Japan: The Land of rising Sun – is all-encompassing!!!
If you are traveling in spring, no discussion will be complete without Cherry blossom!
We, a group of four, leisure travelers and this is our second trip together.
Japan is well known for its politeness and good manners. Not only that, but Japanese culture also includes efficiency and known for its well-organized status. If you ever notice that at least one of your home appliances is a Japanese brand???
Being one of the most technologically advanced countries, Japan offers you all sorts of high-technology experiences, comforts and certain unique things like high-speed bullet trains, outstanding railway network which connects almost all cities across the country(trust me despite its complexity, you will not be lost),??
the volume of vending machines, even though they are not unique but you will find in any remote location, High-tech dining, Kit Kat flavors(strawberry, green tea, pineapple etc I have never seen flavors in KITKAT), Pachinko slots -people are??waiting??in queue to start this game from 10 am onwards,??
the capsule hotels- we did not get a chance to sleep there though????and??
Believe it or not, those fancy Japanese toilets with all the push buttons and with temperature controlled seat :), they aren???t only found in luxury establishments but is astonishing to see how it performs the ???rear cleansing???. You do not need to give potty training to your kids:P
On the contrary, to my surprise, few things are still not automatized and certain things are really not user-friendly especially for the tourists.
We really had a tough time to figure out the JR activation counters for the already collected railway passes through courier which we applied long before our travel. We expected these could have been digital and should be available to use on arrival, which is not.
We took almost a day to understand how to commute using the railway passes. Many things which will make you feel bitter like you’ll be vertically lost, it will rain, you won’t find your exit, you’ll be too random in choosing the places, you’ll eat something mysterious, you’ll miss your last train(we did not in fact but we were on dot), you’ll take the wrong train,you’ll be lost even with a map,you’ll hurt people with your luggage and at the end your expectations won’t be met ??:( I’m not disappointing but this is what you will definitely feel at least at one point of your journey. But that’s fun though if you happen to travel in a group. You will be alive and kicking around the clock and will use the maximum percentage of your own CPU 😛 😛
With such an advancement in technology, Japan needs to be able to self-promote and articulate to the wider world exactly why people should come and visit. They should propagate art commodities as well to help and improve the information for tourists.
Language acts as a barrier sometimes!!!
The day we landed, immigration and baggage collection went smooth but we had to uphill the battle to figure out the Japan railway routes and JR pass activation counters which we applied long before. We, in fact, reached Tokyo from Narita airport safe and sound and stepped out of the railway station. Unexpectedly, it’s raining and none of us were carrying anything that protects us from rain. Thanks to the car driver who gave two umbrella’s (without charging) when we happened to inquire about hotel address.
On the other hand, a classical quartet was busy in heading towards their homes, probably finished their daily routine, and we summoned them to help us in finding the hotel address. The device (mobile) they were holding was entirely in Japanese and we showed the name of the hotel and address in English. One of them typed the name in Japanese and started google maps. He mentioned it was just 600 meters away and they accompanied to drop till the hotel.We were so thankful for the gesture and started following them with all our luggage and two umbrellas 😛 and reached the hotel. We were glad and so we took a picture along with them and bid bye.??
We eventually entered the hotel reception and got to know we are not at the right one (hehehehe) and this hotel is a group of hotels with the same name in the surrounding area 🙂 Kela!!!!
It being the very first day, we did not want to perform any further stunts and so requested the hotel receptionist to book a taxi for us to reach the right hotel. Reached the hotel safely and we found rooms are too small but pretty comfortable.
Day -2 in Tokyo
Next day morning, we started towards Imperial Palace gardens exploring all the routes, railway maps, tourism booklets etc what not, we picked one copy each what??all we could find in the station.
We opted the travel during Sakura??(Cherry Blossom) period
but due to cold and stormy weather, buds of the cherry did not blossom yet on our arrival.??We kept walking around the gardens and could see very few trees (4 to 5 ) which were blossomed.??
Herry Blossom was really excellent ??? enticing, fun and soothing to your eyes watching around.You happened to see these beautiful pink flowers along every nook and cranny of the country.Upon forecasting next few days weather, I took a deep sigh of relief to pacify myself that by the day I return to Tokyo I would definitely see a beautiful pink city. Yeahhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!, strong prayers for miracles 😛 and they were heard 😀 😀
and the whole city burst into life to celebrate their arrival.You feel that you are submerged in these flowers.
