Wishing all my readers and their families a wonderful, happy New Year!
Thank you all for dropping by, reading and following my blog, I really appreciate it!!
Look forward to sharing my cooking and adventures with you in 2017.
Wishing all my readers and their families a wonderful, happy New Year!
Thank you all for dropping by, reading and following my blog, I really appreciate it!!
Look forward to sharing my cooking and adventures with you in 2017.
And just like that we had reached the end of our time in Tokyo. Our flight wasn’t until 10pm swhich left us plenty of time to wander around Ginza and do some final shopping. A bonus was that the Oedo Antique Market was on at Tokyo International Forum, a short walk from Ginza next to Yurakucho Station.
After checking out and leaving our bags at the hotel we headed to Starbucks for some caffeine fortification as it was quite a chilly morning.
We walked over to Ginza to do a bit of souvenir hunting. A couple of classic cars drove past us and wwe worked out that there was a classic car rally on.
As we walked along we saw some people lined up at booths every couple of corners but couldn’t work out what was going on. Thought it was to do with sweets as there was a photo of a wagashi on the display poster. Later in the day we realised they had been selling tickets for tea ceremonies, which were being conducted by Geisha and Maiko from Shimbashi/Ginza area.
The antique market was fabulous. I thought the secondhand shop in Omiya was wonderful but the market really had me itching to buy. I ended up with another 5 obi. My idea is to use them as seasonal art. There was an amazing variety of things to buy and had I space in my luggage I would have bought more. I really want to buy a second hand furo and kama(cast iron brazier and kettle) for preparing the water for matcha. Next trip less clothes in the suitcase!!!
After the market we walked back over towards the Kabukiza Theatre to a couple of shops selling food and products from other regions of Japan. I bought a lovely little cast iron statue from the Iwate region shop for my Uncle and Mum bought a cast iron bell for my niece.
Then it was time for our final lunch in Tokyo and we headed back to Chuo Dori and Ginza Core. We found a nice little restaurant in the basement and had a warming tempura don, served with miso soup and seaweed salad.
Then it was back out for a final bit of shopping and then the hotel to collect our bags before heading out to Haneda Airport for our flight home.
I had never been to Haneda Airport before so it was great to get there and experience it. Qantas direct flights between Sydney and Tokyo are now via Haneda, previously, direct flights from Sydney arrived at Narita. Depending on what time I wish to arrive in Tokyo I will choose between the two, morning arrivals are Haneda and afternoon arrivals are Narita, (with a stop over in either Brisbane or Melbourne).
I had a wonderful time showing Mum around one of my favourite cities and hope to get back to Japan with her for one of the flower seasons(she really wants to see the wisteria and iris seasons).
Thanks for dropping by!
Our last full day in Tokyo saw us with our second guide from Tokyo Free Guide who would take us to Bonsai Village/Omiya in Saitama Prefecture.
Our guide Kaori met us at our hotel and we started our trip from Shimbashi station to Omiya where we then changed trains to go to Toro on the Tohoku Main Line. Omiya became home to nurseries and bonsai gardeners two years after the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923 when they needed to move out of the central Tokyo region. The area around Omiya provided favourable soil and clean water. As you walk past the private houses you will also see (by peeking over the fences) many Bonsai in the back or front yards.
A short walk from the station found us at the Omiya Bonsai Art Museum. The museum has only been open since 2010 and is home to a collection of bonsai and bonsai related art and items. Displays change seasonally with great information provided on the styles and types of bonsai displayed. The inside gallery has a no photo policy and some areas of the external display garden also do not allow photography, but Mum and I were continually stopping in amazement as we walked around. Many of the Bonsai were named as they were quite old and very special.
The Museum also has live music on certain days, on our visit a classical group. Well worth a visit if you love bonsai!
After the Museum we hit the pavements in search of Bonsai nurseries. We were both looking for pots and I was also looking for bonsai tools. First up a quick pitstop at The Bonsai House of Four Seasons, a rest stop that also provides community space. Then on to the bonsai nurseries. They are quite easy to spot as you will often find a huge collection of larger ones on the footpath.
