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I have tried to get to Japan twice before. Once in 1991 when we were planning on living there but got taken off track with the wee matter of a baby named Conor, and the second time was a ski familiarisation about 4 years ago which ended up not proceeding. So to be accepted on a ski familiarisation trip out of 70 applicants was very exciting, especially as I had never ventured to Japan before.

Impressions: The very biggest impression to us all was the heated toilet seats! And the electronic choices for the toilets – Ok when the buttons had pictures attached but when there were no pictures and the symbols were in Japanese it got very tricky! Seat lid goes up, seat lid goes down, toilet seat goes up toilet seat goes down, can’t find the flush – wave the hand in front of the screen, push all the buttons – still can’t find the flush! The beauty and structure all around. The Japanese are a very polite, respectful and ordered nation. The drivers give way to pedestrians. People come up and offer assistance in the subway when they see us looking at
a subway map-they cannot speak English but offer help anyway.

We ventured forth on the subway in Tokyo but had the assistance of our guide Don, who had lived in Japan and luckily for us spoke and read Japanese. The Subway maps are a colourful spaghetti but are in English. There is a Help person by the ticket booths – who may not speak English but if you point to where you need to be – will help you purchase your ticket. I eventually worked it out BUT it did take courage. To get around Tokyo it really is the only cost effective option so if travelling there you need to master this. I would definitely speak with your Travel Consultant before getting to Japan and work out a plan. The most difficult bit of the subway is choosing which exit to take BUT it really didn’t matter as they all were within walking distance of each other and if you popped up on the wrong side of the road, you just crossed the street. We used the bullet train from Nagano to Tokyo and found this very easy – well sign posted in English, every stop a precise 3 minutes maximum.

We ate sushi train with glee. I learned the word for excuse me! We spent our last night in Tokyo at one of the famous bars/restaurants where all you can drink in two hours for NZD25.00, food extra. For a total of NZD50.00 it was a pretty good deal.

I loved Japan and look forward to getting back there as soon as I can. Next instalment - Japan Skiing.

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