TRIP My July 2009 Trip

JTF_Chris

Administrator
Aug 6, 2018
108
17
18
JapanTravelForum.com
So I guess I should start at the beginning.

In 2009 I was sitting around, messing around with learning Japanese again. And the thought occurred to me.

Hey, maybe I should just, you know, ACTUALLY GO THERE.

I was in my thirties, making some money, and I realized, "what was stopping me?" NOTHING.

So plans were made, and my wife and I did it. 20 years after my first Japanese class I set foot on Japanese soil. This is that story. Or at least how I remember it.

I had even made a website called "10 days in Japan" about it. I guess that site started this one in a roundabout way. But never mind.

Lets do it.

DAY ZERO

I call it DAY ZERO because when you get on the plane here in the USA, and fly into Japan, you automatically lose a day. Do not pass go do not collect Y10000. If you leave on the 9th, you get there on the 10th. Usually late in the day. As we did.

We left Oklahoma and flew on probably one of the last actual Northwest 747 flights from Detroit to Narita. I think the Delta merger was just starting or something. It was actually a NWA flight on Delta metal. I remember it was an older model because it still had overhead projectors and scheduled movies. I remember that terrible "Dragonball Z" was one of them. The rest I do not remember at all.

101_0150.JPG

I had this trip planned out from beginning to end. I would wind up doing this for all five trips. Knowing exactly where we're going each day, how we're getting there, etc.

Of course the devil's in the details. At the time the internet was still rather light on info like "how do I get from NRT into Tokyo?" Well, take the NEX train? OK, WHERE IS IT!? Yeah. Finally we found the right JR counter, the one in the basement. Got our NEX passes. These were the ones that had your return trip figured in already. Didn't go for the full-on rail pass since we just wouldn't need it. We did get Suica cards right there on the spot. IIRC it was part of the ticket deal or something. But anyway. FINALLY we're in the NEX platform. It's empty. Alrighty then. These NEX trains were the earlier model without the TV screens.

101_0152.JPG101_0159.JPG

We took that to Shinjuku station. It was already pretty late, I remember it being dark out. We had to find our way to the Sunroute Shinjuku Hotel. Which is just West of the station and south a bit. It's not hard to find. Thankfully I did my homework with Google Earth and streetview and knew exactly which way to go. Street view is your friend. Use it. Know where you need to go and what it ACTUALLY LOOKS LIKE.

(Aside: We took the then under-construction southern terrace exit, which just came out on the terrace there by the starbucks.... NOW the whole thing is built up and completely different. I barely recognized it last time I was there.... )

As beat tired as we were, we managed to find the hotel, get ourselves checked in, and I have one mission. GET SOME CONBINI SUSHI, BEER, and cold green tea. Which I did.

This was the view from our window. Of course it looks nothing like this now. But yet, sort of does. Hard to explain. A couple of the buildings are gone, replaced by new ones. The AM/PM I went to is gone. Tokyo is strange that way. Stuff you'd think would be there forever is gone, but the esoteric stuff you think won't last... its still there. More on that later, too.

101_0162.JPG101_0161.JPG

After that we crashed and would start the journey for real in the morning. The one thing that is awesome about arriving so late on the next day, is you're able to simply CRASH and sort of "reset" the next morning. When the sun comes up at 5AM and the crows start in. Next post will be DAY ONE.
 

JTF_Chris

Administrator
Aug 6, 2018
108
17
18
JapanTravelForum.com
DAY 2 - Shinjuku!

So the plan on Day 2 was to just get our feet wet, being first timers and all, and just explore the Shinjuku area on foot, since that's where we were.

One of the first memories I have was walking out of the hotel on a July morning and INSTANTLY having my glasses and all my camera lenses FOG UP because of the humidity.

The first on the list was a trek over to Hanazono Shrine. Why? Just seemed like the thing to do. It's not a particularly interesting or historically signficant shrine, but its there. And I dig stuff like this. So.... One of the things I remember most about this was getting off the main street onto the grounds and the soundscape changing from city bustle to practically nothing, but the crows.

