It’s been a hot minute since my last travel diary from Japan! If you missed the first entry, you can catch up here. Grab a cup of tea now and strap in, it’s a long one!
On Day 3, we began in Tokyo and decided to spend the day around Tokyo Central Station. Although we were both feeling a little under the weather (probably thanks to air travel and subway rides, we invested in a must for any Japan trip – surgical masks. It definitely made me feel a lot safer/sanitary and instead of standing out, it seemed to help us blend into the crowd.
We were both pretty pumped to see something that was actually right inside main Tokyo station – a Pokemon Store! An abundance of cute plushies, bento boxes, dinnerware, clothes and all those other essentials for the average Pokemon master. It was pretty hard not to buy every damn thing in there! After staying inside the store for probably longer than normal, we ventured out exploring some other kitschy shops, with familiar characters like Hello Kitty, Gudetama (my spirit animal) and plenty of Totoros.
After spending ages indoors, we ventured outside and found that the actual train station was quite spectacular, with a pretty interesting history as well. A short walk from the station brought us to the Imperial Gardens. Impossibly beautiful with amazing landscapes, buildings and views of the city. We easily could have stayed their all day (and we were treated to more gorgeous cherry blossoms.
Unfortunately, with limited time, we headed back to Tokyo Station for lunch. We found an amazing restaurant that had vegan options available. Huzzah! I had an amazing giant bowl of tempura vegetables (with two kinds of sweet potato), seaweed miso soup and pickles. Topped off with a local Asahi beer, of course 😉
With full tummies, we boarded the Shinkansen (bullet train) to Kyoto. It’s insane how fast this train is! What would take probably about a 9 hour trip on a regular train, merely took a little over 2.5 hours. You have to experience it to believe it! The Shinkansen train system is a lot different from long distance train travel that I am accustomed to in Australia and Europe. These trains were clean, orderly, and surprisingly roomy! On our short trip to Kyoto, it was a lovely clear day, so we were also lucky enough to spot the magnificent Mt Fuji.
After arriving in Kyoto, it was getting dark so we hopped on a bus and headed straight to our Air Bnb. It seemed like our new little place was away from everywhere, but after we got more accustomed to the streets in Kyoto (small, grid like, and full of beautiful shrines at every corner) we realised it wasn’t all that far from the center of town, while still being quiet and not so busy. Win!
Our massive day had us pretty knackered, but we powered on in search of food and sake, which we found and enjoyed with gusto. Dinner was at a ‘cook your own’ style restaurant, and though all I had to do was cook my tofu ‘steak’ on the hot plate, the older waitress seemed pretty annoyed that I couldn’t quite do it right! Warm sake and filled with tofu, we headed back to our new home to sleep.
Then, Day 4! Our first full day in Kyoto, and we were in for a treat! We spent our morning on the search for a map, which actually turned out to be a huge inconvenience to find one! We had become accustomed to our pocket wi-fi (Pocky-WiFi!!!!) from our last air bnb and despite the signs everywhere claiming that Kyoto Wi-Fi is “easy to use!!!” it wasn’t. Luckily, the tourist information center opened and we were on our way to Nijo Castle!
While walking towards the entrance, we spotted some adorable barriers. Literally everything is cuter in Japan. We found a gallery inside the castle grounds which was celebrating the 400th (!) anniversary, so we of course went in. We weren’t able to take an photographs, but inside were the most amazing painted silk screen murals which made my heart sing. There was even a spot in the centre of the exhibit to sit down and see how the screens would have been viewed by the original owners (obviously from sitting on the ground). Dani and I plopped down and rubbed our sore feet while taking in the sights, and out of the corner of our eye we realised how upsettingly Australian we were. Japanese ladies were descending slowly and sitting back on their feet, like falling water lillies on still pond. And we were sitting cross legged leaning back on our hands. *cringe*
We walked around the gardens further before heading further up town and grabbing some delicious lunch at a hole in the wall noodle bar. I had some delicious seaweed miso, with tofu and udon noodles.
Then we walked up to see the amazing Kinkaku-ji Temple (or Golden Pavillion) which was simply breathtaking. Because it was such a beautiful, sunny day it made the golden shrine sparkle on the lake. We also spent a great deal of time taking in the fun shrine tourist treats, like the coin toss for luck, watching waterfalls and getting our fortunes from a vending machine.
I’ll leave this post here and pick up for our third and final day in Kyoto next post, hope you enjoyed!