July 12nd – 13rd
At 3:25 p.m. on July 12 we have the departure from Barajas. We are going to fly for the first time with the Emirates company. The aircraft is an Airbus a380, the largest commercial aircraft in the world. It is huge and is connected with two fingers. Hard to believe that such a monster can fly. The organization to access is very good.
The flight takes off on time for Dubai. The plane is quite comfortable and the two of us were alone in a row of 3 seats. More space. The entertainment on board is very, very good and the food is amazing for an airplane.
I was struck by the fact that they give you a bag with slippers, an eye mask, a toiletry kit and lip balm (we were in economy class, not 1st).
There were also a series of stickers to put on the seat in case you wanted to be woken up to eat or not.
About seven and a half hours later we landed at Dubai airport. Ahead 7.15 hours of scale. After 4 hours, the company gave us a voucher to eat something at the airport. After going through the endless airport terminal looking for something appetizing, we decided on McDonald’s, which was the one that offered the most food. I ate a falafel burger menu that was pretty bad.
For the second flight, they put us on a bus and the trip to the plane lasts about 15 minutes. We never arrived. It is a giant airport. When we got in, I couldn’t fit in the seat because it was so narrow. For almost 10 hours of flight it was going to be hell. But luckily the flight was almost empty and I was able to lie down in the 4 central seats. Marvelous.
As we always recommend, always travel with insurance. Healthcare in Japan is tremendously expensive. With IATI, you also have a 5% discount for being our reader:
At 8 in the morning the plane took off on time for Haneda airport in Tokyo. The plane had a very good entertainment service and very good food.
During the journey, the crew handed out the papers that must be filled out to hand in to immigration at the airport.
About 10:45 p.m. on July 13, we finally landed in Japan. I was very excited to find out that I was finally in one of my dream destinations. I thought that day would never come.
As soon as we got off, I was moved to enter the bathroom, with its signs in Japanese and its typical floor toilet (with quite a lot of piss around it. Lack of western aim).
We go through immigration, they stamp our passport and we continue to get our bags. We go through customs where they take a little look at the bags and we go out to the airport hall. That’s it. We are officially on Japanese land.
From the airport we took the Keikyū Airport Line for 210 yen (€1.64-$2) to the Keikyu-Kamata station, which was the closest to the hotel. We went to buy water (we didn’t know you could drink it from the tap) at a 7Eleven that was on the way and we arrived at the hotel. We chose the Chisun Inn Kamata. It is a bit far from the center of Tokyo (about 25 minutes by train) but for a city of almost 40 million inhabitants it is not bad. It cost us €76 ($92.25) per night without breakfast. Being already like 1 in the morning and after about 25 hours of travel, we went to bed.
Find the best hotel at the best price on Agoda:
If after so many hours of flight you prefer comfort, we recommend a transfer service. Fast, comfortable and they leave you at the door of the hotel:
We got up without much hurry and headed for the Keikyu-Kamata station. Nearby was a family mart with a coffee machine. The machine, of course, was all in Japanese and the boy in English… 0. We managed to get some coffees with milk that were boiling and we bought some buns. I specifically a melon pan (Recipe here). The coffee was a bit perrete and on top of that with the heat it was, it never got cold.
After having breakfast sitting on a bench, we entered the station. There was a small tourist office there where they gave us some information. As we wanted to activate the JR Pass from the 15th, they recommended us to get a 24-hour pass for the metropolitan area for 750 yen (€5.85). We took the train to Tokyo Central Station (東京駅) and there we activated the JR Passes to be able to use them on the local trains of the Japan Rail (JR) company starting on July 15.
To use the JR Pass you just have to go through the window at the turnstiles and show it to the operator who is there to give information. The truth is that they don’t even look at it, they see you arrive with it in your hand and they make a gesture for you to pass.
The station was designed by the architect Tatsuno Kingo following the design of the Amsterdam Station and was built between 1908 and 1914. During the Allied bombing of 1945 much of the station was damaged but it was rebuilt in 1949.
When we left, it turned out that the surroundings were under construction and could not be seen in conditions.
Following the avenue that leaves the main gate, we arrive at the gigantic park that is the grounds of the Imperial Palace (Kōkyo (皇居)). It was hot and humid and very sunny. In Spain we use the expression: “Un sol que raja las piedras” / “A sun that breaks the stones”.
There was a small police station there where you signed up to be able to enter the palace facilities. We signed up for the 1pm tour and at the appointed time got in line. Registration and admission is free. The queue was very strict two by two along a line painted on the ground. If you left, anger.
We entered and passed strict security controls (you have to show your passport) and fill out papers with all your data, very similar to the one we had to fill out to deliver to airport immigration. Right there they showed us an explanatory video about the palace.
