It was a trip which we had been looking forward to for quite a while. Time is definately a commodity. When you have to find the right time to fit in with everyone’s schedule, ie, kids holidays as well as work projects. Anyway, we manage to find the time this year in November to make this big trip of ours. We had initially planned to head-off south to warmer climates (Australia was the first thought) but then the temptation to head off to a place that we know we won’t be visiting more than once or twice (if ever) was great. Tokyo had always been one of those cities where I would not have put at the top of the list of places I would visit not because I didn’t want to but the circumstances of cost as language difficulties limited my desire to put it there. 😉
So, there we have it, soon enough, we found ourselves at the airport on the 18th of Nov 2012… It was a Sunday afternoon, which meant I got enough sleep the night before. Our “entourage” consists of 3 adults, Winnie, her dad and myself as well as 3 rambunctious kids, my son, daughter and our niece, followed by bundles of luggages… mine was the lightest, I’d proudly say. lol. 😉
Strangely at that point the daunting task ahead when we reached Tokyo about all the things I feared hadn’t really kicked in. I’m the sort of person who would feel excited about a 6 hours journey on a plane, excited to think about what I would do. Magazine, iPad, movies, or note-taking… in my mind, these were plenty fun to start with.
So skipping ahead pass my boring in-flight programming, the flight itself was uneventful. Seeing as we left Kuala Lumpur at 5:00pm and the flight took 6 hours and 45mins, we reached Tokyo’s Haneda airport around about midnight by the time we checked ourselves out of customs and immigration. And that’s the start of Day 1
Okay, the first barrier was about to hit home… Language. I had my handy smartphone downloaded with the latest “Learn Japanese” language ready. I’d have to really give it to this application. I was so glad I saved it on my phone as I depended on it countless of times to make myself understood. Although a Japanese toddler could make more sense than me waving arms around and making funny noises, I still did what I needed to be understood.. lol!
We had a special chauffeured driven limousine service send us to our hostel. The limo was a grand MPV that fitted all of us and our suitcase. The weather hit us on the way out from the airport. The cold we felt, similar to opening up the fridge and letting the air blow on your face, yup we had that in Tokyo on the first evening. 10 degrees Celsius perhaps.
A fairly short ride later, we reached the Sakura Hostel, in Asakusa which was to be our home for the next one week! Quaint nice and friendly staff, Winnie was impressed with their level of service and attentiveness. Run by a group of young staff, the place itself was very “homely”, having all the shared ammenities that you needed, like a kitchen, laundry room, a small library area, a TV, music and lounge area as well as plently of tables and chairs for us to write, read or eat on.
Our suite room wasn’t very big, but big enough to house 3 fairly large beds and bunked tops. I knew my niece and daughter would be occupying the top bunks right from the start, so that was that. I’d have to say again that I was glad that everything was kept so clean and proper. Our baths were located outside of our rooms at the end of the corridors, a concept that maximises the use of space in Japan.
So, we settled down and tried to make ourselves confortable in this “foreign” room. Once beddings were done and the kids settled, I headed out to see the surrounding area of our hotel. It was about 1am at this time.
The place reminded me of a big city like Shanghai. Perhaps more due to the fact that it was autumn and the last few times I travelled to Shanghai, I was in similar season. The cold night air, the insulated bricked buildings, cold metal fixtures and paved sidewalks. Though most were the same, one stark difference was how clean the streets of Tokyo seemed to be. This was Asakusa, a suburb not in the main city confines but nevertheless, clean despite having small units of living quarters in addition to the premium apartments dotted along the streets.
DAY 2 – Asakusa District
The next day started bright and early. The kids were up and chirpy. It was going to be a day to discover the area which we were staying in. Asakusa is really a tourist haven, with the grand Sensoji temple in the heart of it all.
This was the place we stayed in – Sakura Hostel (totally recommended!)
First experience with Tokyo!
Winnie enjoyed her fish-shaped pastry filled with sweet red bean paste
Got to see how the made rice cakes!! And by hand, the traditional way
At Sensoji Temple
The famous Asahi building with what I call the “shaving foam” 😛
DAY 3 – Tokyo Disneyland
This was to be our second trip to a Disneyland. The first was a fun trip we made to Hong Kong Disneyland, Winnie, Celeste and myself. Celeste was just 1 plus at the time. Now with the kids older, we were gonna have our hands full bringing them to see all the sights and enjoying the fun rides.
Disneyland is as we remembered from Hong Kong. Beautiful colourful and always filled with music. Lol… cartoon land is always like that isn’t it?!
