Gaijin on Getas Blog

Tour with Rachel Moore

What is a Ryokan?

Posted on April 12th, 2013 by Rachel Moore

When looking at our tours, you will notice that we often stay at ryokans, instead of  a “western style hotel”.  So what is a ryokan?

Ryokan Entrance

Ryokan Entrance

Well first, so you know how to pronounce it, say it with me: ree-o-kahn. A ryokan is a traditional Japanese inn.  They are smaller, more quaint, and often more hospitable than your mainstream hotel.  Since our tour groups max out at 16 people, it allows us to have the opportunity to stay at such wonderful facilities. You could almost compare the mannerisms to bed and breakfast lodging that we are used to in Western culture, though the room layout is very different.  The rooms will have traditional tatami (straw) mats on the floor, and you will have your own mattress (similar to a futon mattress) to sleep on.  You can often layer a couple of these mattresses to give yourself a little extra height and/or cushion.  Some ryokans offer a few western-style rooms, but you will need to check with us on the particular tour you are interested in to see if this option is available.  The food is also very wonderful (they can cook for a smaller amount of people, giving their food more attention to detail). The “Kaiseki-style” dinners are a treat for both your tastebuds and your eyes. Everything is delicious and served with excellent presentation. Read the full post »

Luggage 101- How Much Luggage to Really Bring

Posted on January 10th, 2013 by Rachel Moore

It’s not everyday that you get to travel across the globe and visit an amazing, historical country you have never been to before. Or maybe you have been to Japan, and know what amazing goodies there are to offer to bring back home to your friends and family. Either way, we do like to shop and bring back great souvenirs, as well as look stylish while we are there, and (if you are like me) be prepared for anything that may come your way (weather, fancy outings, last minute opportunities, etc.). But that may often cause a problem…there is only so much you can take (and bring back) with you! Which raises the question: how much luggage can/should I bring (and how large)? Read the full post »

How much walking do we REALLY do?

Posted on December 21st, 2012 by Rachel Moore

Tour Group

Tour Group

Japan is so beautiful, and you seem to see more, take more in, and get more of a ‘cultural immersion’ experience when you travel by foot and public transportation.  Another common question that comes up when people are considering our tours is “How much walking is there, really?”  We have clients of all ages participate on our tours, and all are welcome, but you will want to be very comfortable with walking and staying on your feet for long periods of time.  We always suggest comfortable, broken in walking shoes to use on the tour.  We take public transportation everywhere. So we walk to the subway and train stations, then we walk to our destination which is always nearby, but may be a good 10-20 minute walk, and we are often on our feet going through wherever we are visiting.  We do encounter stairs, and while there are often elevators or escalators around, they are not everywhere and not always available. Read the full post »

Day 14 – Free Day in Kyoto

Posted on April 14th, 2012 by Rachel Moore

Today was our free day in Kyoto.  I have to be honest, I just came down with a nasty cold, so I spent most of the day relaxing in our room.  However, in our itineraries, we provide lots of information of fun things you can do with your free time.  Tonight, we had our sayonara dinner at a very nice restaurant, which had a beautiful garden.  The type of cuisine was Shabu-Shabu, which is were you put some very thinly sliced meat (pork for us) in a pot of boiling water, and it only takes seconds to cook.  Then we put it in a delicious thin sauce.  It was very tasty. 


Garden at the restaurant

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Day 13 – Tour Fushimi, Nara, and Uji

Posted on April 14th, 2012 by Rachel Moore

Today was also a busy, packed schedule of wonderful sites to see.  First thing in the morning after breakfast, we all headed toward Fushimi to see the Inari Shrine.  It was a very large place, with lots of color (mostly orange).  There seemed to be noticeably more attendants at this particular shrine, as well as a drumming song and dance performed (no pictures were allowed here, but it was very different and beautiful).  We walked up a little further and saw the huge row of torii gates, all donated by different people and organizations.  It is like you are walking through a tunnel of torii gates almost.  Also, a famous scene from Memoirs of a Geisha was filmed here with the torii gates.  Also at the entrance of this shine, they have two foxes for protection there, which was different from what we have seen at other shrines (normally we see lions).


Inari Shrine

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Day 12 – Tour Kyoto

Posted on April 12th, 2012 by Rachel Moore

Today was a very fun-filled and packed day!  We started the day at the Ryoan-ji, which is known for their rock garden.  In this particular garden, there are 15 rocks  in raked sand. When sitting on the deck, only 14 rocks can be seen at one time. You can try to move and see the one that is hidden, but once it is in view, the other one disappears.  There are many meanings and interpretations to this, and we are encouraged to use our creativity.  Also in Buddhism, the number 15 means completeness.   There was also very peaceful and beautiful scenery here. 


Ryoan-ji rock garden

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Day 11 – Tour Hiroshima, travel to Kyoto

Posted on April 11th, 2012 by Rachel Moore

This morning it was POURING rain!  We got onto the ferry and crossed back over to the main land, and traveled to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum and Park.  It was a very humbling experience.  We went at our own pace, with our audio guides, and learned about how Japan was before the USA dropped the atomic bomb, how America came to the decision to drop the bomb on Japan, the effects of the bomb, the effects of the radiation, etc.  It was very sad, but educational. 


A diagram of Hiroshima after the bombing


Day 10 – Free Day on Miyajima Island

Posted on April 11th, 2012 by Rachel Moore

I love this island.  A fun fact: there are tons of small, wild deer that are completely tame.  I actually saw some of them posing for pictures with big groups (I am sure the photographer had food or something to make them cooperate). Be weary of paper or clothing though, they tend to eat them if you aren’t careful.


Tame deer on Miyajima Island

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Day 9 – Tour Osaka Castle, Travel to Miyajima Island

Posted on April 9th, 2012 by Rachel Moore

The word `castle` makes me light up inside.  I am filled with thoughts of kings and queens, romance and war, fantasy and imagination, so I was really looking forward to seeing Osaka Castle today (you are hearing this from a 27 year old female who was raised on Disney).  Let me tell you, though it wasn’t Disney, I was not disappointed!  When we first arrived there, you can see the HUGE walls surrounding and protecting the castle area, being a fortress.  The view was breathtaking, and the cherry blossom trees all around just added to the magic.  Some of the stones that they used to build up the walls were HUGE (around 113 tons!).  We were able to go inside the castle, which is a museum now, with an observation deck at the top.  It all was a great sight to see.


Osaka Castle Walls

Day 8 – Tour Koyasan, Travel to Osaka

Posted on April 9th, 2012 by Rachel Moore

Bright and early at 6am, the temple has a prayer service.  Guests are welcome to join and participate or observe this prayer time with the monks which involves chanting certain traditional phrases in a monotone pitch.  I personally did not attend, but I could hear the prayers down the hall. 

At 7am, we had breakfast, and then headed out to the huge Koyosan cemetery, which has such history and beautiful memorials.  We got to see many different shrines, gravestones and memorials, and some of significant people and events that have happened in history.  I also noticed some gravestones that had brightly colored baby bibs and caps on them.  One of the beliefs is that if your child dies before you, they are not allowed to enter paradise.  Parents of course don’t want their children to suffer in hell because they can`t pass on, so they put personal belongings of their child with the gravestone, as a plea to Boddhisattva Jizo for their children to pass onto paradise.  Also, as the bright colors of their items fade, they symbolize it with their sorrow that fades over time. Read the full post »