The Tokyo Imperial Palace is the permanent residence of the Emperor of Japan. It is a large garden complex in Chiyoda. It includes buildings such as the main palace, the private residences of the imperial family, an archive, museums, and administrative offices. It was built on the same site as the old Edo Castle.
Accompanied at all times by a police officer, they led us through the facilities open to the public while giving explanations in Japanese. The visit lasted about an hour and a half and was very, very cool. It was worth it.
After the visit, it was already time for lunch. Yummy, our first authentic Japanese food. For this we returned to the central station. Beneath it, there is a kind of endless underground shopping mall. Rather one could say that below Tokyo, there is another Tokyo. We chose a ramen restaurant that was recommended on some forums in a section called Tokyo Ramen Street.
The restaurant is called Rokurinsha. It is found when going down some stairs and you will recognize it by the permanent queue. The estimated waiting time at that point in the queue is marked on the floor. The place is very small and as soon as you enter you have a machine in Japanese (luckily with photos) in which you mark what you want, put the money in and you get a piece of paper that you give to a boy and he serves you. On the tables you have a jug of cold water that they change for you. That’s something all Japanese restaurants have, some cold water and some iced tea. The ramen was delicious. If you want, they give you a paper bib so you don’t get dirty.
With a full stomach, we took a walk through the little shops of the shopping center freaking out for a while with how geeks they can be.
After freaking out, we walked to the Nihonbashi Bridge (日本橋), which literally means Japanese bridge. The first bridge was built in 1603 and was made of wood. The bridge has been destroyed by earthquakes and wars on several occasions. The current one dates from 1911. The bridge is beautiful, although the bad thing is that today it has been left under an elevated highway and it is not in good condition.
We walked back to the central station. There we took the Yamanote Line to Hamamatsuchō Station. From there we went for a night walk towards the Tokyo Tower (東京タワ).
Built between 1957 and 1958, it was originally designed for television transmission, although radio antennas were installed in 1961, so the tower is currently used for both types of signals.
It is one of the main tourist attractions in Tokyo. The tower has two observation platforms. The 150-meter-high Main Deck and the 250-meter-high Upper Deck offer an overview of Tokyo. At the base there are shops and also the Tokyo One Piece tower, a permanent theme park dedicated to the One Piece manga. Admission is 1,200 yen (€9.37) for the Main Deck and 2,800 yen (€21.85) for the two observation decks.
We went back to the station where we took the train to JR Kamata station. On the way to the hotel we bought some food at a 7eleven that they warmed up for us right there and we went to the hotel to rest.
Today if we get up early to make the most of the day. This morning it’s time to visit Shibuya.
We stopped by 7eleven on our way to the station to get some breakfast. Today we bought a bottle of cold packaged coffee that is in the fridges that was much better than the previous day.
If you want to enjoy the day in peace and you don’t have much time, you can get the tourist bus pass to use it throughout the day and visit the most important tourist spots in the city.
We take the Keihin-Tōhoku Line to Shinagawa Station and there we transfer to the Yamanote Line to Shibuya Station. Being on the train, we read on the screens that gave information about the stops and the line was reporting the delays of some lines and the reason, it is disturbing to see that most are due to earthquakes…
We go out through the main entrance and hit the statue of Hachiko. Hachiko was a dog who became famous because every day he accompanied his owner to the train station when he went to work, but one day he died and did not return, so the dog was waiting for his return for several years until his death. We stand in line and take the required photo.
Something that surprised me a lot and that we would also see later are smoking areas. In Japan it is forbidden to smoke in the street, so in some places there are places that are usually a screen and everyone is smoking like crazy inside.
Opposite is the famous Shibuya crossing, surrounded by buildings full of screens and neon. You could say it’s magical. The truth is that he thought it was going to be bigger but what there are are billions of people crossing at the same time when the traffic light turns green.
On more than one occasion we could see people riding karts through the streets of Shibuya dressed as characters from the Mario Kart video game. The world is full of geeks.
From here we wanted to go to Takeshita Dori but since we didn’t really know how, from the station lobby we connected to the Wi-Fi. While we are consulting the mobile and the information girl appears running (literally) to see if we needed anything. How helpful are the Japanese! Finally we just had to take the Yamanote line again to Harajuku station.
There we got off and the universal deluge was falling from the sky so we waited at the entrance. While we were talking, the (Japanese) boy next to us asked us in Spanish if we were Spanish. It turns out that the boy lived for several years in Granada (the city where we live) and married a woman from Malaga. Of course he had a Granada accent that couldn’t handle him.
When the rain subsided, we left before Takeshita dori to visit Yoyogi Park, in case it rained again and it was too late for us.
Yoyogi Park (代々木公園) is one of the largest parks in Tokyo. The park bustles with activity especially on Sundays when it is used as a meeting place for people who want to play music, practice martial arts and other activities. Famous are the concentrations of rockabillys. They are crazy.