100_1295.JPG100_1298.JPG100_1299.JPG


From there, we did a quick walk through Golden Gai. Which in the morning is pretty dull, but I have never been interested in "that scene" there so whatever. FYI "Golden Gai" is a little borough of buildings that survived the war and exist to this day as a bunch of tiny bars that have become kitsch or something. Like I said, whatever. Not my thing.

100_1307.JPG100_1310.JPG

From there we walked back towards the station along the main street. For a newb this is a great way to get "thrown in" to the whole experience. The traffic, the people, the sounds and smells.... Just OMG you can't help but be amazed and overwhelmed all at the same time. Later I'd learn to just sit back and take it all in, but at that time, it was "LOOK AT ALL THE SIGNS AND PEOPLE AND SHIT!!"

I remember hitting up the Kinokuniya book store. Why I don't know except it was supposed to be fun. Maybe if you're fluent in Japanese and/or care at all about manga it would be. We grabbed a snack (IIRC an ice cream) at some Hello Kitty themed snack bar in a basement.

Then, being on the tail end of rainy season, we could tell it was going to get ugly. So we high-tailed it back to the hotel and waited out the storm.

100_1317.JPG100_1323.JPG

After the rain stopped, We headed north on a walk to seek out lunch. We wound up at a Tenya somewhere near Shin Okubo station and had a mess of "Tendon" or shrimp tempura rice bowl. We were also introduced to mugicha (cold barley tea) and I was hooked. The Mrs. not so much.

On the way back south, we ventured into the tiny alley of Omoide Yokocho, thoughtfully nicknamed "piss alley" because it apparently sits over one of Tokyo's many open sewers and has a lovely aroma during the hot summer noontime sun. Seriously. Being noonish it was pretty dead. Not many people and things really didn't seem busy at all. Just look it up on YouTube and you'll see. I've honestly never hit the place up because I suspect the place is a mix of regulars who don't really care for the tourists invading their space and/or tourists invading the space. *shrug*

Then it was on to the WEST side of Shinjuku. Specifically our goal was to get to the top of the Tokyo Metro Government building. This was pre-SkyTree (and some of the other new ob. decks IIRC) so it was the highest spot at the time.

Yeah, the city doesn't end. In every direction its just buildings. Until the haze takes over. Ignore all those images you see with a huge Fuji looming in the background. They were taken with pristine weather conditions and obscene telephoto lenses.

100_1354.JPG100_1370.JPG100_1375.JPG

On the way back we discovered gems like Yodobashi camera. This was my first foray into the "Japanese electronics depaato" and holy crap. Imagine your local Best Buy store. Except 5 times the inventory, crammed floor to ceiling, on aobut 10 floors that really aren't that large. Yeah. I picked up a block of AA batteries and a small Japanese keyboard. Which I still to this day have not figured out how to get usable as a second input method on any computer or OS I have. But anyway.

West shinjuku is not totally dissimilar from East shinjuku, it just seems a little less hectic, and more trafficked by the salary man types. That was my first impression. A bit more business.

We went for a quick stroll through the Takashimaya store since it was right near the hotel, and then I think we crashed and crashed hard. F#@$^ng jet lag. When we got up later we had to find food, and I'm not sure we were totally successful. I seem to recall it was late enough that everything was closed and we wound up at a Subway next door in the Maynds Tower and/or grabbing more stuff from the AM/PM across the street. I really can't remember and there's no photographic evidence for it lol.

more pix in the next post...
 
  • Like
Reactions: Monkeymama

JTF_Chris

Administrator
Aug 6, 2018
108
17
18
JapanTravelForum.com
Day 3 - The Imperial Palace, Pokemon Center, and Zojoji

Yawn, so an early morning put us on the (I think) JR Chuo line out of Shinjuku station. Of course the first thing we do leaving Tokyo station is take the wrong exit, so we have to stand around like noobs with our Tokyo City Atlas (this was before Google maps/Earth!) and figure out where the hell we actually were. I still recommend getting one of those books just to have in case your data fails. Its invaluable. (photo Tokyo Station 2009 when the renovation was just getting started...)

