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July 20, 2012

#FriendsTravel Japan: Land of The Rising Sun JESS Kalinowsky JESS@FriendsTravel.com

Filed under: JAPAN — japanwithfriendstravel @ 1:40 am
#FriendsTravel Japan: Land of The Rising Sun

This tour has been carefully designed to visit Japan’s key sights using the country’s superb public transport network. Discover the futuristic city of Tokyo, explore the splendor of Mount Fuji and Hakone National Park and visit Kyoto, a great base from which to visit Nara. From traveling on a Shinkansen, the bullet train, to staying in an authentic ryokan, experiencing city lights, taking your palette beyond Sushi and Sake, and spending time in ancient villages, Japan is a discovery that will never end.

Itinerary

Day 1
Arrive Tokyo
Upon arrival in Tokyo, you will be welcomed by your local representative and transferred to your hotel. The Peninsula Tokyo (Deluxe Room) – 3-nights
Day 2
Tokyo
Set out on an exploration of this bustling city. Enjoy panoramic views from the main observatory of Tokyo Tower. Take memorable pictures of the Imperial Palace Plaza located next to the Imperial Palace, home of the Emperor of Japan. Visit the ancient Asakusa Kannon Temple and the traditional Nakamise Shopping Arcade. Your final stop is the Tasaki Pearl Gallery to see the process of pearl cultivation. (B)
Day 3
Tokyo
Spend the day at leisure and explore the city at your own pace. (B)

Option: Choose from two optional activities available.

Full day Tokyo Tour: Highlights include a visit to the Fukagawa Edo Museum and Ginza area. Following lunch, visit Hamarikyu Garden and enjoy a cruise on Tokyo Bay.

Sumo Wrestling Tournament: Enjoy a Sumo Wrestling tournament, a popular sport dating back thousands of years. Also visit the Sumo Museum and experience a Dohyo-iri (entering the ring) ceremony at the amphitheater.

Note: Available only in the month of Jan, May and Sept 2011.
Please contact #FriendsTravel tour consultant, JESS Kalinowsky, for details.

Day 4
To Hakone
Enjoy a scenic drive to Mount Fuji. Visit Mt. Fuji 5th Station (subject to weather; in case of bad weather, you will visit the Fuji Visitor Center). Tour the magnificent Hakone National Park. After a traditional Japanese lunch, embark on a relaxing boat cruise on Lake Ashi. Ride an aerial cableway up and down at Mt. Komagatake. Hyatt Regency Hakone – 1-night (B, L, D)
Day 5
To Hiroshima
This morning, the bulk of your luggage will be delivered to your hotel in Kyoto, only an overnight bag is required. Transfer to the Odawara station for your Shinkansen (bullet train) to Hiroshima.

Enjoy a full day tour of Hiroshima and Miyajima. Pay tribute to the victims of the bomb blast at the Peace Park and witness the aftermath of the blast through the photographs at the Atomic Bomb Museum. A short ferry ride takes you to the picturesque island of Miyajima. Admire the architectural beauty of the Itsukushima Shrine that emerges from the water, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Rihga Royal Hotel – 1-night (B)

Option: Overnight at Iwaso Ryokan [Highly recommended! JESS]

Note: Guide will not join you on the bullet train.
Day 6
To Kyoto
Travel aboard the bullet train to Kyoto. Your city tour starts after you disembark at Shin Osaka station. Visit Osaka Castle and get some great deals as your shop at Shinsaibashi or Dotobori. Later, transfer to Kyoto. Hotel Okura – 3-nights (B)

Note: Guide will not join you on the bullet train.

Day 7
Kyoto
Discover Kyoto on a city tour. Visit the Kinkakuji Temple, designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site, Ryoanji (Peaceful Dragon Temple), a Zen temple and Nijo Castle (closed every Tuesday of July, Aug and Dec), famous for its Momoyama architecture. Following a traditional lunch, enjoy the spectacular Maiko show (offered only if a show is scheduled). End the day by witnessing the famous Japanese tea ceremony. (B, L)
Day 8
Kyoto – Nara – Kyoto
Morning visit to Nara, home to Japan’s original emperors. Visit Todaiji Temple, Nara Park and Kasuga Shrine. Return to Kyoto and visit the hillside Fushima-Inari Shrine. End the day with a visit to the Sake Museum to learn more about Japan’s national drink. (B)

Option: Geisha Experience with dinner. A rare opportunity to experience an evening of traditional Geisha entertainment, including traditional performances and a sumptuous Kyoto style meal.

