Group Tours Japan, October 2013

“The ancients would have said that big catfish beneath the world had stirred,” said Tomoko Gillespie describing a mild earthquake she experienced at the end of her eight-day fall adventure in Japan with husband Cameron Gillespie.

During their brief journey abroad in October, the couple experienced a brief tsunami, caused by an earthquake, two typhoons and geothermal activity.

One of the last days of their trip, they attempted to observe the famous “Tuna Fish Auction” at a fish market, but it was closed due to the two approaching typhoons which Gillespie described as “another perfect storm.”

It led the couple to enjoy the surrounding open market shops that mainly sell dried fish products, “Not today’s catch!”

Despite the extreme weather, the pair ventured out to various places throughout Japan as they once again immersed themselves in Japanese culture.

 “We realized the imminence and wonder of our ancient world,” said Gillespie. “What a wonderful life we live in and how wonderful is Japan!”

The South Boston residents’ trip began when their group landed at Narita Airport out of Tokyo, Japan. From there they took a limousine tour of the “sprawling yet small and numerous families’ rice, cabbage and white radish farms” surrounding metropolitan Tokyo before arriving at their downtown hotel.

They arrived at a “mountainside range of man-made skyscrapers, rivaling the distant view of Mount Fuji and the sommas of it, contrasting the new and manmade with the ancient and magnificent creation of God and nature” where they were welcomed with what the Gillespies described as a “comforting” meal.

During their stay, they ventured to many places throughout Japan using the high-speed Japanese train called the “bullet train.”

The train took them to the Hot Spring Resort near Mount Fuji volcano, where they rode a tall sailing ship on Lake Ashi, a volcanic caldera lake. They then took a cable car to observe the volcanic activities.

“Steam and yellow sulfur plumes rose up from scalded black volcanic rock, cooked free of vegetation,” said Gillespie. “Mt. Fuji seemed to watch us, peering majestically above and only partly blanketed at its base by a layer of cool fresh ocean rain clouds blowing in from the Pacific Ocean from the east.”

On the third day, the group took another ride on the train to Kyoto, an ancient former Capitol of Japan, where they changed into Japanese Kimonos to stroll in the “Gion” area known in earlier times as the “Geisha” town.

Gillespie described Kyoto as a quiet city with a number of Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples.

“Geisha is a term for a lady who plays music, sings and dances expertly in Japanese traditional style,” said Gillespie. “Geisha will be called to a restaurant to entertain and translate for their customers.”

They also visited one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Nara where they saw a “gigantic, bronze” Buddha within a “huge” house, which they said is the largest, oldest, wooden structure in the world.

“Even the current one is two-thirds the size of the original one,” said Gillespie.

In Nagoya, they toured the Toyota Auto factory in TOYODA city, which was founded by Sakichi Toyoda.

The work in the factory, which they saw to be guided by computer, was described as “impressive, and made great sense.”

This experience reminded Gillespie of a trip she made 46 years ago to the Ford factory in Deerbourne Michigan.

“What amazed me at Toyota is that they make five different sizes, models and color cars on one assembly line. Of course, it’s an application of computer technology,” said Gillespie.

After spending time at the factory, they went back to Tokyo to stay in the Ginza district, “the most sophisticated entertainment and shopping area in Tokyo.”

Gillespie said the district had hundreds of restaurants, designer boutiques, theatres, department stores and hotels.

Tokyo also lends itself for “fun” sightseeing as they experienced “bird’s eye observations” from the Tokyo Tower, before having a traditional tea ceremony in a “beautiful Japanese garden.”

The Sumida River cruise they went on through central Tokyo offered a view of the downtown Asakusa Temple and souvenir shopping arcades.

They also were able to buy tickets to see the “Kabuki” drama at the “Kabuki Theatre” which Gillespie said could be described as Japanese opera.

Wearing “English earphone translation devices they were able to understand the story and watch the “gorgeous costumes and acts easily.”

Following the “Kabuki” drama, the two enjoyed hotel amenities at their five-star hotel before going to their farewell dinner at a Japanese restaurant, which Gillipsie said was “wonderful.”

Their last morning was spent enjoying an excursion of the hotel garden, a 16-acre Japanese garden with many historic art objects in central Tokyo.

“Everybody drew an “Omikuji,” a fortune telling paper available at the shrine. Fortunately, every one of us had a good fortune,” concluded Gillespie.