Tokyo - Final Destination
Up early for the treacherous trains back to Kyoto to catch the Shinkansen (bullet train) to Tokyo, our last destination of the tour. Once arrived we then transferred to local Metro train to Ikebukuro to leave luggage at Hotel.
As a group we then walked back to catch Metro train to walk and experience the famous Shibuya Crossing. Upon arrival first, we looked at the Statueof Hachiko, the faithful dog who sits comfortably in the middle of circular benches, very sad story surrounding the love and dedication for his owner.
We all then walked across the infamous crossing with the crowds, especially crowed being a weekend, so photo’s galore and selfies going off everywhere. Once over the crossing Kiyoe took us up to Starbucks to catch an overhead view for a video and photo opportunity to see the crossing from above. After we walked back across the crossing and headed by train to Shinjuku Prefecture to visit and experience Takeshita Street.
The focal point of Harajuku's teenage culture is ‘Takeshita Dori’ (Takeshita Street) and its side streets, which are lined by many trendy shops, fashion boutiques, used clothes stores, crepe stands and fast food outlets geared towards the fashion and trend conscious teens.
Very very crowded and young girls dressed in strange and colorful clothing along with a few Cat Cafes, weird. Stayed for a short time, but soo crowed and not too much of interest really for us as a group but had to be seen and experienced. Most of the group becoming tired and weary, so back to Hotel for a quick nap, rest and recharge before heading out for a group farewell dinner in Kabuki to have Sukiyaki.
Sukiyaki is a Japanese dish that is prepared and served in the ‘nabemono’ style. It consists of meat which is slowly cooked or simmered at the table, alongside vegetables and other ingredients in a mix of Sweet soy sauce and water. So, the format of the meal is, you have 1 hour to eat as much as you like of beef or pork and cook it yourself along with vegetables and rice – very very nice meal and experience.
After the dinner some of the group returned to the Hotel, however most of us went together to experience the sights and sounds of the Robot Restaurant. Well, wow wow wow, what an awesome, energetic and entertaining night, Fantastic. Would sooo recommend this to everyone to see while in Tokyo. It was then around 11.30pm, so after a big day of travel, walking, eating etc we headed off back to Hotel to shower, sleep and pack for departure in the morning.
28 May Up for breakfast at reasonable time, and then returned to Hotel to say our goodbyes to most of the tour group and exchanged some FB details etc.
It was onward from here for the 4 of us to head to Suidobashi, the B Hotel and the Tokyo Dome Hotel respectively. Once to our Hotels we again met back at the corner 7/11 to head straight out to Asakusa to visit the Sensoji Temple, Nakamise Street mall, Denboin-dori street.
Asakusa Sensoji Temple is the oldest and most visited temple in Tokyo and is known to bring good luck, happiness, good relationships, and make all wishes come true!
If you have any dreams or goals you wish to achieve, Asakusa Sensoji Temple is the very place you want to go!
It is also the oldest and most visited temple around Tokyo. The origin of Asakusa Sensoji Temple dates way back to the 6th century, when in 628 the Hinokuma brothers were fishing at a river nearby and happened to fish a Buddha statue.
The brothers brought the Buddha statue home, rebuilt their home into a temple, and started a temple which later came to be known as Asakusa Sensoji Temple.
Asakusa Sensoji Temple has its own traditional Japanese-like atmosphere and you will find yourself time traveling to the ancient Japanese era, the second you set a foot into the temple’s property, but the Asakusa Sensoji Temple is not just a normal shrine. It has a long path called “Nakamise-dori (Japanese: 仲見世通り Nakamisedori), a path jam packed with souvenir stores all along the way to the main hall. You can find anything here: Kimonos, chopsticks, fans, Japanese confectionary, keychains, T-shirts, you name it.
As you approach the front of the main hall of the temple, you will see many people covering themselves with smoke. The smoke they are covering themselves with, is believed to make the part they covered with smoke better. Therefore, many people pat smoke on their head in order to make themselves smarter.
Very much enjoyed Nakamise Street mall that leads toward the Sensoji Temple. At the Temple we witnessed a Wedding and bought a Blessing for Jason’s new home. Would highly recommend visiting here for the buzz of the mall and the Temple, along with the Asakusa area in general.
We had some spare time, so it was decided to take a river boat tour along the river on a return trip, so as to return to visit and go up the Tokyo Skytree Tower for sights from the observation level at 354 mt in an elevator that ascended at over 300 feet per second. The views over Tokyo were very impressive and would be quite a sight at night with lights.
The Skytree was built as a television broadcasting tower and a predominate landmark of Tokyo. It is the centrepiece of the Tokyo Skytree Town in the Sumida City Ward, only a short train ride away from the Sensoji Temple in Asakusa. With a height of 634 meters (634 can be read as "Musashi", a historic name of the Tokyo Region), it is the tallest structure in Japan and the second tallest in the world at the time of its completion.
