near Nishisando

Day 3: Day trip to Nikko

Today left Asakusa to go to Nikko, a 2 hour journey from Tokyo into the mountains by the Tobu Skytree line. As we intended to go see the Kegon no taki (one of Nikko's most beautiful waterfalls) we decided to get the discount travel pass which worked out a lot cheaper than buying the individual fares.

We got the 9:10 rapid line and it was packed the entire journey (we arrived at the station ten minutes before the train was due to leave and there was already a long queue). For most of it we had to stand in the crowded car which was reminiscent of London and not my favourite part of the journey!

Nikko - a town covered in snow
Nikko - a town covered in snow

When we arrived in Nikko at around 11:20 I was really excited. One thing I wanted to see was mountains and what I hadn't realised was Nikko was the gate city to the mountains. At 530m above sea level it was a lot cooler than Tokyo. We took the bus 2b towards Chizuenji and thats when I realised that unlike the map that is flat, our destination was not. Chizuenji is high up in the mountains, 1270m above sea level and sitting in what is known as the Okunikko region. We took the Irohazaka winding road going up and the photo does not do the height justice. If you have a fear of heights I would suggest not to sit by the window as the bus goes right to the edge of the cliff face with just a small metal barrier between it and the drop. I found it exciting and a thrilling (slightly scary) surprise. As we climbed it got colder and started to snow and by the time we got off the coach I was freezing and so grateful for my mountain fleece (I should have bought two!)

The road to Chizuenji through the mountains
The road to Chizuenji through the mountains

Whilst here we headed over to Kegon no Taki falls. This place is what places like Skyrim and Final Fantasy is based on. It's beautiful, and somewhat otherworldly as it is so different from anything you would find in England.

Kegon no Taki waterfall in Chizuenji, Okunikko
Kegon no Taki waterfall in Chizuenji, Okunikko

As it's quite early (5.30am) I need to get a little more sleep before we head to the anime fair today. So here are a few more images from Nikko. I'll try and fill it out more later.

small cafe in Chizuenji near Kegon no Taki
Small cafe in Chizuenji near Kegon no Taki where we had a hot chocolate before heading out into the bitter cold weather and snow.
Inside one of the shrines near Nishisando
Inside one of the shrines near Nishisando
near Nishisando
one of the many places we visited in Nikko
Toshogu Inner Shrine Entrance
Toshogu Inner Shrine Entrance

Shrine Opening - Ancient Japanese Art.

Day 2: Tour of Tokyo - Ueno

Today we had a guide named Michiko give us a tour (a big thank you to her for taking her time with us!) It rained so much that many of the places we wanted to go we couldn't today as the weather meant we wouldn't be able to see much. Even with my raincoat the bottom of my dress got soaked! Still I loved walking around exploring. We visited various places including Ueno and Akihabara. This post will focus mainly on Ueno and we will revisit Akihabara later.

Ueno

Shrine of the first Shogun, Minamoto no Yoritomo
Shrine of the first Shogun, Minamoto no Yoritomo

We went to Ueno and exchanged our Japan Rail passes so we can ride the Shinkansen starting from next Tuesday. Afterwards we visited the shrine of the first Shogun, a really atmospheric place when combined with the rain and smell of the wet wood.

Ceiling of the shrine entrance for the first Shogun, Minamoto no Yoritomo
Ceiling of the shrine entrance for the first Shogun, Minamoto no Yoritomo

From here we continued on to the Tokyo National Museum which had the history of Japan. This building is immense in size and the grounds belonged to the last shogun before he peacefully gave it over to the new Meiji government. Inside the exhibits there are beautiful historical objects dating back from thousands of years to the last hundred.

Here are a few cool objects that we saw:

Beautiful lacquerware tokyo-national-museum
Beautiful lacquerware Tokyo national museum
Inside Tokyo national museum
Inside Tokyo national museum
Shrine Opening - Ancient Japanese Art.
Shrine Opening - Ancient Japanese Art.

I found the artwork here so beautiful and inspiring and I would love to try and create some. The techniques used here are so different from what I normally encounter.

We bought some souvenirs at the museum, mainly postcards and memo pads.

Tomorrow we go to Nikko!