100_1420.JPG

Finally we get to the edges of the Tokyo Imperial Palace grounds. Look, if you aren't expecting it, one of the amazing things about a lot of Japan is the scale. Things are often really tiny, or they're really freaking huge. Take the walls surrounding the grounds here.

100_1430.JPG100_1435.JPG

For whatever reason we started out going around the south side to the Sakuramon, or Sakura gate. You can enter the grounds from a bunch of different locations but this is where we started. Just the angle we came at the park from. From this spot its a short walk to the iconic Nijubashi bridge view. Where everyone has to take a photo or two. We of course were no exception.

100_1466.JPG

We made our way around the "moat" past the official entrance to the "inner" grounds, which is closed to the public most of the time. They used to do special Japanese-language only tours inside here, that you had to "apply" for and get approved well in advance.... I don't know if they still do it that way, or what exactly. Maybe I'll look into that again soon.

You also pass the "parade grounds" or assembly area where the Emperor and past Emperors have given so many speeches, for good or bad. When we were there, the place was nearly empty of people. Maybe just because it was fairly early morning (believe me) or what I don't know.
100_1495.JPG


Further to the north is the entrance to the Imperial Gardens. Admission is free (it was then) but they give you a little chip that you return on your way out. I don't think we explored all of the gardens, but we saw enough, including the remnants of the original Edo castle. Granted there isn't much left but a giant mound of dirt where the castle once stood, but we sat on top of that for a bit.

100_1516.JPG100_1518.JPG100_1551.JPG100_1559.JPG101_0532.JPG

After that we exited the gardens back onto the streets on the far north side of things, and made our way to Takebashi station and somehow managed to get from there to Tokyo station and from there, to Hamamatsucho on the Yamanote. I have pictures and the timeline suggests that we went from Takebashi to Tokyo station but the Tozai doesn't stop there, at least not any more. I can't recall the exact path. I don't remember it being terribly difficult, though. ANYWAY. ... next post....
 
  • Like
Reactions: Monkeymama

JTF_Chris

Administrator
Aug 6, 2018
108
17
18
JapanTravelForum.com
Day 3 cont. - The Imperial Palace, Pokemon Center, and Zojoji

Hamamatsucho station took us to the Pokemon Center!! Our kids at the time were huge Pokemon freaks so we had to make this trip and get them a bunch of genuine swag. While we were there we got some sushi (yay sushi)... Now, the Pokemon center is no longer at this location, its moved to a mall near Ikebukuro, and honestly I don't like the new location as much as this previous one. It seems smaller and more chopped up.... but whatever.

101_0632.JPG101_0633.JPG100_1572.JPG100_1573.JPG

Now. It's about 1pm or something like that. We spent a LOT of time walking around the Imperial grounds. WHY we didn't just stop there for the night I honestly have NO idea. We were wiped. But HEY there's a temple just a short distance away! Actually it's like a half a mile or so. So yeah. We walked up the road to Zojoji temple.

The gate here is actually ORIGINAL. As in we didn't destroy it during the war. The netting I'm presuming is to keep the birds out so they don't nest and crap all over it.

We didn't spend a great amount of time here, since well, we were freaking wiped. Then, to top it off, instead of finding another closer route, we walked ALL THE WAY back to Hamamatsucho station and took the Yamanote back to home base. I remember thinking that was way too long of a day for a couple of noobs like us. Now I would do it again. It would be a long day but I could pace it out a lot better....

Now, it gets fuzzy for that evening. I have a bunch of pix from my wife's camera that shows we walked around Shinjuku again. I also have pix of conbini sushi and a carton of sake, but not of actually going anywhere to eat. I also have a vague memory that the Shinjuku walk involved looking for food... so I really have no idea what we did for food that evening. No clue. nada. *shrug* It was almost 10 years ago so yeah.

100_1579.JPG100_1610.JPG101_0688.JPG100_1619.JPG100_1623.JPG

Day 4 coming soon....
 

JTF_Chris

Administrator
Aug 6, 2018
108
17
18
JapanTravelForum.com
Thanks for this! It's already giving me ideas about where to go!
Thx! Tha'ts what we're here for!

