WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 18, 2017
Sunday, 02 November, 2014 23:48

A Week In Tokyo

Off To A Wet Start …
We arrived in Tokyo 30 minutes ahead of schedule after a very comfortable business class flight on the new Boeing Dreamliner.  This is a very quiet and comfortable plane so we both had a restful overnight flight.  We checked into our East Ginza apartment and then went out for groceries and supplies.  Unfortunately our first day in Tokyo was raining so we were a little limited in what we could do but managed our grocery shopping and a walk around the Ginza, the high class shopping district of Tokyo.  Grocery shopping in Japan is a real experience as there is almost no English on any products so you rely on pictures and asking people for help.

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Grocery shopping in a large department store in the Ginza

Edo Museum …
On day 2 in Tokyo we were presented with better weather and took off to explore Tokyo.  Our first stop was the Edo Museum which covers the history of Tokyo from 1603 to 1868.  We were extremely lucky to have the services of an English speaking guide who took us through the museum and explained many aspects of life in the Edo period.  He was a very nice gentleman and a volunteer at the Museum and at the end of the 1 1/2 hour tour he insisted on taking our picture for his own personal website.

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Liz enjoying the Edo Museum

And On To Asakusa ….
Asakusa is a very popular tourist destination about 15 minutes by train from central Tokyo.  It must have been school excursion day as there were hundreds of well behaved children all taking in the history and culture of the area. The main attraction of the area is the Senso-ji Buddhist temple.  At the entrance to the temple is the Furai jin-mon (Gate of Wind God and Thunder God) adorned with a large red paper lantern that bears the inscription “Kaminari-mon” (Thunder Gate).  Around this area are many tourist shops and restaurants. Our lunch consisted of tasting the many different snacks available from vendors in tourist the strip leading to the temple.   From Asakusa we went by ferry and train back to our cosy apartment in East Ginza.

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Senso-ji Buddhist Temple in Asakusa

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Enjoying Japanese snacks in the tourist area in Asakusa

We Venture Further Afield ….
Perfect weather on Friday and we were off to Hakone about 100km from Tokyo.  This mountainous region of Japan and is a popular area for Japanese to take holidays and relax.  After a 90 minute train ride we then hopped on a pirate ship for a cruise on Lake Ashi and then onto a ropeway (we would call it a cable car) to the top of the  mountain range.  We were lucky to see a perfect view of Mt Fuji topped with snow standing majestically in the background whilst in the foreground were the autumn tonings of the trees.  What a great sight as there was no haze or cloud to block Mt Fuji.  It was then onto a funicular railway which took us past sulphur mines and onto our last stop, Gora, before returning by train to Shinjuku where we spent 20 mins trying to find our way to the right subway line.  Shinjuku is huge interchange station and even the locals get lost trying to navigate this station.

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The pirate ship on which we cruised Lake Ashi.

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Cable car from Lake Ashi to the summit

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Mt Fuji on a perfect autumn day

The Weekend Arrives….
We decided to use the bicycles supplied by the apartment so took off after breakfast with our first stop being the Tsijuka fish market.  It was quite busy with people buying up their fresh fish for the weekend and trolleys of workers delivering boxes of fresh fish everywhere.  You must watch out for them as they whizz past you up and down the aisles. We wandered around the adjacent sushi restaurants where people have been queuing for hours just to taste the best sushi and sashimi in town.   It is nothing to see 50 people lined up outside these restaurants.

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The Tsijuka Fish market. The biggest fish market in Japan

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Queues outside sashimi restaurants waiting for a table in the fish market precinct

From here we cycled to the Hama Rikyu Gardens, a park right on the river and surrounded by office buildings.  It was a pleasant walk amongst some greenery and trees and away from the city.  Back on our bikes and we rode around Tokyo for a few hours following the Sumida River, over many bridges until we were a long way from home.  Our intrepid map reader, Rob, was able to get us back on track and we reached home just before dark.

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Hama-Rikyu Gardens on the Sumida River

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A common sight in Japan. People with a telescopic pole taking selfies

Sunday it was back on our bikes early for a ride around the Ginza before the Sunday crowds visit the Ginza shopping and eating.  We were almost the only people on the quiet streets and it felt strange that in 3 hours time there would probably be a million people in the Ginza.  We couldnt go to Tokyo without going to Harajuka to see the young teenagers congregate in their dress up costumes. They meet at Harajuka Station and spend the day enjoying each others company.  Takeshita Street is the street to walk down with all the food shops, teenager dress up shops and trinket shops on each side of this narrow street which is always busy, but packed on a Sunday.

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Teenagers dressed up on Sunday in Harajuka

Meiji Shrine is set in Yoyogi Park quite close to Harajuka Station so we walked the 1 km into the shrine and found a few Japanese couples in their traditional costumes being married along with young children in their costumes all parading around with proud parents and grandparents.

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Sunday best dressed for a special celebration at Meiji Shrine in Yoyogi Park

It was then a walk to Omote-sando and we found the street packed with a Halloween street parade.  This was amazing as families all dressed up in halloween costumes  and paraded up and down the street to the sound of music including a Scottish Highland Pipe Band would you believe.  Crowds of people lined the street and everywhere to eat had queues outside waiting.  We decided to return home before the peak hour.

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Halloween, Japan style. A big street parade

Electric City Awaits Rob…
Today was our visit to Akihabara the electrical empire of Tokyo where you can spend a full day just looking at the latest electronics that take your fancy.  Hundreds of stores dedicated to electronics, computers, animae and computer games.   One store, Yodobashi has 12 floors of goods on display and almost every item you are free to play with at your leisure with nobody annoying you.

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Yodabashi Electrical store. 12 floors of every electrical product imaginable

An Architectual Museum Worth A Visit ….
The Edo-Tokyo Open Air Architectual Museum in Koganai about 25 minutes from Shinjuku Station was an interesting day. This museum is set on acres of land and holds a huge display of houses through the feudal times to present day which have all been moved from original sites and reconstructed in the museum grounds. Each house can be entered and you can envisage through the ages how the Japanese people lived.  There is also a township of different shops reconstructed on the streets to give the feel of the times gone  by.  It was a good half day of sightseeing.

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Traditional bath house in the Edo Architectual Museum

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View from the 45th floor of the Municipal Government Offices in Shinjuku

Our day ended with a visit to the Tokyo Municipal Government Towers at Shinjuku to see Tokyo and beyond from the 45th floor and then a walk around Shinjuku before heading home and packing to continue our travels.

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Shinjuku staion at off peak time

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