A long planned holiday has finished up about a week ago. We headed to Japan for almost three weeks. Japan is a place that many people have always wanted to go, and I am no different. Mrs Mab initially wasn’t too interested, but was encouraged by her workmates that it was a great place to visit.
We planned 4 days in Tokyo, 4 in Kyoto, 4 in Osaka and 3 more in Tokyo for our return. Big items on the family’s list was Disney and Universal (of course), Mt Fuji, Cherry Blossoms and seeing some cultural stuff. Our timing was dictated by Mrs Mab’s leave from work so we left in the last three weeks of Term 1 here, covering Easter as well. It also was the Japanese school Spring Vacation.
And it was Cherry Blossom time in Tokyo. We struck it very lucky as it was cold for the time before we arrived. About 5 days or so before we arrived it suddenly warmed, starting the blossoms, which meant that as we arrived they were starting to peak. That was a total lucky chance.
We did most of our own planning, simply drawing up a list of things we wanted to see and decided to wing it. Apart from booking a day tour that included Mt Fuji (and included lunch and a visit to an onsen, the Japanese bath house).
We arrived in Tokyo on a pleasant Tuesday morning and eventually we’ve arrived at Shinjuku station. This is where it all became abundantly clear that we were in a different country and that Tokyo was MUCH bigger than Sydney. It took us 15 minutes at least to find an exit to the station that was vaguely in the direction of our hotel. This would prove the only really confusing part of our stay, getting into and out of stations, often with luggage, and in the direction of where we wanted to go (rather than on completely the other side of the station and having to go back through or around it). The trains themselves, thanks to Google’s knowledge of public transport, were easy. Just the stations….
After dropping our bags we headed to the nearby Shinjuku Gyoen gardens to see the cherry blossoms. Many locals were out having picnics and quite a few in kimonos and the male equivalent. Very cool to see. The other sights that surprised us were the convenience stores and the vending machines. Everywhere you turned there was one or both, or many!
After the park, we visited the Meiji Shrine before heading to Shibuya Crossing, the one seen on many pictures and many movies. It wasn’t as busy as expected, though it was early afternoon on a Tuesday. Next up was Tokyo Skytree, Tokyo’s other really tall thing (not the more well known red and white Tokyo Tower).
Mt Fuji was our main destination on the next day. Our first organised tour for the trip, it took us by bus up Fuji, then to a nearby town with a set lunch. After the lunch was the onsen and then the Factory Outlets store. Fuji reminded me a lot of Ruapehu, which I used to live next to. Fuji is a bit larger. The girls saw snow for the very first time, though it was that crappy melted and turned to ice been cleared off the road kind, but still snow.
I did try the onsen, though I was the only one in my family and only about half the bus load were “brave” enough to strip down and enjoy the hot water. Was kind of cool relaxing in the hot water gazing over Fuji.
The next day was Disney Sea. It was SUPER busy, with spring vacation on. We managed 2 rides in about 7 hours at the park, partly because I misunderstood that FastPass was free there. The most unexpected thing was that everyone remained seated on the ground to watch the parade. Made it really easy for all to see. It also turned really cold in the evening. It was an expensive day, though mostly due to the price of food in the park.
The evening parade was pretty cool, with the best scene being where the Magic Mirror (which was a light ring, perhaps 10m tall) was doing something and showed the dragon from Sleeping Beauty. AND THEN THE DRAGON CAME OUT OF THE MIRROR. It was pretty cool transition to the mechanical dragon, before Mickey defeated it and sent it back into the mirror.
And that was Tokyo, the next day was the Shinkansen (bullet train) and Kyoto.