Day 9
Depart Osaka
Today you will be transferred to the Kansai International Airport in Osaka for your international flight. (B)

We recommend You Extend Your Journey:

The Enchanting Temples of Angkor
Luang Prabang: The Crown Jewel of Laos

Discounted First Class, Business Class, or Coach Airfares Worldwide.

JESS@FriendsTravel.com 24|7|365

#FriendsTravel Japan Land of the Rising Sun JESS Kalinowsky JESS@FriendsTravel.com

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January 4, 2011

#FriendsTravel Japan JESS Kalinowsky JESS@FriendsTravel.com

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    December 25, 2010

    #FriendsTravel Japan, and Asia, Reduced Rate Airfares JESS Kalinowsky JESS@FriendsTravel.com

    Filed under: JAPAN,Reduced Rate Airfares — japanwithfriendstravel @ 4:23 am
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    Give us the Name of each traveler as it reads on the passport, DOB, travel dates, and we will have a firm price for you within an hour.  [Without the Names/DOB, we can give a approximate quote, based on space availability.]  Airline seats are highly perishable and can be sold out within minutes, that is why we request the Names and DOB.  You are NOT obligated until you say “YES” and give us your credit card info.  We can get you any airline, any routing you desire. So the better info you give us the better, and faster response we can give you. JESS Kalinowsky AIR@FriendsTravel.com

    #FriendsTravel Japan Dreams of old made reality in tranquil ryokans JESS Kalinowsky JESS@FriendsTravel.com

    Dreams of old Japan made reality in tranquil ryokans

    When travelers think of Japan, images of geishas, kabuki, sumo and samurai might come to mind. The reality, especially for those entering the island nation via the main international airports of Narita for Tokyo and Kansai for Osaka, is that they will be greeted with ultramodern “megatropolises.”

    To experience the Japan of  your dreams, a stay at a ryokan, a traditional Japanese-style inn, is a must. In addition, since ryokans are typically inclusive of accommodations plus breakfast and dinner, a realistic travel budget can be worked out in advance for clients. With the current strength of the yen vs. the dollar, this is more important than ever.

    When guests enter a ryokan, they exchange their shoes for a pair of slippers, then are escorted to their rooms by a kimono-clad attendant. There, behind closed shoji screens, patrons shed their street clothes and don a yukata (a light cotton kimono) for the duration of their stay. The idea is, upon entering a ryokan, to leave the hustle and bustle of the outside world at the front door.

    A quintessential ryokan experience can be found at Asaba, a member of the Relais & Chateaux hotel and restaurant group in Shizuoka Prefecture south of Tokyo on the island of Honshu. Relais & Chateaux counts five ryokans among its 10 hotel and restaurant members in Japan.

    Founded in 1675, Asaba has 23 rooms, a large pond, a bamboo forest and a Japanese Noh stage for occasional theatrical presentations. Among the musts of any ryokan stay are the traditional, multicourse kaiseki dinner and a dip in an onsen, or hot spring. Asaba has an outdoor communal bath with alternating time slots for men and women as well as in-room private baths.

    Nobel Prize-winning Japanese author Yasunari Kawabata called the Hiiragiya ryokan his home away from home. “On a drizzly afternoon in Kyoto, sitting by the window, I watch the falling rain, listen to its calming sound. It is here, at Hiiragiya, that I wistfully recall that sense of tranquility that belonged to old Japan,” he wrote. He’s not alone in his sentiments, though few can articulate it as well as he did.

    Since its founding in 1818, the Hiiragiya ryokan, located in the center of Japan’s ancient capital, has hosted luminaries from members of Japan’s royal family to Charlie Chaplin, Elizabeth Taylor and Pierre Cardin. The property has 21 rooms in its original wing and seven rooms in its new wing, with nightly rates ranging from about $365 to $1,200. The kaiseki dinner is served on elegant lacquerware and the city’s famous ceramics.

    Myojinkan ryokan, meanwhile, is located in the mountains above Matsumoto Castle, one of the great landmarks of medieval Japan, in Nagano Prefecture.

    Established in 1931, Myojinkan has a hot spring bath that, while great any time of year, is otherworldly in winter. A bather can enter from the warmth and comfort of the ryokan directly into a fourth-floor bath that opens to the forest. To bathe in hot spring bliss at 3,500 feet above sea level with a view of a snow-covered forest is magical.

    Near Mount Fuji in Hakone National Park is Gora Kadan. East meets West for the best of both worlds at this ryokan combining European and Japanese spa treatments. This former holiday retreat for the imperial family now attracts celebrities from both sides of the Pacific seeking pampered refuge.