The park is gigantic and inside it is the Meiji Shrine (明治神宮).
Meiji Shrine (明治神宮) is a Shinto shrine dedicated to the deified spirits of Emperor Meiji and his wife, Empress Shōken.
After the emperor’s death in 1912, the Diet (the Diet is the government) of Japan passed a resolution that wanted to commemorate his role in the Meiji Restoration. Its construction began in 1915 and ended in 1920 with its consecration.
During the bombing of World War II it was destroyed but was rebuilt in 1958.
Between the rain and the fact that part of the sanctuary was under construction, the visit was a bit difficult.
Now that there is no rain, we return to Takeshita. This is the quintessential geek street in Tokyo. Here are the shops where young Tokyoites buy their quirky clothes like dolls and stuff. I don’t know if it was because of the day we were there, but we saw little character despite the fact that the street was full of people.
We walked the entire street and when we reached the end, we took the opportunity to approach the Togo Sanctuary.
Tōgō Shrine (東郷神社) is a Shinto shrine built in 1940 dedicated to Gensui Marquis Tōgō Heihachirō shortly after his death. It was destroyed during the bombing of Tokyo but rebuilt in 1964.
We entered through its beautiful gardens and went up to the main pavilions. It is hard to believe that this haven of peace is located next to such bustling areas as Takeshita or Omotesandō.
It was time to eat, so we came across a Coco Curry House on the way to the metropolitan building and there we went to eat a Japanese curry that cost us 753 yen (€5.88) each.
After lunch we went to the Metropolitan Government Building, a modern and gigantic building inaugurated in 1991, from where all districts of the Tokyo metropolitan area are governed.
In one of the towers there is a viewpoint 200 meters high that is completely free. You just have to pass a fairly strict security check and up.
The views are 360º and in each window you have a panel with the most significant buildings marked. It is said that on clear days you can see as far as Mount Fuji, but we have not had any luck yet.
It is best to go up near sunset to see the views during the day and see how the lights of the city are getting darker and turning on.
It was shocking to me that, wherever you look, you only see the city as far as the horizon. Tokyo is endless.
On the lookout floor, apart from air conditioning, there are vending machines (of course), a souvenir shop and even a restaurant. Good place to take a break.
When we got off we went to Kabukichō (歌舞伎町). Known as Tokyo’s red light district, thousands of adult entertainment venues are found here.
Very close to Shinjuku station we find Golden Gai, a narrow alley with many izakayas; bars to drink and snack.
The Kabukichō area has many bars, hostels, motels, shops, restaurants, and nightclubs for both women and men. It’s full of very clumsy public relations although they didn’t say anything to us, I don’t know if it was because we went as a couple. The truth is that it is a pretty cool walk to enjoy the millions of illuminated signs and its great hustle and bustle any night of the week. The karaokes of various floors that are seen are also impressive. They are very geeky.
It is said that the neighborhood is controlled by the Yakuza, the Japanese mafia and that is why it is not supposed to be very safe, but we did not notice anything.
After the walk around Kabukichō, we went to the hotel to rest. Like the night before, we bought some prepared food at 7eleven and went to sleep.
Today we get up early again and go to Asakusa to visit the Sensō-ji Temple (浅草寺). It is the oldest Buddhist temple in Tokyo and one of the most important. Founded in the year 645 and is dedicated to Kannon, the deity of mercy.
Since Senso-ji can’t be easily reached by JR, that day we decided to get a one-day subway pass that cost us 600 yen (€4.68).
We left the subway and immediately found the Kaminarimon Gate (雷門) or Thunder Gate, the outer gate of the temple and a symbol of Tokyo.
Crossing the gate we will find Nakamise Street (仲見世通り), a long street full of shops selling souvenirs and sweets. I was up to the flag no, the following.
At the end of the street, the Hozomon gate (宝蔵門), the main gate of the temple, awaits us.
Passing the gate on the left hand side is a five-storied pagoda. The original was built in the 10th century but was destroyed several times, the last time during the bombings of the second world war, so the current one is quite recent. Still, it impresses.
On the esplanade between Hozomon Gate (宝蔵門) and the main temple there are several temple shops selling amulets, incense sticks and the like.
Very close to the access stairs is the temizu-ya, the area where incense sticks are burned.
There we did as the natives and went to the main hall or Hondo (本堂). It is also known as Kannon-do (観音堂) as the Kannon statue found by fishermen 1,400 years ago and which led to the construction of the temple is supposed to be buried here.
The interior of the hall is truly spectacular. We queued up to make our offering and went to the side. There is a place where you put a 100 yen coin in a piggy bank and take out a stick with a number (in Japanese), look for a drawer with the number of your stick (very complicated if a Japanese does not help you) and take a piece of paper the fortune within. Luckily, on the back it is in English. If you get bad luck, as was my case, you have to leave it tied in some places enabled for it so that the bad luck goes away. Two years later we would return to the temple and this time it would be “the best of fortunes”, so I keep that one with me.
