Posted in My Travels

Tokyo Day 5- Asakusa Sensoji Temple and Our Last Day

Hello World!

We are on our last day here!

Really loved reliving this trip this week, and drafting this last post is making me sad.  Tokyo is a fabulous place, so unique and we experienced so many things that I will hold in my heart forever.

Tokyo Day 5- Isetan and the Asakusa Sensoji Temple

On this day, our last day, we slept in a tiny bit, till like 8AMish.  We needed the rest after the night before, AND, we needed the rest to get us through traveling back home. We quickly packed up the room, got ourselves ready, said goodbye to our room with the incredible Mount Fuji view and checked out.  As I mentioned in the first post, we hired a car service to take us to and from the airport, today he was scheduled to pick us up at 3PM. So, we had a good chunk of the day to spend in Tokyo.  SCORE!!

We decided to go grab some breakfast at Isetan a few blocks away.  They’re the largest and best Tokyo department store, and their food bizarre level is crazy insane!  I saw things (and bought things for family) I never had seen anywhere else in my life.  I am still floored thinking about all the prestigious foods and knowledge I acquired from that area.  My husband surprised me with taking our breakfast up to their rooftop deck, open to eat and relax.  Wow, what a stunning place!  They had a large grassy park flanked by a small shrine and vending machines of course with an incredible view of the city. Definitely recommend this quiet sweet spot.

After chilling roof top, we walked around the city to find some souvenirs for the girls before hitting up one last attraction, the Asakusa Sensoji Temple.  Man, souvenir shopping was the hardest part of the trip.  Oddly, though the Sanrio stores there were big, the sections in toy stores back home were better than their specialty shops in Tokyo.  Surprised?  Me, too.  But I was not freaking out because we still had shopping in Asakusa and the airport.  The airport, by the way, is the best spot to shop for any type of souvenir you are looking for; I scored for the kids there big time!

Finally, we made our way by taxi to Asakusa; it’s about a thirty minute drive.  I am so glad we didn’t opt for a train like we did back in 2004.  We ended up seeing a totally different side to Tokyo driving from Shinjuku to Asakusa, like real life.  Working class people.  Their homes.  Their parks.  Their stores.  No flash.  No lights.  Not a thousand people hoarding around.  Real life.

The Asakusa Sensoji Temple is the oldest Buddhist temples in Tokyo, and was one of my most memorable stops thirteen years ago. A lot of people visit this place, from all over the world.  It looked the same, except there were about 50% more people in the area than I remembered.  But it could be because it was a weekend, I don’t know.  Tokyo seemed flooded with more people than I remembered before in general. The experience, with so many people, was different.  Not bad, just different.  The gates to the Temple are a colorful wonder, with a giant lantern in the middle flanked by two intimidating statues that open to the grounds market.  This place is so great, and the shopping was a lot of fun, grabbed a lot of Japanese souvenirs for the girls here.

The Temple itself is at the end of the market; it was so crowded we didn’t actually have that type of time to wait in the line to go in after walking through the market. I did go inside in 2004, so this time I walked up to the large incense burner right out front where a mass amount of people were there lighting large incense sticks they were buying along the building.  I gently wafted some of the incensed smokey air over to my body, from head to toe I pushed the air around me for a blessing.

Now my trip to Japan was complete.  🙂

We left the Temple to find a taxi, well, first we stopped for coffee then hailed a taxi back to the hotel.  I never mentioned this before, but my husband never drank coffee till last year, and I really love having a coffee drinking partner in crime everywhere I go now!  haha  It’s the little things people.

We got to the hotel just with two minutes to spare!  The driver was there waiting for us, so we grabbed our bags from the Bell Hop to hit the road.  The drive back to the airport was great.  Saw all the fun spots we visited in 2004, and those sights we couldn’t make this trip. Like the tower and of course the big one for me, Tokyo Disney. I saw it on the way in but didn’t want to mention it.  You guys have no idea how much I am still bummed I didn’t make it, because we were staying at an affiliated hotel that had direct bus service, so I literally had planned out a whole day to go for when I was alone while my husband was at work that day.  Up till three weeks before we left I had these plans,  then everyone made me realize how sad that would be for me, no one to share the day with, and riding rides alone…it sounded super lame without anyone else, so changed it to what I did. Which ended up being a lot nicer on my own and was invited out with everyone that night unexpectedly for dinner.  Something I wouldn’t have been able to do if I went to Disney and something that ended up being LESS depressing!  haha

Anyways, I am not bashing it, but Tokyo Disney from the highway above looked real small, sort of like Disneyland shrunk down. The entrance was right near the highway and I saw Cinderella’s castle, which was small.  I think smaller than Disneyland’s!! They had a gorgeous hotel next to it, and it was more beautiful than the castle..so.  Also, by the ads on the hotel TV, not what I researched online, it looked more like an amusement park near my house, Canobie Lake, with Disney themes, than a Disney theme park.  I was reminded many times I made the right choice.