    A meal at Gora Kadan ryokan is special! Why do so many travelers to Japan love the ryokan experience? Perhaps the answer lies within the pages of a book in the library at Gora Kadan. “Hiroshige: One Hundred Famous Views of Edo,” a compilation of 19th century Japanese woodblock prints by one of the medium’s great masters, portrays scenes that are distant dreams from the Tokyo of the Edo period but are still the reality at the many ryokans that still dot the Japanese landscape.

    Unlike Commodore Perry, I arrived in Japan in luxury, aboard All Nippon Airways’ new business-class service between New York and Narita featuring ultramodern flat-bed suites. Friends Travel LLP offers reduced fares in First Class, Business Class and Coach on ANA, and all other airlines flying to Japan from the USA.

    The new seats and layout is called ANA Business Staggered. This configuration adds 50% more personal space compared with the conventional layout and allows for aisle access from every business-class seat, according to the airlines. A 17-inch-wide LCD screen with a wide array of programming and world-class food and beverage service add to the experience.

    For more about Relais & Chateaux ryokans, EMAIL JAPAN@FriendsTravel.com

    December 19, 2010

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    September 19, 2008

    #FriendsTravel Japan Vacation Packages JESS Kalinowsky JESS@FriendsTravel.com

    Japan Vacation Packages  offered by FriendsTravel.com

    The thought of Japan conjures up images of demure geishas, soaring temples, and bustling cityscapes…it’s a land of contrasts, where ultra-modern technology rubs shoulders with ancient traditions. Japan’s attractions range from historic and cultural treasures to modern and futuristic sights, from beautiful forests to mountains and sea coasts.

    In Japan’s capital city, Tokyo, the energy of the crowded streets draws visitors like a magnet. Museums, shops, sights abound—but take a break to experience a traditional tea ceremony.

    Kyoto, the cultural center of Japan, was the imperial capital for over 1000 years, and retains a heritage of temples and gardens, palaces and museums—and the secret world of the geisha.

    The historic port, waterways and canals are a legacy of Osaka’s maritime heritage. The city combines history and culture with hearty local cuisine. In Japan, the artful presentation of food is a very important enhancement of its flavor, so a meal can be truly a feast for all of the senses.

    Wherever your travels in Japan take you, you’ll be sure to unlock cultural treasures of a uniquely complex land.

