As mentioned on Day 1 of this blogging blitz, we went a-travelling quite a bit in the past year. Our most recent trip was to the land of the rising sun. We timed it to coincide with Sakura (cherry blossom) season and we were lucky enough to savour the gorgeousness when we got there. Apparently, the blossoms were early this year but a cold snap went through just before we arrived keeping the flowers on the trees for just that little bit longer.
We spent most of our time in Tokyo, moving between different suburbs as we switched up our accommodation. A couple of nights were spent with lovely friends who opened up their beautiful home to us, another couple of nights were spent in a hotel and our last few nights were spent in a home we found through airbnb.com We enjoyed the experience of sleeping on futons on tatami covered floors, and our hosts turned out to be a very sweet young couple who were very tolerant of our offspring. To help us get around, we relied on the Insight guide to Tokyo.
The highlight of our trip, apart from cherry blossoms and breath taking scenery, was the food. People take their meals quite seriously here, and in the entire time we spent travelling, we only had two less than spectacular meals. Both of which were in a very tourist filled part of Kyoto.
I’ll let the photos do the rest of the talking. Do come back for part 2 tomorrow.
One of the best places to view the cherry blossoms is from Chidorigafuchi park. You can rent a little row boat and get directly under the boughs of the trees. This was probably the most magical experience we had during the trip. Everyone on the moat was just so happy to be there even though the weather was a little grey.
Because the cherry blossom season is so short, everyone makes an effort to get out and enjoy the trees. Locals pack a picnic, and both young and old gather for merry-making.
Hanami along the banks of the Meguro Canal. The canal itself isn't very picturesque, but during cherry blossom season, street stalls pop up and lanterns light the canal way. The atmosphere is very festive as people wander around sipping drinks and catching up with friends. The MC's fell in love with mochi balls on a stick.
Another food find that we loved, was this rather odd combination of a Fuji apple poached in syrup, filled with chestnut puree and topped with sweet potato.
Note: The vendors have designated standing areas just to the side of their stores and it is expected that you finish your food before walking off (unless you take it home of course). I think it's considered quite rude to eat and walk at the same time.
So many snacks! We didn't really stop eating the entire trip. Here the MC's are enjoying takoyaki (octopus balls). I didn't realise that soft serve ice-cream is quite a big deal here too. Mobile vans dish out ice-cream in very un-Mr. Whippy flavours like taro, green tea, and sakura. We also fell in love with sweet soy dipped mochi balls (top pic).
Even when we travelled between towns, we didn't have to go hungry. Beautifully wrapped bento boxes could be picked up from the train station for a very affordable price. The pretty lolly shaped package at the bottom right of the photo is actually a bacon wrapped rice ball.
We took the fast train to a town called Nara (more on that tomorrow), and we were extremely lucky that it was a clear day and we managed to catch a glimpse of Mt. Fuji.
The famous Harajuku area. Huge crowds on a Sunday. But luckily, the crowds thin out further into the area. Take a walk through the Omotesando area and stop at Kiddyland, a five story toy store filled with things to delight the young and young at heart.
Can't have a post about Japan without robots right? The Gundam robot at the top is in the Odaiba area. If you're in the area, the Miraikan (Science museum) is worth a visit. The robots at the bottom were advertising a rather interesting restaurant called the Robot Restaurant (what else). Not so kid-friendly :)
If you get tired of walking around, a cruise down the river from Sumida to the Hamma-Rikyu gardens is a perfect way to spend the day. Pictured is an Edo-era saltwater tidal pond. The garden is filled with different blooms according to the seasons.
Around the corner from the gardens is the famous Tsukiji fishmarket, home to the tuna auctions. We weren't fussed about seeing the fish auctions but we wanted to try fresh sashimi here. We picked the store with the longest line and we were amply rewarded. They know how to handle a crowd here. We were given umbrellas to protect us from the sun as we stood in line.
Travelling with the kids in Tokyo proved to be quite easy and there was so much to see and do that we didn't really feel the need to find anything "kid-friendly". However, we decided to check out the Fukugawa Edo museum and it was a blast! There is a replica Edo-era village in here and it's hands on. Even though the museum was quite small, the kids didn't want to leave. Within walking distance from this is the Museum of Contemporary Art, so you can strike a deal with the kids. One for you, one for me :)