Archive for October, 2015

The Takayama Autumn Festival Tour – Small Group Tour of Japan – Day 8

October 26, 2015

Today – Kyoto! There is just so much to see in Kyoto, and on the Takayama Tour as with all tours we try to cover some of the must-sees and a few others less known as we walk around.

After arriving in Kyoto and dropping off the bags at the hotel we went straight to the famous World Heritage site of Kiyomizudera, the great stilted temple in the eastern mountains overlooking the city. From there we walked along Higashiyama to finish up in Gion to watch the traditional performing arts show. It’s a great route for people watching and shopping, and steeped in history, it’s a very busy area! As I write this and look through the photos I realize that the photos from the day are all of people photos, the sites were the backdrop.

The Takayama Tour

Team Dragonfly!!

Team Dragonfly!!

Bottom selfies, Higashiyama, Kyoto

Bottom selfies, Higashiyama, Kyoto

Higashiyama, Kyoto

Higashiyama, Kyoto

Higashiyama, Kyoto

Higashiyama, Kyoto

Higashiyama, Kyoto

Higashiyama, Kyoto

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The Takayama Autumn Festival Tour – Small Group Tour of Japan – Day 7

October 24, 2015

After spending an enjoyable evening at the farmhouse and all well rested, today we went to Kanazawa, a fascinating city full of history. Once we’d dropped off our bags at the hotel we hopped on the loop bus for Kenroku-en, one of the best landscaped gardens in Japan and built over a couple of centuries. We had occasional showers today but thankfully it stayed mostly dry during the free time to stroll the gardens.

Later we re-grouped and the group split, some going to the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art a short walk away, the others went with me to perhaps my favourite of all gardens, the Nomura samurai house in the samurai quarter. The two gardens of today’s itinerary couldn’t be further opposites and complement each other perfectly.

The Takayama Tour

Nomura Samurai Garden, Kanazawa

Nomura Samurai Garden, Kanazawa

Samurai district, Kanazawa

Samurai district, Kanazawa

Kenroku-en Garden, Kanazawa

Kenroku-en Garden, Kanazawa

Nomura Samurai Garden, Kanazawa

Nomura Samurai Garden, Kanazawa

The Takayama Autumn Festival Tour – Small Group Tour of Japan – Day 6

October 23, 2015

As anticipated, it started to get difficult to continue updating the Takayama Tour diary while travelling around on the tour. As I write this, the tour has now finished, I’ve finally caught up with my workload and will now continue from where I left off!

Day 6 – We said our farewells to Takayama and made our way to the World Heritage village of Shirakawa-go where we stayed in one of the old thatched farmhouses dating back around 200 years before. As you’d expect the accommodation is simple and we sleep in futon on tatami mats (in separate rooms!).

We explored the village stopping off at one of my favourite people watching / sake drinking spots in the village to put humanity in its place whilst watching those visiting on tour buses trundle back to their coaches and head off leaving the village to ourselves to enjoy. After a delicious home cooked meal, I headed to the local onsen with one of the group members for a good long soak. The perfect way to end a great day.

Thatched houses of Shirakawa-go

Thatched houses of Shirakawa-go

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Thatched houses of Shirakawa-go

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Home-cooked meal in the farmhouse – chairs and table available for those who want / need!

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Thatched houses of Shirakawa-go

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Thatched houses of Shirakawa-go

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Thatched houses of Shirakawa-go

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Thatched houses of Shirakawa-go

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Thatched houses of Shirakawa-go

The Takayama Autumn Festival Tour – Small Group Tour of Japan – Day 5

October 11, 2015

Today, the second day of the Takayama autumn festival was a free day on the tour and guests explored at their own pace. Here’s some photos from my wanderings… a good relaxing day with lots of time spent on the rooftop hot spring.

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wee dragons

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Floats on display

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Floats on display

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The Takayama Festival

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Parade, Takayama

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Dragons, Takayama Festival

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Sake

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Festival Floats

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Roof onsen looking over the city

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The Takayama Autumn Festival Tour – Small Group Tour of Japan – Day 4

October 11, 2015

Today was the first day of the Takayama autumn festival, after catching the bullet train to Nagoya we took the picturesque Hida line winding its way north up through the secluded mountains into the heart of the Hida region of Gifu.

At arriving in Takayama we headed straight to the hotel to drop off any baggage we hadn’t already forwarded. With that done we went out to explore as the festivities were warming up with all the floats out on display. We’d been blessed with perfect weather again, blue skies and a sun which lit up the glittering golds and reds of the festival floats. As tradition dictates, we started at a sake distillery then wound our way through the old-quarter towards Sakurayama Hachimangu Shrine, the centre of the festival grazing on the delicious Hida Beef and refuelling with sake on the way. In the evening it was the highlight of the festival – the night parade – beautiful!