We ended up visiting 3 as some were closed. Seikou-en is where I managed to buy my pruning scissors and Water sprinkler spout. Still no idea how to use it but I will figure it out one day. I think we visited Mansei-en and we also went to Fuyo-en where I bought a bonsai rake(for teasing the roots out). No luck with pots as they were often quite pricey, there were some less expensive ones but not what we were after. The price on pots was similar to the prices here in Australia, but more variety and often some very special artisan made ones that have stratospheric prices. If your bonsai is special enough it deserves an artisan made pot.
Then we had a wander around and found a fabulous secondhand shop that was packed to the brim. Unfortunately our suitcases were getting a little crowded, so shopping was minimal. Note to self: pack less clothes in future, really you don’t need to leave Sydney with an 18kg suitcase. We did however manage to find some second hand bonsai pots for around ¥500 each. I got a huge flatish one and a pretty green one. Mum picked a couple up too. This shop had the most fabulous collection of secondhand goods, I could have filled a shipping container(must win lotto first).
Hunger was starting to set in and we were lucky to find a cute little local establishment across the road. By day humble little local restaurant, by night retro karaoke bar replete with velvet seats and soft furnishing. Food was made and served by an older couple and a friend.
There were several options but it was nearly the end of our trip and we had not had a single Kare raisu(curry rice). It was on offer so Mum and I ordered that. Kaori had a tempura oyster dish, all for around ¥1000 each. Fantastic lunch, local is usually the best. As always with Japanese food presentation was fantastic.
Then it was time to head back and say good bye to our wonderful guide Kaori. I really must practice selfies.
I would like to thank Tokyo Free Guide for matching us with our two fabulous guides. If you plan to visit Tokyo try and arrange a guide through this great service. While the guide service is free you cover the cost of transport, meals and entry fees for your guide.
Thanks for dropping by!!
Stay tuned for our 8th (and final) day adventures
I am a regular watcher of NHK World and really enjoy Tokyo Eye 2020. Earlier in the year I caught an episode about Tokyo Free Guide, a service of volunteers who show travellers around Tokyo. I thought it might be a good way to see Tokyo with a local and handy to have someone who speaks the language.
Our first guide was Akiko and we had requested to go to Tsukiji fish market, Asakusa and to see some crafts people. We had wanted to go to Ryogoku to see sumo, but the Tokyo season had finished and the Tournaments were elsewhere in Japan.
Akiko met us at our hotel and we walked over to Tsukiji, a short walk of around 10 minutes. We first looked through the Outer Market which has restaurants and shops selling everything from matsutake mushrooms to nori to knives.
The restaurants are always busy and there are queues of people waiting to get in. These photos were taken around 915am.
Before we entered the fish market proper, we headed over to Namiyoke Inari Shrine (which means “protection from waves”). This is the unofficial guardian shrine of Tsukiji Market. The shrine is home to two giant Lion Heads that are over 150 years. These get paraded about at the annual Namiyoke Shishi Matsuri in June. There are also monuments erected by the merchants, wholesalers and other businesses involved at the fish market. These monuments give thanks for the bounty of the sea and land and include monuments to eggs, chickens, shrimp, shrimp used for tempura, fish used for sushi and sashimi, shrimp used for sushi and more. It is an interesting little shrine.
Then it was time to head into the inner market. Always amazing to see what they have at the markets….
After the seafood area a quick look in to the fruit and vegetable market.
Then it was time to walk over to Hamarikyu Onshi Teien to catch our boat up the Sumida Gawa(Sumida RIver) to Asakusa. This was my first time on the Sumida Gawa and gave a new perspective to this amazing city.
After alighting the boat we took a short walk to our lunch destination Hanabou in Asakusa. Located beside the river, Hanabou is a small space that seats around 20 and is cosy and intimate. Service was wonderful as was the food.
There were several options of set course available and we went with the ¥1000 one. I can remember some of what we ate, tamago, gingko nuts, baby fish, yam, konyakku, cucumber, eggplant, pumpkin, baby corn, turnip, capsicum, tomato, tofu, mackerel, seaweed.
This was accompanied by mushroom rice and miso.
A delicious dessert of black sesame pudding with dumplings
After lunch we headed back to the main area of Asakusa around Senso Ji. Sadly the rain had set in so we didn’t get a good look around Nakamise Dori and Senso Ji. We headed to a lantern maker to see them working and then to the Edo Shitamachi Traditional Crafts Museum. A great little museum that showcase the traditional crafts of the area. An amazing array of crafts with only a couple of female “masters”.