Ramen Asakusa

Day 1: Arrive in Tokyo

After a long 11 hour flight we landed around 8:42am local time. The flight was ok, we flew over Russia (I think it may have to do with arctic winds speeding the journey) and I ended up watching Frozen, part of Wolverine and the Escape Plan.

aerial view of Japan
An aerial view of Japan

When we were about to land I could feel the excitement kicking in, seeing all the mountains from the air including Mount Fuji and the beach with the sun blazing bright made me feel like I had truly begun an adventure. I was all wide eyed like a kid in the greatest candy store in the world when I arrived. That lasted for an hour or so and that's when the jet lag kicked in and I became SUPER exhausted during the course of travelling from Narita to Tokyo. By the time we arrived in Tokyo at the hotel I just wanted to lay down and sleep. However checkin wasn't for another 3 hours. So we decided to explore the local area. We found tonnes of souvenir shops, places that sold yukata, swords, trinkets and other stuff. I itched to buy stuff!

Richmond Asakusa Hotel
Richmond Asakusa Hotel

Seeing some of the prices though I was very aware that we should save that souvenir shopping trip until we are back in Tokyo in April. Last thing I want to do is run out of money on day one!

However I did notice somethings!

First Impressions

There are tiny trucks! Everywhere is full of these tiny little vehicles that we are used to seeing a lot bigger.

Japanese garden Sensoji
A small water feature next to Sensoji

The landscape also reminded me of England somewhat especially on the approach to Tokyo we encountered these huge apartment blocks which reminded me a lot of council estates.

Ramen Asakusa
This was where ate Ramen for 380yen. Yummy.
Senso-ji - Tokyo's Oldest Temple at Night
We went to Senso-ji - Tokyo's oldest temple as it is right by our hotel.
It was really busy during the day, less so at night.

Thats it for now, long day ahead tomorrow! Make sure to check out Jose's view of today.

 


British Food

The Night before Japan

It's the evening and the sun sets and I have tingles in my shoulders. It's the night before I fly out and I'm prepping for tomorrow's flight.

I haven't started packing yet (crazy I know) and there are several things I need to charge and prep for the long journey ahead. So far today I have got my hair done just a wash and trim so it's more presentable and hopefully easier to manage. Then I ran around the shops looking for cheap tops and leggings to take with me (£3 Primark for some capris). Finally I came back home and had a two hour nap at around 2pm to try and get me used to sleeping during the day.

I also made a little Yen Sheet for me to reference the cost of things (I used XE.com as a basis)

100円 - 59p

200円 - £1.18

250円 - £1.48

500円 - £2.96

750円 - £4.45

1000円 - £5.91

1500円 - £8.87

2000円 - £11.82

3000円 - £17.74

4000円 - £23.65

5000円 - £29.57

7500円 - £44.34

10000円 - £59.12

20000円 - £118.23

30000円 - £177.31

40000円 - £236.40

50000円 - £295.50

100000円 - £591

I'm hoping that should cover the most of it. I'll try and do an update later this evening.

UPDATE:

So it's 11:40pm and I'm finally packed. It's very difficult trying to travel light but have enough stuff to wear. Still I've had a good British dinner of chicken and ham pie with carrots, chips and gravy. Yummy.

British Food

I'm tired and I'm going to get a few hours sleep. The plan for tomorrow is to get up around 5am have a bath, eat breakfast, finish the last of the packing and double check documents.

I know I should be super excited but so sleepy...

 


One week and counting until Japan 2014!

So my dancing has upscaled a little now. Especially as there is ONE WEEK TO GO! (I forgot to mention, it’s also my birthday today ^^)

Figured now is a great time to let you know exactly what I’m gonna be up to and all the details.

Trip Summary:

Where: Japan

When: 19th March - 9th April 2014

With Who: Jose Guerra on a self guided tour

Why: Time to take that trip of a lifetime and fulfill that life long dream

We will be flying with British Airways from London Heathrow directly to Tokyo Narita airport at 12:40pm Tuesday 18th March. The flight will take approximately 11 hours and 40 minutes. Whilst it's a long flight, at least it's direct though it will be difficult as we will leave during the day and arrive in the following morning, so it will feel like an extra long day.

12 locations in 22 days

The 22 days we will be spending in Japan will involve lots of traveling. We will be visiting the following places:Japan Map 3 week Trip

  1. Tokyo
  2. Nikko
  3. Hakone, Odawara
  4. Osaka, Takarazuka
  5. Hiroshima
  6. Miyajima
  7. Kyoto
  8. Nara
  9. Takayama
  10. Kanazawa

Tokyo

Wednesday 19th - Sunday 23rd March, Monday 7th April - Wednesday 9th April

Our total time spent in Tokyo will amount to around five days, of which three are full days. During our stay in Tokyo we’ll be exploring contemporary architecture, attending an Anime fair, Hanazono‐jinja antique market as well as various shops that sell really cool stuff!