At is base it a large multi-level shopping complex and an Aquarium located at its base. Dinner was had at McDonalds on level 2F to wait until it became dark to photograph the Tower. So, after many night photos of the light display on the exterior of the tower we ventured back to Hotel, 2 train rides.
29 May Well today is dedicated to a Boys Day out – selfish maybe but had to be done. Prior to leaving for Japan, my son Jason highly recommended both Karen and I do a Mario Cart drive through and around the streets of Tokyo.
An experience only in Tokyo something that he would be very jealous that we get to do before him. Karen was very unsure and didn’t want to do it, and when talking to Brian & Nicola about it earlier during the trip, Brain told me he very much wanted to do it as well. I then made arrangements to change my day so he could join me, which gave Karen a girl’s day out with Nicola.
We caught an Uber to Tokyo Bay BBQ where we paid and got dressed in our respective costumes, Mario & Spiderman, hilarious and soo much fun already. We were joined by another 6 people, mainly Aussies and no-one doubled up on costume theme. It was then for a pre-cursory lesson on the rules and operation of the cart, then off we go for a 3 tour of the streets of Tokyo.
We took the long tour, leaving from Tokyo Bay BBQ – Rainbow Bridge – Tokyo Tower – Shibuya Crossing – Tokyo Bridge – Tokyo Bay BBQ. The carts were great and easy to drive, comfortable with plenty of leg room. They were a typical cart, very low to the ground and quite a bumpy ride…awesome experience driving on the public streets alongside normal traffic but felt very safe. Following the lead driver, we drove the streets, stopping at Traffic Lights and turning with indicators to weave and drive the streets.
First the long drive over the Rainbow Bridge, sadly an underpass section, not on top and boy did we pick up some speed, at least 70kph easy, and along the road there are raised sections of stripping, which makes for a very bumpy ride. It was then in and around the streets past the Tokyo Tower, Parklands and high-rise buildings making our way into built up areas of like business district and shopping. Then it was upon us, Shibuya Crossing however it was much quieter and not as packed with people as hoped, but enough to grab attention, smiles, waves, photos and video of us as we were stationary at the Traffic Lights.
We then continued through the Crossing and went through the surrounding streets to return again to the Crossing. After we then made our way to Tokyo Bridge and into a Highrise carpark, racing up and around to the third level. This was where we got to have a break, toilet and drink stop.
We then caught the lift to the top level and came out onto a Plaza area out to a tourist location near another large Bridge and a mock Statue of Liberty for a group photo, public and friends’ photos.
After that we drove back again over the Rainbow Bridge where I easily got the cart to just over 75 kph, then through the streets again to head back to the Start, Tokyo Bay BBQ.
‘Boys and their Toys’ is all I can say and is all that is needed to be said. Again, please can we do it again….but sadly, NO, caught an Uber back to our Hotels to meet up with Karen & Nicola to change, refresh and get ready for a Night of Japanese Baseball at the Tokyo Dome.
Tokyo Dome City, to meet at Gate 23 at 5.00pm. While waiting for Brian & Nicola Karen & I watched all the people, the hustle and bustle, the air of excitement was intense and couldn’t wait to enter and experience the atmosphere of the game. As we lined up with our tickets the Stadium staff were handing out Giants Baseball Guernseys’ to everyone, plus a fan and some souvenir material, exciting. We then tried to decipher where to go, but tickets were in Japanese, so I tried to ask Stadium Staff for directions and we finally made our way to reserved seating, and what seating – very very happy with location and view of the ground, players and respective Team Fan-Clubs.
So, the teams playing were the Yomiuri Giants V’s the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters, and as we were in Tokyo and wearing home team guernseys, we were supporting the Giants.
Wow, what an energetic, eclectic and load atmosphere the Japanese crowds exude, especially the Team Supporter Clubs. The food and drink sales girls as well were very entertaining in their energy, smiles and array of products on sale, Beer on Tap, Whisky and Soda served like being in a Bar, Popcorn, Ice-creams and other products we couldn’t recognise.
So, from memory I think the first Home-run was hit by the opposition which I cheered for and clapped, and Karen quickly reminded me I was cheering for the wrong team – bit silly cheering and clapping for a home-run wearing the home team top. The game continued with the score not in our favour, but more runs, chanting and home runs hit, but alas again Karen & I failed to see a home team win.
After the game was finished we all went back to The Tokyo Dome Hotel with Brian & Nicola to have coffee and snack. And it was here sadly that we as a holiday 4some had to part ways and go our separate ways for the remainder of the trip…Sad times as we shared so many great memories, laughs and special moments. Karen & I moved to Shinbashi where Brian & Nicola hired a car and drove to Nagano.
