It was decided a month or two before our wedding, ‘why don’t we go to Japan?’. Sure, new hubby and I both studied Japanese in school, we both were (still are) anime fans, we are familiar and greatly admire the trust culture and discipline that is the Japanese brand. But I was still pleasantly surprised to learn that this country is both in our bucket list. That’s it, then, our honeymoon (series, I might add) will start in Japan.
Blooms pictured in Ueno Park
Hubby and I are both city people, but I have a frequent yearning for the outdoors and nature, and will probably survive if not love living in a farm given the chance. We’re both foodies, and love to localize. So we decided to stay mostly in Tokyo for food crawls and spend a day touring Mt. Fuji.
Long Walks in Shinjuku
On our first day we decided to check out the train systems, navigate the streets near the hotel — in the process, tried to practice our very rusty Japanese — and enjoy our first meal in Japan. We weren’t disappointed; Tokyo IS a culinary heaven. More details on our food stops here 😉
Harajuku Bargain Shopping
We didn’t expect it to still be very cold when we arrived (3-16 degrees Celsius) days before the cherry blossoms start to bloom. We took this as an opportunity to explore and maybe score good finds in trendy Takeshita Street in Harajuku, said to be the hub of Tokyo Street Fashion. I scored a pair of low-heeled boots for $4, some souvenirs good for family and colleagues for less than $5, an irresistible black coat for me and leather shoes for hubby. At this point we knew it was time to go and resist temptation.
Now we heard and read from a lot of people that Japan and Tokyo in particular can be very expensive, and so we were both surprised to discover that it’s not, If you knew where to book and dine. More on this in another post 😉
Shibuya Crossing aka The Scramble
Since Harajuku and Shinjuku are not so far apart, we just had to check out what the Scramble was about 😉
We can’t help but admire how the Japanese revere their elders, history and culture in the way they preserve and frequent shrines and museums. Not only were there a lot of foreigners (us included) visiting the parks, shrines and museums, there were many locals visiting as well.
We devoted a day to explore the parks and museums near Ueno Park, the 1st public park of its kind in Japan. It is surrounded by government museums (Tokyo National Museum, National Museum of Nature and Science, Shitamachi Museum), Ueno Zoo and Shrine and is a good viewing spot for cherry blossoms.
The next day, we booked a day tour to Mt. Fuji that included a trip to some nearby villages, 5th Station and some outlet stores. Mt. Fuji is so majestic, my photos don’t do it justice…The country’s tallest peak, it’s commonly called Fuji-san, and is one of Japan’s 3 sacred/holy mountains. It’s snow-capped about 5 months in a year and best time to hike or at least, most hikers visit from July to August.
How ingenious! Lava sugar and lava hotdog from a café in Fujisan World Heritage Center
Matcha Ceremony in one of the villages near Mt. Fuji
We were so lucky to score free overnight stays in Grand Hyatt for the first 3 days of our time in Tokyo, after which we decided to check out Airbnbs nearby. The law legalizing airbnb rentals in Japan will take effect in June 2018, but we heard there are more restrictions set by many local government compared to other countries. So best to coordinate with your airbnb host prior to booking and book in advance.
Exploring Tokyo’s Korea Town in Shin-Okubo
On our last day, we explored Korea Town after packing up. We had to check if our luggage can still be closed and not exceed our limit at this point 😉 I’m not very much into make up, but finding Japanese and Korean skincare products and even make up at 20-50% less than what I normally pay for it is such a delight! Japan being an expensive city to visit is such a myth. Just do your due diligence and plan your itinerary (loosely or not) to have some sort of guide while you’re there and check out travel blogs for tips. Or you can always opt for tours to be on the safe side, but at a higher rate.
Overall, our stay in Japan was so refreshing, it provided us with the needed relaxation, interesting cultural experience and time together after all the wedding fun and excitement and, let’s face it, stress that came along with it. All the good things you’ve probably seen in social media or heard from other people are true; the clean streets, great food, high tech toilets, respectful people, beautiful cities and countryside, and then some more. It’s a place and culture you have to see and experience at least once in your life. It’s becoming our favorite city so far, and maybe country, but check back with me in a year and we’ll see 😉