Cayden’s still trying to comprehend where he is! 😛
DAY 4 – Ueno District
We made plans to go to Ueno district as a recommended tour by my Tokyo tour application. I expected it to be a contrast from our trip the day before. A calm walk through the park, a visit to the famous Ueno Zoo, the kids’ first visit to the grandest museum in Tokyo, and finally Ueno’s night market walkabout.
The park was nice with the autumn leaves and the nice cooling weather!
Our first time seeing Polar Bears!!! 😀
Look at how happy the kids were! 😉
Museum time… it was an eye opening experience for all of us to see the thousand of centuries old exhibits, an experience which we would not have been able to see elsewhere.
DAY 5 – Shibuya and Harajuku District
I knew I was going to get a treat when we get to Shibuya station, being as it has one of the most famous traffic crossing and all. From busy streets of Shibuya and all the people in black, greys and dull neutral colours, we made our way, a short and cooling walk to Harajuku. Yup, the famous place for the Harajuku fashion street and eccentric colours and designs. But we made a stop by Meiji Jingu, a famous shrine dedicated to Emperor and Empress Meiji.
Meiji Jingu was really beautiful, calm pristine and just felt a world away. 🙂
The walk along the streets of Omotesando was truly a unique shopping experience. The hightlights of it was really the backstreets of Omotesando where we got to see luxurious city homes as well as the odd shops reflecting an urban style which we have not really experienced before!
This is Hachiko, the famous dog in Shibuya, the story of which was made into a famous show starring Richard Gere
Day 6 – Shinjuku and Lake Kawaguchi
The day that we were supposed to make our way to Shinjuku and catch an express bus to Lake Kawaguchi to view Mount Fuji started out wet! By the time we started out, the rain had slowed to a drizzle but it was cold. The kids had their rain coats and daddy, mommy and grandpa braved the wetness to get ourselves to busy Shinjuku by train.
Once there, we got across to the bus station to get bus tickets to Lake Kawaguchi. Fortunately not too difficult to get myself understood with little English… 😉 But, the highlight of this was how we manage to bump into a bunch of my running friends on the same bus!!! 😀
Look it’s Mohan and Gang!!! On the way to Lake Kawaguchi for the Fujisan Run! 😉
The ride to Lake Kawaguchi was very enjoyable as we got a nice view of the countryside through our bus ride via the hills. I had a kick imagining how it was like living in the different seasons in the area.
As we got closer to Fujisan (as they like to call it there), the trees were closer to shades of autumn, hues of yellow, orange and red. The Lake Kawaguchi bus station was a quaint little station in the middle of a tourist town, not as desolated as I had initially imagined. We walked from the bus station to the lakeside and got a treat with the beautiful sight of the lake. By the time we reached the lake, I was curious as to the direction of Mount Fuji, it was all cloudy! My fear was that we may have made our way there without seeing the grand old Mount Fuji because it’s covered by clouds.
But then, we found a cable car ride nearby and we decided to go up! The kids were getting a treat with the ride up the side of the hill up to the viewing point of Mount Fuji.
Once we were at the top, we had a fantastic vantage point of Mount Fuji. Cloudy, but we got to see the snow and the foothills along with the surrounding areas. It was indeed a grand experience, something I’d remember for a long time!
Day 7 – Tsukiji and Ginza District
What would a trip to Japan be without seeing where the world’s capital of fresh fish and seafood come from. a trip to Tsukiji market next to Ginza was the next destination. Although we were not as crazy as some people who wakes up at 3am to make it to the market by 5am to watch the famous fish auction, we had enjoyed a peaceful walk through the fresh market and at the same time being able to still catch some late action at the marketplace.
A short walk away from the marketplace is Ginza. Perhaps one of the most famous fashion and shopping hub in the world, located in the heart of Tokyo! I was looking forward to seeing the grand designs of brand shop in this area.
Day 8 – Imperial Palace and East Gardens
On the final day in Tokyo, we had a full day to enjoy as our flight was almost at midnight. So, we did a short relaxing trip to see the Imperial Palace East Gardens, a more relaxing experience as our last impression of Tokyo.
TO SUM IT UP…
Gosh, that was a long blog post, wasn’t it? My longest I guess… there’s at least 2000words in this post, guess I should have broken it up into several smaller posts, but I know with my laziness, it might just end up being half done. So, well, although we there was so much more things to say about our experience in Tokyo, what you see above here summed up our entire experience and I’d say the experience is one where we would never forget.
As I said at the start of this post, Tokyo was an unlikely destination for our family vacation but having made the decision to do it anyway, we have been able to see such a WONDERFUL, AMAZING and totally EYE-OPENING experience. I’ll be having more appreciation towards all things Japanese, the sushi I enjoy, the Japanese car I use, the Japanese friends I meet and all things “kawaii”!!! 😀