Continuing the day -2, followed by gardens, we boarded Asakusarailway line and reached the first Temple in Japan – Sensoji.??
Upon taking the blessings of lord Buddha, we started walking towards River Sumida with a bottle of apricot wine :P??
After a short photo shoot with Tokyo sky scrappers,??
we took the cruise to finish our lunch along with an enjoyable addition.(Wine).We all had to have enough food to rejuvenate ourselves for the next sightseeing.??
We got down at first??halt??of the cruise which is at Hamarikyu -a public park, Tokyo.??An interesting thing is all these public parks and gardens are planted quite long before beginning 1946 to 1965. (may not be sure by each plantation though, I have read somewhere while passing by) These Gardens were blossomed with vibrant yellow rapeseed flowers.
??It was mentioned that around 300,000 flowers were planted in the park(have not counted though) There was a pre-wedding shoot going on for a couple in the garden, being inspired more by the sight we started our own photo shoot too. We have??Raj-s??who were awaiting Simran-s to join the fields.
It was time to move to next location and headed towards Meiji Shrine- The first Shrine for us in Japan.Tokyo’s most famous Shinto shrine is wonderfully serene and austere, but not colorful or flashy like any other Asian places of worship.
We saw a couple of Shinto priest in their authentic kimonos. I guess that place might be busier during wedding ceremonies or festivals. After the??pradakshana??around the Meiji, we realized we walked almost 15 km by then for that day.??
We slowly started towards Roppongi station where you could see The Japan’s Iconic Tower (333 meters height)- Tokyo Tower.
|On the way to Tokyo tower|
The structure is an??Eiffel Tower(300 meters)-inspired that is painted in white and orange. We had our dinner at some American pub before we start our photo shoot again 🙂
Unfortunately, we didn’t opt to go to the observatory (250m high) as we were already late (it was 11 pm) and the city was almost dark too, also it was quite expensive too.Later is the most possible reason 😛
We were already satisfied viewing Tokyo City from other elevated locations. Nonetheless, the view from the main observatory might be definitely breathtaking!We had a plan to visit government building to have the similar view from there.
At the foot of Tokyo Tower:
Done for the day, headed towards home and did not take any further risks in finding the route again to the hotel, just boarded a taxi and reached the hotel.
Headed towards Osaka-City
Touched down Osaka by JR bullet train. Now Where to go?
We dumped our luggage in Hotel Kansai Longue and started for sight seeing.It was little sunny and pleasant that day and after a bit of walking and eating, we found ourselves outside the majestic Osaka Castle!
It turned out to be a museum rather than “Castle” 😀 😀 :D. We went to the observatory deck of the castle and were able to sight the entire city in green and hardly in pink 🙁 We were still praying then for cherry blossom 🙂
We had a plan to go to Dontonburi (nightlife destination in Osaka) but I insisted on going to Ferris wheel. we took a Ferris wheel ride but we did not wait for the glass bottom carriage.That was probably a good thing we decided because I think these carriages were rare and we would have needed to wait longer in the queue.
We finished our dinner at KFC, -??zinger??wrap with lemon grass, and rested for the day at the hotel.
We had a plan to start our day early to reach Nara Deer Park.There was a direct Kintetsu railway train to Nara and we took a local bus to reach the park from there.
You don’t have to look for the Deer at Nara Park. They look for you if you hold their addiction in your hand.??
Everyone was feeding rice crackers but we fed energy bar to it and one came behind us craving for it.
We started our photo shoot with one deer which was peacefully resting at one corner, it literally flee from us after a while :D:D
Surrounding the park were sakura partly bloomed and a wide spread of the grassy fields. We enjoyed the lush gardens throughout the park, so many lanterns and ponds in between.??
It’s a 45-minute cruise sailing through Osaka Bay, With open space and access to every corner of the ship.
Whilst we were sailing, We had a sight of cherry blossom stretch near the harbor and we quenched our thirst for cherry blossom, the moment we stepped out of the cruise. This was our first experience to see the blossom in a complete stretch.
We took a rapid train to reach Kyoto from Osaka and dumped our luggage in coin lockers to continue our sight seeing.