The bullet train

The bullet train

View from window on the way to Takayama

View from window on the way to Takayama

The gang

The gang

Hida Beef

Hida Beef

Festival Floats out on display

Festival Floats out on display

Ghost buster

Ghost buster

Festival Floats out on display

Festival Floats out on display

Festival Floats out on display

Festival Floats out on display

Hida Beef

Hida Beef

The Takayama Autumn Festival Tour – Small Group Tour of Japan – Day 3

October 10, 2015

Due to the volcanic activity up at Owakudani we couldn’t take the cable cars up there as we usually would do on the tour and instead hopped on the bus to Lake Ashi to catch the pirate ship to cross it. The leaves on the trees surrounding the lake were just starting their autumn transition and shimmering in the sun. After running through the history of Japan, we went to see the sekisho checkpoint and museum. We also watched a demonstration on the making of the Hakone secret boxes. The skies were perfectly clear and we had wonderful views of Mt.Fuji along our route.

We walked along the peaceful cedar avenue and then along the old cobbled Tokaido Highway. Although we give a bus option for the next leg of the day to avoid the old cobbled walk through the forest, all members of the group managed the whole way without any difficulty and we all really enjoyed the ambiance and history ties up with it.

From Hakone-Yumoto we took the famous switch-back train back up the hill to the hotel for more hot spring soaking and dinner. A good day indeed.

The Takayama Tour

Onsen, a good way to start the day, and to finish it too

Onsen, a good way to start the day, and to finish it too

Pirate Ships, Lake Ashi

Pirate Ships, Lake Ashi

Lake Ashi

Lake Ashi

the making of secret boxes

the making of secret boxes

Sekisho, checkpoint

Sekisho, checkpoint

Lake Ashi, Mt.Fuji

Lake Ashi, Mt.Fuji

Cedar Avenue

Cedar Avenue

Lake Ashi, Mt.Fuji

Lake Ashi, Mt.Fuji

the cobbled highway

the cobbled highway

Walking along the cobbled highway

Walking along the cobbled highway

Switch-back train, behind driver

Switch-back train, behind driver

The Takayama Autumn Festival Tour – Small Group Tour of Japan – Day 2

October 8, 2015

We said farewell to Tokyo in the morning and took a coach to our ryokan (Japanese Inn) in the highlands of Hakone. The weather was beautiful with clear blue skies and views of Mt.Fuji from the bus windows. After visiting the samurai museum we split, some guests headed to the Pola Museum to see some of its priceless treasures, I went with the others to see the Wetlands Botanical Garden. They are in the process of preparing a bonsai exhibition starting on the 10th Oct, so although it wasn’t set up we could see a number of the exhibits.

In the evening, at our ryokan, after taking our own private baths on our balconies (and some took the communal baths too) we feasted on the foods of the season, dressed in yukata as all good boys and girls should…

The Takayama Tour

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view of Mt.Fuji from bus window on the way into Hakone

view of Mt.Fuji from bus window on the way into Hakone

the samurai museum

the samurai museum

bonsai on display

bonsai on display

Botanical Wetlands

Botanical Wetlands

Mini-bonsai on display

Mini-bonsai on display

Botanical wetlands

Botanical wetlands

the room

the room

bath on balcony filling

bath on balcony filling

The Takayama Autumn Festival Tour – Small Group Tour of Japan – Day 1

October 7, 2015

Our annual Takayama Autumn Festival Small Group Tour started yesterday. By various twists of faint it is I, Russ, who is guiding and it’s great to be back out on the road. It’s the first tour I’ve guided this year from beginning to end and I’m really looking forward to it, they are a great group and I look forward to getting to know everyone. 7 of the 8 places were filled, and all guests arrived one or two days before the start of the tour and have been enjoying their adventures around town.

Last night, following introductions we all went to the Tokyo Metropolitan building for the night views over the glittering sprawl from the observation deck on the 45th floor. After the group dinner and lashings of beer and sake we walked around Kabukicho, one of the liveliest and famous of night-time entertainment districts – full of clubs, bars with a little something to entertain more or less any taste….

For more on the Takayama Tour: http://www.dragonflytours-japan.com/hell-and-back.html

Memory Alley

Memory Alley

Shinjuku, south side of station

Shinjuku, south side of station

The Takayama Tour Group

The Takayama Tour Group

View from 45th floor

View from 45th floor

The Tokyo Metropolitan Building

The Tokyo Metropolitan Building