Ok, so back to this day…  We had an extremely nice, comfortable ride and got to the airport in 1.5 hours.  We checked in, grabbed some food for the ride and gift shopped some more, then boarded our flight at 6:10PM Sunday.  We landed in Boston at 4:54PM Sunday.  We grabbed a car home, and we arrived to a wonderful reception of family waiting at the house.  The girls went bat shit crazy seeing us, crying and laughing, and I swear held onto me for a half hour straight!  I wasn’t letting go so.  haha

 

This was an amazing trip!  Every day I learned or was experiencing something new, and that was exciting.  Tokyo is an exciting city, with so much history, tradition, yet so modern and forward, the art, the buzzing crowds, and so many wonderful things to see!  I really didn’t expect to go back to Japan, and I am so grateful I had this opportunity again to visit such a beautiful country.

Thanks for reading along!  Till next time!

xoxoxox

 

To read about the whole trip:

Day 1– Traveling to Tokyo

Day 2– Tsujiki Nippon Fish Market/Taito City

Day 3– Shibuya / Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden

Day 4– Harajuku / Meiji Jingu Shrine

 

 

 

Posted in Random Stuff

Tokyo Day 3- Shibuya and Shinjuku Gyoen Garden

Helloooo there!

And we are onto day three in Japan!  Which was my day alone in Tokyo.

I forgot to mention that the entire week we had lucked out with nice weather, around 65F and sunny (with wind) every day.  We were told this night that we brought the sunshine with us because up till we landed the weather had been quite horrible.  🙂  Which made me smile.

Ok day 3…

Day 3- Shibuya and Shinjuku

My husband had to head off to an all day work meeting bright and early in Roppongi (about thirty min away), so it was my day to venture out in Tokyo on my own.  I was real nervous about this day, being alone in a huge city without knowing the language beyond a hello, thank you or the word toilet  haha. So, I just picked a few things from one of our books that I really wanted to see. Grabbed that free mobile phone for google maps and went on my way.

WHAT A FUN DAY!!

The first thing I did was put on my sneakers because another day of walking 20K steps would feel a lot better in those puppies.  Started off going to a Starbucks I noticed near the Shinjuku station, and it was PACKED.  I was there about 10AM, and it must’ve been rush hour for coffee breaks or something because it was just crazy busy.  I sat outside for a bit (since I didn’t see anyone walking with drinks in the city at all), planned out where things were to walk to and made my way.

My first stop was to a department store, YES shopping!  I smelled a fragrance the day before I really liked, so I was going to treat myself to it as a souvenir.  This department store was in the Takashimaya Times Square building, located right across from the Shinjuku station. I think it is bordering Shibuya.

Can I say wow?  I did, so lemme say it again…WOW!  This is not as large as the department store from the day before, but I saw more intricate jewelry and accessories I didn’t see at the others.  There was one jewelry counter set up that I couldn’t stop looking at because it was designs using precious stones and diamonds but the jewelry used resin to make macarons and donuts; it was so beautiful yet I couldn’t help but think what a waste!!  It is a pretty large store at 8 floors, but the best part of it was it shared the same corridor/bank of escalators with Tokyu Hands!!  A store I read about, was dying to see.

The best way for me to describe Tokyu Hands is if Target had a baby with Ikea that took steroids. The place was HUGE and stocked full all eight floors.  Each floor was unique to the categories they housed, and the items on each floor were just spectacular. I ended up going through each floor and buying a few unique souvenirs for the girls.

After walking through the stores for a couple of hours, I decided to grab some food from the basement level bizarre at the Times Sq building then head out to see the Gyoen National Garden nearby (fifteen min walk).  Admission to the garden is 200Yen, about $1.80USD.  Once you enter the gate, it opens up to two paths that surround a few acre  span of grassy park.  I chose to take a right to check out the tea house.  The garden once belonged to a rich family back when Tokyo was called Edo, which they refer to as the Edo period.