After the Hondo we took a walk through the enormous enclosure admiring the small temples and sculptures. In the back there was like a panel to take photos of the anime of commissioner KochiKame and that’s where I took a photo. There was a local who insisted on taking a photo with me… making friends.
On one side they had set up food stalls so we sat down to rest in the shade while I ate a crab yakitori that was sublime.
We continue walking through the compound and come out on the side to a shōtengai with more little gift shops.
Shōtengai are roofed shopping streets with small shops and restaurants that are found throughout Japan.
We took a short walk around the neighborhood and went to the pier very close to the Kaminarimon gate from where several boats depart that cross the Sumida River towards Tokyo Bay. From the pier we can see the Tokyo Skytree and the Asahi brewery and its golden shit.
The Tokyo Skytree (東京 スカイ ツリ) is the main telecommunications tower that replaced the Tokyo Tower. Built between 2008 and 2012, it is the tallest building in Tokyo at 634 meters. The tower has two viewpoints. I particularly have not climbed yet because I am very afraid of heights and pay almost €30 to not dare to go near the glass….
At the pier we hired the cruise that goes from Asakusa to Hamarikyu for 780 yen (6€). We bought the ticket on the cheap boat. The expensive one is in a super modern one that costs 1,000 yen (€7.81) for the same route. The trip lasts about 35 minutes and along the way you see the deep Tokyo, the one that does not appear in the guides. It’s very good.
We arrive at the port and go for a walk to the Hamamatsuchō station. Next stop: Hie Jinja Shrine (日枝神社). To get there we take the Yamanote line to Shimbashi station.
Since it was lunchtime we decided to look for something there.
We made one of the great gastronomic discoveries of the trip and that would serve us for 2018: Karayama Shinbashi, a small Japanese fried chicken place.
Next to the door you have your machine to make the choice and you give the piece of paper to the guy who attends. It is so small that it only has a bar. The chicken was delicious and very cheap and they put it on a menu with a miso soup, a bowl of rice and shredded cabbage.
After lunch we took the Ginza subway line to Tameike-sannō station to go to the Shrine.
Hie Jinja Shrine (日枝神社) is a Shinto shrine dedicated to the deity Oyamakui no Kami. The origin of the temple is uncertain. One of the theories is that it was in 1478 by Ōta Dōkan. Another theory identifies the Hie with the Sannō Shrine mentioned in a 1362 record of the Kumano Nachi Taisha. What is known is that the shōgun Ieyasu relocated it to the grounds of the old Edo castle. In 1604 his son Tokugawa Hidetada moved it to the outskirts of the castle so that the people could access it.
We arrive at the west gate where there is a large stone Torii. Going through it, we reach some spectacular and narrow stairs inside a tunnel of red torii. It is spectacular.
At the bottom of the stairs we find two temples: the Massha shrine and the Obunko shrine. In front of them we find the entrance to the main esplanade. There is the Hall of Prayers and around the esplanade some shops with amulets and souvenirs for the maintenance of the temple.
We approach the hall and make a small offering.
On one side there is another door that leads to the temple office building and a kind of exhibition hall where they were exhibiting a kind of “wedding exhibition”.
Something happened here that we will never forget. We sat down on a stone wall under a tree to rest a bit. After the break we headed back to the torii steps we had climbed up. Before going down I think: from here there is a good photo. I’m going to take the camera and… oh no! I left it on the wall! We ran out and when we got there it was gone. Go head. We went into the office to ask. The security guard calls one of the monks who spoke English. He doesn’t know anything, he looks in lost objects and nothing either. We asked the girl from the expobodas and neither. We sat down to complain about my bad head and in this the girl from the expobodas comes out with the camera in her hand, that if someone found her and left her at the reception but she didn’t know. My bows were so great that I think she could have kissed her feet. Gozaimasu Arigato!!!
Calmer now, we leave the sanctuary and return to the subway. There we took the Chiyoda subway line to Nezu station.
It was time to visit the Nezu Shinto Shrine (根津神社). According to legend, the shrine was founded in Sendagi, north of the present location, in the 1st century by Yamato Takeru (also known as Prince Ōsu), the son of Emperor Keikō.
The main deity of the shrine was Susanoo-no-Mikoto, the kami of the sea and storms. In 1705 the shrine was relocated to Nezu by the shōgun Tokugawa Tsunayoshi.
The sanctuary was already closed but luckily the enclosure was open to walk through it. The gardens are beautiful and it was also very quiet, we were the only ones there.
But there was something that we had not realized, mosquitoes. They attacked us, although curiously only with their legs. They left us like colanders.
