JAPAN

A long awaited family trip

To see Temples, Shrines, Geishas, or just to eat good Ramen?

Mia’s first temple viewing – Senso-ji Buddist Temple in Asakusa, Tokyo

It was October 2018, and a long time planning to co-ordinate a week in Japan that coincided with Mia’s school vacation timing, Herve’s work schedule, and of course my organization skills for a memorable family vacation.

My memories of Japan are Temples, Shrines, Geishas, and eating, always eating… I wanted to give my family a great experience, but also not get bored with viewing the same things over and over.

The week started with that long 12 hour flight, on Japan Airlines, as daunting as it may be for some people, I relish the downtown, to watch a whole Netflix TV series, a new movie, or just have a glass of wine and sleep!

On arrival we took a taxi to our hotel, Tokyo taxis are the cleanest in the world, with crisp white crocheted linens, hand sanitizer, bottles of water, shiny seats and tissues for your use. However, you better know where you are going, Tokyo taxi drivers don’t speak English!

We stayed at the Tokyo Hilton, convenient, great gym, and a lovely room upgrade with the view of beautiful Mount Fuji in the distance. It always feel better to have a bit more space when you are on vacation, and the calming view of the snowcapped mountain will always be a sight for sore eyes.

First up, dinner! Typical Japanese meal is what my family asked for, a local restaurant with real local feel … but what does that mean? It means the menu is in Japanese, sometimes there is photos, so you can point, but ultimately, as a tourist, you really don’t know what you are ordering. We ended up with Chicken and rice, a good staple, not too weird, fried fish, sashimi of tuna and salmon, fried gyoza (can be pork, chicken or shrimp inside) together with of course, the famous Sapporo Japanese Beer! A well rounded meal that you share, just enough to feel full and head back to the Hotel before that overwhelming wave of jet lag hits you.

Sightseeing on Day 1: Asakusa of course! The beautiful, overpowering Sense-ji temple and it’s luscious surrounds, drown you in traditional elements, including blessing offerings, and your future predictions. The day also included rice cake tasting, interesting candies that tastes like green tea, and traditional sushi for lunch. There is so much to take in, in this area of Tokyo, so full of life, with tourists taking photos and Japanese school children crowding around taking fun selfies as document their visit to this famous attraction.

We spent the afternoon strolling around Ginza, the ‘fancy’ district, enjoying the beautiful stores, clean streets, and amazingly, no noise. Tokyo is the quietest, largest city in the world, yes really! They do not beep their horns on the cars, everyone is polite, no one is yelling at you to move out of the way, or hurry up and cross the road. The opposite of New York City!

Sightseeing on Day 2: Shibuya crossing! The busiest crossing in the world. Half the fun of going there is waiting for the lights to change and challenging yourself to make it to the other side before the cars start again. A myriad of interconnecting streets with super cool shopping, a treasure mecca, and pretty coffee shops full of Japanese school girls giggling together. There is a famous Starbucks with a viewing wall, many photos are generated from this vantage point.

Shibuya crossing, Tokyo – Starbucks view

We also visited the Imperial Palace in Tokyo, a beautiful space, full of gorgeous trees, old Imperial Building and modern accommodations for the current Japanese Royal Family. The walking tour gave a comprehensive view of how the older buildings were brought from Kyoto to be here, as the Japanese Imperial Dynasty set up their new headquarters in Tokyo, and created this safe space to protect their important people. You could feel the warmth from the sun as we walked with the tour guide, breathing the fresh air, and realizing we were inside a very sacred and important place.

Historical Gate House inside the Imperial Palace Grounds – Tokyo

Sightseeing on day 3: A trip to Kyoto on the Bullet Train! Early morning departure traveling from Tokyo Station to Kyoto on the Shinkansen full of Japanese business men was definitely an interesting experience. I wanted my daughter to experience the views, passing by small towns, traditional houses, the bullet train makes you feel like you are gliding through time on a cloud, so she promptly fell asleep.

On arrival we prioritized a visit the Golden Temple, it is in a tranquil garden setting, with a nature walk beyond imagination. You can here everyone saying, ahhh, oh, wow, inside the grounds, they stare, and take in the calming effect of the surroundings.

The Golden Temple in Kyoto

Next was of course was lunch at the local Ramen restaurant, definitely a highlight, we love Ramen, it’s delicious noodles and soup, so tasty, homemade the traditional way, including a soft egg, and fried Gyoza on the side.

Back to Tokyo on the bullet train, and thinking about our next adventure, Paris for Thanksgiving!

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