Please visit JNTO adn view some videos "Japan Now" messages!
The research said that most tourist only visit, TOKYO, KYOTO and OSAKA in Japan.
How about country side?
Takayama, Kanazawa-----oh, don't forget SHIKOKU and KYUSHU.
If you are going to Hiroshima, why don't you visit TOMONOURA, the most beautiful fish village?
Iya Gorge and take a cable car to take a bath on the top of the mountain in Tokushima, Shikoku?
Nice afternoon walk at Mt. Koya in Wakayama?
Include NAOSHIMA, if you are ART lovers !
Call us, or email us if You want to make your trip just a little more than ordinary trip!
For Travel Agencies:
We do arrange your clients bookings for Japan for YOU.
Please feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Tokyo Update information--- here!
Very helpful site I found - 11 extremely practical Japan travel tips.
For you, we are making one week package now! We will post it when available!
Have you checked www.gotokyo.org/ ?
Recent comments from our clients~~Thank you!
The BEST! I love you guys!!! Your notes made all the difference for the tour. I can't thank you enough. Rest assured my next tour to Japan will be done through you again :) (T.H San Francisco Oct. 2015 )
It was just a wonderful trip. My son is going back next year again by himself, will contact you soon. Thank you for all of your special arrangement ! (J.M. Berkeley--Sept.2015)
Amazing trip! Thank you, thank you, thank you. We could not have done without your help (T.Morris SF, Sept.2015)
You pushed us to do more than we were planning! That was so true, we deeply appreciate your professional help. (Mark B, Los Ageles ---July 2015)
“It was amazing to see the cherry blossoms, be in Japan, sight see, and eat all the yummy food! “ K.B. Vallejo, March. 2015)
You arrange our trip so beautifully! We had a time of our life! ( Jay B. Napa ---March 2015)
We want to thank you again for all your wonderful planning and organization for our trip to Japan. You took such time to prepare every detail and we are most appreciative. Whenever anyone asks for an excellent travel agent to organize a trip to Japan we will most definitely recommend your wonderful services. (E.O. San Anselmo, CA --- May 2014)
Your service was excellent ! Nobody can do the same. (P. J. St. Helena, CA --May 2014)
Just want to thank you so much. Now I really feel like going to Japan ! (J. T. Los Angeles, CA--May 2014)
It was just amazing to see what you prepared for us! Thank you so much! (J.J. Mill Valley, CA--Mach 2014)
It was so nice to email you while we were in Tsukiji to let you know that you did wonderful job!
All of your information helped us so much ! (K. Y. Palo Alto, CA --Jan. 2014)
Japan Rail Pass : We can mail them to you!
Exchange rate: $1/121.39 JPY now~Nov.30, 2015
TWO Tourist Passes!! ~Limited time only~
Have you study about JR Rail pass before you leave your country?
There are usual JR Rail Pass for 7,14 and 21 days with unlimited JR Train use. Belsize that, there are
Two special rail passes.
1) Tokaido - Sanyo Shinkansen Tourist Pass
Valid Period: 5 consecutive days
Price: JPY 35,000 adult (50% off on child 6-11 years)
You can get on NOZOMI and MIZUHO!
You do not have to transfer at Shin Osaka or Shin Kobe to go to Hiroshima or Kyushu!!
2) Takayama - Hokuriku Area Tourist Pass
Valid Period: 5 consecutive days
Price: JPY 10,500 adult (50% off on child 6-11 years)
Start from Nagoya, then to Takayama, you can even use on NOHI BUS to Shirakawago and Kanazawa,
then go through Kaga Onsen, Awara Onsen, then to Kyoto and Shin-Osaka.
Both Passes are available to purchase by June 26th and need to be used by June 30th!
OCTOBER TOUR TO JAPAN
Japan’s Secret Path of Mt. Koya, Kumano and Ise
Oct. 10 – 17, 2014 from USA
Oct. 11 – 17, 2014 join from Osaka
Here is your perfect chance to visit, Mt. Koya, Kumano Road and Ise Shrine named the Secret Path of Japan. You stay at a real temple, hot springs and sleep in cozy lodges with ocean views.
