April 2024 now sold out
Prices ex Sydney
Price will include return flight from Sydney to Tokyo, Japan Rail Pass, accomodation, breakfast and admittance to venues. Not included: lunch, dinner and drinks
CONTACT IAN GREENWOOD
0404 841 038
April 2024 itinerary (subject to small changes)
We will meet at the gate lounge in Sydney International Airport about half an hour before boarding. Then we have our overnight flight to Haneda.
We land at Haneda International Airport, Tokyo at around 0600. After we collect our luggage and get through customs, we need to wait until the Japan Rail Office opens at 0645 to exchange our JR passes (I will have all these). The wait will be diminished by baggage collection and customs but we will get in line for the passes as soon as we can because the line grows quickly once the office is open.
When we have the passes, we have a little train hop. We take the Monorail to Hamamatsucho (about 15 minutes) and then a suburban train to Tokyo Station where we will be first in line to board the Shinkansen (bullet train). The unreserved cars on the Hikari Shinkansen are cars 1-3. We change to another Shinkansen at Shin Osaka and get to Hiroshima early afternoon. It’s a small cab ride to the hotel. Usually with luggage we get three in a cab - without luggage, four. I’ll have cash for each cab.
Our hotel is not far from the action and Molly Malone's Irish Pub has a happy hour from 5-7pm. It's a great way to unwind and get to know each other before heading out somewhere to eat.
We’ll make a time to meet after breakfast and take a walk through the party street, Nagarekawacho and up past the university my Grandfather taught at and the cathedral where Mum and Dad were married- also Mum’s old school. Right nearby is Shukkeien Garden which is a beautiful traditional display of nature. There’s a cafe there as well. After that we’ll wander down to Hiroshima Castle, then on to the famous Peace Park. It’s easy to get back to the hotel from here . My groups often split up here as some go to the Museum and some go shopping.
Tonight I’ll be doing a gig with my old mate Hiroki Maeta at a great little family run Okonomiyaki Restaurant. This is the one venue we visit that only has a Japanese style toilet.
After breakfast we’ll walk or tram to Hiroshima Station and catch a train to Miyajima Guchi where we’ll get on the ferry across to Miyajima itself. Try to get a spot on the right hand side going over - it’s a great view - one of my favourite parts of my trips.
There's a lot to do and see here. Plenty of places to eat. I'll be heading to a beaut little outdoor eatery in amongst the maple trees where you can order beautiful local oysters and a cool beer, if anyone wants to join me - although, it mostly an uphill walk so it might not suit everyone. There’s also an aquarium and a ropeway to the peak of the island for anyone wanting to put more time in at the island. Because we have a free night, we’ll make a time to meet back at the ferry but if anyone wants to stay late, that’s fine, too.
Today we will get to the station a bit before our train ride to Kumamoto and buy some lunch to have on the train. There are food shops everywhere, as you will well know by now. Our hotel is right near the station. Tonight we're going to Good Time Charlie, an iconic Honky Tonk in Japan. Charlie Nagatani is 87 years old and has been playing in his bar Good Time Charlie every night (except for outside shows, including the Grand Ole Opry 29 times) for nearly 50 years.
Today we travel to Kyoto. We change trains at Shin Osaka for the quick hop to Kyoto, the old capital of Japan. We'll drop our bags at the hotel and then head a couple of stations down to Inari that's home to Fushimi Inari Taisha , a famous Shinto shrine and also a great little family owned knife shop. There are knife shops all over Japan but I just love the style of this one.
For those wanting to, we'll meet up for happy hour tonight and dissect the day.
No need to get going really early today. We'll meet in the lobby and take the subway/bus to Kinkakuji, one of the most photographed temples in Kyoto. From there we will take a walk to Imamiya Shrine and then through an old neighbourhood that used to house samurai - it's a beautiful walk.
My good friend Minoru Tanaka has a little shop of Japanese religious supplies nearby that includes some very nice incense. We can visit his shop before taking the subway back to Kyoto station. There's no gig tonight so it would be a good opportunity to head up to Gion and see if we can spot any Maiko (Geisha) and enjoy Kyoto after sundown.
We will meet fairly early this morning to beat the crowds to Arashiyama and the beautiful walk though the bamboo grove. There’s a great little shop that sells bamboo products (all ok to bring home) and after a coffee and a spell, we'll head back to the hotel - free time until we gather again this evening.
There's a bluegrass jam tonight at Japan's oldest Honky Tonk right on the outskirts of town. We will take the subway to the end of the line and the Honky Tonk is about an 800 metre walk from there. In the past, Minoru has done a few trips in his own vehicle to get us to the venue, but in any case, it's a comfortable ten or fifteen minute walk. Food at the venue and they will split bills. The last subway leaves at 11:39pm.
Today we travel to Hamamatsu. This is a real music town. My mother did her training for working at Yamaha Hiroshima in this city. Near our hotel, there’s a musical instrument museum which is well worth a visit. Tonight we’ll take the Shinkansen half an hour up the track to Shizuoka where there'll be a very casual acoustic jam in a tiny little music venue. This will be one of those places where I'll pay in a lump sum at the end of the night, so if you keep a rough tab of your drinks (and I mean rough- ball park is fine- I'm not counting!) and fix me up in the next few days. The half hour trip on the train could be a good chance to eat, if you want to bring a bento box along.
When we get on the Shinkansen today try to get a seat on the left side in case the weather is good enough to see Mt Fuji. We are staying at Oimachi and as we'll be there before check in, we'll drop our luggage and return at 3pm.
We've had a late mail change for tonight- Rocky Top isn't available for our band. I am currently looking for something else - perhaps a Trad session in an Irish Pub or a place where we can have our own session. I'll keep you posted.
We’ll meet around 10:30 and head to Ginza where they usually shut the Main Street off after 12pm on a Sunday. There’s a great paper shop with all sorts of interesting items down the end.
The group often splits up at this point but there are things to see afterwards like Harajuku (and it's crazy main street or the exact opposite- a peaceful Meiji Shrine)
Tonight we will be country music with Dicky Kitano and band- in a venue that will be new to me as well - good solid country music from these lads.
After we check out of our rooms, we can leave our luggage at the hotel and we’ll head into Ueno Park where there are museums, galleries and yes, more shops! It’s a nice way to spend our last day here, although if anyone wants to go solo elsewhere, do that, by all means. We’ll meet up back at the hotel later in the day, get to the airport and check in for our overnight flight back to Australia.
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