    August 22, 2008

    #FriendsTravel JAPAN SPIRITUAL TOURS JESS Kalinowsky JESS@FriendsTravel.com

    SPIRITUAL TOUR OF JAPAN
    Contrary to the modern image of Japan with electronics and automobiles, Japan
    abounds in spiritual experiences. Temples are open for overnight stay, where the
    general public can experience the typical day of a Buddhist monk, learning how
    to meditate, and eating vegetarian food.
    The following itinerary offers an assortment of spiritualism
    found in Japan.
    Let us start in Kyoto, Japan’s old capital for 1000 years up until late 19th
    century. This is the best city to learn about Japanese Buddhist culture,
    its architecture, simplicity, and openness to accept other diverse cultures.
    Three distinctive areas of Kyoto are represented.
    • On the first day, you will visit the Eastern Kyoto, starting with Kiyomizu,
    Chion-in, Nanzen-ji, and Ginkaku-ji (Silver Pavilion) among other temples.
    • On the second day, you will head to Northwestern Kyoto to Kinkaku-ji
    (Golden Pavilion) and Ryoan-ji Temple (rock garden) to look further into
    the Zen spirit.
    • On the third day, you will spend time in Mt. Hiei, the Mecca of Tendai
    Esoteric Buddhism. In late 16th century, Lord Oda Nobunaga, who wished
    to be a Shogun, burned the mountain, trying to diminish the threatening
    power of Buddhist monks of Mt. Hiei. Today, disbursed throughout in the
    mountains, are dozens of Buddhist structures. With good walking shoes,
    you can walk hours visiting them one by one.
    The second leg of the trip is in mountainous Koyasan, the birthplace of
    Shingon Buddhism. You might stay in one of the temples overnight, and
    experience the life of a monk. You will be immersed in the spiritual side of
    this temple town, while taking in the peaceful scenery of the surrounding
    mountains.
    KYOTO
    fly from US
    Spiritual Tour of Japan 2
    The third leg of your journey is Nara, the oldest existing Japanese capital,
    dating back to the 8th century. Nara has in its core a large pedestrian park
    with the Great Buddha Hall, the National Museum, pagodas, shrines,
    and tame deer. You might also visit Horyu-ji Temple, the world’s oldest
    wooden structure, dating back to the 7th century. A visit to Yakushi-ji
    Temple and Kofuku-ji Temple with its awe-inspiring five-story pagoda will
    add more depth to your architectural and aesthetic understanding of the
    Japanese Buddhist culture.
    The highlight of the trip is the experience at Eihei-ji Zen Temple, a head
    temple of Soto Zen Buddhism. Hundreds of Zen monks are trained there
    even today. You can stay overnight at the temple and learn the way of
    “Zen” mediation. The temple offers a 3-night stay option. If you take this
    package, you will literally live the life of a Zen monk.
    Reservations are required to stay in Shukubo or temple inns. JNTO
    can provide a list of such places that welcome foreigners (not just in
    Koyasan, but also in Kyoto and other areas of Japan). Remember, you will
    have to live like a Japanese, if not totally like a monk, by sharing a large
    bathtub, sleeping on a thin futon, sitting on the straw mat . . . It is recommended
    to avoid mid-summer and mid-winter. Typically, most of the
    temples have no heating or air conditioning systems. At temples, you are
    expected to use chopsticks and be accustomed to Japanese bathrooms and
    bedding. If you need a soft landing on the spiritual ground, try to stay in
    nearby Western-style hotels with a private bath and a Western bed.
    It is encouraging to know that most Japanese do not ask your religious
    denomination. It is quite unlikely that you will feel unwelcome to stay at
    Buddhist temples.
    Day 1 – Arrival – Transfer to KYOTO
    The best way to go directly to Kyoto is to arrive into Kansai Airport and transfer
    by Limited Express train for Kyoto Station or limousine bus for Kyoto station and
    then proceed to your hotel. However, you can also arrive into Narita Airport and
    transfer by plane to Itami Airport (the domestic airport closest to Kyoto) or go
    into Tokyo, overnight and take an early 3 hour Shinkansen “bullet train” to Kyoto
    the next morning.
    Yasaka Shrine
    Ryokan
    Spiritual Tour of Japan 3
    Visit Buddhist temples: Kiyomizu, Chion-in, Seijaku-in, Nanzen-ji, Ginkaku-ji.
    There is much walking involved. A good pair of walking shoes is essential.
    Start the day from Kyoto Station. Take City Bus #100 or 206 to Gojozaka. Take
    Gojizaka Street to Kiyomizuzaka Slope. Stay on this ever-busy uphill road until you
    see the three-story pagoda of Kiyomizu Temple.
    The origins of Kiyomizu Temple go back to the 8th century. This unique structure
    with a main hall built upon a platform supported by 149 wooden columns is one of
    the most popular sites in Kyoto. Once reaching the cascade (the name of Kiyomizu
    derives from it,“pure water”), take a side alley to Seikan-ji Temple. This fiveminute
    walk is well worth it, as Kiyomizu Temple is viewed most exquisitely from
    Seikan-ji. Admission to Kiyumizu is 400 yen.
    Leaving Kiyomizu, take the same road back to the beginning of Kiyomizuzaka Slope.
    At the spice shop, make right to a narrow lane called Sannenzaka Lane (three-year
    slope). Continue on to Ninenzaka Lane (two-year slope). Quaint antique shops
    and specialty shops add charm to these lanes. The Japanese find this area “typically
    Kyoto.”
    Looking at the five-story Yasaka Pagoda of Yasaka Shrine on your left, continue
    on to Kodaiji Road all the way to Maruyama Park. Renowned for weeping cherry