Experience a serene morning chant, followed by a quiet mountain walk and then relax in a mountain hot springs. Taste Japan’s famous temple vegan food and exquisite sea food from the coast of Kii Peninsula. It will be the unforgettable trip that you have been waiting for.
Day 1 Oct. 10(Fri) leave US
Day 2 Oct. 11 (Sat) arrive
If you join the tour in Osaka, meet at 7:00pm at hotel
7:00pm Orientation-Stay overnight at hotel in Osaka.
Day 3 Oct. 12 (Sun) leave Osaka via Nankai train to Mt. Koya
Arrive at temple in Mt. Koya by noon.
An experienced English speaking guide will welcome you!
Visit Okunoin – world heritage site – the serene, quiet and yet divine setting surrounded by tall ancient cedar trees.
Enjoy especially prepared vegan dinner at the temple
Optional: Try a mediation shakyo writing classes
Stay overnight at Fudo-in Temple
Day 4 Oct. 13 (Mon) Mt. Koya – Kumano Kodo
Attend the early morning chant at the temple, then eat a specially prepared hot breakfast.
Visit the other side of Mt. Koya
After lunch, jump on a private charter mini- bus to Kumano Kodo
Travel through the breath-taking mountain road, and arrive at Kawayu Onsen
Stay overnight at Fujiya Ryokan, Kawayu Onsen.
Day 5 Oct. 14 (Tue) Kumano Kodo walk
After breakfast, get on shuttle to Hosshinmon Oji.
Walk on Kumano Kodo (3 hours)
Arrive at Kumano Hongu Taisha, visit Hongu Heritage Center, then stroll down Oyunohara Path through the giant Torii Gateway.
Shuttle back to ryokan.
Stay over night at Fujiya Ryokan, Kawayu Onsen.
Day 6 Oct. 15(Wed) Kumano Kodo
After breakfast, drive to boat launch.
Traditional boat ride on Kumano River
This is a trip on a flat bottom wooden boat that sails down the river pilgrimage route to Kumano Hayatama Taisha
Visit Kumano Hayatama Taisha, then move on to Katsuura.
After lunch, visit Daimonzaka, walk to Kumano Kodo Daimonzaka.
Visit Kumano Nachi Taisha and Seiganto-ji Temple
View the Nachi Waterfall.
Take ferry to hotel.
Stay overnight at Hotel Nakanoshima
Day 7 Oct. 16 (Thu) Kumano Kodo to Ise Shrine, then to Toba
After breakfast, take a ferry back to Pier.
Take train to Ise.
Upon arrival of Ise shi, visit Ise Shrine, GEGU (Outer Shrine) first.
Lunch at local restaurant
Visit Niagu (Inner court Shrine)
Enjoy Okage Yokocho and browse unique shops right along Naigu.
Transfer to Toba.
Have dinner at Toba
Stay overnight at Toba Hotel
Day 8 Oct. 17 (Fri) Toba to Kansai Airport or your next destination
After breakfast, the tour ends at Toba.
Transfer back to Toba, then head to Kansai Airport, or go on to Kyoto or Tokyo.
(We can arrange train, accommodation of airline from Toba to your next destination.)
From Osaka to Toba $2200 per person based on two people sharing one room
Single Extra: please inquire
LIMITED TO 10 people!!
6 nights' accommodation :(Osaka- 1 night, Mt. Koya-1 night Kumano Kodo-,2 nights Katsuura-1 night, Toba-1 night)
Meals: Daily breakfast, 3 lunches and 5 dinners
Private mini-bus charter and English speaking guide from Mt. Koya to Kumano Kodo
Traditional boat ride on Kumano River
Tsukiji's Tuna Auction 12/11/13
Tsukij iFish Market temporary closes to public observation area for Tsuna Auction during
December 2 - Jan. 18,2014.
Still, you can go to Fish Market Alley-Uogashi Yokocho and enjoy shopping and eating!
You can also go to Tsukiji Jogai-Shijo(Tsukiji Ourter Market), there are over 400 small shops and restaurants. But please aware that most of shops open early as 6:00am and close around 1:00pm
Tokyo Luxury Hotel 11/13/13
We just had a visit from Sales Representative from luxury hotel in Tokyo!
