Tokyo – My time between skyscraper, temples and delicious food
As I already told you my trip to Japan was not planned but at least I had a Lonely Planet (Tokyo) and some ideas in my mind what I wanted to do in the four days. I had the idea about a megacity full of contrasts and exactly this is what I found in the next days.
After I made my way to the hostel – without getting lost – I decided there is not time to waste and was heading toward Ueno Park where I met Samantha from Toronto – I was texting with her on Couchsurfing before -. Ok it took forever or better one hour in total to find each other at the station (later I figured out that the train and metro station had up to 20 exits) without a working Wifi unless you have some special apps for. But finally we made it and started exploring the huge Ueno Park and the area close by full of small streets with small shops and restaurants. This was a great first afternoon and impressions of Tokyo which we ended by a dinner in a diner style Japanese restaurant which offered me my first affordable and delicious local meal.
The advantage sleeping – in a hostel room in one of 16 beds – is a reason to be up early because there is always somebody making noise. Time for heading up northward to the Sensoji temple in Asakusa. Obviously hundreds of other people or just the result of the Golden Week had the same idea. Nevertheless I was wandering around the temple and the area around with small traditional streets full of restaurants always a look offering to the highest building in Tokyo – Tokyo Skytree- .
My next stop – the royal palace – unfortunately was closed but a nice long walk brought me along green strips, temples and another palace – the Akasaka palace – which gardens were visited for free. What a long walking day. Luckily my feet still were able to jump in the Metro to Shinjuku for dinner and some drinks in Golden Gai. This area formerly was known as Piss Alley. What a name! It is full of small bars located in traditional Japanese houses which mostly fit not more than eight people and there were no toilets what is the reason for that less charming name. Luckily times changed.
Another short night in the hostel and the idea from the night before made me go up for an early breakfast and the Shinjuku Bus station. The plan was a trip to the flower festival at the Mt. Fuji. Again the public holidays made me change my plans because the bus was fully booked. Good news were that I just got a bus ticket for the next day to Kawaguchiko and now I had time to visit the Metropolitan Town Hall. The north and south towers are the perfect place to enjoy the view over the city – till the Mt. Fuji if the weather is good – and the best is the permission to the platforms is free.
The view to the Yoyogi Park – more like a forest than a park – made me curious to visit the Meiji-Shrine which is situated in the park. I could not believe how many interesting things I discovered. A Japanese role play, traditional weddings, buddhism ceremonies and more highlights expected me.
The exit of the park was close to the Takeshita Street – popular for the Japanese youth fashion shop and mentioned in the tour book -. What I found was a small street which was so crowded that people pushed you from one end to the other. The famous Shibuya crossing later seemed to be like a normal place comparing to this small street. Not the perfect place to spend time for people with claustrophobic tendencies like me which brought me to the next park. Another huge oasis in the middle of the hustle bustle is the Shinjuku Gyoen Park. English and Japanese garden offer plenty of space to relax, go for a walk, have a picnic and do people watching. My final destination for my poor feet and me that day was the Shibuya crossing and the Tokyu Foodshow – a high end food court with the best food variety in Tokyo- in the basement of Tokyu Basement store at the east exit of Shibuya station.
Quite excited I woke up early again and made my way to the Shinjuku bus station after a short breakfast. What a morning work out because the Shinjuku station in its huge size looked so different comparing to the day before. After getting lost two times and a fast run – yes Japan is famous for the reliable on time transportation – I finally made it on time to the bus station. Luckily I had plenty of time in the bus to Kawaguchiko to relax and find my breath again. And then the moment came when I saw the Mt. Fuji the first time. What a scenery! A holy mountain with its still snowy peak standing in the green landscape surrounded by some beautiful lakes. I could not await to go of the bus see the Fuji from another point of view and take the next bus to the Shibazakura Flower festival.
Oh yes public holiday again. The traffic made the way last forever and the festival site was very crowded but what I found was a lovely arrangement of pink, lilac, white flowers in front of the mountain. I totally could understand why all the Japanese came to here to visit this place – and take their selfies for sure 😉 – and why the official Mt. Fuji website told tourists to avoid going on public holidays. Nevertheless I enjoyed this colorful place and the view before I was heading back to Kawaguchiko. Here I used my remaining time to have a walk to the Lake Kawaguchiko before I was heading back to Tokyo. That is what I thought I ll do on time but now I was not that lucky because the bus was delayed for almost one hour and the traffic back was pretty heavy. Good to know that also in Japan not everything works perfect.
Back in Tokyo I decided to have a look at the setting sun over the city from the Metropolitan town hall but like expected the line was very long and the sign told me a waiting time about 1:30h which was a way to long for my not existing patience. Probably this was a sign for me to finish the day by having dinner and say good-bye to Japans capital which I planned to leave on the next day by plane heading toward Japans cultural capital Kyoto.