    trees, Maruyama Park is the oldest public park in Kyoto. Walk north through the
    park towards Chion-in Temple (head temple of Jodo Buddhism).
    The wooden gate of Chion-in and the long white walls around the temple grounds
    are some of the most impressive and serene in all of Kyoto. Many of the temples
    in the area can be visited free of charge.
    Walk north to Sanjo-dori (Sanjo Street). Once on Sanjo-dori, make a right turn.
    Pass the Miyako Hotel on the right hand side, and walk toward Nanzan-ji Zen
    Temple. Dating back to 1264, it is the head temple of the Nanzen-ji School of
    Rinzai Zen Buddhism.
    Walk northeast to Tetsugakuno-michi, nicknamed “Philosopher’s Path”, after
    20th century philosopher, Nishida Kitaro, who was a student of both Zen and
    modern Western philosophy. The path stretches about 2 kilometers to Ginkaku-ji
    Temple, and remains quiet and serene, dotted with small cafes, souvenir shops, and
    secluded temples.
    At the end of the promenade is Ginkaku-ji Temple or Silver Pavilion. Unlike its
    name, the two-story meditation hall is not Silver colored unlike its name (the silver
    leaf was never put on). However, the temple represents some characteristics of
    the Zen spirit – simplicity, austerity . . . Admission is 500 yen.
    After exploring Ginkaku-ji, take City Bus #5, 11, or 17 to get back to Kyoto Station.
    Try to take your time on this walking tour. It is important for you to absorb the
    Day 2 – KYOTO – Get the Feeling of KYOTO
    Kiyomizu Temple
    Spiritual Tour of Japan 4
    ambiance at a leisurely pace. If it rains, reverse day itineraries in Kyoto. You have 3
    days in Kyoto.
    Day 3 – KYOTO – Zen, and more Zen . . .
    Visit Buddhist temples in Northwestern Kyoto: Kinkaku-ji (Zen meditation hall
    and teahouse), Ryoan-ji (Zen garden).
    From Kyoto Station take City Bus #52 or 59 to Kinkakuji-mae “Golden Pavilion”.
    Founded by Shogun Yoshimitsu in late 14th century, this was his villa where he
    spent his retired life. It is most important to know that the two-story gilded
    pavilion was a meditation hall, not a summer house, and the strolling garden was
    meant to bring spiritual peace to the founder. In the garden there is a small teahouse.
    It is a reminder that the tea ceremony is closely associated with Zen
    philosophy. Admission is 400 yen.
    From Kinkaku-ji walk southwest to Ryoan-ji Temple. Being one of the distinguished
    Zen temples of Rinzai Zen Buddhism, the temple was founded in 1450 by a
    Samurai lord. The rock garden is the supreme specimen of dry landscape gardening
    using no live plants, thus having remained almost in the original form for over five
    centuries. The 550 square-foot rectangular garden consists of 15 rocks and white
    sand. Admission: 400 yen.
    If you have time, stop by at Ninna-ji Temple, head temple of the Omuro school of
    Shingon Bucddism. The temple is noted for its relaxing stroll garden, and five-story
    pagoda. Admission is 400 yen.
    If you have some energy left, try to walk south to Myoshin-ji Temple, supreme temple
    of the Myoshin-ji school of Rinzai Zen Buddhism. With 47 structures in the temple
    complex, it looks as though you came right into a samurai movie location.
    Admission is free except for a small section. Take City Bus #61, 62, 63, or 65 to
    return to Kyoto Station.
    Day 4 – KYOTO: Mountain Buddhism and a bit of Samurai History
    Visit to Mt. Hiei, Mecca of Tendai Buddhism
    From Kyoto Station, take Kyoto Bus #51 or Keihan Bus #7 to Enryaku-ji (main
    structure in Mt. Hiei). Switch to a shuttle bus to Yokawa, where you will take
    another shuttle bus to Eryaku-ji.
    Enryaku-ji Temple dates back to the 8th century. Founded by Saicho, Mt Hiei
    produced some of the most influential Buddhist monks. For hundreds of years
    Kinkaku-ji
    Royan-ji
    Spiritual Tour of Japan 5
    Buddhist monks had enjoyed political and financial powers. In the late 16th
    century, though, Oda Nobunaga burned Mt. Hiei, trying to subjugate these monks.
    The book Taiko , written by Eiji Yoshikawa (publisher: Kodansha) describes how this
    undertaking was carried away by Lord Oda.
    Start with Todo, the East Precinct, with its lecture hall and belfry. The main
    structure called Konponchudo is a national cultural asset, which was rebuilt by the
    3rd Tokugawa Shogun in the 1630s. An eternal flame burns inside the building.
    Saito, the West Precinct, is much quieter than Todo. Shaka Hall, with its stately
    curved roofline, is found together with Rurido Hall, which escaped Lord Oda’s
    imfamous fire.
    If you have time and wish to enjoy nature, you might walk from Todo to Yokawa via
    Saito along the Tokai Nature Path. It stretches about 4 miles. Otherwise, take
    a shuttle.
    Day 5 – By train from KYOTO to KOYASAN
    Visit Koyasan, Mecca of Shingon Buddhism
    Here is your chance to experience a stay in a temple . . . meditating and eating
    shoji-ryiori – vegetarian temple cuisine.
    Koyasan or Mt. Koya, is located in Wakayama Prefecture, south of Kyoto. To get
    there from Kyoto, take a JR Shinkansen bullet train to Shin-Osaka (30 minutes).
    Transfer at Shin-Osaka for the Osaka Kanjo Line for Shin-Imamiya Station. At Shin-
    Imamiya Station transfer again to the Nankai Koya Line bound for Koyasan. It takes
    1.5 hours by express train. The Nankai train ticket costs 1,990 yen. The train
    stops at Gokurakubashi, and you will be directed to a cable car to reach Koyasan
    (5 minutes).
    Temples offering overnight lodging in Koyasan (reservation required):
    Hozenin TempleTelephone: 0736-56-2658 / Fax: 0736-56-4556