When we left the sanctuary we went to a pharmacy for something to soothe the bites. The most curious thing about Japanese pharmacies is to enter and next to the door see refrigerators with soft drinks. Based on signs we managed to make ourselves understood and we bought a little liquid that came in handy.
To finish making the subway pass profitable, we went back to Senso-ji to see what it looked like at night. There was atmosphere but it certainly wasn’t the morning crowd. He walked very well. It was worth it.
From here we went to the neighborhood. Next to the Kamata station there is a revolving belt sushi restaurant. First contact with Japanese sushi. I suppose that being one of the “cheap” ones it will not be one of the best, but the truth is that it was spectacular. By far the best suhi I have ever eaten.
In many sushi strip restaurants in Japan you have tablets at the table where you can order specific pieces, which are sent on a little train to your table.
After dinner, to bed to rest.
New day in Tokyo lands. Like every day, a cold coffee and some pastries at the 7eleven on the way to Kamata station.
After a transfer and a forty-minute ride, we arrived at Iidabashi Station. From there we approach the Tokyo Daijingu Shrine (東京大神宮). An unspectacular sanctuary where people go to pray for luck in love. The good thing is that being there we coincided with a traditional wedding and that was spectacular. The bride’s dress was amazing.
From here we went for a walk to the Koishikawa Korakuen Gardens (小石川後楽園) which, for me, is one of the essential visits in Tokyo. Built at the beginning of the Edo period, in the year 1629 the founder of the Mito Tokugawa family, Yoritou.
The gardens are truly spectacular. It is said in the forums that the best time is in the fall, so at that time it has to be amazing.
Noteworthy is the Engetsu Bridge (円月橋) or Moon Bridge, which Ishibashi is said to have designed by the Mitsukuni Confucian scholar Zhu Sunsui. This name is given because it looks like a full moon when combined with the reflection on the surface of the water. The bridge was originally designed to allow pedestrians to pass over it while the barge is operating on the canal.
The gardens are huge and take a long time to walk through. Admission is 300 yen (€2.34).
From here we went to the Tokyo Dome, where the Yomiuri Giants baseball games are held. It was game day and the staff were entering the stadium. I had never seen people enter a stadium in such an orderly and calm manner. live to see A little tour of the official team store and we left buzzing that there was no time to lose.
From Suidōbashi station we took the train to Ueno Park (transferring in Akihabara).
Ueno Park (上野公園) is a large park northeast of Tokyo, very popular, donated by Emperor Taisho to the city of Tokyo in 1924 and in it we can find many tourist attractions such as the zoo with its panda bears, museums and temples. .
Despite the heat, we went for a walk in the park. Walking we arrived at the Kiyomizu Kannon-dō temple (清水観音堂), a small temple dedicated to Kannon.
A little further down, at the Shinobazu Pond or Shinobazu-ike (不忍池), we find the Benten-dō Temple (弁天堂) temple. Bentendo Hall is an octagonal hall dedicated to the deity Benten, goddess of wealth, fortune, music and knowledge. In the pond you can rent pedal boats in the shape of very horny swans.
We took a short break sitting at tables overlooking the lotus pond in the shade before continuing our walk.
After the break we went up to the Yanaka Cemetery Park (谷中霊園). It is considered one of the most beautiful cemeteries in Tokyo. In it you will find the tombs of famous people such as Tokugawa Yoshinobu, the last shogun of the Edo period or famous painters, politicians and actors.
We crossed the cemetery taking a nice walk to Nippori station. There we took the train to Akihabara (秋葉原). Known as the electronic district, it is one of the most well-known neighborhoods in Tokyo. It is also known for being one of the main neighborhoods for otakus.
Here you will find many electronic stores, both small and large, many geek stores, arcades and even one of the largest sex shops in the world with seven floors.
We were walking around the neighborhood a bit going into geek stores looking for Saint Seiya figures to bring me. They only had second-hand and very expensive. Some of the ones I have sold for 20,000 yen (€156-$190). Next time I bring them and it cost me the trip. I don’t appreciate them that much.
After being amazed by the prices, we went into some mandarake and then into some arcades.
Arcades are a joke. On the ground floor they have millions of those machines that are a hook and you have to hook a gift. You saw them all motivated there playing with that.
Another floor was full of purikura machines, which are like photo booths where you can retouch photos. There was even a section for women that men were not allowed to enter.
But what surprised us the most was on the floors where there were skill machines. The Japanese are real pros. You were stunned. Then I read that it seems that they practice at home and then go to the arcade to leave the records. live to see
Since it was getting late, we had dinner at a Yoshinoya, which is a chain of gyūdon, which is a bowl of rice with stewed meat cut into very thin strips. It is very cheap and very good. After dinner we got on the train and went to rest.
