“It is better to travel hopefully than to arrive disenchanted”
One of my most favourite cities abroad is “Tokyo, Japan.”
It is a country that continually captivates me. Tokyo is a place of seasons and contrast; and I love it because it proudly preserves a full richness of traditions that works in synergy with an ultra-modern society.
Whether you fly into Haneda or Narita International Airport, as soon as you land I would recommend purchasing a “Suica” card (as a means of cheap transport) to be used on the “JR East lines in the Tokyo metropolitan as well as for subways, buses and the Tokyo monorail that connects Haneda Airport with Tokyo”.
You can also purchase meals at the airport or other food items from Kiosk’s at train stations.
Tokyo and Japan in general, is a fascinating place to me – it is a tale of two cities, one that captures and characterises an urban landscape co-existing in harmony alongside the ancient and traditional charm of the city (especially with its beautiful temples).
Strangely, I feel a connection with Tokyo, it has its own unique vibe and for me. I consider it to be a safe place and vibrantly exciting because there is so much to see and explore
Tokyo is a city that caters for a kaleidoscope of people – my own experiences have included some of the following:
Temples & Castles
As an indigenous person, I find myself with an unknown connection to this city, perhaps because of its strong sense of cultural identity and traditions.
One memorable visit was to “Senso-ji”, Tokyo’s oldest Buddhist temple found in Asakusa, where many worshippers’ visit the temple.
I had a great experience there as it was the first time that I had shyly offered up a Buddhist prayer of blessing. There were no laughs at my novice ritual, only smiles. It was so deeply spiritual and cleansing.
Another visit was to the boundary of the Edo Castle (surrounded by a moat, walls and turrets) that forms part of the Tokyo Imperial Palace. It is an interesting site where ancient structures seemed to merge seamlessly alongside mirrored skyscrapers.
Shopping – Tokyo Districts
Akihabara is the place for all things “electronic”, Harajuku is for the “fashionista” in you while Ginza is well-known for its boutique and upmarket shopping. I remember buying a nice big red suitcase for a bargain in Ginza.
Every Sunday from 12.00pm until 5.00pm some streets in Ginza are closed off to traffic and people can walk freely along the main streets. It’s a really unique ambience where tourists and families come together in a relaxed atmosphere.
Visit the Happiest places on Earth at Tokyo Disneyland or Tokyo DisneySea (just a 5 minute walk from JR Maihama Station).
This is the perfect opportunity to release your ‘inner child’ and run wild and a free – I sure did!
There is something so liberating in leaving your daily cares at the gate and for one day just embracing your childhood dreams with some carefree fun and adventure.
On this particular day Mt Fuji was hiding her face and covered by cloud, none the less it was a revered experience and one that I will always remember.
At the site you will find your typical souvenir shops and also a Shinto Temple that I was excited to see.
I was fascinated to learn from our lovely Tour Guide Kaori, that Shintoism and Buddhism are the two major religions in Japan and seem to co-exist amicably together.
Kaori was even kind enough to show those of us who were interested, how to make an offering at the Shinto Temple.
First we had to throw a coin in the offering box, bow deeply twice, clap our hands twice, bow deeply once and then say a pray for a few seconds. As someone who considers myself a spiritual person, this was something uniquely special and sacred to me.
The ‘Bullet train’ – I was in awe when I first saw this super-fast train in action. I remember eagerly waiting at the train station with my camera at the ready.
Next minute “swoosh” the Shinkansen flew by in a heartbeat! Funnily, I was stood there with my camera still facing the tracks and my wind swept hair looking like Albert Einstein, definitely a ‘laugh out loud’ moment.
I did not have one photo to show for it, but I was determined to get a shot of the next train!!??
Kyoto definitely has a different vibe to Tokyo.
I thoroughly enjoyed our tour to “Nijo” Castle where the “Tokugawa” Shogun formerly resided. To walk barefoot on the “nightingale” floors where Shogun warriors’ once tread (over four hundred years ago) was absolutely spine-chilling.
All of the rooms in the castle, including the ‘war room’ with all of its rich history were merely captivating.
Finally, your tour would not be complete without a visit to the famous and very popular “Kinkaku-ji” or “Golden Pavilion” a Zen Buddhist temple in Kyoto. It is such a visually, stunning feast for the eyes – simply beautiful!
I have to say that the temple is one of my most favourite travel inspired photos (and the photo for this blog post).
I will be heading back to Tokyo soon just in time to see the beautiful Cherry Blossoms in flower (Sakura season) – now that should be totally amazing and awesome!
I can’t wait to blog about that adventure!
So, until next time – “Sayonara”