1)The Palace Hotelat Tokyo Station
It is the re-born of historical Palace hotel right in front of Imperial Palace.
With the fabulous view of Imperial Palace, you may forget the busy schedule.
Some clients commented, " It is worth coming to Tokyo just to stay here"
While rack rate is from 49,000JPY, but we have a contracted rate of 33,000JPY
2)Hotel Chinzanso Tokyo(Formally under Four Seasons)
Within the 17 acre of private gardens, you can enjoy the luxury service at the reasonable cost.
You may forget that you are in city center of Tokyo.
While rack rate is from 47,300JPY , Class One Travel's contracted rate offers from 25,300JPY.
Tokyo Deluxe Hotel
3)Cerulean Tower Tokyuin Shibuya
Right at the trendy Shibuya, the spacious room and lively city life
Promotion : 3 nights minimum stay: 23200JPY or 14 days advance reservation of 26,100JPY
4) Hotel Okura
Well known and one of most traditional hotel in Tokyo offers spacious room for winter 2013.
Their amazing promotional rate is from 19,600JPY
JR RAIL PASS weekly rate
Today’s rate: $1/102.98 JP ---WOW!
Rate is good between 12/4 ~12/10/2013
7ays Ordinary 28300JPY ($275) Green 37800JPY ($367)
14days Ordinary 45100JPY ($438) Green 61200JPY ($594)
21days Ordinary 57700JPY ($560) Green 79600JPY ($773)
Shibuya is so popular among HIP Hop FANS, fashion people among Young Generation!
Well, when I visited to Tokyo with 47 other travel agent from 10 other cities, we checked latest Shibuya~!
I thought SHIBUYA is too busy and too noisy, but I found it is very fun this time! Now we can introduce the beautiful Cerulean Tower hotel's promotional rate for this fall.
Now to September 13, they do have a promotional rate. It may extend!
Here is our just born “SHIBUYA PACKAGE”!
*4 nights at Cerulean Tower Tokyu Hotel’s City view room
*2 breakfasts (1 western style buffet, 1 traditional Japanese style)
*1 4-hours Tokyo city sightseeing with private English Speaking guide
*2 limousine bus tickets to Narita Airport or 1 taxi ride to HANEDA Airport
includes 2 hours private consultation before your visit!
Will be $880 per person sharing one room with two!
Visiting KOYASAN ~We went to KOYASAN September 2011~Here is the report!
We sent many clients to KOYASAN (Mt. Koya), but I have never been there myself.
Recently, a music CD my friend gave me was called KOYASAN by Deuter; a nice painting at my cousin’s living room is also titled KOYASAN..so, I thought ~maybe it is time to go! So, finally I went there this September.
Would I like to go back ? Yes, yes, yes.
Here is what I think and I hope this information makes you feel like going too.
Do you remember when you go to Point Reyes; on the way, you go through a small grove of redwood trees?
There are Giant Cedar trees on both sides of the high way, clean air and a nice sweet breeze. The Okunoin at Koyasan is just like that with old stone statues, over 1000 years old nestled deep inside a magic forest.
Koyasan is a major power spot in the temple town of Wakayama prefecture. You can choose to stay among 117 temples that offer lodging. There are no super markets, neon lights, nor entertainment centers like in Tokyo.
But there are places to rest your spirit in Koyasan.
Wake up early in the morning and join the temple’s morning sutra- sitting in the HONDO (temple’s main meditation area) and feel the vibration of the rhythmic priest’s chant. It has a rhythm and certain tone that you will be able to resonate with even if you don’t understand Japanese. You remember fond memories and your mind becomes quiet, you are soon filled with appreciation…. You also probably notice your legs have been asleep for a long time. (There are some chairs to use as well)
Your vegetarian breakfast was prepared with local vegetables and soy products. Koya dofu~freeze dried tofu and Goma Dofu (Tofu made of Sesame seeds and Kuzu-roots a kind of potato) is famous from this area and is a staple temple food throughout Japan. After breakfast, you start your walk or take a local bus to Daimon( The big gate). At the end of town, there is the huge red gate. This is the starting point of Koyasan. Off to the side, a path circles the town- NYONIN DO (Women’s road). Historically, Koyasan prohibited women from entering the village, but women could walk around perimeter of the temple town through NYONINDO pass and they often did, just to feel the energy emitting from the valley bellow. The Nyonindo was damaged by the typhoon and is hard to walk on now so we had to save this adventure for our next visit. If you walk through the Daimon (Big Gate ) you soon arrive at Danjogaran. The glowing red structure you see is a clear contrast with the natural wooden structure of Mieido Hall that shares the courtyard.