One traditional craft that caught my eye was the very fine and petite bamboo fishing rods. They were so thin and broke down in to such a small bundle that it is hard to imagine actually being able to catch anything with them.
Back in to the cold and a quick search for some scarves for Mum and I, then a stroll through the covered arcades of Asakusa, where we saw many interesting shops, including one that sold brushes of all sorts from makeup brushes to household brushes and everything in between. Cute shoe brushes in the shape of animals were on display outside.
We also passed an Owl Cafe where there was a lovely owl out the front very tame, but very wrong too.
Then it was time to say good bye to our wonderful guide Akiko and head our own way back to Shidome.
We would like to thank Tokyo Free Guide service for providing us with our great guide.
This was my eighth trip to Tokyo but I had never gotten to Kamakura before.
Mum and I caught the train to Shinagawa and transferred to the train for Kamakura. It took us about 50 minutes from Shinagawa, a distance of around 50 kilometres.
Kamakura is most well known for the Daibutsu, at Kotoku-in temple, but we discovered on our arrival that there are many more shrines and temples than we expected.
We went to the tourist information office at the station and they told us which bus to take. The buses have announcements in Japanese and English so we got off at the right stop which was across the road from the temple.
Lots of school children everywhere, they are the ones with the yellow caps on.
After passing through the Deva Gate you enter the gardens and grounds surrounding the Amida Buddha which sits on a foundation and then reaches 13.35 metres in height. Made of bronze the statue weighs in at 93 tons. More information on Kōtoku-in HERE.
Visitors are also able to enter the interior of the statue to see the construction. They also provide a good explanation of the methods used.
A few shots from around the grounds.
We wandered back to Hase Dera, a short walk from Kōtoku-in. There were plenty of shops to pop in to as the footpaths were quite busy with groups of school children and other tourists.
Hase Dera was established around 736AD and is a temple honouring an 11 headed Kannon that was washed ashore near the temple. Check the link for more information on Hase Dera HERE.
I will say that the gardens here are spectacular and I hope to go back for flowering time of the wisteria and hydrangea. Other wise it is very lush and green.
A cave system is home to Beten-do Hall and Benten-Kutsu cave with statues of Benzaiten and children carved from the rock walls. Sadly the only photo I have inside the cave is slightly blurry.
Some shots of the gardens and ponds.
Jizo-Do Hall is where Fukuju Jizo is enshrined. The hall is surrounded by thousands of jizo there to comfort the souls of unborn children. Often these will be dressed with knitted or fabric bibs.
Kannon-Do Hall is the home of the Kannon statue. Attached is Amida-Do Hall and the Museum.
On one side of Kannon-Do is the Shoro Belfry, home to a massive bronze bell. On the other side is the Kyozo, holding the sutra archive.
The upper part of Hase Dera offers fabulous views over Kamakura, out to the ocean.
We continued our walk back to Kamakura station stopping in at many handcraft shops. I was always calculating how much room was left in my suitcase though. We did stumble across a second hand shop where I picked up an obi. To my eye it looks like autumn colours, but still trying to work out if it is bamboo or maple.
We arrived at the station and as we were a bit warm from our walk had a delicious icecream served in a crepe rolled in to a cone shape.
Arriving back at Shimbashi I had to show Mum the big Tanuki near the station. Ended up with some fun shots.Now if you don’t know about Tanuki, he is a mythical Japanese racoon dog. Tanuki is also a real animal as well.
Thanks for dropping by!
Next post will be our day with a Tokyo Free Guide host.
In September we booked a day trip for while we were in Tokyo. I had done the same trip to Mt Fuji, Hakone and Mt Komagatake on my first trip to Japan back in 2008. That time it was early spring and our coach was only able to make it to the second station. This time we woke to an autumn day withsparkling blue skies and a probability of cloud in the afternoon.
Ok, so I woke really early and was able to see a spectacular sunrise as we forgot to close the blinds.
We booked a transfer to the bus depot and waited patiently for our coach and guide, Marie.
Marie was a fun guide giving us lots of interesting facts about where we were going, Japanese customs, history, and funny anecdotes. Once we were out of the city we got our first glimpses of Majestic Mt Fuji, which the night before had been dusted by the first snowfalls of the season. Given that the sky was so clear, the snow gleamed on the peak.
