Trip Summary

Well, another trip has come to an end and we are now back home. We were overdue for a trip somewhere and this was fantastic. Not having a packed itinerary was nice this time. I found it much more relaxing to not have the pressure of staying on a preset schedule. However, it may have been good to at least have a general plan. Some days felt a bit wasted as we perhaps took things a bit too easy. It’s a tough balance. It’s so far and takes a bit of saving up to go that we want to make the best of every minute. But also need to factor in that we are on vacation so also don’t want to exhaust ourselves and should not feel guilty of taking things easy some days. It’s a balance.

Once again we found the fast pace of Japanese life, the crowds, the trains and amount of walking to be exhausting. When we first arrive we are excited and full of interest to go see things. But after a week, it all wears on us. Then, as much as we want to continue seeing things and going places, the dreadful thought of getting on the crowded train and walking discourages us.

But the first week, I’m happy we got out, did things and saw new things. We had not stayed in the Gotanda area before so setting out on foot our first day to explore was nice. Exploring our old favourite places like Shibuya, Loft, Tokyu Hands and Mark City Shibuya was great too. I’m most happy about seeing Mount Fuji through the Sunrise Tours. We got some great pictures and was such a nice experience to walk around at stage 5 level. The views were incredible and too difficult to know about and get to on our own.

We also discovered on this trip that simply using Google Maps for directions to places worked really well. Google accesses the train schedules and specified all the details that we used to get through the HYPERDIA app. Nice to know there’s no need for that going forward. The information presentation was actually more detailed with Google. Just need to remember to pay attention to platform numbers. There’s great signage in Tokyo. First time, take the time to absorb it all and understand where to look going forward.

If staying in Tokyo again we would like to stay at Tokyu Stay hotel. Much better place than Mystays. Was just unfortunate that we were not able to book at one of the locations on the short planning we did. Mystays rooms were extremely small. Our booking also did not include breakfast whereas Tokyu Stay typically did. But considering we made these plans a week and a half before going, I guess cannot complain. We still had a great time.

I’m already looking forward to going back whenever we can. But would like to see Kyoto and Arashiyama bamboo forest.

There’s something really nice about Japanese culture. Omotenashi (customer first) and the cleanliness in general are very nice. Everything is so clean wherever you go. The trains look like they’re new even though hundreds of thousands of people use it every day. We sat for a drink at Starbucks and a server brought Deniz a storage basket so that she would not have to put her bags on the floor or seat. You would never see that here. The general safety is nice too. On our arrival taking the monorail from the airport, Deniz put her camera bag on one of the luggage shelves. As it got busy we got shifted away from that shelf. It would have been too easy for someone to walk off with it. But it was still there upon our exit. At Starbucks these two elderly ladies wanted to save a couple of seats beside us and left their bags to save it, then proceeded to get in line to make their order. Most other places you would not do that as your bags would be gone. It is generally a very safe place. The busy tourist areas however were different. This was the first time we heard security announcements advising people that police were aware of pick pockets in the area.

Tokyo is a very busy and crowded place. But there’s order in the madness. There’s no pushing and shoving. People will be in a hurry and will walk passed you when open to do so. But they will not shove you out of the way and as long as you keep up you will get your turn. If in a crowd heading towards an escalator where the crowd funnels down to single file, just go with the flow, let people in and people will give you your chance. Everyone works together. Entering and exiting the trains works the same way. You line up to get on. First let the people off and then fine onto the train. If you end up far from the doors just make some indication you need to get off the train and people will make way for you. There’s a common courtesy there.

Upon returning to Canada there was lack of order at customs, grumpy people and agents who ignore you leaving you wondering if it’s ok to proceed or not. No courtesy whatsoever. Yup, we are back home <sigh>

Beers

While I wanted to enjoy my favourite Japanese beer, Sapporo, I also wanted to try as many different kinds as well. Here’s a round up.

There’s also the Asahi Super Dry that we had at the shabu shabu restaurant that was served in a plain mug.

Nerima

On our second last day in Tokyo, we returned to the Nerima area to visit with my cousin. Nerima is a ward in Tokyo. It is situated to the north west in Tokyo. Much quieter district than the city core. Streets were lined with trees and generally more greenery.

We enjoyed a shabu shabu lunch with my cousin and her husband. Unfortunately, I didn’t get any pictures of that as I was too busy enjoying the food. 😄

We also purchased another luggage bag from a store in the area with better pricing. Through gifts from my cousin and our own purchases we found ourselves low on space. A trend becoming popular with us when we travel to Japan. 😁

Mount Fuji – Part 2

When I posted the Mount Fuji trip last week I forgot to mention two items.