    9,000 yen – 12,000 yen/night incl. 2 meals
    Ichijoin Temple Telephone: 0736-56-2214 / Fax: 0736-56-2264
    9,000 yen – 30,000 yen/night incl. 2 meals
    Day 6 – KOYASAN – Feel the temple town
    Koyasan is a sacred place for many Japanese. Kukai, founder of Shingon Buddhism
    about 1200 years ago is probably the most revered Japanese monk. He is also
    known for developing Japanese phonetic letters, Hiragana, from Chinese characters.
    Spiritual Tour of Japan 6
    Deep in Mt. Koya is Koyasan Okunoin. This is where Kukai’s soul is said to be
    in nirvana, resting to be reincarnated.
    Walk around town or take a bus to get around in Koyasan. You might take
    advantage of the special day coach pass for 800 yen.
    Day 7 – Train to NARA – The oldest existing Capital of Japan
    Meet Great Buddha and friendly deer
    Take Nankai Line to Hashimoto, then change to JR Wakayama-Sakurai Line for
    Sakurai. In Sakurai, catch a train on JR Nara Line to Nara.
    Nara was the capital of Japan between 710 and 784 AD, during which time, Japanese
    cultural foundation was formed. Buddhism flourished and foreign cultures including
    those of the Near East were introduced.
    For the remainder of the day, let’s visit Horyu-ji Temple. Take JR Yamatoji Line to
    Horyuji Station. Walk north for 25 minutes. Horyu-ji is the world’s oldest wooden
    structure. Four of the 33 buildings date back to the Asuka period (552 – 645 AD).
    The temple is designated as a historical world heritage by UNESCO. Admission is
    700 yen.
    Day 8 – NARA – Nara Park, Essence of Ancient Capital
    Visit Nara Park, the largest city park in Japan, covering 1294 acres. The area
    closest to the City of Nara is the treasure house of the ancient capital.
    Start walking towards Todai-ji Temple, or Great Buddha Hall. You can not miss
    it as it looms over other structures around it. The original giant Buddha statue was
    cast in 746 AD. Today only the base remains and the rest was remade later. The
    statue measures almost 50 feet in height and weighs 380 metric tons. Behind the
    statue, there is a hole in a column inside the Buddha Hall. That is the size of the
    Buddha’s nostril. Sometimes young children actually crawl in and through it!
    One of the best parts of Nara Park is Nigatsudo and Sangatsudo Chapels, located
    just north of the Great Buddha Hall. There is something about this area that
    turns your inner time machine backward by ten centuries. Walk in the area when
    there aren’t many people. The view from Nigatsudo Chapel is out of this world.
    Leaving the park, walk toward Kintetsu Nara Station. On the way, make sure to
    visit Kofuku-ji’s five-story Pagoda, the most impressive pagoda of all. Shooting
    KYOTO
    NARA
    Nara Park
    Todai-ji Temple
    Spiritual Tour of Japan 7
    165 feet into the sky, it stands magnificently in front of you, the culmination of
    Japanese temple architecture.
    If you have time, visit Yakushiji Temple. The original temple was dedicated to
    Emperor Temmu’s consort in late 7th century. Many temples in the area were
    erected in similar manners.
    Day 9 – Train to EIHEI-JI
    Eihei-ji is the Head Temple of Soto Zen Buddhism in Fukui Prefecture, northeast of
    Kyoto. It can be considered the highlight of the Spiritual Tour.
    From Nara take either Kintetsu Line or JR Nara Line to Kyoto. Note that there
    are two separate railway stations in Nara. Once in Kyoto change to JR Hokuriku
    Line to Fukui, then change to Keifuku Line to Eihei-ji.
    Eihei-ji Temple, one of the head temples of Soto Zen Buddhism is situated in a
    small valley. The temple is so well known that all mail arrives at the temple by just
    writing Heimei-ji Temple, Japan, from anywhere in the world. Founder Dogen Zenji
    learned Zen in China and built a maintain temple here in 1244. This is where Zen
    is authentically practiced daily. In fact, hundreds of monks from all over the world
    come here for real-life training.
    The temple offers two different overnight packages. The first, is a one-night stay
    to experience an “introduction” to Zen meditation. Arrive at the temple before
    4 p.m. so that you can take a bath, eat a vegetarian supper at 5:30 p.m., listen to
    chief priest’s welcome message and practice Zen meditation at 6:50 p.m., go to bed
    at 9 p.m. The next day starts early. Rise at 3:20 a.m., mediate or listen to a lecture
    at 3:50 a.m., work at 5 a.m., and have breakfast at 7 a.m. Cost is 8,000 yen
    including 2 vegetarian meals.
    The second package is 3 nights long, following a similar daily schedule. Added to
    the above schedule, you will work from 8:30 a.m. and 10 a.m., then practice Zazen
    or Zen meditation. Lunch is served at noon, work 1 p.m. to 2 p.m., practice Zazen
    at 2 p.m. Afternoon study starts at 4 p.m., etc. This cycle repeats for 3 days. The
    major difference between the two packages is commitment. In the first package,
    participation in the early morning routines is optional. However, if you take the
    latter package, you are required to stick to the daily schedule and not allowed
    to miss any of the routines.The cost of 9,000 yen for the 4-day 3-night package
    includes two books, yukata, and miscellaneous items necessary for the stay.
    A reservation at least a month in advance is necessary for either of the above
    packages. Write to: Sanzen-gakari, Eiheiji, 5-15 Shihi Eiheiji-cho,Yoshidagun, Fukui
    Prefecture 910-1228, or have a Japanese speaker call 0776-63-3102.
    Eihei-ji Temple
    Spiritual Tour of Japan 8
    Day 10 – SPIRITUAL CLOSURE
    Head for your next destination or return to reality