Some facts on Mt Fuji, height is 3,776.24 m (12,389 ft), known for its perfectly symmetrical cone, it is100km(60miles) from Tokyo. It is classified as an active low risk volcano with the last eruption in December 1707 and ending in January 1708. Mt Fuji lies within the Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park Famed Ukiyo-e artists Hokusai and Utagawa Hiroshige, among others have featured Mt Fuji in their works.
As we got closer and the altitude got higher we were able to see more of the autumn colour changes in the trees. This was especially delightful when we got to Mt Fuji 5th station(2,300m/7,550ft above sea level) and could look out over the vista.
Of course we had to get a selfie. Excuse the sunglasses but it was very bright.
The fifth station has restaurants, souvenir shops and the highest post office in Japan, where you can buy stamps made especially for Mt Fuji.
Some clouds soon turned up to provide some interest to photos.
Then it was back on the coach to head down to Kawaguchiko for lunch. Nestled on the shore of Lake Kawaguchi this town is popular with people on weekend trips to the Fuji Five Lakes region.
Lunch was at a tourist restaurant overlooking the lake and featured a noodle dish that is native to the Yamanashi region, Hoto noodles. They are like an udon noodle but made using a dumpling style dough, and served in a miso soup, very delicious and warming on a cool day. Lunch also included crumbed fish, sashimi, a mussel dish, braised lotus root, pickles and rice.
After lunch we headed on to Hakone for our cruise on Lake Ashi. A picturesque drive that gives you many glimpses of Mt Fuji, before you dip in to the ancient caldera that provides the setting for Lake Ashi.
Hakone is famous for hot springs and has many resorts for weekenders from Tokyo. By the time we reached Lake Ashi the weather had changed. The temperature had dropped and the clouds really rolled in.
We arrived at the base of Mt Komagatake where we were to take a ropeway gondola up to the top. The dock is quite pretty and there is an aquarium and swan boats to hire.
Spectacular scenery from the gondola.
When we arrived at the top the spectacular view was lost in the clouds. Normally you can see Mt Fuji and out to the Pacific Ocean but not this day. So Mum and I hopped on the next gondola down and went shopping in the souvenir shops.
Then it was back to Odawara for our return to Tokyo via Shinkansen. A great way to end our day trip to Mt Fuji, Hakone and Mt Komagatake.
Thanks for dropping by! Next post our train trip to Kamakura.
Tuesday morning saw us wake up to partly cloudy skies. Mum had gotten in to the swing of the Japanese style breakfast but neither of us were game for the natto.
We hopped the train to Harajuku, where there seemed to be less Harajuku girls than normal, and walked in to Tokyo’s oasis of calm.. Meiji-jingu always feels miles away from the hustle and bustle of the rest of the city. Walking through the park to the temple is like taking a walk in a forest, albeit a forest with loads of tourists.
Just before we were to make our turn off we walked past the sake and Burgundies used for the consecration of Meiji Jingu.
There was some restoration work being done to the large inner torii and they were also setting up for the Autumn festival, so we had to go on a slight detour and approach from the side. From the signage we read they were actually replacing the timbers. In the background you can see the marquees set up for the festival, some of the chrysanthemums were already being placed. Meiji Jingu is a great spot to see the chrysanthemum displays in autumn.
We followed the detour signs and entered the shrine complex from the east side, stopping first at the Temizuya to perform the purification ritual. They are doing a lot of conservation work and you can see in the background, on the right, the new section of copper roof. People were able to buy a piece of new copper, write a prayer/wish on it and then this would be used during the reroofing, the cost was ¥3000 per panel.
We then walked in to the main shrine complex and saw….another wedding, our fourth for the trip.
We wandered around the complex, said a prayer. Mine is always the same prayer, so far it has come true each year. Here are some shots from in the shrine area.
We than walked back to Shibuya and along the way passed an amazing mix of architectural styles.
We were in desperate need of coffee, so I figured the best place to have one would be Starbucks at Scramble Crossing so we could watch the action. Didn’t seem as busy as some other days I have been there.
After our caffeine hit it was across to the station to see the memorial for Hachiko. Finally found it this visit. I am sure you are familiar with the story of Hachi, the loyal dog who waited for his master at the station every day. I think there are two films about him one Japanese and one with Richard Gere.