DAY 4 ....

We started out in AKIHABARA. In case you didn't already know, Akihabara has been an enclave of electronics and radio... stuff... for a long long time. It's only now become the anima and manga mecca of the world. Unfortunately :(

But whatever. I went just to see some of these electronics shops, and to hit up the duty free souvenir shops. They weren't nearly as prevalent then, before Japan released the restrictions on visas and all that Chinese money came pouring in.....

Akihabara is markedly different every time I've been back. The current station hadn't been renovated and that huge new plaza just wasn't there, not exactly anyway. Well, here's some pix. If you've been recently you can probably spot the differences. The old Radio Kaikan is gone, the earthquake did it in. That "back" entrance to things is also way way different now.

2009 Akihabara....


100_1632.JPG100_1635.JPG100_1650.JPG100_1678.JPG100_1690.JPG100_1636.JPG100_1637.JPG100_1669.JPG


This is also the place I stepped off a curb wrong and jacked up my SI joint in my hip, causing unbelievably uncomfortable electric numbness in one leg for the rest of the trip. But SCREW THAT I'M IN JAPAN THE FIRST TIME EVAR IDGAF. I manned it thru the rest of the trip bc I had to. It still gives me problems to this day.


Continued....
 

JTF_Chris

Administrator
Aug 6, 2018
108
17
18
JapanTravelForum.com
....from Akihabara we continued on the Yamanote to Ueno station, making note of the Okachimachi station area on the way. We actually got off the train there to take a look around from the platform. We didn't realize we were just on the south end of the Ameyoko shopping street. Hey, noobs gonna noob, right? We got down and walked around for a while. Eventually it was like, OH hey, there's the Ameyokocho sign! I know where we are! :facepalm:

100_1695.JPG100_1703.JPG100_1710.JPG100_1721.JPG100_1722.JPG

We never made it to Ueno. We decided we'd had enough for the day, went back to Shinjuku's East Side and went into the Subnade underground mall for some Okonomiyaki. Why there? I don't know. Seemed like the thing to do at the time. Also came across this Chevy crew cab long bed that looked like a fricking Godzilla out of its element.


100_1728.JPG100_1730.JPG

Day 5 coming soon.
 

JTF_Chris

Administrator
Aug 6, 2018
108
17
18
JapanTravelForum.com
UGH. So my main computer, well, I actually broke it trying to do a hard drive swap. The connectors on a Mac Mini motherboard are really tiny and really fragile and if you pull the wrong way, the whole thing rips right off the board.... but anyway. I AM BACK NOW.

DAY 5

Day 5 we decided to hit up Ueno Park, Kappabashi, and Sensoji.

Ueno Park is one of the oldest "public" parks in Tokyo, originally one of the "Imperial" parks. It has a long and storied history, that's for sure.

Getting there is easy. Just head to Ueno station, head out the park exit, cross the street and you're basically there. Of course, if you're a complete noob like I was, you miss a lot. We just started wandering, past the Kiyomizu temple, and wound up down the hill at Shinobazu Pond, and Bentendo temple.

In July the lilies are in bloom, which was nice. As far as temples go, neither the Kiyomizu temple or Bentendo are particularly spectacular, but they're not bad.

There was also an antiques flea market going on, and unfortunately we didn't buy anything.

From there it was up through the Inari shrines. This little area is kind of neat, a little compact shot of Shinto for your mid morning stroll.

Then onto the main "square" of the park.

From there, we would go across the street to the Tokyo National Museum.

(to be cont.)

100_1755.JPG100_1783.JPG100_1766.JPG100_1818.JPG101_0734.JPG101_0775.JPG101_0824.JPG101_0856.JPG
 

JTF_Chris

Administrator
Aug 6, 2018
108
17
18
JapanTravelForum.com
Day 5 (cont.)

If you're at all interested in Historic Japanese culture and arts, then the Tokyo National Museum is a must-see, at least once. Its located right next to Ueno Park, and there is a modest entry fee (I can't recall what it was when we went back in '16)

You'll see all manner of Japanese antiquities, from samurai armor and swords, pottery, scrolls, paintings, kimonos, you name it.

