Sunday, May 11, 2014

Tokyo Day 1 and 2

I had a good 'Golden Week' holiday from May 1 to May 5 in the Tokyo area of Japan! The experience was really great, but it left me exhausted even since I did a lot of different things in a very short amount of time. Because of this reason, I have almost 200 photos I need to go through and edit, so sorry if it will take me a while to post everything. I will try to break it down into two or three posts, in order to completely cover my trip. So anyways, on to my first day.

May 1st was not much to talk about (or take photos of), since I had a night-time flight from Fukuoka to Narita airport. My relatives in the area were unable to meet me that first day, but one of their assistants in the driving school business was so kind as to take me from the airport to my hotel.

I felt quite guilty since my flight was late, and the assistant had brought his wife along as well, so they had probably been waiting at the airport for an hour or two. They were a very nice couple, and surprisingly the assistant is from the same part of Satsuma Sendai, most of my other relatives are from. His wife was from the Kyoto area, so along the long drive from Narita airport to Kashiwa City, she told me about the famous landmarks from her hometown and about Kyoto in general.

On the outskirts of Kashiwa City, I was able to see the driving school owned by my relatives. Sadly, it was night time so I wasn't able to see much, but considering how big the school was, it seemed quite impressive. After a nice dinner with the assistant and his wife at a local izakaya, I went to check into my hotel and prepare for the busy day I had the following day.

May 2nd was the most busy day I had, starting at 7 a.m., the nice assistant from the day before came to my hotel to take me to the central part of Tokyo via train. The surrounding train system for the Tokyo area is REALLY complicated, so if it had not been for him I would most likely have been lost the whole day. Anyways, he took me to Hamamatsucho station, where I was booked for an all-day bus tour along with my cousin on the Hato Bus Line (

After meeting up with my cousin our bus tour started at 9 a.m. and ended at 5 p.m. with the following stops:

Tokyo Tower- My cousin actually lives really close to the tower, so maybe it was not so interesting for her, but it was fun for me. It's sort of an iconic place to go to in Tokyo, and before the construction of 'Sky Tree' it was the tallest structure in the Tokyo area.


Happo-en (experiencing Japanese tea ceremony)- This was not my first time trying the traditional japanese 'sado' or tea ceremony, but the garden surrounding the tea house was quite beautiful. It's one of the most popular places for weddings in Tokyo, and it has some REALLY old bonsai trees. Some of the trees were over 500 years old (hard to imagine someone took care of them the whole time). I also happened to see a very small turtle (which I almost stepped on) which was a pleasant surprise. The garden itself is actually not all that big, but the landscaping was nearly perfect. I just wish I could go there when all the azalea bushes were blooming.

Chinzan-so (lunch)- This place was also located inside a garden, however it wasn't as traditional as the previous location. This was a hotel garden, which was also popular for weddings among couples in Tokyo (I saw a lot of weddings that weekend, I guess it must be a popular weekend to get married). Here we ate Japanese style barbeque cooked on igneous rock from Mt. Fuji. You got three courses of food, served with green tea or barley tea. It was not the most exciting lunch, but my cousin and I were so hungry by that time, that we didn't mind having any type of lunch. While at the lunch table though, we were able to talk to some of the other people on the tour. There were people from India, Australia, Thailand, and even another American... though he was from Boston.


Imperial Palace Nijubashi Bridge- Sadly, I did not see the Emperor or even the palace... the only thing you can see without an invitation was the outskirts of the imperial grounds. The statue of the samurai on horseback is of a famous guard to one of the old emperors who died on duty. His statue faces the palace, so that he can continue to show his loyalty to the royal family. While the tour happened to be there at the changing of the guards, it was not too exciting. There were only two guards, and it only took them a few seconds to switch out. However, my cousin did tell me an amusing story, where apparently the Emperor went off the royal grounds unescorted and said good morning to some local joggers. Apparently the joggers didn't realize who he was right away, though they were really shocked when someone recognized who he was. I can only imagine what that must be like. 

Sumida River Sightseeing Tour- This was really nice after all the walking! The cool breeze from the ocean made a big difference in the afternoon heat, and we could see some of the more famous parts of the business district of Tokyo. Here you could see the famous fish market ( where they load the fish into the market place, and some of the more iconic buildings and bridges. My seat wasn't the best to see some of the places, but I managed to get photos of more interesting buildings as we passed by.

Asakusa and Nakamise Street- This was my favorite place I think. It's a historical district with a lot of shopping, next to the Thunder and Lightning God's temple. In fact, I came here twice to buy souvenirs, along with look at the really great cooking tool stores. Some of the best knives in Japan are made in this area! There is also gardens, old gingko trees, and many interesting shops. You can also buy some very tasty traditional sweets called ningyoyaki ( A lot of young people like to come here on dates for the sake of nostalgia, which was kind of interesting, as 300 years prior the same area was considered very 'trendy' and 'modern' for young people to visit. It's kind of funny how that works out.

Ginza- The upscale shopping district of Tokyo, this was the final stop of the tour. We had previously driven there earlier, but other than a review from our tour guide the tour does not formerly stop there. However, members of the tour could chose to be dropped off at the Ginza area or Tokyo Station at the end time, so my cousin and I chose to get off at Ginza. This place has LOTS of luxury item stores like Seiko, Gucci, etc. so for those who like high-end retail, this is a good area to go to.


After a little bit of shopping we met my relative Yoichi-san at a Korean BBQ restaurant where we enjoyed some bolgolgi and udon noodles for dinner. I was quite tired after running around that day, so I was really quite happy to get some sleep after everything. Besides, I had two more days to enjoy myself in Tokyo before heading back to Fukuoka!