30 May After a bit of a lay-in Karen & I found a local Café for breakfast, then onward by train to Shinjuku are to visit and experience the Meiji Jingu Shrine. After getting off train, walked the wrong way, checked Me. Maps and walked back to Information Office near Takeshita Street. This was actually very helpful n directions, maps and we bought a PASMO pass for the train network, giving 3 days on the Metro and Toei Lines, great value.
Walked to main intersection, across the bridge and found the Torii gate entrance to the Shrine.
We continued and walked along the wide and very long walkway flanked by beautiful gardens/trees all the way to the Shrine and courtyard.
Found that the Shrines, like many Temples in other Countries are very similar in nature, however we took the opportunity to again buy some traditional ‘omamori’ blessing amulets/charms. This time some for Matthew to help with his learning and studies, and 1 for ourselves for Wealth & Happiness.
Karen also took the time to write a message of good fortune and her wishes on a traditional Wishing paper, give small donation and placed into the wishing table.
Just after that out the corner of my eye I saw a small parade of people traditionally dressed and called out to Karen, perfect timing to witness a Wedding walk with Priest, Bride & Groom, Parents’ and special guests. There was also another couple dressed traditionally having photos’ taken, and Karen deliberately stood in the distant background trying to photo bomb them, lol.
After leaving the Shrine, we walked back to the entrance and walked along Otamendi Street, a high end boutique street, Amani, LV, Chanel and so on and so on.. We did go into a shop called Awesome Shop, was actually average.
But we did find the Bazaar shop and bought a few little souvenirs, then located Cat lane and a very very popular Lobster Café ‘Lukes Lobster’ where people line up constantly to buy a small baguette style roll with either Lobster or Crab and assorted fillings, must be good. After another full-on day we made our way back to Hotel using our newly purchased PASMO pass and I rested and did some journal while Karen did some laundry in the Hotel Laundrette.
31 May Today after another restful lay in we decided to make our way to visit the Imperial Palace and Gardens by train, and again took on the challenge to navigate and ask locals for directions. Finally, we actually found a male sitting eating lunch, and surprise surprise he was an Aussie from Melbourne.
Finally, we found the Palace and Gardens, however it was all for nothing as there is NO ENTRY to the Palace, and you need your Passport to join the free tour on the Gardens. So, for Karen & I it was a disappointing venture. The reason you can’t tour the Palace, is that we believe it is still occupied by the Emperor of Japan.
So onward it was, a short walk away we went to look at and walk through the Hibiya Park, and its History tells us it was the grounds of feudal lords during the shogunate and became a military parade ground during the early years of Japan's modernization in the late 19th century. It was then made a public park in 1903.
Feeling slightly deflated about the days itinerary, we decided to catch many more trains and made our way to Ueno Ameoyko market area. After the war, candy (ame) were a luxury item, and they could be found in this area because it flourished as a black market.
It became known as Ame-shi, or Ame City. Now there are more than 400 stores all linked together. It gets especially crowded at the end of the year when people do their shopping for the New Year's meal there. The scenery of the assertive shopkeepers and the haggling customers is a famous sight.
The stalls were a mixed bag of fish mongers, shoes stores, clothing, jewellery and so on, with minimal Knick knack souvenir style shops. We did find a few and Karen bought a gift for her girlfriend, a nice small Japanese style purse.
Wanting more, we decided to catch the train back to Asakusa District to walk the market stalls of ‘Nakamise-dori’. Here we found what we were after, the crowds, the stalls, the feel and energy we crave from a holiday. Shopping, crowds and diversity gives us a sense of living and excitement, and finding local items to buy, such chopsticks, fridge magnets, key-rings etc etc and as suspected we were successful and of course more than we really needed.
Not done with yet, I dragged Karen on the train once again to go to and experience Akihabara District, which is infamous as the headquarters of everything manga, anime and games,a colorful paradise for every geek and otaku! Just like popular areas like Shinjuku and Shibuya, it is a must-visit for every tourist visiting and experience Japan. One of the most interesting sights we saw were the girls dressed in uniquely different clothing, make-up and colored contacts, trying to spruik customers into the shops, cafes and restaurants.
The most bazar were the two girls who had live Owl’s on their arms, advertising Owl Bars where you can share a drink in a Bar with live Owls around you.
This area is by no means just a highlight for otaku, however. Even if manga and animeisn’t your thing, the unique atmosphere won’t fail to amaze you. It is a bit like stepping into an unknown world that waits to be explored!
Buggered and feet aching, we decided to call it a day and head home to rest and sleep, basically to re-charge very flat energy levels.
