#JapanDairies by Ivette
1. We travelled overnight from Melbourne, arrived 9am to Narita Airport and took the train for over an hour into the city. I almost fall asleep on the person next to me that wasn't Jeremy.
Then we arrived to our shared airbnb in a traditional Japanese house (paper walls and everything!-zero privacy, but cute and cozy).
2. Eating was an adventure (a very cool one). The restaurant had no english menu and the waiter spoke little english (obviously no spanish). Somehow we figured it out. One of them noticed how bad I am with the sticks, came close to me and decided to teach me the right way to hold them.
When we left, the first waiter and a second one came out and wished us good luck by rubbing two stones together (a spark came out) behind us. That was the perfect welcome to Tokyo.
3. We found a cemetery in the middle of a suburb. Every tomb has these long sticks (2m) behind them with Japanese writing on them. Apparently the families add them to the tombs over time, maybe every anniversary. As we would found out soon enough (see day 2), death is treated here in a special way. It's definitely beautiful.
4. Best part: Just walking by, we came upon this beautiful shrine and 8 women were dancing a traditional Japanese dance right outside of it, they had their own band (like 15 people playing). I think they were just practicing because there was very little people there. Plus, the sun was going down.
5. I really wish I knew some Japanese. So far, I know "thanks", "please", and "hi". I had never actually thought about it, but the writing characters are beautiful.
6. Everyone rides in bikes! And almost no one locks them. Crime and robbery are not a thing here. Or mistrust in that way. Amazing.
7. Compact is a way of life (probably my only not so favourite part of Japan, yet, cool to whitness).
8. This first day left me so excited for the days ahead.
1. We took a pretty amazing bike tour that took us along the waterfront to the fish market, Odaiba (men-made island), and then to the Tokyo tower and the imperial palace. 30 km! and I'm not dead! Seriously...one 55-year-old women was less tired than me by the end.
2. My favourite stop out of many was the Zojo-ji temple. Not only was it really pretty both inside and out, but they had an area for the mizukos (stone statues of about 30 cm in the shape of a baby). These are bought and placed by people who has lost a baby by miscarriage, stillbirth or abortion to mourn their lost.
Hundreds of mizukos stand side by side in two long lines beside the temple. They dress them with little hats and trinkets. It is both sad and amazing...Can't imagine how many tears have been shed in their honour.
3. Learnt that 90% of Japanese people will say they have no religion, however, they stick to their traditions.
4. American wars with Japan sure killed way too many people and destroyed too many buildings and history sites...
5. Don't take this in a phedophilic way, but I am in love with Japanese kids! They're adorable (they are!). -Ahead, two minor complaints... still so grateful for this trip.-
6. Finding an ATM that works with foreign cards is a nightmare!...almost like going to print in Office Depot or standing in a bank line "en dia de quincena" (Mexicans will understand). Poor Jeremy ran like 30 min trying to find one so we could pay the bill in a restaurant where the silly internet had said they accepted cards :(
7. Didn't mention this before but...IS FUCKING HOT in here. I never really imagined Japan could be this hot. We are at 30 degrees, feeling like 33 and its super humid. Sort of like being in a beach in Mexico, but less breezy.
1. The subway rules. Specially because they put a number for each station, and letter for a line. Clever.
2. My feet hurt so much. Jeremy's app says we walked 11.3 km (this was our average walk-lenght throughout the following days).
3. We visited the Ueno area. Great place to get a sense of the old Japan and learn a bit more of its history. Sadly, the National Museum was closed (I know, it was a monday, what was I expecting?) Also, it was my first time seeing real lotus flowers :)
4. Lost my phone...almost. Of course. #ThanksStarbucksStaff.
5. Akihabara is a place best explained in pictures. Nerd stuff all over, lights and big signs. Weirdly and sad enough for many, out visit was the same day that Nintendo's CEO passed away. My favourite part: stores sell profesional cameras and toilet seats alike. The bathroom tech here is a big deal (the toilets have like 50 buttons).
6. People actually smokes inside the restaurants! More impressive to me,there is an area in the middle of Tokyo subway station for smokers to go inside and lit their cigarettes! WTF.
7. Making stories up about people walking by while you drink a beer is pretty funny *love Jeremy*.
8. Tip for upcoming Tokyo visitors, go to the rooftop garden in the post office building next to Tokyo train station. Beautiful place to sit and enjoy a great view into the station and the skyscrapers (for free).
