Well I know it’s a bit late, but I just have to write about my trip to Japan. It was great. I can’t express how nice it was traveling to a country that I find so interesting. My awesome friends Monica, Ben and little Alma were gracious enough to let me stay with them and were my travel companions for the trip. I cannot thank them enough for showing me around and taking care of me while I was there. <3
So let’s start from the beginning. Although my trip was mostly great, it did not start off smoothly . The first and biggest mistake was arriving to the airport with the wrong passport! I had grabbed my expired passport and didn’t notice I had the wrong one until I had made it all the way to the airport! So me and my friend Erik (who also deserves a giant thank you for driving me at 3 a.m. to the airport) ran back to the car, drove back home as if we were starring in a Fast and Furious movie, and drove all the way back to the Ft. Lauderdale Airport. We made it just in time. Weirdly enough the plane boarded and left almost an hour early because the pilot wanted to beat the bad weather in Canada. I didn’t think planes left early, but you learn new things every day.
It was about a 4 hour flight to Toronto Canada where I had a 3 hour layover. It was snowing when we landed, which was pretty cool. I hadn’t seen snow in 14 years and I forgot how cold it could be compared to Florida.
The airport was nice and modern and had tables with charging stations to recharge your gadgets and each one had it’s own tablet you can use. Although it was nice, I was very tired and lacked sleep. This is when the 2nd incident occurred. I almost missed my flight to Japan AGAIN!. I had been sitting by the wrong gate dozing off when all of a sudden I heard on the loud speaker that there was a last boarding call for Haneda Japan! Oh my god! I ran to the gate they were talking about and was basically the last person on the plane. Doh!
At last, I finally made it to Japan and the Wood family was there waiting for me. We stopped by a cool sushi restaurant in the airport with a conveyor belt full of sushi dishes, circling around the bar.
After dinner of random sashimi, sushi rolls and delicious miso soup we made our way out of the airport. Until I realized I didn’t have my purse! OMG! I ran back to check the bathroom I had stopped at and it wasn’t there. So we we went to check the information desk. They didn’t have it, and directed us to another desk. After a minute or two of freaking out, my name was in the loud speaker. They had turned in my purse. Whoever found it was nice enough to turn it in and all my money, passport and items were in tact. Just another reason why I like Japan and the Japanese people so much.
Luckily the rest of the trip went pretty well. Our first adventure besides shopping (which I loved, because everything was so cute) was a trip to Kamakura and the local temple and shrine there. It was a pretty big area with a lake, several buildings, museum, stage and some food vendors.
We ended up staying a few days in Tokyo. On the first day in Tokayo we went to Odaiba where Gundam Front Tokyo was located. Besides the life-size Gundam, Odaiba was basically a big fancy mall. It had a Hello Kitty store, Round1 Arcade, and tons of other stores and food.
Another part of Tokyo we visited was Harajuko where we went to Yoyogi Park. Unfortunately, we were a bit too early to see all the Cherry Blossoms blooming, but we did see a few. I was hoping to see the younger fashionable teens that are known to hang out there, but we didn’t see any :(.
Afterwards we went to Takeshita Street which is famous for it’s fashion and shopping. It was extremely crowded there but had tons of cool clothing boutiques and other stores.
For lunch we went to Kawaii Monster Cafe, which is one of the theme cafe’s Japan is known to have. This one was really cool, colorful and trippy. It was kind of like eating at a rave, or electro club. The Harajuko girls working there also had a show for the crowd on their merry-go-round.
While in Tokyo, we also walked around Shibuya and went to a mall and several other stores. As we were walking around we accidentally passed through the famous Shibuya cross walk. All of a sudden the lights changed and people came from every different direction. It was insane. Tokyo is awesome!
On our first day or so in Tokyo, Ben and I went searching for some ramen. We ended up in a tiny restaurant with a just a bar to sit at. For the most part, restaurants have pictures and ordering is easy. But this time we couldn’t read the machine where you ordered from, so we just took a guess and pressed a button. I believe mine ended up having pork in it. It was good nether the less.
