Japan Day 5

by Koko on March 28, 2015 · 1 comment

in Travel


Our last day! Hard to believe how quickly the week flew by.


This morning we slept in a little (6:30 oh my!) and then headed out to explore our neighborhood before we headed to the airport. Our small town, Yanaka, is known for being filled with temples. Off of almost every side street you would see 2-3 temples. The hundreds of temples were moved to Yanaka during the  Edo Period (1603-1867) in an effort to curb the raging fires that plagued the crowded capital and ignited thatched temple roofs like matches. Their former city lots were left empty to serve as firebreaks; their new location on the outskirts could provide added protection in case the city was ever attacked.


We had coffee at a local tea house (no shoes allowed!) and walked through the Yanaka cemetery, which is said to have some of the best cherry blossom trees in all of Tokyo.




We continued to wander, exploring the temples for the rest of the morning. The temples have tombstones from hundreds of years ago. The small bamboo buckets you see are purification buckets for you to use when you enter the temple and the flowers are for the tombs.



The last temple we visited was Nezo Shrine, which is known for its red lacquer gates. It is almost completely silent inside the temples, even though they are dozens of people walking around and praying. It is a really magical experience to be inside one.


We grabbed a quick bento lunch (rice, masubi, yakatori skewers) and ate them in our Airbnb before taking the Skyliner to the airport. The Skyliner is the quickest way to get to the airport, taking only 40 minutes, compared to a bus that could take up to 2 hours.


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Japan Day 4

by Koko on March 27, 2015 · 0 comments

in Travel, Uncategorized


This morning it was a much warmer day (hooray for no scarf around my ears). We got another early start and headed out to Shinjuku, a very bustling part of Tokyo. We took the subway to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building where there is a free sightseeing deck of Tokyo. It was a clear day and we got a beautiful view of My. Fuji.

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We then headed to Takashimaya, a very hip high-end department store similar to Neiman Marcus. Fifteen floors of clothes, bags, shoes and food. It was fantastic! We spent almost 4 hours in the store looking at things and eating lunch. (That fruit basket was $194 for 9 pieces of fruit!).


We chose a small tempura restaurant inside the store for lunch. Fabulous and fresh tempura like I’ve never tried before.


Afterwards, we wandered around Takashimaya and into smaller stores that were attached like Uniqlo (think Old Navy for Japan) and Tokyu Hands (sort of a department store for bento boxes, cookware, sports goods, etc.). I always get a kick out of their rough English translations!


We took all of our bags and hopped on the rail back to our home. Each afternoon when walking back from the rail station, we walk through the cherry blossom trees and each afternoon more and more seem to bloom. Here is hoping that tomorrow we get some more blooms! We also stumbled across this sweet (and enormous) cat in the cemetery on the walk home. We nicknamed him Sumo.


Tonight we are heading out for some more local food for our last dinner. It is hard to believe we are heading out tomorrow! We don’t leave until the evening, so we have a full morning to continue our exploring.



Japan Day 3

by Koko on March 26, 2015 · 1 comment

in Travel, Uncategorized

This morning we got up early again. The jet lag is a killer, so we are all getting up at around 5:30 in the morning. When we got to the train station to start our adventuring, my mom and I rushed aboard the train that was about to leave without knowing we were leaving Steph and Kathy behind (the doors closed and they didn’t make it on). Panicked, we looked out the doors at them and took off down the line. I was the only one with a phone, but we hopped off at the next station and back on to their train.


We took the train to Shimojima, which is a huge stationary store. It is sort of like Staples gone crazy- 6 floors of stationary, paper, erasers, pens, pencils, washi tape, etc. It was amazing. I got some great washi tape and gifts for my students.


Then we headed off to Sensoji Temple, probably the most famous temple in Tokyo. There were tons of people- tourists and locals- heading up to the temple. To get to the temple, you walk down a long street called Nakamise Dori. It is filled with little tourist shops and people. Think mini kimonos, snacks, cell phone trinkets, etc.


There are lots of rituals when you get to the temple. The first is to get a fortune. You throw in 100 yen ($1) and knock a box full of sticks until one falls out. You find the box which matches the stick and take out the fortune inside. If it is a good fortune, you keep it. If it is a bad fortune, you leave it at the temple, so you don’t take it with you. We asked for help from a young Japanese girl to teach us what to do.

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The next ritual is burning incense and wrapping yourself in the smoke for purification. You make a prayer and then approach the temple. Inside, you toss another coin and make another prayer.



After the temple, we walked around looking at all of the street food vendors they had. We saw some adorable kids (they love to pose!).


We kept wondering the streets around the temple to find food and stopped at a small ramen shop for some incredible lunch.


Then we headed to Asakusa. It is a huge street that sells baking and cooking supplies. Think pots, pans, knives, plates, pottery, and anything a restaurant would need (including plastic food that they use to showcase their dishes). It reminded me of downtown LA- SO much product!


Tonight we grabbed skewers and rice from a neighborhood shop. Our neighborhood is SO charming and the cherry blossoms are days from blooming!


Tomorrow is our last full day! The time is flying by.

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Japan Day 2

by Koko on March 25, 2015 · 0 comments

in Travel, Uncategorized


This morning we woke up early and headed off to the Imperial Palace. We arranged for a guided walking tour of the grounds, which is highly recommended (to sign up and get approval, you’ll need to go to this website first). We had a Japanese guide and listened to pre-recorded audio for English translations. It was about an hour tour of the grounds, which are different than the normal gardens that are open to the public.

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After the Imperial Palace, we headed to grab some food. We were making our way on foot for some shopping when we stumbled across a line of Japanese food trucks! We thought it would be fun to grab some lunch there and we were so glad we did. Grilled chicken bowls for all!


After lunch, we stopped in Ginza to admire some high-end shopping. We went to Mitsukoshi, which reminded me of Harrod’s in London. Fabulous clothes, but the food was the best part. There was take-away food as well as a small grocery shop department. We were marveling at the $250 melon. Yes $250for ONE perfect melon. Could you even imagine?


We made our way back to our AirBnb and walked two doors down for dinner at a small local restaurant. It is amazing to me that there are so many small neighborhood restaurants around Tokyo. The restaurants sometimes seat 6-8 people and serve the chef’s choice. We had FABULOUS food and were so impressed with the chef’s presentation and food.


PS it is MUCH colder than expected here, so I’ve been wearing my thin jacket everywhere and my scarf as a headband when we walk along the street!


Tomorrow is more exploring!