Trip Highlights: Tokyo, Japan
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Though comprehensive trip reports can be interesting… I find them to be too much and too long to read, and boring. So that’s why I provide highlights for each location.
That being said, I’m more than happy to chat about specific aspects of the trip and location.
A Brief Intro…
After spending three nights in the busy city of Beijing and seeing ancient sites such as the Great Wall of China, we hopped on our ANA flight from Beijing Capital Airport to Tokyo-Haneda Airport.
We planned to go to Tokyo specifically during Spring to take advantage of the Cherry Blossom festival and atmosphere around the city… and boy, did we luck out. The weather could not have been more perfect (with one rainy day) and we were able to see the cherry blossoms in all their glory.
- I found Cathay Pacific’s business class to be overrated (blasphemy, I know) and Japan Airlines’ Sky Suite business class to be excellent and super comfortable. You can read reviews here and here.
- We stayed the Prince Sakura it was an outstanding hotel. Though it’s part of Marriott, it’s owned and operated by Prince (a Japanese brand) so their hospitality really shone through on all levels. The location was excellent, too, only 3 minutes walk from a main train terminal (Shinagawa train station)
- The hotel was part of a larger hotel complex (with 3 or 4 other Prince properties) and in between them was a small cherry blossom park.
One of the hardest things about going to a new country is getting around–car rental or public transportation. Luckily, we had Google maps as part of my global Spring data plan, which partners with carriers worldwide (except in China), giving me sufficiently fast 3G speeds. And, unlike China, we used the transit system extensively. It is extremely efficient, clean and a overall pleasure to take. Prices are comparable to other major cities ($1.25 – $2.75 USD per direction).
The sheer amount of public transportation, options, however, can be a bit confusing. There is:
- Tokyo Subway
- Tokyo Metro
- JR [Japanese Rail] – Privately owned
They can all be rode with one reciprocal pass that you can load, or you can get a one-day pass to ride the subway and metro for 1000 JPY ($9.26 as of this writing).
PLEASE NOTE: You cannot use credit card for the single tickets, only for the reloadable card.
How We Decided to Do What We Did
Prior to the trip I made an itinerary, but after our first day on the ground, it was pretty clear to me that just going to different/unique neighborhoods just wouldn’t cut it. Unlike Beijing, it’s a bit easier to get around and the ability to quickly look things up on my phone was invaluable. (I would have gotten a guidebook had we visited other cities, but we only visited Tokyo). So if you Google “Top 10 things to do in Tokyo”, you’ll get a list like:
- Shibuya Crossing
… And on.
So I put those “activities” down and then got to the neighborhood, not really knowing what to do. We quickly rectified this by planning even more after our first day and in preparation for our next day.
So, without further ado…
Here are some of the activities we did
- Mori Art Museum — A really cool, modern art museum with some unique and interesting exhibits. It shares the grounds with two other museums, and a sky tower that on a clear day, gives a wonderful panoramic view of the city.
- Shibuya Crossing — Sheer and utter madness. Really fun to watch and participate in the mad dash to cross the street where 2,500 people cross at one time during rush hour.
- Mt. Fuji / Hakone National Park — Unfortunately, this was the one day it was raining and extremely foggy so we could not see more than several feet in front of us. Oh, well.
- Imperial Palace – The inside of the palace is closed on Mondays, but most people just like to take pictures of the famous bridge and enjoy the constart of Japanese shogun architecture, to modern day construction. Indeed, it’s a sight.
- Asakusa Shrine — Perhaps one of the most famous shrines in Tokyo, a tourist trap, but cool outdoor market to get souvenirs and other stuff.
- Ginza – I’d consider this to be the Fifth Avenue of Tokyo. High end shops with a lot of neon lights.
- Kabukiza Theatre — Highly recommend this authentic, Japanese theatre experience
- Akihabara (Akiba)
Cherry Blossom Festival(s)
Tokyo takes pride in the fact that is has four distinct seasons, and in each season they celebrate the beauty of the greenery and parks. However, the Cherry Blossom, or Sakura, is something that is unique to Japan due to the large amount of cherry blossoms that bloom at the same time. They have an official Cherry Blossom tree that “rings in” the festival and the national tourism symbol is a cherry blossom!
Spring is a special time in Japan: it was evident in the atmosphere and feeling of the people who live there. The Sakura governed all while we were there.r
Much of our time was enjoying the different, well manicured and clean public parks that Tokyo has to offer. There are 19 different varieties of sakura. We went to:
- Yoyogi Park
- Ueno Park
- Shinjuku Goyen
Would I go back?
Most definitely! Already trying to figure out the next time we can go there. Tokyo will host the Summer 2020 Olympics and I think it’s a great choice, considering their advanced transportation infrastructure.
There are also a lot of other cities that I’d love to see; Osaka and Kyoto in particular.