9. Development has its own story in this part of the world.
1. The day started early with a perfect (New Zealand) coffee and a visit to the Edo-Tokyo Museum in Ryogoku, the sumo district. Sadly, we didn't spot any fighter (haha, is not like they actually walk around... I think).
2. We finally got to Shibuya, where there is an equal number of light-ads as people walking around and crossing streets. Funny thing, we ended up walking in a little alley with funny named hotels, at the exit, three couples were coming up the street. Minutes later I realised we had just been in what is known as the Love Town Hill, but without the fun!
3. We had the meal-experience of our lives. The silly internet this time led us to discover a jewel: It was a decently price little family restaurant that serves Kobe meat in a little Shibuya street. The meat was soft and delicious, but the whole process of seeing this family prepare and cook the meal was even better, specially since the lady seemed to be 70 or 80 years old. Plus, they ended up charging us 2 dollar less (I think the old lady found Jeremy charming).
4. Walked 12.5 km. 18,053 steps. About 50,000 in the last 4 days.
5. We changed accommodation, which was a hustle, but it turned out all right. We have a real bed now!
p.s. feet are super sore.
1. Today we walked across the Shijuku Garden: sort of like the Central Park or Hyde Park of Tokyo. It really feels like a huge forest with Japanese gardens, lakes, bridges and tall trees. Perfect to cover ourselves from the sun for a little while.
Hopefully the pictures and the videos we took make justice to the place. Although the prettiest garden we have seen so far was a small one in Koto, the Koyosumi, during our first day here. The place did honestly look like a postcard.
Swimming in the lake were those big fishes that open their mouth in a circle about to suck food, and that have a sort of a moustache. I didn’t know they were real! I thought they were just portrayed like that in Chinese art :/ sorry.
2. It is pretty amazing that there are so many green areas in Tokyo despite being the largest city in the world with over 30 million people.They do make the place more liveable, given the tiny spaces to which the people is used to live in here.
3. Omotesando and Harajuku: stores, stores, stores. The super fancy ones are in the first area (similar to Ginza, but accommodated along a wide street with tall trees and without the vertical light ads).
In an European or Western style I guess. Nothing I could afford of course. Harajuku was more fun. The stores sell all kinda of weird crazy crap and clothes for young people.
4. Apparently, we just need to rememeber to say "arigato" to survive. I have gotten used to nod and ask things by pointing at stuff. This is my first time being in a country where I don’t speak the native language, hence my surprise and highlighting of these issues haha. It kinda sucks not knowing the language, but at the same time I feel like a real foreigner.
5. I’m still impressed at people smoking inside the restaurants. Is like they are allowed to smoke inside, but not outside.
6. I love chocolate…to much. Anyway, I have gotten like four different candies with chocolate or chocolate themselves (cheap ones, a dollar or so) and they have all been amazing. Nobody told me that chocolate was so good in here!
7. Ordering food from a tablet… it was all right.
8. We found a bit odd that there are so many school kids (I would say from 10 to 15) in their uniforms in the malls and stores with friends or by themselves just buying shit. And...I know how silly this is, the girls with their sailor uniforms remind me of Sailor Moon.
1. In an attempt at being adventurous, we walked south to find some Ebisu Gardens that were supposed to be really nice. We found instead a closed museum that used to be the mansion of an ex-politician or something like that.
They let us go in to check-out the gardens. This was one of our less interesting stops along our trip and pics did not make it here, but we had a great morning walk.
2. There is never a lack of stairs, exits or entrances in Tokyo. It’s probably the result of there begin so many people. You just need to have enough accesses. I mainly noticed that on the mall in Odaiba, which is known to be an strange place built in the 80’s that lost its hype during the 90s and it’s gaining momentum again.
Anyway, one of the side walls has like 4 staircases that take you to the next level, just one next to the other. I guess they are there in case there is a stampede of people running down, or up.
3. Odaiba was actually one of the stops during our bike tour on Sunday, but then it was rather brief This time we took an elevated train to get there. It costed us a little bit more than the usual fare, but it was worth it because of the cool views. I had never been on a train that was 4 floors above street level, so we really enjoying passing through the buildings and above the water while crossing the famous Rainbow bridge that leads to Odaiba island.