1 June This was my last reasonable change to actually experience and see Mt Fuji, hoping for a clear day, and yes, the sky was clear and the weather format was looking promising. So off we go again and head to the Metropolitan Government Building, known simply as “Tocho” in Japanese, is the centre of government for the 23 wards of Tokyo. As well as serving as a giant city hall, the building offers amazing views of the capital from its 45th-floor observation decks.
On a clear day you can see as far as Yokohama in one direction, Chiba in another and, way out west, Mount Fuji. It is no exaggeration to say that you haven’t really seen Tokyo if you haven’t seen it from here. The full extent of Tokyo’s urban sprawl can only be appreciated from up high.
The observation decks are in both north and south towers of the main building and offer slightly different views, but to my disappointment the skies were not so clear towards Mt Fuji, even though I could catch a glimpse of her, not quite to the image I was after, but the best we could muster.
Decided to go somewhere locally and have a coffee break and go back in hope the sky’s cleared. Funny by chance moment while having coffee, was watching the office works shuttle in and out, in and out in varying numbers to the dedicated ‘Smoking Area’, people watching sport at its best.
So what then, Karen decides to go out and joining the activity and become her environment, hilarious actually and loved her spontaneity. After we went back up the North Tower to check out the view, would you believe, totally worse and no view what so ever.
So back down the lift to the second floor to access the Exit, and we walk past a Tokyo 2020 Olympics exhibition displaying the original Olympic Opening Flag presented to Tokyo at the closing ceremony from Rio.
Was quite awesome looking around the displays, along with the Paralympic Flag and other information boards etc showing the history of the Olympics, what a by chance opportunity.
Back to the train network to head home for a power afternoon nap, which was shortly interrupted to head out again to walk around the Hamarikyu Gardens, these gardens are traditional Japanese style gardens with about 250,000㎡that was created in 1654 in Tokyo.
It was used as one of the generals (Shogun 将軍) of the Edo period in Japan at that time as a part of his own palace. Hamarikyu Gardens represents a typical Japanese style gardening design (Kaiyu Teien style回遊庭園) that had been very popular among the powerful feudal loads (Daimyo 大名) since the 14th century.
After a nice relaxed walk and visiting the various parts of the gardens it was time to head back as this was out last day before darting and leaving Japan the next day.
After the train ride we stayed in the main area of Shinbashi near the Train Station and found a BBQ Curry house and decided to eat there, well what a great decision.
Firstly, when Karen’s meal was served I didn’t notice, but it was served with a Shovel, yes, a shovel – so so fitting for Karen as it’s a running joke as I am always saying to Karen she needs a shovel when eating, but only when really hungry lol.
We had a chicken and beef meal and a dared to have a cheese topped curry side order with local veggies, wow, wow and wow, what a great final departing meal with a cold beer.
After we went back to Hotel reasonably early to do a final tidy, pack and prepare for the looongg haul home to Australia, e.g.
Train (last of approx. 40-50), Express Bus to Narita Airport, Flight from Tokyo to Singapore and finally flight from Singapore to Adelaide, roughly 25hrs of travel.
2 June Wake up, reasonable sleep in, tidy and final check of room for anything left behind – all good. So off we head, and after getting lost form the first train, we walked, got lost, asked for direction from 3 people who told ‘No English’ but were able to give us some directions in English. By the time we even got to the Bus Interchange we had knocked over 3,000 steps.
Found Express Narita Bus at Stop 7, boarded and relaxed for next 1 hour for transfer to airport, Terminal 1, waited for around 25 minutes before the check in counters opened and went for a coffee at Tully’s. The best coffee Karen and I had the entire trip were from Tully’s, also footnote, this is where we bought Karen her Tote Bag, score.
Boarded plane after a reasonable wait, and onward to Singapore, off to the Gold KrisFlyer Lounge for some dinner, rest and drinks before our overnight flight home to Adelaide.
Finally, THANKYOU THANKYOU Japan for your awesome hospitality, manners, politeness, cleanliness and respect.
I could go one, please consider going to Japan, and even if it’s on your ‘To Do List’ bump it u your list and do it sooner, you won’t regret it.
‘Japan is truly unique and if you want to experience something different I’d recommend spending at least three to four weeks traveling through Japan, talking to local people as much as you can (the Japanese are very friendly and often speak good English) and really experience the Japanese culture to its fullest.’
Finally, thanks to our Travel Buddies, Brian & Nicola for a worry free, friendly and memorable trip, miss you both already.
Special Shout-Out to Karen for always being with me to share and experience our travels and amazing life together.
3 June 7.30am, finally arrived home to Adelaide Airport, called for an Uber to head home to unpack, wash and put all our travel accessories and memories again until next time – next time at this stage is ‘Unknown’ a mystery for ‘Rivetting Moments’.