By: Jas Mitch
After a week filled with exploring the old ways of the Japanese people, from temples to tea ceremonies, and who could forget our random decision to travel to Osaka to get our final fill of Gyoza from Dotonbori, which ended up in a small bar down an alley eating intestines, we jumped back on a Shinkansen headed for the crazy unknown that was Tokyo!
We arrived a few hours later (got to love that Shinkansen!) and headed straight for our first port of call, the Meguro Parasitology Museum (priorities people!). And we were thoroughly impressed with their collection (if not a bit grossed out).
Next up was Shinjuku. Shinjuku was pretty much everything I expected. Crazy, busy, filled with lights, awesome. Our apartment was about a ten minute walk from the station and overlooked a beautiful park, backed up by the impressive Tokyo Metropolitan Government Offices. All in all a good place to begin our Tokyo adventures from.
Our first day in Tokyo, Mitch headed out early to see John race in the World RC Championships, which left Amy and myself to have a girls day. This stated with a visit to the truely beautiful and relaxing Hamarujiki Gardens for a wander and a traditional tea ceremony. It was such a surprise to enter these gardens from the crazy that is Tokyo and be greeted with such serenity. There were even women wandering in their beautiful kimonos.
The gardens this day, were hosting a Tea Ceremony Festival. Amy and I had already attended a tea ceremony in Gion, Kyoto, but this allowed us another chance to experience the tradition, and to pick up on a few little parts we’d not picked up on before. And for only 300 yen it was a bargain as well!
(Red bean paste cake eaten before consuming tea)
We ended up spending the whole morning in the gardens, just wandering. After lunch it was time for us to go to a free Tokyo walking tour Amy had found. At 1pm we met a huge group of people at Tokyo train station and were separated into smaller groups, each with two lovely volunteer guides.
The group started with a bit of history about the Tokyo station before weaving its way to the Imperial Palace East Gardens, stopping along the way for chats about various parts of its history. What a fantastic thing to have available for people! It was such a pleasant wander through the gardens with fantastic guides.
Unfortunately throughout our travels my new iPad had developed what can only be described as looking like a bug had exploded under the screen, so whilst in Tokyo it was a priority to get it fixed (whilst it’s still under warranty!). Into the city we headed! What we didn’t consider was that we would need an appointment… Our appointment was booked for the following Friday and so we were left with some time to explore the Tokyo station area. This lead to a hunt for coffee… Which some how resulted in us heading to the Harajuku area.
What we found here was not coffee but it was an incredible mix of people! The first street you come across as you exit the station was Takeashita street (you can’t help but laugh at that one!) which is totally jam packed (think Melbournes white night packed!) full of Japanese youth wandering the streets eating amazing looking crepes. The stores that line this street vary from tourist shops to totally cool, hipster clothing stores.
As you are finally released from the crazy that is Takeashita street, you cross the road to Harajuku Street… Wow what a difference. This place is calm and almost quiet, with the people here being some of the best dressed I’d seen in Tokyo. The area and clothing totally oozed of that Melbourne cool, with hipster Cafes all over the place, and small boutique clothing stores. This was possibly one of my favourite places to just stroll around in and soak up the atmosphere.
The next day we headed to Mt. Fuji. By this time John had joined Amy, Mitch & I at the apartment and our group became four. We jumped onto a few trains (we didn’t get lucky enough to catch one with Mt. Fuji on it!) and just over two hours later had arrived at our destination… Sort of… Unfortunately for us, the climbing season had ended, so we just had to observe the Fuji from a distance. And boy was she impressive.
We had decided upon one of the Fuji Five Lakes as a viewing area but weren’t sure if the weather would hold out long enough for us to actually see anything. We were blessed with incredibly good luck and the entire day we had a perfect, cloudless view of Fuji. Our first stop uwas to head up a cable car to a viewing platform. It was packed full of tourists (to be expected) but thankfully we saw a path leading away from the viewing area which lead up the mountain a bit for an even more spectacular view without any other tourists!
Next on the list was a wonder around part of the Lake. On such a beautiful day I couldn’t think of anything better to be doing. So relaxing. And even more amazing views of Fuji.
Next on the list was two days at DisneyLand (post coming soon!) but after that Mitch and I went on a hunt for good sushi! Beginning with the finding of Jiros famous sushi restaurant! Where a single sitting will cost you at least $300US and you will get 20 pieces of sushi hand made by the 3 Michelin Star Chef! As we wandered past we saw him in the open door to the kitchen with his son and a bunch of other chefs!
And then wandered to the Tsujiki Fish Markets for lunch. We had been planning on getting up early to go to the famous Tuna Auctions but we’re just exhausted after Disney. We wandered the laneways looking for that perfect place and ended up settling on a small hole in the wall type place with only a row of seats along the main bar. Upon entry we were greeted by all the chefs. We made our choices (tuna, Salmon, egg and some others) and watch our Sushi Chef had prepare them in front of us! Very cool! And very yum!
We finished off our meal with a couple of the squishy cakes we’ve come to love since arriving in Japan.