travel diary: Japan 2014 (part 2 of 2)Posted by Catherine Elms on April 29, 2014 Blog posts | | 2 comments
*read part 1 here*
Day 7 – Kyoto
On our way back from Hiroshima, we stopped off at the city of Kyoto. As we only spent a day in this enormous cultural city, there was so much that we wanted to do but didn’t have time for. Nonetheless, I’m very glad that I got to see a little bit of Kyoto, as it was a beautiful place.
We began our day at Kiyomizu-dera, a lovely Buddhist temple that sits on a hillside, with picturesque views of the city below.
We then did some shopping in nearby Sannen-zaka and Ninen-zaka, two quaint streets lined with old wooden houses, traditional shops, and eateries. We bought lots of souvenirs, and ate green tea ice cream.
Then we visited the Ryozen Kannon, a Buddhist monument dedicated to the people who died in World War II. It was surprisingly quiet here compared to other parts of the city, with only 2 other tourists at the site while we were there; I think it’s a bit of a hidden gem. Lisa and I paid our respects and made a wish each.
After this we picked up some lunch and had a picnic in Maruyama Park, which was packed full of people enjoying the cherry blossoms
We then visited the Kodai-ji temple, which contained a beautiful rock garden, two tea houses, and a bamboo grove. Unfortunately my phone battery died around this time, so I don’t have many photos at all!
We then walked through the grounds of the Yasaka shrine, and walked along the Kamo river taking more pictures of the beautiful city. We had dinner and cocktails in The Gael Irish pub, and then did some shopping while walking back to the train station to catch the bullet train back to Tokyo.
Day 8 – Akihabara
Today we spent the morning shopping in Akihabara, the home of Tokyo’s geek/otaku (“diehard fan”) culture. It was more focused on manga and electronics than I was hoping, but it was still an interesting experience and I bought lots of cool souvenirs. After a look around the shops, we stopped in a ticket-vending restaurant for lunch where I had a delicious chicken katsu curry
After lunch we got the train to Tokyo and visited the Tokyo Central Post Office, which was pretty cool, before catching a shuttle bus to the Skytree, which thankfully was open today! We went up to the highest observatory, the Tembo Galleria, which is 451m above the city. As we ascended from the ground floor to the observatory in the lift, we could see the city through the glass walls of the lift, shrinking below our feet. It was such an incredible sight. The observatory itself is covered in 5m high glass, allowing us a 360 degree all-round view of the entire city. We visited around sunset, taking photos and admiring the view as the city began to light up as night set in. We were there for a little over an hour in total, but felt as though we could have watched the city for hours.
We then looked around the shops on the ground floor of the building, had dinner, and had some yummy filled crepes which we ate on our way home.
Day 9 – Harajuku
Day 9 was a shopping day, and we spent most of the day in Takesha Dori, the main shopping street in Harajuku! We hit up an amazing 100 yen shop (the equivalent of a pound shop, but better quality!), checked out a few clothes and fashion shops, and a lolita shop.
We had lunch in Sweets Paradise, an AMAZING all-you-can-eat dessert buffet (with some savoury dishes too, but y’know, it was all about the desserts)! It was so good, and everything was delicious.
That evening, we went to the nighttime sakura beer garden at Hanayashiki amusement park for drinks and rides! We walked via Senso-ji, which was much quieter and more peaceful without the crowds of tourists!
We had a few beers and some mystery cocktails (neither of us could read the Japanese so we didn’t actually know what some of them were), then went on a rollercoaster and a merry-go-round
Afterwards we had more drinks, and some very tasty warm snacks including a meat doughball thing which reminded me of a pastie! After chatting to the barmen for a bit, they later brought over some free snacks for us! Yesss.
We then continued our drinking at Shinjuku. We bought some more drinks in a convenience store, and chilled out at Shinjuku station for a bit where we got hit on by some men (though they were very friendly and respectful as I recall)! We tried to find the Golden Gai area (an area consisting of 6 streets crammed with 200 bars!!), but sadly to no avail. We still had a good evening overall.
Day 10 – DisneySea
Tokyo has 2 Disney parks – DisneyLand and DisneySea, the latter being unique to Japan. We decided to visit DisneySea, as it was unique to all other Disney parks in the world, plus it was a little smaller so felt more manageable in one day.
Being an amusement park enthusiast, I could write an entire blog post just about DisneySea, but I’ll try to keep it brief! It was an incredible place – everything was beautifully designed and carefully crafted, even down to the smallest detail, the staff were friendly, the entire park was spotlessly clean, and there weren’t too many people there. Plus the weather was good – it seems we picked a very good day to visit.
Each area of the park had a specific theme (see above) – we visited each area in turn and managed to ride most of the rides. My favourites were the Indiana Jones Adventure and Journey to the Center of the Earth.
Day 11 – Departure
We got a taxi to the airport early on Friday morning to make sure we had enough time to allow for any problems at check-in. Thankfully we didn’t have the same drama about getting home as we had getting here, and everything went very smoothly. We had some tea and snacks, watched the planes at the observation deck, and took advantage of the free wifi and caught up on social media (I felt too tired to do this most evenings when we got back to the hotel – I usually just showered, skyped my boyfriend and promptly fell asleep).
The flight back dragged a little more, largely because it was mid-afternoon through the entire journey so I didn’t sleep as much as I wanted to, but it was still comfortable – I had some broken sleep, watched some films, finished reading I Am Legend, and wrote in my diary.
When we landed, I was greeted by a very lovely surprise – my boyfriend was there to meet me at the airport with a cup of British tea and 2 coach tickets home (which was a shorter journey than the 5 hour train journey I’d booked). <3 So thoughtful!