Japan Day 5 - Leaving Tokyo

On day five of our trip we leave Tokyo and travel to Mount Fuji! You can watch the video on my YouTube channel. It took us most of the day, and a few trains, to get there, but the views of the countryside were worth it.

To get out of Tokyo, we first took the local subway to Shinjuku station, where we got on a Japan Rail train at 1:30PM. This train took us about an hour outside of the city to Otsuki station.

Once we arrived at Otsuki station, we waited for our 3:15PM train towards Kawaguchiko station. This trip took about an hour as well, and we made many local stops while passing through smaller towns along the way.

At Kawaguchiko station, a van from our hotel was waiting to pick us up. When we got in the van, we were informed that we were being taken to a supermarket, and that we had 30 minutes to buy groceries for dinner and breakfast. Apparently, the few restaurants that were nearby closed early and opened late. The supermarket was a godsend because they had real peanut butter!

After we unpacked everything at our villa, we walked across the street to Lake Kawaguchiko. Typically the clouds part after sunset, unveiling Mount Fuji, so we waited by the lake and took in the scenery.

We got back to our villa after dark and made dinner. I believe it was some sort of burrito / stir-fry hybrid. We also found out that we'd accidentally bought alcohol-free beer. Oops.

After dinner we played cards, then went to the hot spring baths at our hotel. There were separate rooms for men and women, and we had to get naked and take a shower before getting in. Apparently the water was directly from the lake, and meant to have healing powers.

Japan Day 4 - Tokyo SkyTree

On the fourth day of the trip I met up with my cousin who was also in Japan, and we went to Tokyo Skytree. You can watch the video on my YouTube channel.

Day four was our last full day in Tokyo. We took it easy since the next morning we were leaving for Mt Fuji. My cousin Lauren and I met up and spent part of the day together. She wanted to check out Shibuya Crossing so we went back there. We then got lost trying to find the sushi restaurant the rest of the group was at, but eventually made it.

We spent the afternoon wandering around the Imperial Palace (which was closed) and running into a popup Oktoberfest, before heading to the Tokyo SkyTree Tower to get a birds eye view of the city at night. Tokyo SkyTree was pretty neat, and showed how huge a city Tokyo is. I'd be interested to check that view out during the day.

After saying goodbye to Lauren, I headed back to the house. Unfortunately I didn't get any video, but we then went to a local bar for a couple of hours. We had a very fun conversation with the bartender and another guy there, using their bit of english, James' bit of Japanese, and a lot of assistance from Google Translate. It was a great evening.

On day five of the trip, we leave Tokyo and make our way to Mt. Fuji!

Japan Day 3 - Shinjuku, Shibuya, Sumida

On our third day in Tokyo we attend the Shinjuku Eisa Matsuri Festival, walk around the Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden, walk through Shibuya Crossing, and see the Sumida River Fireworks. You can watch the video on my YouTube channel.

I woke up around 8AM today, so I got a lot of sleep. I was still laying in bed at 9:15AM, and everyone else is pretty tired as well. We have two festivals to go to today so we are taking it easy this morning. We left around noon to go towards the Shinjuku festival. We hung around there for an hour or so watching the drum and dance performances. It was possibly the hottest day of the trip, and incredibly humid, so we only lasted so long in the crowds.

To cool off we headed to the Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden. I bought a lemonade for 350 yen and we got in for 200 yen. We walked around for an hour or so, before heading to Shibuya Crossing, one of the busiest intersections in the world. We stopped in the Starbucks that has a view of the crossing from above so we could take some video. There's a timelapse in the video I linked at the beginning of this post.

In the afternoon some rain set in so we went to find some food. I didn't realize how long it'd been since I'd last eaten so I was getting a little out of it and rather hangry. We found a nice place though and the noodles and shrimp hit the spot.

Newly energized, we walked to the Sumida River Fireworks Festival. Sort of. We walked down a street next to the park the fireworks were at because there were so many people. There was zero standing room, and the police were making sure nobody stood in the street so we had to keep walking. It also was raining on us. When we left we had to walk past one subway station because there was a mob of people trying to get into it.

We went to Ropongi Hills for dinner. Turns out it's a really expensive area so we went to a German place. I got a beer and pesto German noodles with smoked salmon. We headed home around 11PM.

