TOKYO AND YOKOHAMA
We arrived atShin-Osaka station in plenty of time for our 3 hour journey to Tokyo. With the JR pass you are only allowed to use 3 of the 5 Shinkansens (bullet trains). We used the Hikari train (others you can use are Kodoma and Sakura, but not Mizuho or Nozomi), which was very comfortable, as you would expect in Japan. We went to the ticket office prior to departure and booked our tickets which was easy to do and made sure we were sat together. Unfortunately we were unable to get a good view of Mount Fuji on the way due to a little bit of cloud. We arrived in Tokyo at 12.40 were we were due to meet up with Noaya (who I met in Italy 3 years earlier on a day trip to the Amalfi Coast and Pompeii).
However there was no sign of him and after 10 minutes thought it best to head to our hotel and try to contact him from there. However, there was free wi-fi in the station so we quickly got in contact and we met for the walk to the hotel. This proved to be quite a long walk as the directions I’d got off google where certainly not the best. Thankfully there were 3 of us to carry all the bags. Our hotel was Smile Hotel (Mitsukoshimae) and it was small yet comfortable and once we freshened up the three of us went out to explore the capital.
Now this was my second trip to Tokyo so I had seen plenty but Noaya decided to show us around the areas called ‘Cool Tokyo’ and ‘Night Life’. Its always good to keep in contact with people you meet on your travels, the likelihood is you will never see each other again, but there is always the off chance that your paths may cross again.
We caught up on all the gossip as we walked around Omote Sando shopping area heading for everyone’s favourite street ‘ Takeshita Street!!’ We stopped for some local food, which reminded me of eating in Old Town White Coffee in KL, and then made our way to the street with a great name. Once you have made your way through the throngs of people you come to the Meiji Jingu Shrine, a nice peaceful walk through the forest gets you to the impressive area. It is also free so no charge to get into the shrine unless you want to pray or make a wish which will set you back $2. After a well earned beer (same price for a can as in KL) we headed off to the Roppongi area. After a brief stroll around we walked to Tokyo Tower. The proved to be quite a distance so in hindsight we should have got the subway, once there though the tower was very similar to both the Eifel Tower or Blackpool Tower especially as it was bright orange. We decided not to go up although it wasn’t too expensive (about $8) but just walked around as the best view was certainly from the bottom. After a long day of walking and talking we said our goodbyes and then headed for our hotel and a well-earned rest.
Day 2 in Tokyo allowed us a lie in until about 8am and after breakfast at The Family Mart convenience store we headed to the ‘Cultural Fusion’ area of Tokyo. Our first stop was Ueno and an opportunity to walk around ‘The Forest of Art’. All the Museums and Galleries were closed so we headed to the small pond and rode the ducks pedal rides. Well I was too tall so Aida did all the peddling.
We had a Turkish kebab for lunch and I bought some Nike trainers from Ameyoko as my flip flops were starting to rub far too much, at about $25 they were money well spent. Again, we decided to walk to the next destination on our tourist map ‘Asakusa’, and again it was further away than we envisaged, maybe 30 minutes. Walking does allow you to see more and get a better feel of the city you are in rather than traveling on the subway where you miss lots of cool buildings/shops/people etc.
Asakusa is a popular sightseeing area and as soon as I arrived I remembered that I had in fact been here before. Never-the-less it was great to see all the stalls and Senso-Ji Temple and Kaminarimon Gate. The next step was to visit the Sky Tower but as time was getting by and the feet were beginning to hurt, we took a photo from a small distance away by the river and headed back to change for our night trip to Yokohama.
The reason to go to Yokohama was to visit Kazumi, another person I had met on my travels. I had met Kazumi in Bali in 2011 and only 1 week earlier she had re-added me to Facebook. The journey from Tokyo to Yokohama took about 30 minutes and was very busy, full of all the commuters heading back from another day in the office.
Meeting Kazumi is always a pleasure as she is always upbeat and today was no different. We had dinner and chatting about what we have all been up to since we last met. Aida taught Kazumi some Farsi and Kazumi returned the favour as both girls chatted like long lost friends. As Kazumi is a teacher, we couldn’t meet earlier so after 3 hours we said our farewells and we made our way back to Tokyo and get good nights rest ready for our next destination after Tokyo and Yokohama: Kyoto.