Today we return to Ueno Park (上野公園). We take the Keihin-Tōhoku line from Kamata station, which goes directly to Ueno station.
The first stop is the small pagoda where the Great Buddha of Ueno (上野大仏), a gigantic sitting Buddha statue from 1631, once stood. During the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923, its head fell off. It is preserved next to the pagoda.
Nearby is the Ueno Tōshō-gū Shrine (上野東照宮). Built in 1627 by Tōdō Takatora, it has been preserved almost intact since Tokugawa Iemitsu’s renovation in 1651. Tōshō-gū shrines are characterized by enshrining Tokugawa Ieyasu under the name of Tōshō Daigongen.
We walk along a long corridor flanked by a multitude of lampposts until we reach the karamon gate (唐門) and behind it the Hondo. Mostly gold with very colorful carved dragons and animals, the hall is a real beauty.
Adjacent to the shrine is the five-storied pagoda of the ancient Kyū Kaneiji Gojūnotō Temple (旧寛永寺五重塔), built in 1639 and a survivor of the temple’s destruction.
After visiting the sanctuary, we sat down to rest a bit in the shade. In this, a couple of very young boys approach us and ask us in English if they can do a survey for us. Of course. The first question is: do you like Disney movies? We both answered no at the same time. They look at each other, laugh and tell us that they can’t continue because the next one is which one was our favorite. Nice to meet you.
We left the park and headed to the Ameyoko Street Market (アメ横). It is very popular with tourists. The truth is that it didn’t seem like much to us, apart from some stores with a more traditional air, the rest are brand name clothing stores of dubious origin, kebabs and similar businesses.
We went back to the station and took the Yamanote line to Shibuya station. A chalao dressed as pikachu by the way got on the train… Japan…
We were walking in conditions through the commercial area. I bought some frikada in a mandarake and we went to eat. We ate at a Gusto Cafe. It is a chain of family restaurants that are all over Japan. It’s not the cheapest, but paying 200 yen (€1.56) gets you an open bar of non-alcoholic drinks. With the level of dehydration that we carried in the body with that humid heat, it seemed like a good idea.
With a full belly, we headed for the station to go to Odaiba.
Across the intersection, at the entrance to Shibuya Station, some kind of political rally was taking place. There were a lot of people. What amazed us is that, in order to get to the entrance of the station, there was a corridor between the crowd and what was there as a fence was a rope that the attendees held in their hands. Japan is another planet.
To get to Odaiba we got on the Yamanote line again to Shimbashi station. There we had to go to Shiodome station, but they are next to each other. There we take the private line Yorikamome. Each ticket cost us 325 yen (€2.54).
The trains on this line are automatic and since they don’t have a cabin, if you take the front you have all the glass to yourself to admire the scenery. The train takes about 15 minutes to reach Daiba station.
Odaiba (お台場) is an artificial island in Tokyo Bay connected to the city center through the Rainbow Bridge. It was built in 1853 to defend the city and at the end of the 20th century it was expanded due to its commercial development.
Now it is for the most part a place dedicated to leisure. There are two beaches where bathing is not allowed but the Japanese are going to spend the day. There are several shopping centers, each bigger and even a replica of the statue of liberty.
The building of the Fuji TV television channel is also located here, where there is a viewpoint from which to enjoy good views.
Another of the stars of Odaiba is to contemplate the Rainbow Bridge as night falls and lights up with the colors of the rainbow. We spent an hour and a half there and we left as it was already dark and nothing at all.
From here we went to the Divercity shopping center. At the entrance there is a giant Gundam that puts on a show at certain times of the day. For freaks like me, it’s amazing.
Then we walked around the mall but the stores were already closed. What surprised me is the way they have to close the stores. Here I put an example in photo:
The quality of the photo is a bit pitiful but there it is. No doors or anything. Here they would be taken to the net.
Upon reaching the entrance, to freak out even more, you could ask a robot in the shape of a talking girl for information. It was very scary.
After Divercity we went back to see if the bridge was already lit and nothing. So we went back to the station and for another 325 yen a head, we went back to Tokyo. Something to have dinner at the 7eleven on the way to the hotel, and to sleep.
Here you can see a map with the places we visited in Tokyo:
Today we get up very early because it’s time for an excursion: Kamakura (鎌倉). Kamakura is a city in Kanagawa Prefecture about an hour from Tokyo and is known for its many temples, shrines and, above all, its great Buddha. From the year 1185 to 1333 it was the main city of Kantō, chosen as a base by the shōgun Minamoto Yoritomo.
To get there, we took the Keihin-Tōhoku line from Kamata station to Yokohama station where we changed to the Yokosuka line to Kamakura station. We were unaware of its existence at the time, but in Kamakura we recommend taking the Enoden train (it does not enter the JR Pass) because walking to the Big Buddha is 2 kilometers, which we did on foot.