    FriendsTravel offers First Class, Business Class or Coach airfares from any USA Gateway to Japan at THE most advantageous rates available.

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    August 12, 2008

    #FriendsTravel Japan Christmas New Years JESS Kalinowsky JESS@FriendsTravel.com

    Christmas in Japan Dec.24-25
    Christmas in Japan can be rather strange for those who are used to the typical western style Christmas. As you walk around the streets of major cities you might find many places with Christmas lights, Santa Clause, and the sound of Christmas carols. When you walk around the streets of Tokyo you might find many department stores advertising as if it was Valentines Day. For many Japanese, they celebrate Christmas on the 24th, rather than the 25th. For the young couples this the most romantic day of the year, they usually buy each other presents and go on a date on the 24th. As for families, some parents will buy their kids a present and some families like going to Kentucky Fried Chicken a.k.a. KFC for their dinner on the 24th. The lines at KFC are very long and you might even have to wait a half hour to an hour in some places just to get fried chicken! At the end of the night, many families and couples will have their “Christmas cake” that costs anywhere from $20 and up, to end their Christmas celebration.

    As mentioned above, there are many places to check out the beautiful Christmas lights, and here is one of the top sites to see.

    Sapporo White Illumination

    More than 370,000 white lights are decorated in the Odori Park and Sapporo Ekimae-dori. The light-up continues until mid-February. Place: Sapporo-city, Hokkaido Access: Subway Oodori Station

    New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Dec. 31-Jan.1
    The New Year’s Eve holiday is celebrated rather differently in Japan than it is in Western countries. New Year’s Eve in Japan is a rather quiet New Year’s Eve, with no big fireworks celebrations or crazy drunkenness. Most people will go to a temple or shrine to witness a ringing of the bell (108 times for each of the worldly attachments) and to make an offering or prayer for the New Year, which in Japanese is called “hatsumode”. This tradition is usually done on the first three days of the New Year at any shrine or temple. Some of the popular temples like, Meiji Shrine, and Sensoji Temple in Asakusa in Tokyo, can expect to wait in line.

    New Year

    New Year (shogatsu or oshogatsu) is the most important holiday in Japan. Most businesses shut down from January 1 to January 3, and families typically gather to spend the days together.

    Years are traditionally viewed as completely separate, with each new year providing a fresh start. Consequently, all duties are supposed to be completed by the end of the year, while bonenkai parties (“year forgetting parties”) are held with the purpose of leaving the old year’s worries and troubles behind.

    Homes and entrance gates are decorated with ornaments made of pine, bamboo and plum trees, and clothes and houses are cleaned.