The building itself is quite a treat, too, if you're an architectural nerd in any way. The gardens and buildings in the rear are only open twice a year, and this wasn't one of those times.

101_0914.JPG101_0942.JPG100_1860.JPG100_1865.JPG100_1876.JPG100_1883.JPG100_1892.JPG100_1893.JPG100_1902.JPG100_1909.JPG

After the museum, it was back to Ueno station.... (to be cont.)
 

JTF_Chris

Administrator
Aug 6, 2018
108
17
18
JapanTravelForum.com
DAY 5 Cont....

.... and for whatever reason we headed back to Ameyoko for a bite to eat, since it was about noonish, and to check out the temple that we saw along the way, Tokudaiji.


100_1928.JPG100_1929.JPG100_1931.JPG100_1933.JPG100_1935.JPG100_1936.JPG


(cont....)
 

JTF_Chris

Administrator
Aug 6, 2018
108
17
18
JapanTravelForum.com
DAY 5 Cont....

Then we hit BACK to Ueno, to catch the Ginza metro line to Tawaramachi station, and Kappabashi.

Kappabashi is noted for all of the kitchen supply stores on this street, and for the suppliers of the display "fake" food dishes and items for sale.

Honestly, unless you are really really into this sort of thing, or looking to outfit a kitchen or restaurant, just skip it. Seriously. It's just a bunch of stores, really.

But the fake food was fun. No we didn't buy any of it, because its VERY expenisve. This stuff is a true art form.

The area also has several stores which sell butsudan, or the buddhist prayer "cabinets" where you keep your pictures of your ancestors, etc. in your house. Not exactly a tourist browsing destination. I knew what they were, but I did spot a few other tourists ooh-ing and ahh-ing at the wares, and I'm just like, maaaaan, don't.

100_1943.JPG100_1945.JPG100_1946.JPG100_1949.JPG100_1952.JPG

(to be cont...)
 

JTF_Chris

Administrator
Aug 6, 2018
108
17
18
JapanTravelForum.com
From there it was on to Sensoji temple. This is I think the only place I have been back to every single time I've visited Japan. Just because the area is so interesting, and the experience at the temple itself is unique.

Sensoji is the oldest temple in Tokyo (I think that's true) and while it didn't survive the war, the neighboring Asakusa shrine did. So the temple buildings are all reconstruction, but the shrine is original.

You will exit Asakusa station (if you came on the Ginza line) And get dumped out onto the tourist trap shopping mall of all time. Just stores and stores and stores. Some of them (OK a lot of them) are just selling cheap tourist garbage souvenirs, or clothing, but some are fairly interesting. The street food scene here is pretty cool also. Taiyaki that you can watch being made, django, ice cream, etc....

But once you hit the main gate, and head down the shopping street, keep your wits about you. All the way to the mid gate, its a sea of compressed people.

The middle gate opens up into a huge courtyard, where the temple business happens. Then there's the temple itself. When we were visiting, it was encased in a white cocoon, the exterior being renovated. Whoops. You can see it in the pictures. So the overall effect was somewhat muted.

I'll just shut up and pick the ten best pix from that portion of that trip.... here you go.

100_1964.JPG100_1974.JPG100_1976.JPG100_1979.JPG100_1980.JPG100_1990.JPG100_2015.JPG100_2021.JPG100_2023.JPG


That day we had planned on hitting the river cruise, and going all the way to Odaiba where the big Gundam was being unveiled that day. But they were all sold out. Just as well, bc I remember being completely wiped out and ready to die.

(to be continued....)
 

JTF_Chris

Administrator
Aug 6, 2018
108
17
18
JapanTravelForum.com
ARGH. Sorry for the long vacation, finally got my computer back up and running after I broke it (long story) .... but ONWARD.

SUNDAY SUNDAY SUNDAY DAY 6

First thing we did was head out to Shibuya and the Hachiko exit... First time I'd been there, and yeah, its cool. Another place I always wind up at every time I go back.