From the station we walked towards the Kōtoku-in (高徳院) Buddhist temple. The path is very cool between single-family Japanese-style houses but it was a bit disturbing for us to find every certain distance signs of an escape route in case of a tsunami.
After 20 minutes of walking, we arrived at the temple grounds, from the side or back, so we began to walk along the wall looking for the entrance. We finally found it. A large wooden door with huge signs in Japanese. We entered some gardens where there was a gardener working quietly. We walked for a bit and suddenly we came across the Big Buddha. How strange, he had read that there was an entrance fee… When we left the premises we realized that we had sneaked in through a back door. 200 yen we saved per peson.
The Great Buddha of Kamakura, also known as Kamakura Daibutsu (高徳院), is a gigantic image of Amitabha Buddha (Amida-butsu) over 11 meters high and weighing 121 tons. Its construction is believed to have begun in 1252 with donations collected by the priest Joko.
The building it was housed in was destroyed by a series of typhoons and an earthquake in the 14th and 15th centuries. During the Edo period, the Great Buddha was repaired by deciding to leave it outside instead of putting it inside a temple.
You can access the interior of the Big Buddha by paying 20 yen (€0.16) but the truth is that it did not appeal to us too much.
Since we had sneaked in, we decided to make an offering to the Buddha and buy some souvenirs and a lucky charm. I don’t know if it’s because of the amulet, but since then I’ve had a couple of very lucky years. Just in case, I revere him.
We walked out the main gate like gentlemen and headed to the nearby Hase-dera temple (長谷寺), about a 5-minute walk away. This is another of the essential temples. Legend has it that it was built during the Tenpyō era (729-749).
Admission costs 400 yen (€3.14) and as soon as you walk down the street, you can see that it’s going to be spectacular. The enclosure is an immense garden that extends towards the top of the mountain. By that I mean there are quite a few stairs to climb.
We were really shocked by the number of Jizo statues up the first few flights of stairs. Jizo statues are small figurines that are placed in temples by parents who have lost their newborn or unborn children. I was very moved by the offerings in the form of toys that were on the small altar that is next to the pond. They can seem very nice until you discover what their sad meaning is.
We continue climbing and arrive at the main complex, which is spectacular. Next to the stairs there was a stone statue of a tiny Buddha with whom, given my physical resemblance to him, I took a picture. At that moment a local was passing by who was examining the scene and the fucker began to laugh. Luckily I don’t look so much anymore…
The main resort area is amazing, there’s even a small bamboo forest. There is also a small terrace with tables and benches and, of course, drinks machines, where we rested a bit.
After the break we continue climbing a little more and reach the top from where spectacular views of the coast can be seen.
We go back down to continue visiting the site. After a pleasant walk down to the lower part again, we arrive at the Benten Cave (弁天窟), a cave with narrow corridors with various figures carved into the rock, including that of the goddess of Indian origin Benzaiten, the patron saint of the music and the fine arts who, moreover, is the only woman among the gods of fortune.
The deeper you got into the cave, the lower the temperature. It was a good…
Here you can see the map of the points we visited in Kamakura:
After the visit to the temple, we went back to the station to go back to Tokyo to eat, which had gotten late.
Taking advantage of the fact that we were in a large station, we went to the JR office to reserve a seat on the shinkansen for the 21st to Kyoto, in case we stayed out. Then we went to Shinjuku station to visit the area.
For lunch, we ate a good ramen with a Japanese fried chicken dish that was on the menu at a place called Hidakaya ramen. It was very cheap for us: 600 yen for the menu (€4.71).
Since it was early, we went to Nakano Broadway. This is a shopping center that is the mecca of manga and anime… freakland to understand us. There were quite a few comic book shops and things like that but we got the impression that it was a run-down place as many of the shops were closed. Closed and abandoned. Of course, there was a small room with arcade machines where there was a group of 10 or 12 kids around a street fighter style fighting game machine who were all crazy. We assume they were doing some kind of tournament.
Today it’s time to get up a little earlier. We’re going on a trip to Nikkō. But before we got up, at 7:25 in the morning, we woke up with the building hula hooping. An impressive earthquake. I had never experienced something like this in my life.
If you want comfort, you can hire a wonderful tour in Civitatis:
To get to Nikko we took the Keihin-Tōhoku line to Tokyo Central Station and there we changed to the Shinkansen Nasuno.
Being on the platform, the doors open and the crew comes out bowing to all of us who were waiting to get on.
Another thing that struck us about the shinkansen is that every time the conductor entered the car he bowed and when he reached the end, he turned around and bowed again. live to see By the way, what is said in networks that when a train is delayed in Japan an employee passes by asking for forgiveness from each and every one of the passengers is a myth. What if they apologize for the public address.