There are 17 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Kyoto. RAKU Bus is one of the bus services running in the city which is very convenient for tourists. The daily pass will only cost 500 yen. A lot of tourists opt for those RAKU buses so they are always full and heavily crowded.Whilst others were taking the bus pass and dumping the luggage in coin lockers, I stood in the line.I happened to enquire one Japanese about the most famous and interesting temples in all those 17.
Passengers board the bus from the rear door and get off from the front door. The fare is paid at the front before exiting. If we have the One-day pass, we just need to insert the card into the card reader (and take it back!).We started with Ginkaku-ji??Temple, the ???Silver Pavilion???.??
Upon reaching the temple, we climbed the trail at the back of the garden that leads to a viewpoint over the entire temple compound and the rest of the city.??
Japan is a home to its best street food.We tasted mochi ??? soft, round, rice cakes ??? stuffed with red bean paste and grilled.we had green tea ice cream(tasted like Mehendi though :P) and had spring french fries too.
After a while, we started towards Kiyomizu-dera??Temple. Hopped onto bus number 100, and got down at Kiyomizu-michi??bus stop. we do not need to worry if you don’t know where to stop, there will be an announcement in the bus both in Japanese and in English regarding the next bus stop. The bus route is quite self-explanatory.
Then we started walking up the hill towards the temple which is approximately 600 meters away. It was really challenging to walk due to so much of tourist crowds.??
we could see the pagoda’s from a distance and reached the entrance. There we took a picture with a couple in Kimonos at the temple entrance.Now started looking the inside area of the temple.Three storied Pagoda’s, viewpoints of the city, dragon statues etc and took a long toilet break because of a lengthy queue :D.
We had a plan to go to Sanjusangendo (a Buddhist temple )and started walking down the hill to reach the bus station. Because of some minor confusion in route, we ended up being late there and it was closed by then. Its 5 pm then. It’s too early to reach the hotel, but we had a plan to go to the room and relax for the day.
We reached the hotel and started jotted down the list of activities for the next day. Thought of leaving early to catch the first trolley train (romantic train) from Arashiyama., so we headed
As planned before night, we got ready early in the morning by 7:45 am and reached the railway station.We realized we came forward to Kameoka Station and we need to go back to Torokko Kameoka Station, the terminal station to catch the sightseeing train- Romantic train.??
While walking from the station to the terminal to catch the romantic train, I observed people going on horse rides around and I found a woman in a traditional shop selling sweet potatoes baked in hot pebbles in a hand cart on the roadside.
On the way, the train runs along a River, offering views of the forests and mountains and it being spring we could see the cherry blossom stretches on the mountains.
Apart from the train, a boat ride is also there in the same stretch for 2 hours. Due to time constraints, we opted the train. We reachedArashiyama and walked towards Tenroji temple which is 900 meters away from the station. ??
We then rushed towards bus station to reach Kinkaku-ji??temple, the famed ???Golden Pavilion.?????
It is Kyoto???s most iconic sight, rising above its reflecting pond. This day we definitely did not want to missSanjusangendo and we took a taxi to reach there before the closing time. This place is famous for its 1,001 statues of the Boddhisatva Kannon and one majestic Buddha with 42 arms.The temple hall is an astonishingly long wooden structure.
Photography in the hall is prohibited so I don’t have any pictures of them. One interesting thing about this temple is, as we all know Buddhism derived from Hinduism, here you will actually get to know in detail about each deity and how they turned to be worshiped in Buddhism. It looks like below.
We had some photo shoot here as well.
Out of all the shrines and temples, I visited so far in Japan, I found the golden temple and Sanjusangendo are more interesting.
Then we headed excitingly towards to watch night illumination of a castle??Nijo-jo ,??mentioned as one of the Kyoto???s most popular and impressive sights. There was almost a kilometer queue to get inside the castle. With that sight of people,??I??thought it’s going to be an amazing experience.It’s entire gardens were lit to highlight blooming cherry blossom trees and garden, with lanterns lighted all the way. There was a projection of video for about a minute on the castle entrance.??
It was nice but the rest of the experience in castle did not turn out to be really great as we imagined.It’s time for us to shift to a different hotel due to unavailability of rooms in the previous hotel Kyoto Plaza, and unfortunately, we realized we have to come back to the same location from all the way. We quickly reached the previous hotel and backpacked everything and started walking down the streets with our luggage and hopped on a bus to reach near Nijo castle again, the place where our new hotel was!!!