We didn't spend a whole lot of time here. Hachiko had a panty on his head (must have been a fun night!) and I learned that if you stand near the road, next to the cupids statue, you're standing right over the top of an open sewer. Yep. Not gonna lie, it stank. Still like that if I recall. Pics from Shibuya from 2009.

100_2029.JPG100_2033.JPG100_2035.JPG

From there we went way down into the bowels of Shibuya station and got on the Hanzomon for Omotesando station. I don't think the Hanzomon is quite as far down any more, but man it was like 6 stories down there. Quite the trek. IIRC the train got held up because the cops were trying to get a still drunk partier off the train. It was kind of a keystone cops moment, really. About 4 guys in uniform, trying to pick this guy up who wasn't cooperating. Then they'd get off the train to "huddle" and discuss the next move, then get back on and try again. Finally they must have just said "fuck it" and just picked him up and drug him off....

The "money factor" is quite evident in Omotesando, and its reflected in the station itself. It's sparkling clean, well lit, nicely tiled.... versus some other Metro platforms, which, shall we say, just aren't.

We made the trek from Omotesando station, up to Harajuku, and then to Meiji Shrine. Of COURSE you have to make a stop at Kiddyland on the way. This is another place that if you only get to go to Tokyo for a short time, you must see. Well, kiddyland AND meiji jingu both!! If you stick around for any length of time at Meiji Jingu in the daytime, you WILL get to see a proper Shinto wedding procession go through. I've been three different times and have seen at least six processions.

NOTE: The blue pedestrian bridges around the Harajuku intersection were GONE The last time I was there in '16. Not sure why, but they took them out.

100_2062.JPG100_2073.JPG100_2083.JPG100_2093.JPG100_2126.JPG100_2151.JPG101_1233.JPG

After that we made a little detour around to Takeshita dori and back up around to Harajuku station. At this time, supposedly Sunday was the day to catch the cosplayers out on the bridge, and while there were a few people out there giving it their best ganbare... it wasn't the spectacle I was expecting....



DAY 7 to be continued.....
 

JTF_Chris

Administrator
Aug 6, 2018
108
17
18
JapanTravelForum.com
DAY 7

Time to start branching out from Tokyo... to....

TAKAOSAN

Located about 1 hr Northwest-ish from Tokyo is Mount. Takao. It's a pretty popular nature spot, with a pretty awesome trail, a great temple and plenty of walking to be had. Which in the middle of July in Japan is fun. (sweats in Japanese)

We opted for the Keio Takao Pass, got from the Keio counter in the bottom of Shinjuku Keio Station. At the time the easiest way to get there was from the West end near the Odakyu store, down a non descript stair case and at the actual window. I think they either got rid of this pass altogether or you can just punch it up on the ticket machines now. Anyway, it got us fare to and from Takaosanguchi station on the Keio line, plus transport via either the chair lift (me) or the rail-ish car (the wifey) up and down to the first "station" if you will.

The views from Takao are amazing, especially if you've never been in the "wild" in Japan. Supposedly the forest is full of flying squirrels and monkeys (no flying monkeys tho) but we never saw either of them.

Well, at the first station/level/whatever, there is the Takao Monkey Park. Basically a mini-zoo where you can watch a bunch of Macaques screw around, it'll cost you about 500Y extra IIRC.

From there its a bit of a walk to the Yakuo-in Temple. Be sure to check out the Tengu statues and masks, along with the Kappas.... If you stick around long enough you might catch a glimpse of the Monks doing whatever it is monks do up here in the mountains.

Past that is what looks like an Inari shrine (maybe a combo deal) ... and a longer trail that leads to the summit. I wound up going all the way to the summit, because I'd become separated from the wifey and I thought she continued up along the trail. So I went. Hung out at the top for a bit, then went back down to the temple to the usual "Where TF did you go?" ....

Then its back down the mountain and back to Shinjuku.. We found one of our go to sushi joints there in West Shinjuku's "electric town" (or whatever)... Himawari sushi. It's still there last time I was there (and their facebook acct. still posts so they're still to this day!) It's a small-ish kaiten (conveyer belt) sushi joint with a pretty extensive menu. If you don't see what you want on the belt, just holler it out and they'll whip it up. Cash only also last time.