After walking through Kongobuji Temple I want to spend more time at OKUNOIN. If you spend half of the day at Danjogaran and Kongobuji area you may want to have lunch before you head for Okunoin.
Okunoin is a 2Km long, a stone pavement pass with thousands of graves. You will find the legendry famous shogun’s and swordsman’s grave such as ODA Nobunaga, TOYOTOMI Hideyoshi, DATE Masamune, AKECHI Mitsuhide, UESUGI Kenshin, TAKEDA Shingen, ISHIDA Mitsunari and many more. Oh, Sugen-in (OGO) and Sen Hime’s tomb, the largest of them all is also there. The naturally preserved gravesites are surrounded with green moss and fern leaves, it was really beautiful.
You hear birds singing among the pass and the soft sunshine mixed with a fresh clear breeze helps your mind is getting quieter and quieter. Turning back the way you came you can hear bells ringing just like in the music KOYASAN by Deutur.
The book said that there are over thousand souls sleeping in Okunoin, well I think those sprits have already reached their universal destination. There is a serene sense of peace among the quiet samurai.
If I can describe the color of the feeling, it is clear ~totally clear.
You can spend two to three hours easily wondering through the woods or even a whole day. We took some side paths deeper into the wooded area and discovered more graves tucked away in cozy glens. You are just drawn to these cleared out spaces, they bathe you in sunlight and warm your soul in a special way. Walk back slowly to your temple lodging. Enjoy an early bath and dinner, again a wonderful vegetarian feast. The local sake was also a delight! We tried drinking the sake cold one night and hot the next night. There are some wild mushroom slices prepared like sashimi, tofu skin sushi, cooked turnips and egg plants ~ those heartfelt meals were absolutely delicious.
At night, you can take a class of SHAKYO where you sit and trace the Chinese characters of the written chants on rice paper with a brush pen. The monk explained what this chant means and shows you what to do. In the quiet room all you hear is your brush strokes on the thin rice paper.
What a peaceful moment!
You go to bed maybe by 10pm and wake up early again the next morning for the 6:00am sitting. During the night you hear nothing, just the moon shining bright on Koyasan.
How to get there:
From Tokyo, it will take about 5~6 hours including transfer and connecting time.
Tokyo ~ Shin Osaka by Bullet train (2hours 50min.)
Shin Osaka ~ Namba by subway (15min.)
Namba ~ Gokurakubashi by Nankai Rail road (2 hours)
Gokurakubashi ~ Koyasan by Cable car (5 min.)
Koyasan Station ~ temple by bus (5~10min.)
When you start planning to go to Japan, you should get excited!
What do you want to do?
Eat great Japanese food?
Visit amazing temples?
Or go to Akihabara Electronics Town or Animation Town?
What about Tokyo Shitamachi Bus?
If you want to go to Japan, let us arrange your trip~! It will be the one to remember forever!!
By the way, do you read CHRONICL SUNDAY PAPER?
Especially TRAVEL ISSUE?
There are THREE TOKYO SPECIALISTS whom the City of Tokyo REP. recommends.
WE are one of them!
It was on Nov.28th Sunday paper and will be again on Dec.5th Sunday paper, too!
Here is the Tokyo Stop Over package we recommand!
Looking for Business Class Discout fare to Japan? Please visit our airfare page.
Arrive at Haneda or Narita Airport.
Sightseeing Tour in Tokyo.
at the Shibuya Station
Sightseeing tour in Tokyo
Sightseeing tour in Tokyo on your own
Book fans: Go to Kanda furuhon machi(Second0had books Area). You may find very interesting books and prints there. Walk toward Ochanomizu and saunter through the musical instrument area.