Most importantly though we will be having fun!

Nikko

Friday 21st March

We’ll be heading out from Tokyo to Nikko for one day before heading back. First stop will probably be the Toshogu Shrine and if we have time we’ll go look at some of the waterfalls there.

Hakone

Sunday 23rd March - Monday 24th March

Hot Springs! Onsen! Mountains! This is one of the parts of the trip I’m really excited about!

Odawara

Sunday 23rd March, Tuesday 25th March

I sense that our time in Odawara will be short as it is mainly a transfer point between Tokyo and Hakone but I’m sure it will be great to see it anyway. Possibly a quick look at Odawara Castle.

Osaka

Tuesday 25th - Wednesday 26th March 

As soon as we arrive in Osaka we will be off to Takarazuka which is just west of Osaka to visit a manga museum, then we have a free day to explore.

Hiroshima

Thursday 27th March

Here we are going to spend a little bit of time sightseeing and do some location scouting.

Miyajima

Thursday 27th - Friday 28th March

Here we will see the floating gate, ferries and lots of deer.

Kyoto

Saturday 29th March - Tuesday 1st April

In Kyoto we will be trying our hand at making traditional sweets, experiencing a Tea ceremony at an En tea house, dressing up as a Maiko, watching the Miyako Odori Geisha performance.

Nara

Wednesday 2nd April

Day trip from Kyoto to Nara where we can see Todai-ji Temple, the world’s largest wooden building.

Takayama

Thursday 3rd - Friday 4th April

High in the Japanese Alps, we will have a day and a bit to explore the area.

Kanazawa

Saturday 5th - Sunday 6th April

This is the place where I would love to have more time, ninja castles, kimono walks and craft shops. Somehow I have to try and fit this into a day and a bit!

Budget

Budgeting for a 3 week trip in Japan is not an easy thing. A lot of our trip has already been paid for using Inside Japan, a company that specialises in tailor-made Japanese holidays. I’ll update this section at a later date with the costs and such. For now the budget includes getting a second hand kimono or a robot (big difference I know!) From what I have found out kimonos vary wildly in price but I'm aiming at no more than £200 for the set up (it will be tough but we'll see).

Preparations

There has been a lot of preparation for this trip (including saving up for it). We used Moneycorp to exchange our pounds for yen and picked it up on Oxford Street, House of Fraser. Moneycorp rates were a lot better than Travelex and The Post Office. We have also invested in other things including:

The short course in Japanese is more about giving me an opportunity to listen to and practice speaking Japanese as well as ask questions which may not otherwise be understood. My sensei, Junko, has been very patient with my never ending questions on the Japanese language which I'm very grateful for. I actually started studying Japanese many years ago but never had an opportunity to use it. It was only last year that I started studying again using Memrise (an online learning website) as my launch platform. You can see my profile/ follow my progress here.

Cherry Blossom Forecast

Cherry Blossoms are one of the other reasons why we wanted to go in spring. I look forward to seeing them and taking lots of pictures. I found this really useful website which explains when the Cherry Blossoms will start blooming and when they will reach full bloom.

Location - First Bloom // Full Bloom

Tokyo – from 29th March // 31st March

Osaka – from 28th March // 4th April

Kyoto - from 28th March // 4th April

Hiroshima - from 25th March // 4th April

Kanazawa – from 3rd April // 8th April


Two weeks before I head to Japan!

I'm so excited!

Image courtesy of Tumblr, iamcallingouttoyou

That's me every day at work right now. Occasionally I get up and randomly dance to express my joy.

I should probably start at the beginning. Last year, when I was feeling a little forlorn at the prospect that I may never own a house (or flat for that matter) in London, I decided I needed to do something that I ALWAYS wanted to do. A life time dream. That's when I thought right, time to do the trip of a lifetime.

JAPAN here I come!

I'll be travelling with Jose Guerra who will also be writing about his experiences. We both agreed that Japan was the first on our list even though we considered several other places at first (China and it's Shaolin temples, Australia and its giant red rock named Uluru). Japan came first though because we both share a love for the language, culture, art, anime and Ramen. There are so many things to see there and I believe that by going there I will come back with more life experience.

Over the next series of days I'll be posting more information. Where I am going, what I'll be seeing etc. I've kitted out my trusty camera to take some (what I hope will be) truly amazing photos. The kind that inspires people to travel.

So keep an eye out for the next post!