    On New Year’s eve, toshikoshi soba (buckwheat noodles), symbolizing longevity, are served. A more recent custom is watching the music show “kohaku uta gassen”, a highly popular television program featuring many of Japan’s most famous J-pop and enka singers in spectacular performances.

    January 1 is a very auspicious day, best started by viewing the new year’s first sunrise (hatsu-hinode), and traditionally believed to be representative for the whole year that has just commenced. Therefore, the day is supposed be full of joy and free of stress and anger, while everything should be clean and no work should be done.

    It is a tradition to visit a shrine or temple during shogatsu (hatsumode). The most popular temples and shrines, such as Tokyo’s Meiji Shrine, attract several million people during the three days. Most impressive are such visits at the actual turn of the year, when large temple bells are rung at midnight.

    Various kinds of special dishes are served during shogatsu. They include osechi ryori, otoso (sweetened rice wine) and ozoni (a soup with mochi).

    Osechi Ryori Toshikoshi Soba

    There are also a few games traditionally played on New Year, however, their popularity has decreased in recent times. Hanetsuki (Japanese badminton), takoage (kite flying), and karuta (a card game) are some of them.

    A very popular custom is the sending of New Year’s cards, which are specially marked to be delivered on January 1. It is not uncommon for one person to send out several dozens of cards to friends, relatives and co-workers.

    Visiting Japan during the New Year’s holidays can be rewarding.

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    August 7, 2008

    #FriendsTravel Japan Grand Prix Formula One JESS Kalinowsky JESS@FriendsTravel.com

    Japan Rail – The Famous Bullet Train and More
    RailAgent.com trumps the competition by offering a truly global product line. We get your clients to places others can’t, including Japan. Known as the most efficient railway network in the world, train travel is by far the best way to see this amazing country. Choose from several Japan Rail Passes that offer great flexibility for your trip to Japan. And here’s an up-coming, thrilling Japanese event:

    Formula One: Japanese Grand Prix
    10 -12 Oct 2008, Fuji Speedway
    In grand ceremonial style, the Japanese Grand Prix is a fantastic show. From the ‘Thursday Pit Walk’, where spectators can watch the preparations in each Team’s pit, to the Grand Opening and the Driver’s Parade – not to mention the race itself – it’s a spectacular affair.
    FriendsTravel. has a wide selection of hotels, resorts and spas, and ryokan.
    FriendsTravel. has First Class, Business Class and Coach airfares available at the most advantageous price available.
    GOOGLE: FRIENDSTRAVEL.
    Add the dot on the end and you will get an amazing display of choices for your vacations.

    A ryokan (旅館?) is a type of traditional Japanese inn dating from the Edo period (1603–1868), when they served travelers along Japan’s highways. They typically feature tatami-matted rooms, communal baths, and other public areas where visitors may wear yukata and talk with the owner.

    Ryokan are difficult to find in Tokyo and other large cities because many are expensive compared to hotels, and Japanese people increasingly use hotels for urban tourism, with a notable exception being Kyoto, a city people visit for its ryokan. Nonetheless, some major cities do have reasonably priced ryokan, with some as little as $40 a night. However, ryokan are more typically located in scenic areas—in the mountains or by the sea—and can charge upwards of $400 per night.

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    #FriendsTravel Japan JESS Kalinowsky JESS@FriendsTravel.com

    The Special Essence of Japan’s Art & Culture

    KIE (Kateigaho International Edition) brings you the unique culture, art, and lifestyle of Japan. With over 50 years of experience in portraying the spirit of Japan, Kateigaho launched its English edition four years ago. It is now subscribed in over 50 countries around the world. Topics cover all aspects of Japanese art, such as crafts, cuisine, fashion and architecture in Japan that are drawing worldwide attention today. Stories are compiled by Japanese journalists with expertise in art and culture.

    EMAIL: JAPAN@FriendsTravel.com

    Please contact FriendsTravel. and we will plan your trip from the moment you walk out your door to go to the airport. Airline reservations, hotel, resort, spa, or ryokan reservations, transfers at home and in Japan, tours, sightseeing, and anything your heart desires.

    JESS Kalinowsky will plan as much, or as little as you may desire.

    Email 7 days a week and we will always respond within 24 hours, max!

    Please give us the names of each traveler as they appear on your passports, you dates of travel, and if you prefer First Class, Business Class, or Coach airfare, and if you prefer Deluxe, First Class, or Moderate hotels. We look forward to hearing from you really soon.

    JESS Kalinowsky, Managing Partner, FriendsTravel. EMAIL: JESS@FriendsTravel.com

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