Tokyo Stop Over Package Arrangement:
We do arrange everything for you including airport pick up and dinner reservations. Personal itinerary and private tours.
Our fee is only $75 per person for four days~day by day schedule.
Class One Travel's Luxury hotel categories are:
Super Luxury Hotel Category: Mandarin Oriental , Ritz Carlton
Luxury Category: Peninsula Hotel , Grand Hyatt,
Delux Category: Imperial Hotel, Hotel Okura
Superior Category: Tokyu Excell Hotels, Grand Pacific Le Daiba
Hotel Rate for May 23 ~ 29, 2011
Ritz Carlton: 45000JPY~
Grand Hyatt 37800JPY
Private guide? Day by day or entire trip itinerary? Please ask us.I
Japan and California Friendship Wine Tour ~November 2011
*Below is the Last Year's Tour sample. It was a small group and we had so much fun. We ate, walk, and laugh!.
We visited Kappabashi, Akihabara, Asakusa, Sumida River Boat Ride, Fuji TV, Kabuki, Ginza, Shibuya, Shirakawago, Takayama, Gero Hot Spring, Kyoto~~~We ate at fun Izakaya, Famous Kurosawa's shabushabu, Kyoto's traditional Kaiseki, Gekkeikan Sake Factroy, Nishiki Koji Food Market, ......so many wonderful places
Righ now, we are planning for 2011 tours, it will be even more fun.
I have been thinking that the two most beautiful times to visit to Japan is early April and the middle of November. In April, you may encounter the soft pink cherry blossoms everywhere and you see many people appreciating their intoxicating effect..
We put these special places together for you to enjoy in the big city like Tokyo and beautiful Kyoto.
On the top of it, we offer the Ise Jingu where is know as the Japan's Power spot . Many people visit and thank thier health. There is the street called "Okage-yokocho" , also visit Mt. Koya (TBA) that is known as one of UNESCO's World Heritage sites. We are looking farward to this temle stay.
We include a variety of accommodations from hotels, ryokan, temple and traditional Kyoto Town House.
This will be a great introduction for you to experience and enjyo old culture and new trends.
The number of tour members is limited to 10 people and we will lead this tour!
We hope you can join us on this fabuous tour!
Class One Travel's World Heritage tour to Japan
Leave San Francisco for 11 hours flight.
Dinner will be served 2 hours after departure and
breakfast will be served two hours prior to landing.
Enjoy your own TV at your seat.
Arrive at Haneda or Narita Airport around early evening
Take an airport shuttle bus to Tokyo (90min.)
Arrival time at the hotel will be around 7:00pm
How about dinner at Japanese style pub "Izakaya"
Breakfast at your hotel
Explore City of Tokyo with a private guide
Japan's downtown Tokyo~Asakusa, Kappabashi~
Enjoy Sushi for lunch and walk around Shitamachi
That night: Dinner at Kurosawa, they serve the famous movie director, Kurosawa's favorite food.
Breakfast at your hotel
~Planning special tour~to be announced later
Breakfast at your hotel
Leave Tokyo to Ise via Nagoya
Ise Jingu: TBA
Enjoy Japanese style breakfast at minshuku
After breakfast, we move to Mt. Koya~World Heritage of Japan
after checking at the temple, you walk around, or meditate or go around other temples.
Enjoy specially made Vegitarian Temple food.
Enjoy Japanese style breakfast at temple
Leave Mt. Koya for Kyoto
You will enjoy the beautifu cherry blossom of the ancient City of Kyoto. Your accommodation's will be at a traditional town house ~Machiya.
Explore Kyoto with a private guide
We charter mini bus to go around the golden pavilion, Ryoanji Stone garden, drop by Sagano, the to Kiyomizu Temple.
or Visit Kyoto's famous sake brewery in Fushimi Area.
Nice walk from Ginkakuji Temple to Kiyomizu Via Philosophers Road
Free time in Kyoto
Visit Traditional Nishijin Obi district
*Optional tour: visit Miho Museume or Kurashiki*
Leave Kyoto around 2pm via the super speed bullet train. Arrive at Tokyo around 5pm.