As soon as we got there, things got wet. We were expecting to sit on the man-made beach and enjoy the sun, but we got some pretty cool white-views of the Tokyo skyline across the water. A nice trade.
4. Did anyone know that France also donated a Statue of Liberty to Japan? I believe it's a little bit smaller. ALSO, it’s placed randomly among some trees, between the Odaiba mall and the water. It ads up to the strangeness of this whole area.
5. Today was also the day I was called Ivy-san! This is how it went: I thought it would be simpler to write my nickname (ivy) in a this formulary, and when the establishment’s owner called me, he was kind enough to do it in the Japanese fashion. I know, boring story, but exciting for ivy-san.
6. This was one of the most “quiet” days, probably because Odaiba feels much more spacious than the rest of the city, but also because we got a short food massage… soreness won-t go away.
1. Friday was meeant to be the day we went out of the city to go up mount Fuji. We booked a bus tour that would take us there, and then to the area of Hakone, known for its black eggs and pretty lake.
We were supposed to enjoy an amazing view of the Fuji from there. What really happened was that being this the most cloudy and rainy day of our whole trip (only 3 of 9 really), we were unable to go up the mountain, or to Hakone or to actually be witness to the volcano majestousity from anywhere because it was cloudy.
2. Our guide told us that, traditionally, Fuji is considered to be a female mountain (like the Izta in Mexico) and that sometimes she hides when he sees a handsome guys because she is very shy.
Anybody else thinks that the Fuji saw Jeremy from the far and hid? No? …Ok, I do :) Anyway, we loved the story. Besides, we got to visit the area around (including the “backyard” from a museum with doors in the middle of trees that remind me of Xilita in Mexico). Just the bus ride along the many green trees and rivers made the trip still worth it.
Tip: be sure you check the the weather before you book a similar tour.
Tip 2: Thanks to a friend and to the guide we found out that it is very common to climb up the Fuji during the night for 6 or 8 hours to then enjoy the sunrise. It sounds like a much better alternative. Sadly, we were not ready for this as we had not equipment, adequate clothes or energy.
3. After the tour and back in the city, we walked around the Shinjuku district, where the the government metropolitan area is. For the first time, I felt in one of those futuristic or science fiction movies because everything is so tall, modern, squared and clean. The streets were also wider than we were getting used to. This is a bit of what I was expecting before coming, but I have found so much more.
4. This day was the second time we ran into a public restroom with seats that are at floor level. Usually, there are also “Western Style” bathrooms, which are labeled like this in the door. I am so glad they are so gracious as to have both types of toilets. I am so clumpsy that I know I would end up with my buttom stuck on the floor or piing everywhere but(butt) in the hole thingy.
1. Awesome day. Only a weekend left and we still had to hit some of the most “touristic places” in Tokyo. So, we began heading towards the Tokyo Tower early in the morning. Next to the tower there is a park, where earlier on we visited the Xojo-ji temple.
We took a different path to cross the park (is huge) and ended up in a path of stairs going up. We love how the parks in Japan tend to be designed to create different roads that usually lead you to these enclosed and private spots at the top.
Anyway, after finding ourselves in the middle of a circle of trees, we walked out of it and, in a second, we were standing in front of a beautiful park full of grass with an amazing view towards the top of the temples and the tower. Best part, it was deserted. The tower, by the way, has this beautiful red color, and it’s actually taller than the Eiffel one… I remain to discover which one is cooler since I haven't been to Paris.
2. We did not go up the tower, because the next tower in our list was the Sky tree… which recently beat the Tokyo tower as the highest one in the city.
We did go on to cross the Secoyas park and walked towards this weird area that is totally surrounded by residential and corporate buildings called Atago. From the street, you can see one of Budhist temples, but by actually walking into it we discovered a lot more shrines, a cemetery, a set of stairs towards another temple and another set of stairs that took us back to the street, but opposed to where we came in.
This whole set of beautiful shrines is basically hidden inside one big block. Awesome.
3. Tired and hungry, we walked a bit more in search of a restaurant. Days before, we had wanted to try one of these places with a machine which lets you select and pay for your dish, and we found it!
I don’t really know what is it that we ate there, but it was very tasty and extremely cheap (about 5 dls.).