summer 2003- becky was on her mission in brasil; i spent four weeks in preston, idaho.
summer 2004- celebrating becky's return, family trip to nauvoo, il. saw a lot of cool church history, visited carthage jail, and made the drive back to northern minnesota in one day.
summer 2005- becky and i went to thailand; she saved the world, i videotaped it; we spent a 'day' in bangkok and seoul; she went to singapore without me.
summer 2006- not sure, but the family's going to japan in may.
a few 'what if's have somehow led to my family going to japan this may, which is proving to be a potentially very awesome adventure. i ended up as the tour manager in florida, and am resuming the mantle for this excursion into the orient, i suppose because i've been there twice before, speak the language, and really enjoy planning vacations.
works for me.
drawing from personal knowledge and hours on the internet, my current itinerary for the 'japan cruise' is as follows:
sunday, may 21, 5:05 p.m. after a 12-hour flight direct from minneapolis, we land at narita airport and make the hour's journey to tokyo. i'd like to stay at the park hyatt [re: 'lost in translation'], but the hilton looks pretty awesome, too. everyone crashes, jeff runs out to buy octopus dough-balls on a stick.
monday, may 22: tokyo, the biggest big city in the world and about three years into the future. check out shinjuku, the same location featured in 'tekken 4' where my little brother has beat me several times; shibuya, odaiba, and ginza, where land goes for $100,000 per square meter; akihabara, with every electronic gadget conceived; the imperial palace, just becasuse it's there. anime for tim, culture at the kabuki theater for becky--shows run for hours, but a one act ticket is $15. and of course, the hard rock cafe, where e'er it may be. after seoul, becky and i can find a hard rock cafe anywhere. and we now have an advantage- we speak the language!
tuesday, may 23: nikko. bullet train and a few transfers to see a shrine ornate enough to make louis xiv jealous. the ruler who brought japan into the modern era is enshrined here. evening in tokyo to see the town lit up. perhaps yakiniku for dinner, where you grill the marinated meat at your table.
wednesday, may 24: travel to kyoto. the capitol of japan for nearly 1000 years, kyoto is the place to be and see. and there's no better way than the bullet trains and a rail pass. available only to foreign visitors, the rail pass gives access to japan's major rail company and makes you feel like a movie star; flash the pass and a ticket to anywhere you want to go. the bullet trains ['shinkansen'] are like first-class airplanes; comfortable, quiet, smooth. a three hour journey to kyoto. mt. fuji is best seen out the right-hand side about 40-45 minutes after leaving kyoto. oddly, kyoto doesn't boast the selection of hotels that tokyo does, but there is a very nice place connected to the kyoto station itself.
thursday, may 25: nara. 40 minutes south and a little east of kyoto is where the national capitol was from 400-700 a.d. some of the world's largest structures in the world, big buddhas, and deer that are considered national treasure; they harass you for food constantly. perhaps a stop in osaka or kobe- not a lot to see in the cities, although the osaka aquarium looks to be very cool, and kobe is one of the most beautiful cities in the world, especially at night.
friday, may 26: hiroshima, 2 hours from kyoto. maybe a visit to 'himeji' in the morning; it's on the way and has japan's most famous and real castle. nothing much beyond that, but a real castle is something. hiroshima's peace memorial park is one of the most somber places in the world [excepting the noisy school kids on field trips]. the atomic bomb dome stands powerfully, eerie that it was only a few hundred meters from the first aggressive atomic bomb. the memorial museum is an emotionally draining place, but certainly worth the visit. the basement houses pictures drawn by survivors of the blast. not to be missed.
after that, a visit to miyajima, one of the most famous sights in japan; 40 minutes by train, ferry, and foot to the island. supposedly there are monkeys.
saturday, may 27: ise and shingu. a tricky day, as ise is very famous but small and out of the way, and shingu is even smaller and much less popular. ise is the oldest and most sacred shrine in shinto, built around 300 a.d., and said to hold the mirror given by the god amaterasu to the first emperor of japan. shingu is a quiet little seaside town where i served for six months, saw some beautiful nature, and ate dolphin.
sunday, may 28: kyoto. we've been staying here for most of the week, and now we get to look around my favorite city in the world, as well as go to church here. there is more to see here than any other city, and enough natural points of interest that it's good for a sunday.
monday, may 29: kyoto. all the big sites, the golden pavilion, the silver pavilion [best on a rainy day], kiyomizu temple, gion [where the geishas thrived], the ryoanji rock garden, hall of 1,001 statues, and the gardens of heian shrine, to name only the biggest.
tuesday, may 30: take the train back to tokyo and fly out at 4:00, only to arrive in san francisco at 9 a.m. that morning. weird.