We have to reach Hakone that morning, the place where you could see the view of Mt. Fuji. Today would be our last day to use JR pass in this country. ??We took two days pass which we could avail for all different types of transport in this area for next two days like a cable car, ropeway, cruise, bus, local and rapid trains.We started in one rapid train to reach the station Odawara and changed the train to the other line to reach Gora station.
One of the railway staff gave us wrong information about the location of the hotel and we reached almost the tip of the mountain 😀 😀 D. Eventually we realized we were on the wrong path and inquired the bus driver again about the address of the hotel and he mentioned that we had to go back to the same place where he picked us 😀 …phir??se??kela….. even after unsettling??events, I did not stop my photo shoot 😛 lol
We took a deep sigh and came back to Gora station and took the cable car to reach??Naka??Gora??.Our hotel is just 100 meters away from the station.??
for another cable car to arrive and this acts as a bridge to reach the other side.??
It looked funny though, but then subsequently I got to understand some underpass was there where in you have to walk more than a kilometer just to cross the bridge :D. On top of it, everything in Hakone seems quite expensive for me.
We checked in the hotel and this is the best hotel which I have ever seen during our travel so far. It’s a futon though but that was pretty comfortable.
As we were planning on staying two nights in the mountain town of Hakone I thought that would be a perfect place to have a ryokan experience.
A ryokan is a type of traditional Japanese inn featuring tatami-matted sleeping rooms with hot springs.??
Staying in so, one way it offered a glimpse of Japanese lifestyle and culture and another way it was great fun too.
Our room consisted of two rooms (bedroom and living room with open kitchen) separated by paper screen sliding doors, an additional smaller dressing room and a balcony that ran the full length of the room with an excellent view of mountain ranges.
After a quick refresh, we decided to hit the road again in order to buy some groceries to start cooking tonight. There was nothing available in those areas, not even a supermarket, and so we had to go to four stops away to get some basic groceries. We then realized it’s high time that we have to taste??Japanese Saki (Wine) and so we picked one bottle of orange Saki, Sushi, and other groceries at Lawson- Its a Chain of super markets.
While returning we saw sets of pretty??Kimonos near the hotel reception which were offered for all guests. We had a plan to have a dinner in the typical Japanese style that night and these clothes were like the cherry on the top.We quickly grabbed four of them and were back to the room. We started preparing sandwiches, authentic green tea and arranged the other ready made stuff like sushi, saki, almond with dried fish, fresh strawberries etc onto the dining table.??
Dinner had not been this relaxing in all those days especially in mountain ranges and in typical Japanese style :). Even after walking 15 to 18 km a day we hardly got exhausted. I guess this was due to the weather, we did not feel tired and were able to have the same spirits almost all the day. after such a relaxing dinner we thought of going for hot springs in that chilled weather which was a great experience.
The water temperature is maintained consistently at about 40 degrees Celsius.When I took the first step into the pool, I wanted to jump out as I felt it was so hot.Then I realized that I had to do it really slowly, one foot at a time. I stayed at the edge of the pool and sat while my feet were submerged. I had to wait until my body adjusted to the temperature.
The warm water took away the stress and muscle pains from the previous days.I got out of the pool to take a look around. Hot springs area was extended with a balcony to view the mountain ranges.The cooler night winds helped me to withstand the hot water for longer time. After such a relaxation we took showers and left the communal bath compound to our rooms.Our futons were arranged by our other travel partners and bed was ready to hit.
In the morning, we all dressed up but nowhere to go as it was heavily raining.Too bad the weather and didn???t cooperate during those two days trip especially because it was foggy.But it didn???t stop us to enjoy and maximize our day trips to do whatever we could. We just went with the flow.
Neither the bad weather nor the heavy winds impacted our photo shoot 😀 🙂 even though our umbrellas were broken due to heavy winds 😀 😀 😀 after a quick photo shoot for an hour :P,
It’s time for us to have a hot coffee after drenching in that rain and heavy breeze for a longer time. We all went to a restaurant to gear up again. Upon finishing the refreshment, we decided to start towards Hakone shrine and found the bus route. It took almost an hour and a half to reach over there.We, in fact, reached the destination but there was a heavy downpour and we are left with no option other than stop walking for a while.??
We entered a restaurant which was run by a very old Japanese couple.??
