Live the adventures of Dan Walker's travels through reading his travel journal. The travel journals are listed below in descending order of date. To search the travel journals, use the keyword search at the bottom of the page.
|Saturday, August 20, 2016 00:26:21|
Asia 2016: 10 - Japan summary and to South Korea
Thursday, August 18, 2016
Japan is a place where time is important. Trains and buses run to the minute. If your watch indicates a train is late or early, adjust the watch - the train is precisely on time. It works well - if your station is before the end of the line you can tell when to get off by the precise time; no relying on station signs. Public clocks I saw always showed the correct time. When we were to meet people we found they arrived a little early.
In restaurants you will usually be greeted with ice water before an order is taken, but it can take some hand signaling to get other drinks before the food arrives. Where we ate there were never serviettes or napkins to place on the knees, only small paper napkins to wipe your hands. Wet wipes were usually provided before the food arrived. If the bill is on a clip board or in a small glass on the table, you take it to the cashier to pay. Tips are generally not expected.
If you plan to travel extensively by train, buy a Japan Rail pass before you travel. They include most areas, including the high speed Shinkansen, but not all private rail lines. We tried to buy a JR pass in Japan to save money, but it is not possible. When going to your platform put your ticket in a the machine at one end, a gate opens, then take your ticket at the other end. Keep the ticket. You will need it to exit the final station and for proof if requested on the train.
By showing your ticket to any railway official he will tell you the track number. A reserved seat ticket has the type of train, departure and arrival times, coach number and seat number. The time, type of train and number of coaches will show on a display at the track in most stations. When you know the number of coaches in the train the exact place your coach will stop is written on the platform. There are usually 10 or 16 coaches. Stand behind the yellow line where your car number is indicated. Train travel really is fun and easy in Japan, and there are always friendly and helpful employees around who may not speak your language, but by showing the ticket you will receive directions. Trains run frequently to most destinations.
Convenience stores are popular. The major chains are Lawsons, 7/11, K and Family Mart. We loved Lawsons. It is interesting that the leader of a rock band coming to Japan for the second time said in an interview that the thing he is most anxious to return to is Lawson's egg sandwiches. They use a special mayonnaise, the bread is soft, crusts removed, and we enjoyed them for breakfast almost every morning. In most convenience stores they are available, along with heat and eat meals, refrigerated and frozen goods, individually wrapped bananas, lots of snacks and other useful items. In Japan convenience stores are called conbinis.
Toilets in hotels in Japan are worth a mention. The one that frustrated Marilynn to no end by raising the seat when the bathroom was entered was unusual. What is usual is a control panel in the arm that allows you to spray front, back or both, set the seat temperature, adjust the pressure of the spray or turn it off.
Almost all hotels provide toothbrushes and toothpaste, most provide kimonos or night shirts, almost none provide body lotion, although shampoo, body wash and conditioner are always there.
Some Japanese words are very near English, such as conbini (convenience store), passporto, hotto (hot), checku (restaurant bill or check), sando (sandwich)
Japanese people queue well, politely and in order. A Tokyo subway at rush hour may be an exception, but the rule is people don't cut into a line. Walking is usually on the left, and stand on escalators to the left so others can pass on the right.
Japan is super clean, including public toilets. There are few garbage cans, yet streets, railway platforms and public areas are free of litter. Hang onto garbage until you come across a depository - littering would not be well accepted. Receptacles are designed for recycling - almost everything sold in Japan is recyclable.
We took the shuttle to airport and found check in, security and immigration quick. We enjoyed the huge United lounge that had only a few people in it. The Asiana flight was on time, had flat bed seats and a good meal. The only problem was when my laptop slipped into the mechanism of my seat, and it took three stewardesses and I a fair bit of time to get it out.
At Incheon Airport, South Korea, there were long lines for immigration, but they moved well. Customs was cursory. We had to check in again for the Asiana flight to Jeju Island. It took a long time and a very long walk to find the domestic check in. There was a lot of waiting, as security did not open until one hour before flight, then a further wait as the flight was delayed. It seemed to me to be an unnecessary expense to use a Boeing 747 for a 52 minute flight. The plane was equipped for all economy seats and was about half full. It was necessary to take a bus to the plane, then face a very long flight of stairs to board. Marilynn took two backpacks and I struggled with 2 heavy suitcases. An employee saw my difficulty and took the two cases but not before I did in my right shoulder. Our seats were in the upper portion of the 747, up another flight of stairs, but the stewardess redirected us to seats close to the door. We had several seats to ourselves, so leg room wasn't a problem.
I was glad to see Jeju Island has a jetway. They are going to build a large new airport here, but from what I could see the existing one was much better than Incheon. A taxi to the hotel was $6, below the $7.20 starting figure used by many taxis in Japan. The Regent Marine Hotel has very nice rooms. It is across the street from the seawall and adjacent to an amusement park in the older part of Jeju City. We had a drink in the bar, where there was a limited menu, but service was impossible. People at other tables got tired of waiting for a second drink and left, so did we. A walk down the seawall brought us to a very illuminated street lined with restaurants with tanks of fresh, live seafood of every description.
There was a small convenience store across the street from the hotel, however it was no Lawsons. No sandwiches, yogurt, bananas or other breakfast essentials. We bought orange juice and split a chocolate bar for dinner.