Nancy and I are taking a two-week trip which is mainly leisure – a welcome change from the predominantly business-focused trips I do.

We’re circumnavigating the globe in 3 weeks stopping in Tokyo, Prague and Vancouver.

This weekend we’re in Tokyo, a whirlwind stop with two very full days. We arrived on Friday evening, and hour and a bit late due to weather over Narita airport delaying our landing. We’re staying at the Grand Prince New Takanawa hotel, a very comfortable nice environment. (I’ll post a Tripadvisor review and link it here).

Saturday morning bright and early we were up for the Mt Fuji & Hakone tour with Sunrise Tours . They collected us from the hotel and took us to the central bus station where we were sorted into groups based on the tour we were doing. Our guide Yasushi was very knowledgable and kept us entertained with a potted history of Japan and stories about the regions we passed through. Unfortunately there were traffic problems which meant the planned 90 min drive took 2 1/2 hours and scrambled the carefully planned day. We were able to do all the planned activities and enjoyed it immensely, the only glitch was getting back to Tokyo about two hours later than planned.

Our first stop was Lake Kawaguchiko where we ended up doing most of the planned activities.

Since the trip had taken so long it was lunchtime by the time we got to the lake, so we had the “regular Japanese” lunch (non-vegetarian) with fish and chicken. It was tasty and authentic.

After lunch we took the Kachi Kachi Yama Ropeway cable car to the top of the mountain overlooking the lake – yes, Nancy did do the cable car!

P1040325

Fujisan

The views from the top are magnificent and the Tanuki (Racoon) dumplings oh-so-sweet.

The Bell of Tenjo

The Bell of Tenjo

We rang the Bell of Tenjo together.

After descending on the cable car the plan was to take a boat ride, but the wind had come up and the boat wasn’t going so it was back into the bus for the 50 minute drive to the 5th Station on Mt Fuji – the highest point that is currently open and right on the snow line. Here we walked around, did some shopping (got the fridge magnet) and enjoyed the views.

Yasushi had been checking on traffic & weather conditions and found that we could do the boat trip, so it was back to Lake Kawaguchiko for the half-hour boat ride – again magnificent views and wonderful scenery.

Mt Fuji from Lake Kawaguchiko

Mt Fuji from Lake Kawaguchiko

After the boat ride we were back in the bus for the ride to Hakone – and another lake. We caught some shots of Mt Fuji with the sun setting behind it, and of the lake. Why there’s a galleon on the lake I have no idea but it definitely makes an interesting sight.

From there it was time to head back, two hours to Tokyo – dropped off in Shinjuku and a taxi back to the hotel, just in time to get dinner before the restaurants closed.

Sunday was a leisurely morning, and we missed breakfast time in the hotel restaurants – times are strict and you can’t get breakfast after 10:00!

We wandered around the hotel garden and spent some time just relaxing in the lounge.

Sunday afternoon was the Best of Tokyo walking tour. Our guide Masa Nakayama met us at the hotel and we took the subway from Shinagawa to Shibuya and visited the Meiji Jingu Shrine.

Lake Kawaguchiko

Lake Kawaguchiko

Sunset over Hakone

Sunset over Hakone

IMG_0866

Entry to the Shrine Gardens

Shrine Entrance

Regular Japanese Lunch

Regular Japanese Lunch

Imperial Palace Grounds Entrance

Imperial Palace Grounds Entrance

IMG_1001

Inside Mitsukoshi Department Store

Dinner with Masahiko

Dinner with Masahiko

IMG_0977

In the Gardens

IMG_0942

In the Gardens

 

We learned the difference between a Shrine and a Temple – Shrines have pillared gates, Temples don’t – and that Shrines are for beginnings (births, weddings) whereas Temples are for endings (funerals and to commemorate the departed). Shinto is a fully inclusive religion – accepting all other faiths and beliefs.

We were fortunate to be there just in time for a wedding procession through the courtyard.

From the Shrine we took a taxi to the Imperial Palace Gardens

 

The gardens are huge, it’s fantastic to see such a wonderful green space in the middle of a city. The path around the outside is 5km long and lots of people run, bike and walk it every day. Entry to the gardens is free and it’s a very popular space. They use a simple token system to track how many people are inside and prevent overcrowding – as you go in you get a plastic tile which you give back on the way out – the number of tiles available determines how many people can be in the garden at any one time and at closing time they know if everyone has left simply be counting the tiles.

There was an exhibition of modern Kyoto-style dinnerware made by a master potter Kanzan Denshichi which we were able to visit on the way out of the gardens.

From there it was a short subway ride to Mitsukoshi Department Store the oldest department store in Tokyo. Fascinating and horrifyingly expensive – definitely no souvenirs from here! There was a quilting exhibition – The Beautiful Japan Quilting Exhibition – which Nancy was thrilled to see.

Our afternoon tour ended at a tea shop with special green tea, following which we said goodbye to Masa and took a taxi back to our hotel.

On Sunday evening Masahiko, a friend who worked with me on the BABOK took us to dinner at Tsukiji Uemura, a traditional Japanese restaurant, we had a feast of sashimi, tempura and crowned it with Kobe Beef Shabu-shabu – delicious! Thanks so much for a wonderful evening Masahiko-San!

Monday morning it was up early, out to the airport and on to Prague via London. I’ll write about that part of the trip later.

We had a great time in Japan, and would love to come back for a longer visit.

Advertisements