Last month Gareth and I went on our honeymoon to Japan. It was quite a while to wait, but after all the events of the previous year it was good to have a wee break, and then the best time for us to travel next was in April. This worked out perfectly for Japan and cherry blossom season.
We got to Tokyo on a Monday morning, and were met by a rep from the travel company, who helped us purchase our Japan Rail passes and got our inter-city train journeys booked for the rest of our trip. The JR pass is available only to foreign tourists, and lets you ride on any of the main Japan Rail lines across the country, which also includes a circular route within Tokyo – very handy! Our first ride on the bullet train from the airport into Tokyo was very exciting, and we saw our first Japanese cherry blossoms whizzing by.
In the evening we headed out and got a little more familiarised with our subway station, Shimbashi, which is quite a major interchange station, and has practically a district of underground walkways and shops. We then headed out to Ginza to admire the bright lights of the city.
We wandered around for some time and were keeping an eye out for somewhere to eat, and then we happened upon a little izakaya (quite like a pub – for eating as well as drinking). This one seemed to be a jazz bar, and specialised in kushiyaki and yakitori (grilled meat/veg skewers and grilled chicken skewers), which were so delicious. At 9 the kitchen closed and the live music started up; the singer and pianist were good but we were so tired and jet lagged that we soon headed back.
The Shimbashi and Shiodome area, where we were staying, is about a couple of stops away from the main city centre areas. It’s is still quite busy, full of commuters going into the city in the mornings – whom we affectionately referred to as the black and white army of Tokyo (they really like their neutral coloured workwear) – and returning again in the evening rush hour.
Even the alleyways are full of restaurants
One of the most brightly lit places in Shiodome is the Pachinko centre. We’d heard about Pachinko (Japanese equivalent of slot machines) and seen it everywhere, so after a couple of days in Tokyo we ventured into our ‘local’ centre in Shiodome. It’s a huge pastime in Japan, so we had to have a go. We didn’t really get how it worked, even though we were given an instruction booklet in English especially for tourists, but it was all very cute and full of themed animated characters – even the burly gentleman a little way down from us was listening intently to what the pink dolphin was saying on his machine. We messed about for a little bit, but soon gave up the dream of winning even a stuffed toy, and moved on.
That was just the start of our trip, where we spent the first five days in Tokyo, with a day trip to Nikko; the next two days in Hakone; and the final five days in Kyoto, with day trips to Nara and Himeji. We visited many temples, shrines, historic buildings, beautiful gardens; ate SO MUCH AMAZING FOOD; got our fill of manga, anime, and kawaii (cute) things; learned about Japanese history and culture; and had a wonderful time. I can’t wait to tell you more about it over the next several posts.
Say cherry blossom!