On day four of the trip I meet up with my cousin and we check out Tokyo SkyTree.

Japan Day 2 - Akihabara, Tokyo

On the second day of the trip we explored Akihabara, Tokyo, The Miraikan Science Museum, and Rainbow Bridge. You can watch the video on my YouTube channel.

We left around 10AM to make our way towards Akihabara. Our first stop was a giant 6 story arcade. It was loud, smelled like cigarettes (smoking is still allowed indoors in Japan), and dark because there weren't any windows. We walked through all of the floors, and some of the group tried out a game or two.

After wandering around some more we ended up at a Maid Cafe. It wasn't lunch time yet so I had a waffle with ice cream. They didn't allow filming so we couldn't get video or pictures. I didn't quite understand the Maid Cafe thing, but James and Paul went back later in the trip and had more authentic experience. Our next stop was the Don Quixote, a multi-story Walmart-type store that has tiny aisles and anything you could need.

We'd had our fix of the area, so we took a driverless monorail over a bridge and to The Miraikan Science Museum. On our way over we saw people dressed up in Mario character costumes driving go-karts down the street. At the museum we saw a demo of Asimo, Honda's robot that can walk, kick a ball, and hop on one leg, among other things.

When we left the museum we saw that we were near a BMW driving experience course so we stopped to watch people drive cars around cones. It seemed rather lame, or the drivers were timid. From there we walked to a mall to sit inside and relax because it was really hot and humid outside.

After spending an hour or two at the mall we regrouped and made our way to Rainbow Bridge. When we got there it wasn't lit up, and an internet search told us that it only lights up during a certain time of year. We did, however, sit on the beach and enjoy a nice view of the Tokyo skyline and a lot of really colorful boats out on the water.

At this point it was way past dinner time so we went to a ramen place then made our way home. I picked up some bananas at the supermarket across the street from our house, dumped my camera card onto my computer, and went to sleep.

On day three of the trip we attend a couple of festivals.

Japan Day 1 - Ueno, Tokyo

On the first full day of the trip, James, Brandi, and I explored Ueno, Tokyo while waiting for Nicole and Paul to arrive. You can watch the video on my YouTube channel.

After waking up at 5AM local time and being unable to fall back asleep, I put on my eye mask and laid in bed for a couple of hours. After we all decided that sleep wasn't going to happen, we left our Airbnb around 9AM to head to the Ueno Zoo. The train/subway ride was 30-45 minutes.

The Ueno Zoo is in a massive park with a museum, a few shrines, some statues, and the biggest standalone Starbucks I've ever seen. We primarily went to the zoo to waste time while waiting on Nicole and Paul to arrive later in the day, but we were also there to see the giant panda. Along with the panda we saw a polar bear, tiger, elephants, birds, and gorillas.

After the zoo we wandered around the area for a bit, stopping by a shrine. We then made our way to get lunch at Cocoichiban, a chain curry restaurant. I ordered the vegetarian curry with spinach and eggplant, and a scrambled egg. Spicy level 2.

From there we walked to a nearby lotus pond that was at least 5 acres in size if not larger. It had a floating dock which we could walk out onto that was surrounded by lotuses. We spent some time there, still waiting on Nicole and Paul to land, then headed to see Tokyo Dome City. On our way there we stopped by another shrine.

Tokyo Dome City was FULL of k-pop fans. I think there was a signing or something to get ready for upcoming concerts, but people were lined up for autographs or pictures in what looked like at least a two hour line. After spending an hour or so people watching, we walked to Tokyo Station to meet Paul and Nicole!

We walked around some fountains near the Imperial Palace, then headed back to our Airbnb to drop bags off. After hanging out for a bit we set out looking for dinner. I was getting really tired at this point but was also hungry. It was probably 6PM or 7PM.

It took us probably 30 minutes to find somewhere to eat. We passed another shrine that we walked through, then landed at a local spot where they spoke zero English. We used the Google Translate app to sorta read the menu but that didn't work. Luckily the waiter knew salmon, tuna, octopus, and sashimi so we ordered those roles and a sashimi plate.

I was fighting off falling asleep at this point, but we made it back to the apt. I dumped the footage from that day onto my computer and then fell asleep immediately.

On day two of the trip we explore Akihabara and Rainbow Bridge.