After that we were wiped and we had to go to... HAKONE tomorrow!!

Day 8 to be continued.... Here are some pics in this post and the next.

100_2177.JPG100_2215.JPG100_2225.JPG100_2250.JPG100_2254.JPG100_2318.JPG100_2332.JPG100_2337.JPG100_2338.JPG100_2343.JPG
 

JTF_Chris

Administrator
Aug 6, 2018
108
17
18
JapanTravelForum.com
Day 8: HAKONE

We got up early, grabbed a snack from a corner bistro and headed for the Odakyu station at Shinjuku. From there we were headed to Hakone aboard the "romance car" train with our "hakone pass" or whatever it was called. Basically it included the trip to Hakone and the return, via the romance car, tickets for the Ashi pirate boat, the Ropeway, and the Gora switchback train.... We were doing "the loop" as its called, only backwards... starting from Ashi and going towards Gora.

The trains seemed to be aged a bit, but still kept up and really comfortable. Somewhere shy of the full-out Shinkansen cars, like maybe these had done that duty 10 years earlier... Upon arrival at Hakone-Yumoto (I believe that was it) we had to catch a bus to the lake. That was a bit confusing, as we'd never dealt with the buses in Japan anywhere, and weren't sure where they even were. Turns out the stop WE needed was actually across the street from the main bus area, AND the whole mess was under construction so it was really confusing. Got it figured out and on our way. We rode the bus through the mountains to the lake, where from there we walked a portion of the old (and I mean OLD) "highway" that existed between Tokyo/Edo and Kyoto back in the day. Today its nothing more than a glorified foot path. My wife also nearly stepped on a bright green snake and ended the whole trip there lol.... That's somewhat of a neat experience, walking that path that so many have done over hundreds of years through the cedars.....

At the end of this stretch of "highway" there's an open air museum that I think we inadvertently entered by mistake. We got to the entrance (as we were leaving) and noticed the signs and ticket counters.... whoops. We slinked through though and wound up at the docks for the Ashi pirate boats. Now, this part of the trip is kind of silly, but its still pretty fun. These old schooner replicas that take you across the lake are just tourist traps, sure.... but come on. The kids love it.

On the other side of the lake you find yourself at a natural geyser/volcano type of area. If you've ever been to Yellowstone its sort of a similar deal. That same sulfur smell and plumes of steam/smoke. You jump on the ropeway cars and ride in the sky over the valley to Gora. Only today half of the ropeway was shut down for repairs and maintenance, so we had to take a bus from one point to Gora station.

Gora station is again, a bit tourist-trappy, what with the swiss theme decor everywhere, but it is what it is. From Gora we took the "Switchback" train to Odawara (if I recall correctly...) The "switchback" refers to the way the tracks change direction to wind its way out of the mountains. Think those marble racks you played with as a kid.

Now, since we just happened to be at Odawara, now was as good a time as any to check our our first castle, Odawara Castle. It's a short walk from the station, but in the July heat it felt a bit longer. It's a reconstruction, and from the top floor you can see the ocean overlooking the town. I remember the interior museum of the castle being sweltering hot, too.

As we walked back to the station, we noticed a guy out walking with his cat on a leash, perched on his shoulders. You'll see odd things like that in Japan. At least its something we don't see back home....

I honestly can't remember much after that for that day. It was kind of a whirlwind and we were already wiped out. Plus we had to get back and get packed up, since we were leaving the hotel in the morning for a ryokan on Enoshima island, and our last full day in Japan.....

Photo dump from Hakone!!
100_2387.JPG100_2402.JPG100_2414.JPG100_2425.JPG100_2448.JPG100_2482.JPG100_2509.JPG100_2523.JPG100_2530.JPG
 

JTF_Chris

Administrator
Aug 6, 2018
108
17
18
JapanTravelForum.com
Last (full) Day: Enoshima Island....

So the next morning we packed up our crap and (IIRC) jumped the train to Shibuya, where we caught the Shonan-Shinjuku to Ofuna, then the Shonan Monorail to Enoshima. Let's just say we finished the trip off in style. If I recall I had bought us the "Enoshima Free Pass" tickets to get around down here.