Enjoy the last night of trip in Tokyo
Breakfast at your hotel
Leave Narita for 8 hours flight home.
morning: Arrive at San Francisco.
(For Haneda departure, you have a Full day in Tokyo.
Visit Oedo Onsen Hot Springs?)
Home sweet home
Land Tour Cost includes:$3089 per person , based on two people sharing one room
Group size: up to 10 people.
(airfare not included)
Transportation between Airports and nearby cities. Train tickets.
Special Walking tours in Tokyo and Kyoto. Special visit to sake brewers in Kyoto.
Hotel accommodations :Tokyo 4 nights/Ise Jingu 1 night/Mt.Koya Temple 1 night/Kyoto 3 nights.
Meals: 6 breakfasts and 2 dinners.
Travel Assistance from Class One Travel through the entire stay in Japan
**Suggested Roundtrip airline ticket: from West Coast to Japan on Japan Airlines. Premium Economy Class on out baound and regular economy class on return flight is about $1350.**
Call us now! (415) 788-6121 or email to us to email@example.com
Here are valuable tips when visiting Japan.
I am sure this page will inspire you to plan your adventure in Japan.
Tokyo Condominium Stay
|Day 1||From US to Japan|
|Day 2||Arrive at Narita, take an airport shuttle bus to these nice condominiums at Minami Aoyama, Roppongi, Azabu Juban.|
|Day 8||Leave Narita to return back to the US|
- per person sharing one condo unit
- $1,437 LOW SEASON
- $2,060 HIGH SEASON
- roundtrip airfare from West Coast to Tokyo/Narita, 6 nights condominium stay
These modernly furnished condominiums are located 5 to 7 minutes from the nearest train station. Choose from a variety of layouts: some units come with spacious living rooms, bedrooms and dining rooms. You can also cook up a great meal in your fully equipped kitchen. Of course, you can always enjoy all kinds of restaurants and bars nearby. You can really feel like you are living in Tokyo!
Tokyo Hotel Stay
It is the city of treasures and you never get tired of its magic.
|Day 1||From US to Japan|
|Day 2||Arrive at Kansai Airport. Take an airport shuttle or Train "Haruka" to Kyoto.||Hotel Stay|
|Day 3||You can enjoy a sightseeing bus to Sanzenin Temple or Jakkouin Temple.||Hotel Stay|
|Day 4||From Ginkakuji Temple to Kiyomizu Temple stroll among pottery shops.||Hotel Stay|
|Day 5||Spend a relaxing day at Arashiyama, check-in to a Japanese inn before dinner||Japanese Inn Stay|
|Day 6||Spend all day in Kyoto as you please.||Japanese Inn Stay|
|Day 7||Leave Kansai Airport to return back to the US|
- $1,750 LOW SEASON
- $2,020 HIGHT SEASON
- roundtrip airfare from West Coast to Kansai/Osaka, 5 nights stay (Hotel: 3 nights/Japanese Inn 2 nights)
Naoshima and beyond
Can you imagine staying in a museum? The island itself is a museum.
The museum is in Kagawa Prefecture, at Naoshima Island in Shikoku, 40 minutes from Takamatsu Port and 20 minutes from Uno, just a ferry ride to Naoshima Island.
A land filled with art. While you stay and enjoy all different kinds of art including the Art House Project.
The renowned Isamu Noguchi Museum (stone carving master) in Takamatsu.
If you wish, there are hidden secluded Hot Springs in Iya Gorge.
