where we enjoyed a nice bowl of ramen flavored with the local recipe which is rather famous in the area. It was really tasty, and a good warm bowl of ramen is always good after walking around in the cold all day. We also ate a tiny but extremely good beef skewer; there's a lot of beef in this town as it has a number of cow farms in the area and the beef is known to be especially tasty.
Will give basic details but expand later
Sunday, December 27th, 2009
Went to the onsen village Gero and stayed in a really nice place. Had an amazing dinner.
Monday, December 28th, 2009
Woke up at the hotel, took a train back to Takayama, and caught a bus to Tokyo after eating the tasty ramen again.
Tuesday, December 29th, 2009
Planned to have a photo shoot for Leizel in a maiko costume, her wedding present, however the studio had burned down the night before and we arrived to a burned out building. Wow. Surprise.
We met Tomona and Megumi for dinner, two of our friends from college. We ate at Bubba Gump Shrimp, which neither of us had ever eaten at before.
Wednesday, December 30th, 2009
Shopping day at the largest mall in Japan. It was epic in its scale, and an unbelievably good selection of restaurants. I would actually be happy to go there again just to eat.
Thursday, December 31st, 2009
We spent the day of New Year's Eve at the Yokohama Aquarium, which was said to be the best in Japan but I'd have to disagree after going - Osaka's is better without a doubt.
We spent New Year's Eve on Odaiba getting good food and enjoying the beautifully lit-up Rainbow Bridge.
Friday, January 1st, 2010
Our only schedule-less day in Tokyo. We just kind of hung out, and walked from Akihabara to Kanda for fun. I played some of the DS games I'd bought the previous day and Leizel studied for the GRE.
Saturday, January 2nd, 2010
Heading home. We met our friends at Tokyo Station before we left, and then hopped on a bus. This may have been just one too many bus rides, as it was crowded on the highway and took longer to get everywhere.
We had dinner in Hamamatsu and then took the train back home to Mie, where we played some more of the very addictive Wii Mario game which we'd started playing the night before we left.