The garden was beautiful, and felt so much like back home in New England. Actually, a lot of Tokyo felt so familiar like home.  The garden grounds were starting to turn for fall-time, just like at home, and it just felt so good to be there. I took my time walking around all the gardens.  They had a traditional Japanese garden, an English garden and a French garden. When I was about to leave I noticed that they had setups where people were crowding around, and it was their Chrysanthemum exhibition.  It was pretty impressive.

After that I decided to sit on a bench to snack and hydrate, soak in the sun and people around me.  Lots of couples, small families and elderly walking around.  It was quite surreal at that moment.  Realizing how far away you are from those you love.  There was a 14 hour difference, so when you guys were waking up, we were going to bed.

I was missing home, my kids, and it was the first time in weeks that I was alone with just myself, my thoughts, no work, no housework, no distractions.  It was probably the most perfect moment I spent in peace this 2017.   Life sometimes gets complicated, or I allow it to at least, so centering myself on this day was just what I needed to refocus.  I felt real good after I reflected upon myself.

 

Ok, so after I spent a few hours at the park, I grabbed a coffee (of course) and grabbed some food to make my way back to the hotel.  I wasn’t planning on seeing my husband till real late, so I was setting myself up to eat in the hotel for the night till he got back.  BUT, when I got back to the hotel he messaged me saying that I was invited out to dinner with the folks he met with for work. …and they INSISTED that I meet up with them.

I didn’t want to disappoint anyone, especially my husband, so I jumped to get ready and hailed a cab to Roppongi.  Alone in a taxi in Tokyo was a fun experience. haha  My driver didn’t speak English, I didn’t speak that much Japanese, but THANK THE LORD I read body language and can decipher some gestures.  And that my husband texted me the full address on purpose!  haha

The dinner was at the Gonpachi Nishiazabu.  What a gorgeous place from the outside to the inside.  My favorite part of the aesthetic, being that it was an old building or at least drafted after one, the front door was very tiny.  I had to crouch down to walk in!  They had a cool room reserved on the third floor for this dinner. As I was led upstairs we had to walk through the second floor dining area, and the view was so pretty and dreamy to the space below.  I later learned that the Gonpachi is the place they shot those major fight scenes in Kill Bill.  When I realized that all of a sudden it became clear where I was sitting! Such a cool place and such great food.

The group of people were pretty great, too.  I can’t explain who they all were in the most precise details w names but it was the President of the Museum with his gf (whom I know), the President of the Japanese company  working with the museum to acquire a newly built The Science Behind Pixar exhibit (the exhibit my husband designed), a few of this Presidents partners, one of the guys from the exhibit build company out of NJ and a translator…then me :).

The President of the Japanese company hosted this dinner, and he was so kind and FUNNY.  One of the best parts of the night, aside from the dinner itself, was the game he had us play at the end.  He handed out sheets of paper that outlined a question, three multiple choice answers, and another outline for up to 13 responses.  Each person had to come up with one ‘hard’ multiple choice question w fun answers about any of these topics: Boston, Tokyo or about Pixar.   Each person then went around the table with their question and answers, and you would mark your paper with the corresponding answers to the person that had that number.  Then at the end you’d hand off your note to the person to your right to grade them. Anyone with the highest number of right answers wins.

Some of the questions I can remember now are:

  • What actor makes an appearance with a voice in every Pixar movie?
    • 1. Bill Pullman, 2. John Ratzenberger, 3. Bill Murray
  • Which is the most popular animal themed cafe in Harajuku?
    • 1. Cat Cafe, 2. Owl Cafe, 3. Hedgehog Cafe
  • Who has the best food in the city?
    • 1. the eel restaurant under the bridge, 2. the scallops restaurant in the hotel, 3. the noodles restaurant in the alley

There were questions about Manga, Godzilla, more on Pixar and even BU and MIT!  My number in the group was two, and my question was:

  • Boston’s Italian district is in which ward? (easy enough right?)
    • 1. South, 2. West, 3. North.

Needless to say, Mike and I tied for first place!  haha I even guessed on some of the complicated Tokyo based ones, but phew!  The top five winners got prizes, which I was surprised about, then everyone received a gift of candy.  It was so sweet and such a great way to end the dinner.

After we taxied away from there, we headed back to our hotel to chill in the lounge and enjoy the views.  We were the only ones in the lounge for a good fifteen minutes or so, which was perfect :).  Then we headed to bed…because we had another full day in Tokyo to experience!

Day 4 up next!