Our next adventure took us to the Ghibli Museum. It was a cute and small museum. The decor and architecture was whimsical with tons of sketches, a theater where we viewed a short film, and random things to touch and read. Unfortunately, I couldn’t read most of the captions. As a side note, you have to make reservations for tickets for the specific date and time you want to visit. The museum gets pretty packed, so I am guessing that is how they keep things from being too chaotic. Overall it was a cute place to visit if you are a fan of Studio Ghibli movies and their characters.
After Tokyo, we hopped on two bullet trains for a 5 hour ride to Hiroshima. This is where my JR Pass came in handy. If you are ever planning a trip to Japan and plan to take a bullet train, it is well worth it. It is basically a discounted train pass for tourist. You will need to buy the pass at a Japanese travel agency before your trip though. (For more information you can click here.) Riding a bullet train looks and feels like you are in an airplane. I was slightly queasy, but they are super convenient. A lady with a trolley comes around selling snacks and magazines, and there is a separate car with bathrooms and smoking areas.
After a short ferry ride to Miyajima Island we arrived to our awesome Ryokan at the Seaside Hotel. Ryokans are traditional Japanese inns usually with tatami-matted rooms and public baths. We dropped off our things and went to explore the island. Miyajima is known for the feral deer that wander around the island. We saw them every where and they are not shy to go up to tourist. The island was beautiful and had so many things to see. There are several temples, shrines, walking and hiking paths. It would have been well worth staying longer. I would highly recommend everyone that visits Japan to make a stop here.
Our stay included a traditional dinner and breakfast. The dinner included an assortment of seasonal food from raw fish, fried tofu fritters, deep-fried oysters, soup, and custard pudding.
The next day we visited the Hiroshima Peace Museum. The museum was very morbid and sad, but very interesting at the same time. It had pictures, mementos from the victims, stories and even touchable displays. As the generation that witnessed and experienced the effects of a nuclear bomb first hand are passing away, one of the museums goals is to ensure current generations don’t forget the affects of war, nuclear weapons, and the importance of a commitment to peace.
You can easily walk from the museum to the adjacent Peace Memorial Park and other sight seeing locations. Unfortunately, it was a cold and rainy day that day (40 degrees).
The children’s peace museum was dedicated to Sadako Sasaki and the children who were affected by the atomic bomb. Sadako was only 2 years old when the bomb fell. Unfortunately, she passed away from radiation related leukemia when she was 12. While she was sick in the hospital she would fold paper cranes to keep busy. Since then, children and people from all over send and leave paper cranes at the monument.
I found it interesting that the monument of the hypocenter where the bomb exploded was in a random alley next to a parking lot.
After a short taxi ride we were at Hiroshima Castle. It is a replica of the original castle destroyed by the A-bomb. We were able to go inside and explore. We also went to a really nice mall nearby where they had a wonderful view of the city from the food court.
Hiroshima was definitely a wonderful place to visit. Even with the terrible weather it was the highlight of the trip. From our train ride, stay in Miyajima, to all the fascinating and sad stories. The city itself is beautiful, rebuilt, and surrounded by mountains.
After Hiroshima we headed back to home to Yokosuka, and spent the rest of the trip planning a birthday party for little Alma.
My trip back home to Miami was thankfully uneventful. It was so nice visiting Japan. It was just what I needed after being laid off from my job. The people are so nice and friendly. It was nice spending time with my friends. Everything I ate was delicious as well. Japan itself seems so efficient and convenient. For the most part you can catch a bus or train to wherever you would like. There are vending machines at every corner and quickie marts all over where you can buy almost anything.
I would highly recommend that anyone visit Japan. I didn’t even talk about their cool toilets and clean restrooms! Maybe learning a little bit of the culture or language before hand would be a good idea. Next time I go, I would like to be more prepared to have an actual conversation with someone. Hehe. But overall it was a great experience. Hope you enjoyed the post and if you want to leave a comment, I love comments! – Gio