It's a bit of a walk from the monorail station all the way across the bridge to the island, and then up the narrow main road to our ryokan, the Iwamotoro. We had a killer view of the ocean in a traditional tatami-style room. And yeah, it was hot and miserable. Since we arrived way early before check in, they held our luggage while we shuffled all the way back across the bridge to the Enoden line and visited the "Great Buddha" or Daibutsu at Kamakura. Again, in the heat, the walk seemed way longer than it actually was(!) but well worth it. On the way back to the Enoden station we got as far as the gates to Hasedera, but looked up at the hills and the stairs, and in the heat decided against it. IIRC we hit up a 100Y shop near that station, but my memory is fuzzy on that point.

After that, we went all the way to Kamakura station and trudged up and back down Komachi Dori, the shopping street adjacent to the station. Our plan was to get to the top and then see Tsurugaoka Hachimangu (try typing that three times fast) but by the time we got to the top of the street, and the signs said "1km this way" we just said "nope" and went back down, and headed back to the inn. YUP, through town, across the bridge, and up the street. IIRC its nearly a mile walk.

Back at the island, we scheduled dinner, rested a bit, then explored the island for a short while. We didn't go too far, mainly because by this time we were wiped out. We figured, hey we'd go see some more after dinner, right?

Dinner was simply amazing. A complete kaiseki course served in-room at the low table. Well, just check the pix to see what I mean. Never had anything quite like it. I'm still not sure exactly what everything was, to be honest, but it was all super oishiiiiii~~~~.

After dinner, we were like hey lets go out and see what's hopping on Enoshima. It was dark already, no daylight savings time and then add another hour to that.... And to our surprise, everything was either closed already or was in the process of closing up for the night. I managed to snag a couple of beers from the store on the corner before he shuttered it, thankfully. Then we tried to walk around the footpaths, and found ourselves in the dark, quite literally. Everything closed, practically no lighting to speak of, it was almost dangerous. We walked the footpath as far as one of the temples with a lit-up statue of a red Buddhist demon-thing and figured that was an omen. So we returned to find our futons made up for us. Sweet. Crash.

Then some a-hole was out on the beach behind the place like at 1am shooting off fireworks. What are you going to do....

Breakfast was a similarly amazing meal, grilled fish and rice. A quick "Get ready" And we stepped out into the July heat and humidity to head back to the airport and back to reality. I remember that day being even worse than the day before. We took the Shonan monorail again back to Ofuna, then to Yokohama (IIRC), and the NEX from there back to Narita.

Some pix, and then I'll add another post right quick...


100_2551.JPG100_2544.JPG100_2582.JPG100_2615.JPG100_2622.JPG100_2629.JPG100_2642.JPG100_2679.JPG100_2631.JPG100_2709.JPG
 

JTF_Chris

Administrator
Aug 6, 2018
108
17
18
JapanTravelForum.com
So began the journey that's led me here. ...and back to Japan four more times, soon to be a total of six. I've revisited a bunch of these places, some many times. That first picture in the Enoshima post above, we would return to stay in the top floor of the building right in the center, on the right side... an amazing AirBnB with as you might expect a killer view of the island, the ocean, and Fujisan.

What did I learn? TONS. How to navigate Tokyo's train system for one. It can seem very intimidating and daunting, but once you get your feet wet, it really is quite intuitive. I learned that the crowds in Japan really don't bother me. Not sure why. Maybe its the collective politeness and "we're all in this together" vibe I get when I'm in the middle of a busy station or festival. I can't explain it. I've learned that hydrangeas are awesome and that I can't grow them in Oklahoma to save my life. I learned that I love Ankimo, Shirasu, and a ton of other foods that I never would have even knew existed.

I knew on that NEX ride back to Narita, as we stared out over the rice fields and the city that I'd be back for sure. I've felt that every time I've made that return ride. A definite sadness that I was leaving, but that I would try to be back.

And we did. I took the whole family for two weeks in March of 2011. Yup, that March 2011. That thread will be coming soon.