First, the singing road along the Subaru highway leading to Mount Fuji. Rumble strips play the melody from the song “Miagete goran yoru no hoshi wo” by Kyu Sakamoto. The song verses sing about a bright star shining down happiness. Was very neat to hear. Interesting engineering that goes into this. The spacing of strips to get the tones. Pretty cool.

The second item was passing the Aokigahara forest also along the highway leading into Mount Fuji. Our tour guide referred to it as the ‘forest of no return’ mentioning that the trees are so dense that people often lose their way. Rumour has it that cell signals can’t be obtained inside. What he did not mention was that the forest is a popular location for suicides. So many that it ranks second in the world behind only the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. The Government has put many signs up to discourage people from ending their lives. The signs mention how their lives are gifts from their parents and to think of them and their families. It provides contact info for assistance for help. The Government states a decrease in suicides since putting up the signs so they believe it is working to a degree. Any lives saved is victory.

Our guide mentioned Mount Hakone used to be like Mount Fuji until it erupted thousands of years ago. The eruption destroyed the coned shape and created two overlapping calderas. The lava flowed into the large lake that originally existed and created three smaller lakes.

Ketchup and Mustard

We ordered a hot dog at a cafe and got the coolest package of ketchup and mustard. Both are in one package. You fold the package in half and it cracks open allowing you to squeeze both out at the same time through pre-packaged holes. Very cool!!

Two More Sleeps

Our trip has been great but time is winding down. I think we are content. We have seen some new things, stayed in another new area of Tokyo and visited some favorite places. With a few more days to go we are feeling about ready to return home. The tight spaces, intense crowds and the commuting by train all take a toll over the days. We have decided to omit Yokohama off our list this trip. The thought of taking the train to Yokohama and then taking more transit around the city to sight see is a bit too much for us at this point. And that is ok. We will be back again.

We will be exploring places more locally as we no longer want to go too far. There’s a nice Japanese garden nearby. We will walk there today. Something more relaxing to close off our trip.

This is something we experience each time we come. When we arrive we are happy to be here and eager to get going. But everything gradually wears on us over the days. I think one week in Tokyo would be perfect. But when planning a trip here though it doesn’t feel like enough time considering how far we are coming. It’s a delicate balance.

The weather has been great, sunny and 17 everyday. We had a bit of rain last night but that has been it. Absolutely fantastic weather.

Tokyu Hands

On Monday we also stopped by Tokyu Hands depart store in Shibuya just a short walk from the train station. This is another great place to get some souvenirs or interesting merchandise at decent prices for the most part. Like other stores it is multi level but focuses on stationary, arts, crafts and outdoors merchandise. It was full of other tourists. Lots of interesting things such as these Samurai sword scissors.

One floor sold different materials along with all sorts of fasteners, handles etc to make all sorts of different bags, cases or clothing. Another floor had all sorts of stationary supplies. Another area sold all sorts of supplies to make your own snow globe. A great place to stop by when in Shibuya. Upon arriving we headed straight to the cafe on the top floor. Enjoyed a sundae to refresh us. This is a matcha vanilla honey crunch sundae.

Dinner at Mark City

Last time we were here with Deniz’ cousin and her husband we were recommended to try a sushi restaurant at Mark City Shibuya. Mark City is another department store. However, when we stopped by the place was full with a long line up. At that time we did not want to wait and chose another place which ended up being disappointing. We have been curious ever since. Last night we returned and waited. The way this restaurant works is you obtain a number from a machine. Out front they show the latest number being served. Another couple obtained a number and saw they were 11th in line (244 was latest number and they got 255). We were going to get a number when the lady approached Deniz and gave us their number, and left. As others probably just left as well, the guy came out and called several numbers that had no response. I would guess, 20mins is all we waited. We were led inside and seated at the sushi bar. There are tables as well. But at the sushi bar gave us a chance to watch our dish as well as others being made. True art. We placed our order, and were handed our plates. It was delicious! The best meal we had and well worth the wait. Service was quick which helped cycle people through. There were five sushi chefs serving the small restaurant.

We both ordered the same sushi platter and also both ordered an extra fatty tuna piece. The meals came with green tea and miso soup. The dinner total was just 3888 yen which is approximately $40 Cdn. A meal like this back in Canada would have been $30 per plate. Also keep in mind that there is no tipping here.

This restaurant, Umegaoka Sushi no Midori is located on the 4th level along the overpass walkway connecting Shibuya train station to Mark City. There are many other places along this stretch. This is one of the last places when heading away from the train station.

Tokyo Government Building

Today we visited the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building in the Shinjuku district of Tokyo. It has an observation deck on the 45th floor. There are two towers with both containing panoramic observation decks on the 45th floor. They alternate days open. Today, we saw building number 2. The observation deck contains two gift shops and a cafe. elevators are quick and smooth. Views are pretty amazing. Admission is free.