Monday, May 22, 2017

NRT Terminal 1 ANA Lounge

We arrived at Narita's Terminal 1 about 10:45 and made it to the ANA Lounge in about 30 minutes. We've been here many times, transiting to other destinations, but have never seen it so quiet (the entire terminal, not just the lounge).

The ANA Lounge is a splendid place to relax until we board our first flight at 1:30,  a relatively short flight to Shanghai on an ANA 787.

We have time to hit the noodle bar, but it's maybe a little early to sample the sake bar. Oh, and after all these years we  poured some "Sweat Water" and realize it's a Gatorade-type drink.

You learn something every day.

Narita Beckons

NRT from our window Monday night...

Tuesday morning...

Narita Hilton: A Jaunt to Sawara

We fulfilled our wish to see some smaller places with two consecutive day-trips easily accessible from the Hilton. Yesterday we enjoyed the colorful shopping street and temple complex in Narita.

Today we rode the hotel shuttle to the Narita train station, and used our rail passes to take a commuter train five stops and 30 minutes to Sawara.


"Sawara (佐原) is a small town northeast of Narita City that prospered during the Edo Period (1603-1867) as a transport hub for rice shipments into the capital. Sawara's historic center lies along a canal, and is known as "Little Edo" for its small district of preserved and restored traditional residences, merchant shops and warehouses from the Edo Period.

"The canal is crossed by a number of bridges, the most interesting of which is the Ja Ja Bridge that spouts a twice hourly waterfall from its span into the canal below. Departing from this bridge are flat bottomed boat tours of the town's canal."

We missed the first train by about 10 seconds and retreated to the McDonald's across the street from the station to drink iced coffee and use their free Internet.

We made the train an hour later without a hitch. We have no idea why we saw so many high school students in their smart uniforms from 10:30 onward - short Mondays?

Along the way it was almost non-stop rice paddies between the villages.

We arrived right on time, picked up a couple of maps from a friendly man in the information center, and strolled for 10 minutes or less to the historic center along the old canal. 

How picturesque is this?

We walked up one side and walked back the other.

We even discovered the artificial "waterfall" that flows out from under the bridge every 30 minutes, making one of the "best 100 sounds of Japan."

We watched the clock along with the other eager tourists and their cameras.

It wasn't exactly Niagara, but it did flow right on time. It also made a splashing sound.

That was enough excitement for us, and we slowly made our way back to the train station, taking time to watch the mail get delivered by motorbike.

We also checked out the vending machine at the train station, taking particular note of Welch's Grapeful Sparkling, Sweat Water, and Beard papa's...

We hopped off the train, walked out to bus space 4, and the Hilton bus arrived 5 minutes later.

A nice little outing and free with our rail passes. And now it's time to get ready to fly tomorrow: Narita to Shanghai to Sydney.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Narita Japan Naritasan Omote Sando: Charming Shopping Street

A free shuttle bus runs between the Hilton, a couple of other hotels, and the Narita JE train station hourly.

It's an easy way to get to this charming neighborhood, to walk down the hill, and to discover Narita-san (成田山 "Narita mountain") Shinshō-ji (新勝寺 "New victory temple"), a famous Shingon Buddhist temple complex.

It was too darned hot (over 90 degrees F in the sun) but we still enjoyed ourselves.

This looks like our kind of place.

Speaking of Narita Hotels: Narita Hotel Chapel Christmas

We snapped a photo of this bizarre place as our shuttle bus passed it.

It turns out to be a "love hotel," a very common phenomenon in crowded Japan, where couples can rent rooms by the hour.

Hilton Narita

We're enjoying our three-night stay. Our room is comfortable, we used the free shuttle bus today to visit the charming Narita shopping street and Narita-san (成田山 "Narita mountain") Shinshō-ji (新勝寺 "New victory temple") Shingon Buddhist temple, and the facility is modern.

We found the buffet breakfast weak (just not to our taste, to paraphrase a granddaughter), but the room rate was a relative bargain and we'd return here in a flash.

Hilton Narita: Communication Problems

After a couple of days of tofu, bits of seafood, and rice (no, we haven't suffered), the American-style burger and beer advertised at the entrance to the Hilton's Terrace Bar as a Limited Offer (a US $28 "special" gives one an idea of Japanese hotel restaurant prices) looked good so we entered.

We ordered a glass of house red (US $6) since Happy Hour was still on and told the friendly waiter we would like to eat. He looked surprised, and said "No food. This a bar."

Even though there were people sitting in the bar eating food, we allowed him to escort us to the restaurant next door.

It was largely a buffet and we sat ignored for awhile. Brian sensed confusion and walked all the way back to the bar entrance to snap the above photo.

When a waiter finally approached us, Brian showed him the photo.

"Oh, that's bar food."

We were then escorted back to a confused waiter in the bar, where it was all explained to him in Japanese.

We were careful to show no sign of irritation, but treated it as amusing, which it was.

The trouble was worth it. The burger and fixings, fries, and beer were outstanding, and very generous portions.

Back to Narita

We didn't give Kyoto a fair chance. We arrived exhausted after upwards of 30 hours of travel on two planes, two trains, and one hotel bus.

We accomplished a major sleep to the point we missed our buffet breakfast.

It was a little to start any ambitious tour itinerary, so we settled for a walk to the nearby temple complex.

We couldn't even give the Westin much of a recommendation. It's dated, our room was small and awkwardly laid out, the Club Lounge was extremely limited in the food department, and even the generous breakfast buffet lacked the "wow" factor. The employees were nice, but it was not a memorable stay.

Today we simply retraced our steps from there back to Narita Airport. With the help of more than one friendly local, we made our way from bus to train to train to bus without getting lost once. Almost before we knew it,?we were in the lobby of the Narita Hilton checking in.

Dinner was an adventure of sorts. To be continued...

Friday, May 19, 2017

Temples and Tofu in Kyoto

We hit the wall last night about 30 hours after we'd left our Vienna hotel.

We hadn't eaten since a continental breakfast on our flight and headed to the Westin Lounge. It's one floor below our room and offers a nice view of the surrounding city and hills.

There is little food out but the employees deliver a small plate. That's it.

We were tired but still hungry, and decided on the hotel's Chinese restaurant, very expensive but decent food.

A cute teapot...

And a fancy bag to carry our unfinished bottle of wine back to our room...

We slept in this morning - the longest and best sleep of our trip so far.

Once organized, we walked the half-mile or so to the Nanzen-ji Zen Buddhist Temple complex. We knew it was an important landmark, because groups of well-behaved students on field trips abounded.

The temple and the grounds are beautiful and clearly Japanese.

Having slept through breakfast, we decided on a restaurant adjacent to (within?) the complex that specializes in vegetarian tofu hot pot, Nanzenji Junsei.

The young man guarding the front gate confirmed there was a table for us and escorted us in.

It was an interesting experience. Our favorite dish of the elaborate meal was the tempura.

We can't overlook the exquisite presentation.

Our favorite...

Tofu merrily boiling...

Pickles and dessert, the little round pastries tasting like donut holes in a plastic bag...

After lunch, we strolled through the restaurant's lovely garden.

And now for a nap before our evening visit to the Westin Lounge.