We were inspired by their efforts even at that age.We should really appreciate Japanese in this aspect. It looks like many people work until they are in their 80s and beyond.and I guess this strong work ethic could have attributed to their long life span. Remaining active has been proven to be a positive factor for the elderly which will definitely help to cope up with their daily life and fill their days with enriching activities. We had lunch in time for the first time in our entire trip there with a great ambiance around.
I tried my best to shoot a quick picture of the shrine in waters in that heavy rain and breeze. Let my photo speak about it, how it is!
After the photo, we started towards Gora station to collect some food stuff. I had a doubt in my mind as the winds started settling down, ropeway might be in working condition. I inquired the station master about it and he said yeahhhhh its on. I quickly informed my team to start towards the ropeway station as its already 3:30 pm.??
We reached where the volcano is !!(not active though).??
We could not see anything except the smell of??sulphur??as it was foggy and raining.
It was hard to stay long in such cold weather with rain water hitting our faces so strongly while we were climbing upstairs. we finally boarded the ropeway. We only had an experience of traveling through ropeway but nothing was visible due to the pretty unclear sky.??
We traveled till Lake Ashi again via ropeway and completed one return trip.Went back home and continued the same agenda hot springs followed by sumptuous dinner and then hit the bed.
That day morning, we headed back to Tokyo– excitingly awaiting to see the entire city in cherry blossoms. The entire stretch from Odawara to Tokyo was almost filled with cherry blossom, those were like perfect eye candies for us and was so rejuvenating.So, we all sacrificed our sleep to watch the beauty while traveling
To the Japanese, cherry blossom is much more than just a few flowers. It???s hard to explain to those who haven???t experienced it, but during the sakura (cherry blossom) season, the whole country is swept by a sort of festival atmosphere.We entered Ueno Park to witness the beauty closer. I shall let the photos and video do the talking!
we??saw plenty of food stalls selling street snacks, colorful not edible though!but could not dare to give any attempt to give them a try.
After this, we had a plan to visit local happening places. We had been to Akihabara (where you get all electronic gadgets, toys and whatnot)??
But what we observed is, more than Japanese products we could see all Chinese products there. You would encounter so much of japan collaboration with china in its culture and many other aspects.
Then we had a plan to visit Robo Restaurant but we were already late by then to do the booking. Hence we plunged into one of the happening and available restaurants to grab some food as we were almost tired. We saw a Japanese, playing a dartboard??and got inspired by the sight we also joined and started hitting the board with no aim 😀 😀 It was quite fun to play it and eventually we understood how to make the points and the game rules.??
Indeed, a tiring day it was but a very fulfilling experience! Everything was all worth it!
The last day in Japan. I normally get the tendency to travel alone at least for a day just to have my own privacy. It’s not that I’m not social, it’s just I like my choices and want to check my own instincts. The previous night I shared the same thing with my travel partners and even everyone has different plans to start off the day too. Some wanted to go for Sumo wrestling, some only for shopping etc I had a plan to join them as Sky tree is nearby Sumo wrestling.We all started together but I became little grumpy because of ambiguity in the plan. As I mentioned earlier too, I prefer my choices and I realized that I should leave from them and opted a different direction altogether.Honestly, I didn???t have any concrete plans. I thought of dropping off the luggage first at Asakusa where I could take Narita sky access to reach the airport terminal directly as we were flying back Dubai that night.
There is a Skytree view from the same station, I went to take some quick pictures but sky tree is absolutely vanished 🙂 check out the picture.
Then I took Ginza Line and again came to Ueno area, there I went to Ueno Zoo where they preserved endangered species like a Polar bear, Giant Panda, Flamingos, Kangaroo, Ryno, Penguins and much more. Then I had my lunch with two Indians (One is from Sikkim and another one is from Bangalore) whom I met in zoo :P??
??Then I decided to go to one more destination before I head towards the airport. I have opted Odaiba just to see the artificial island over there. It was a nice view but I could not spend much time in it as I thought I might be running late so headed towards railway station to catch Narita Sky access.??
The express took me to the terminal in just 45 minutes and I did my souvenir shopping there itself and awaiting my travel partners to catch the flight. All set to travel back home. Sayonara Nippon and thank you for the wonderful trip altogether.
Author of this post:- ?? ????Sireesha Chittajallu
Author’s website:-??Click here