After ‘waiting’ for about a year, finally the time had come! We go to Japan!
Both Romy and me myself wanted to visit Japan for years already, but the actual idea to travel now came from the fact that World Ticket Center (the company Romy works for) gave her two free KLM air tickets as a thank you of services rendered. After we flew to South America for free two years ago, now it was time to fly east instead of west…Japan thus.
Comfortably we arrived at Schiphol airport at around noon on Thursday 6th April and with a take-off planned at 3pm we had some time to drink a coffee after all the hassle of checking baggage and passports several time. Although the flight itself went smooth, we hardly could get some kind of sleep. Closing your eyes to quickly we came to the conclusion it’s better to watch another movie…
We arrived scheduled 8:30pm at Tokyo’s Narita airport. Customs took unfortunately about an hour but advantage is that our luggage circled around the bend already for a while…We bought the convenient Pasmo travelcard and drove with the Keisei Line to downtown Tokyo where we disembarked at Ueno station within 45 minutes. As we could check in at our Airbnb at 3pm, we had some time to spend and so we walked into the Ueno park and stunned for the first time the cherry blossom which Japan is famous for in spring. Also the Japanese go crazy and picknick underneath the trees as much as they can.
From the park we walked into the old town of Yanaka where many temples and cemeteries have survived different earthquakes. We visited a couple of them and by walking towards the nearest metro station the wish of seeing a bed became bigger and bigger. Tokyo’s extended metro system was quite a shock but with changing lines twice we made it to Higashi Nagano station from where we walked in 10 minutes to the Airbnb. The key was locked up in a letter box which had to be opened like a safe. Turning the wheel anti clockwise 7 twice and clockwise 4 and we could enter the small apartment. Small indeed, but with a small kitchenette, a bathroom with Japanese style sophisticated toilet and last but not least a bed…we slept in for a couple of hours. A eleven hour flight, 7 hours of time difference and some sightseeing…It made us tired! When we woke we searched for a supermarket and discovered that along a stream with cherry blossom trees around the corner of our apartment the people where (still) picnicking, even when the sun set…We bought some sushi and decided to join them for a while and found a nice spot along the stream where we enjoyed our dinner.
After a self-made omelet breakfast at the apartment we prepared ourselves for a short trip to Shinjuku station, the busiest station in the world. Daily more than 3,5 million people commute through the kilometres long alleyways and tunnels mostly for going to work or searching for the train going home. This was the place we wanted to change our Japan Railpass voucher for the real deal. Staircase after staircase we went all the way up to streetlevel and found the right office at the other side of the road near the bus terminal.
Today we were heading for the ancient capital Kamakura which lies about 65 km south of Tokyo on the shores of the Pacific Ocean. Passing by cities as Kawasaki and Yogohama on the way we got to Kita Kamakura station in one hour. We visited different Zen temples like the Engakuji temple, the Shokojan Tokeji and the Jochiji temple all in Kita Kamakura. After having a very nice lunch at a local cafe named Pooch we started a hike through forest just behind the Jochiji temple. Rainfall from the last days turned the trail sometimes into a somewhat swamp, but we enjoyed it very much. On the way we passed another temple complex and sometimes when we engaged other people we wished them a ‘Konishiwa’. Eventually we got to the big Buddha (Daibutsu) which is the main attraction and understandably the 12 meters high sitting Buddha pulls in many tourists each year. Back in the train we both slept in a bit and woke up by the annoying music the train makes every time when it will closes its doors…
We got out at Shibuya station and were looking for the Hachiko statue. A statue of the dog which was picking up his boss every day from this station. Also on this place is the worlds busiest crossing. We joined the mass and after we arrived safely at the other side of the crossing we enjoyed a wrongly ordered coffee with icecubes?? at a Starbucks nicely located on the second floor of a building to overview the crossing.
From here we walked all the way back to Shinjuku walking through shopping Mekka Harajuku with Takeshita Dori street a bit too overwhelming for our senses.
Next to Shinjuku station is a narrow lain called Piss Alley. This little lane is packed with tiny restaurants on both sides where max up to 10 people can enjoy their freshly cooked meal. I tried barbequed pork liver, heart and entrails…Nice experience, but as almost every tourist trap…a little too expensive for what you get. For the right digestion we walked the last 3km. home to the apartment and deserved a good sleep after a busy day!