About 50 minutes later we arrive at Utsunomiya Station and there we transfer to the Nikkō Line to the final station in Nikkō itself about 45 minutes later. In total, the journey took us about two and a half hours.
Nikkō (日光) is a small city in the mountains of Tochigi Prefecture. It is famous for its complex of temples and sanctuaries in the middle of a spectacular forest, which make the town a highly visited religious and tourist center.
At the station gate we took a bus that leaves us next to the Nikkozan Rinnoji temple (輪王寺), which unfortunately was under restoration and was completely covered.
We begin to climb the slope that leads to the Tōshōgū Shrine (東照宮). The slope is already beautiful among huge trees.
At the bottom of the slope we come to the stone Torii built in 1621 that marks the entrance to Tōshōgū Shrine. Just after crossing is a spectacular five-story wooden pagoda.
Next to it were the lockers to buy tickets. The price is 1,300 yen (€10.20).
Tōshōgū Shrine (東照宮) is dedicated to Tokugawa Ieyasu, the first Tokugawa shōgun, and his mausoleum is located here.
After buying the ticket, we pass through the main gate of the temple. The entrance overlooks an esplanade where the warehouses and stables are located. In it are the carvings of the three monkeys that neither speak nor see nor hear evil. Very famous image.
Directly opposite is a beautiful building with two impressive carvings of elephants, which were curiously made by an artist who had never seen an elephant in his life.
A little further on is the Yomeimon gate, decorated with more than 500 carved motifs, but unfortunately it was also completely covered by restoration.
Past the gate we come to the Karamon gate, which you can’t enter but you can go through on one side. Behind it are the prayer hall and the Hondo. You have to take off your shoes to enter and photos are prohibited.
On one side we find the Sakashitamon gate and behind them some spectacular stairs that go inside the impressive forest. Spectacular until you realize that you go up, up, up and never seem to end. But they have it.
At the bottom of the stairs is Ieyasu Tokugawa’s mausoleum. There was a kind of picnic area (with its drinks machine) where we sat down to catch our breath before touring the mausoleum.
We go back down the million steps and go to the mausoleum of Iemitsu Tokugawa, the third shōgun of the Tokugawa clan and grandson of Ieyasu. On the way we passed the Jogyodo temple (常行堂), a small Buddhist temple of the Shingon sect built in 848 by Jikaku Daishi Enjin and consecrated to the goddess Amida-Nyorai.
A little further on is the Nio-mon gate, the entrance to the Taiyuinbyo (大猷院廟) compound, the mausoleum of Iemitsu Tokugawa. Crossing the door we enter a large esplanade where the Omizu-ya is located, the fountain where ablutions are performed with precious ornamentation.
On one side is the Niten-mon gate, which was also completely covered by restoration, although it is said that it is a real blast. And from here, another million steps start, which we begin to climb, already quite tired and still without eating, being almost 4 in the afternoon. The good thing is that we were the only ones there. Enjoying the venue with the peace of mind of being alone is priceless.
Luckily it was worth the effort. Almost at the top we find some spectacular drum and bell towers and, behind them, the Yasha-mon gate. In it we can see the 4 Buddhist guardian deities. Is beautiful.
Behind this door, we find another door, the Kara-mon, the golden and most spectacular door of all. Behind it is the impressive prayer hall and the main hall. The prayer room is open to the public but unfortunately you can’t take photos because it’s amazing. You can get an idea on their website: https://www.rinnoji.or.jp/temple/taiyuuin/.
If we turn it around and go up another flight of stairs, we find Koka-mon gate. Behind her is the temple that houses the tomb of Iemitsu Tokugawa but cannot be visited.
Almost at closing time we began the descent towards the town in search of something to eat, something complicated due to the time it was. But when we hit the main road we ran into a Lawson. We bought something and ate it on a bench at the door.
With a calm stomach, we walked towards the train station. On the way we come across the Shinkyo Bridge (神橋), built in 1636 and considered one of the most beautiful bridges in all of Japan. Today you can cross it by paying 500 yen (€3.92), but I would almost say that it is more beautiful to contemplate from the front.
From here we went for a pleasant walk through the town to the train station. The truth is that it is a charming town.
We took the 18:15 Nikko Line train to Utsunomiya, which is the gyoza capital of the world. It has thousands of gyoza restaurants and on the outskirts of the station they even have a statue.
40 minutes later we arrived at Utsunomiya, we went to the entrance of the station and the universal deluge was falling there. We book a place near the door and there we go running giving ourselves a good “shower”. We ordered several dishes that brought 6 gyozas without really knowing what they were but they were all brutal. Well, wing, we were already having a snack.
At 7:59 p.m. we took the Yamamabiko shinkansen on time. About 50 minutes later we were at Tokyo Central Station and then transfer to Kamata. There we went back to dinner sushi in the restaurant of tape and to sleep.