Why not experience a totally different visit to Japan for your next trip?
|Day 1||US to Japan|
|Day 2||Arrive at Kansai Airport, shuttle bus to Takamatsu, Shikoku||Takamatsu-Hotel Stay|
|Day 3||Visit Isamu Noguchi Museum, Ritsurin Park, Kotohira||Takamatsu-Hotel Stay|
|Day 4||Takamatsu to Awa Ikeda, Hidden Hot Spring Iya Onsen||Iya Onsen Hotel Stay (Japanese style room)|
|Day 5||Oboke, Kazura Bridge||Iya Onsen Hotel Stay (Japanese style room)|
|Day 6||Awa Ikeda to Takamatsu, then take a ferry ride to Naoshima||Naoshima Benesse House|
|Day 7||Enjoy the island of art||Naoshima Benesse House|
|Day 8||Naoshima to Takamatsu, then to Kansai Airport, leave Japan to return back to the US|
- $1,870 LOW SEASON
- $2,100 HIGH SEASON
- roundtrip airfare from West Coast to Kansai/Osaka, 6 nights stay (Hotel: 4 nights/Japanese Inn 2 nights)
From 5 to 50 a reflective look into the past and present Japan.
Japan 45 years ago had much less presence here in the U.S. No, Toyota Hybrids, Lexus luxury cars, Makita drills, walkmans or sushi on the cafeteria menu. Back then Japan was different place, in a different era, a different world for a little five year old from El Cerrito CA. I have lived in Japan and traveled there over the years countless times and this is a story of three views of Japan to show you how Japan has changed in a thousand ways and what hasn’t changed for a thousand years.
At five, I lived near a creek in the El Cerrito hills. There were plenty of frogs and minnows in the fresh water and we would spend all day catching them and taking them home as pets. I was surprised that there were even more frogs in Japan when I first visited Tokyo. Frogs leaping all over the street and gardens right in the middle of Wakabayashi-Setagaya in Tokyo, my grandfather’s home that was within a few miles from the heart of the big city. It was hot and humid, a summer of incredibly loud and amazing chirping "semi" cicadas’. What else do I remember beautiful gardens, nice cool Calpis drinks and lots of neat toys made of metal in the shapes of sparkling space guns and airplanes. I wore shorts probably the whole time I was there. At five, it seemed Japan was a land of contrast. How could so many bugs and creatures live around so many people in the city. How could they surviving?, I thought.
Japan twenty years later was a completely changed world from a kid’s point of view. When I visited the house in which my grandfather lived I noticed the frogs were gone and so was my grandfather. It was summer again, hot and humid, but only the Semi’s cicadas loud chirping could be heard. They somehow seemed sad and alone without the harmony of the frogs, calling out only to themselves now. Well, who has time for frogs anyway, when you are twenty-five and running around Tokyo loose and fancy free and the yen in 1981 is trading at 221 yen to the dollar. One dollar went a long ways back then.
From the U.S. perspective, this is what was happening in 1981. Iran frees 52 American hostages, Pope John Paul II wounded by gunman, President Ronald Reagan wounded by gunman, Oakland beats Philadelphia in the Superbowl, Raiders of the Lost Ark is released and Christopher Cross is singing “Sailing” on the FM dial.
What’s happening in Japan? At twenty five, you start appreciating all of the ancient art, the temples, well swept streets, safe walks at night wherever you are, great food, and tasty beer. Oh yeah, and sushi to write home about. Remember 221 yen to the dollar! However, being on a tight budget I couldn’t completely paint the town, but there was still plenty of partying and bar hoping into the wee hours of the night.
Now at 50, I visited Japan once again and it still holds onto the mysteries of the past. Temples in and around Tokyo have been incredibly preserved, and yet a bit harder to find, but when you do they are even more shocking to see peeking out between modern concrete designs. The food is even better, or maybe now food over disco I prefer and seek out the gastronomic delights that both city and country side have to offer. There is still sushi to write home about, but also about every kind of Japanese and international food available, and this is just in the amazing department store basement food bazaars! Did I mention bar hoping in Roppongi? That’s still fun, but watch your budget the yen is down to 123 per dollar.
So what still amazes me in Japan now? Just about everything… It’s a mix of old and older and new and newer. You can see a tea ceremony sensei riding the train with punk rockers, ultra modern sky scrapers being kept clean with guys using simple bamboo brooms. The Japanese made electronic goods are also available on the market about six months ahead of whatever is available here in the states. In summary, Japan is a place that keeps changing and yet remains the same, except for the frogs…..Ribbit. Where have all the frogs gone? Back in the U.S. they have made a come back in the El Cerrito park the last time I visited. There are probably a few left in Tokyo if you know where to look. (By RKT)