From Tokyo to Kyoto – I

I’ve dreamt of visiting Japan since I was much younger, partly because I’ve grown up with the influence of Japanese Manga and cultures like many Thais, and obviously I was very excited when the days come for me to step on the plane, heading to Tokyo for the first time. One of the most difficult decisions that I had to make was to decide what would be the things to see, do and visit during this first trip to Japan. After some research, I’ve decided to cover some of the major attractions spanning from Tokyo to Kyoto (via Osaka) during the week long trip.

While many non-Japanese speakers might be put off by the perceptions that most Japanese don’t speak English, mind you, their eagerness to help you to make your visit to their country a pleasant one, will surprise you and you wouldn’t be alienated even if you don’t speak their language. Communication isn’t only about those spoken words.

After arriving at Narita, we took the Keisei train to Ueno Station and checked in at the nearby Sutton Hotel. While the hotel and its decor are nothing to write home about, the friendly atmosphere and ever helpful staffs will be the things that you can find here.

Our first dinner in Japan was Yakiniku-don at one of the shops opposite Ueno Station. While I’m not really a beef lover, I have to say that this is one of the best I’ve tried. The meat was tender and whole, while the egg somehow tastes sweeter.

With the first meal over, which added to the first of many beautiful experiences in Japan so far, I was sure that there’ll be many more like this to come over the next few days.

We got up the next day rather early as we planed to visit the Sensoji Temple in Asakusa. It’s only a couple of stops from Ueno to Asakusa and it took us just 5 minutes to stand in front of the famous red lantern of the Sensoji. We recommended that you visit earlier in the morning as it can get very crowded from 10am onwards.

Once you stepped past the main entrance, both sides of the walkways are filled with souvenir and snack stalls. With our limited time, as we were to head to Kawaguchiko at noon, we decided to do the shopping on our way out instead.

After praying our respects to the Buddha at the Sensoji, we headed to Shinjuku where we would take the Keisei bus to Kawaguchiko, the small town by Mount Fuji, and another destinations to enjoy Japanese Onsen.

After 3 hours on the bus, we finally arrived at Kawaguchiko, and the staff at Sunnide Resort was kind enough to pick us up from the station. Upon entering the room, we were blown away by the view above. Mount Fuji was right in front of us! In addition to Onsen and beautiful Kawaguchiko lake with Fujisan as the backdrop, we decided to explore the town on bicycles available free at the resort. With Sakura still blooming, it was really an enjoyable ride for both of us along the lake. We practically spent the afternoon on the bicycles, riding around town and enjoying the blooming Sakura.

Soon after, and it was time for dinner. We decided to out on the Yukata provided in the room and head to the diner where we’d be served some traditional Japanese dishes, with assortments of meat, seafood and vegetables.

The Onsen that we had later in the evening was very relaxing (and naked). While you might feel that the water was a little too hot initially, after a couple of minutes you’ll be able to adapt and start enjoying it.

Our initial plan for the 2nd day was to head a little closer to Mt. Fuji. Unfortunately, with changing weather during that time of the year, we woke up to find “Fujisan” covered by heavy fogs. Thus, we decided to head back to Tokyo a little earlier than planned after our breakfast.

We arrived back at the Keisei bus terminal in Shinjuku a little after 1pm, with cold winds and rain still covering most parts of Tokyo. So we decided to go underground, fortunately, found a nice ramen place. Now, that was what I was looking for, ramen in Japan!

While we thought that the ramen was pretty good, 2 Japanese women next to us actually confirmed that for us when we were hearing them saying “Oishi! Oishi!” while having theirs.

So since were were in Shinjuku, we decided to do some shopping in the area before heading back to re-check in at the Sutton Place Hotel in Ueno where we left our big luggage at the reception. However, it wasn’t too long before we headed out, this time to one of the places I’ve been wanting to go, Akihabara!

With too many malls to choose from, we decided to make a safe bet and went to Yodobashi-Akiba, which is one of the largest electronic chains in Japan. With 8 floors to explore, it’d actually took us our whole evening, and a few tiring legs. While I didn’t really get anything, it was a nice experience for me, a gadget/tech lover. Nonetheless, we capped off our evening with dinner at one of the authentic Japanese restaurants in Yodobashi, and my wife did enjoy her Unagidon.

With an early program the next morning, we decided to get early rests with the fish market, and a whole day of shopping awaits us for our final day in Tokyo.

First off was Shibuya.

Then Ginza.

While we couldn’t really recommend any specific shops in these areas, we would recommend that you spare 2 days to visit major shopping areas in Tokyo like Akihabara, Shinjuku, Shinbuya and Ginza. Also, you might want to check out Omotesando, and Roppongi.

Another tiring, but extremely enjoyable day for us in Japan.

We spent our last morning in Tokyo at the Ueno Park before taking the morning Shinkansen to our next destinations, Osaka and Kyoto, coming up in our 2nd part of “From Tokyo to Kyoto”.