Then we braved the train system to catch a train line I have not taken before, Chuo Line from Shinjuku to Iichigaya. Easy!! I love Tokyo trains!!!
From Iichigaya we walked to Yasukuni-Jinja. Quite a controversial shrine as it commemorates the Japanese war dead, and politicians are always getting in trouble for visiting it. While I was participating in the KYLC Kokoda Trek in August, I realised there were not a lot of memorials for the Japanese who fought there. I had this feeling that I should go and visit Yasukuni and pay respects. Having watched a documentary and seeing that both lots of soldiers ended up becoming friends some time after the war and even having get togethers, I felt it was something I needed to do.
We entered from the Minami-Mon (south gate) and found the site of the old Renpeikan for one of the three most famous Kendo schools in Japan.
We then moved on to the Haiden (Main Hall) where I payed respects to the fallen. Obviously the chrysanthemum symbol on the curtain reflects that this shrine has Imperial connections. Behind the Haiden are the Honden (the main Sanctuary where the divinities reside) and behind that, the Reijibon Hoanden which is the Respository For The Symbolic Registry Of The Deities (lists of the names of deities/fallen soldiers) This list contains the names of nearly two and a half million who have died in action and then been deified.
We then wandered around the beautiful old gardens. Many very old trees often with supports, a Shinchi Teien (sacred Pond garden) with huge koi, tea houses sumo ring and much more.
After walking the grounds we decided to go in to the Yashukan museum. Below are some of the memorials found outside the museum. The water bottles are not litter they are offerings, there was also some food around too. There are also memorials for animals that have been used in times of war, dogs, horses and carrier pigeons.
We were only able to take photos in the general exhibition area, but the rest of the museum was very interesting.
I will go again as it turns out I missed one of the display areas and we had to rush through the Second World War displays as the museum was closing.
As we walked out a very light drizzle had started and dusk was starting to set in.
After another busy day it was back to the hotel via a noodle restaurant.
Thanks for dropping by! Next post will be our trip to Fuji-san and Hakone.
Our second day in Tokyo I took Mum for a special treat. I have never been to a Tea Ceremony so decided to treat Mum and myself to one. I had booked us in at Toko-an at the Imperial Hotel in Hibiya on the other side of the railway line from Ginza.
Toko-an is located on the fourth floor of the Imperial Hotel and we were not expecting to find the setting for the tea ceremony to be a replication of a traditional tea house. It was a very pleasant surprise. A huge bank of windows looked out to a lush garden as you walked along the stone pathway to the tea room.
After taking off our shoes we entered through the nijiriguchi( a small door that you need to crouch down to get through) and then into tatami floored room(4 1/2 tatami mats) and took our place seiza style on the floor.
To our right was the Tokonoma(scroll alcove) which featured a seasonal scroll and small arrangement of flowers.
Across from us in was the sadoguchi which allowed the host access to the room and along from that the Furo(brazier) on which was placed the Kama in which the water is heated. A small table was to the side and on top were the Futa-oki to hold the kama lid, the Hishaku (water ladle) and the Natsume(lacquered tea caddy). Underneath was the Mizubashi holding cold water.
While the tea was being prepared we were given wagashi, a sweet treat filled with red bean paste. We ate half befor eht tea was prepared and then watched while one of our two servers performed the ceremony and the other lady explained the process.
I was quite prepared for the tea to be bitter but was pleasantly surprised to find it wasn’t. Can’t believe everything you read! The tea served to us was Ujicha from Kyoto and does not have the bitterness of some other types of matcha.
Here we are enjoying our tea,not very elegantly seated. My cup had a depiction of pine branches and Mum’s had fans in autumn colours.
Then it was back out in to the chill morning and over to Asakusa and Kappabashi Dori. After leaving the station we happened to stumble upon our second wedding of the trip. The first one was at Hama-rikyu Onshi Teien.
We only had a quick look in Asakusa as I knew we would be back on Friday with our guide so we pretty much headed straight to Kitchen Town.
We managed to find one of the Kappa statues. Google Kappa to find out more.
Nearly a kilometre of shops all dedicated to different aspects of restaurant and hospitality trades. I have posted on Kappabashi Dori on previous trips so will just say I bought A LOT. Then back to Shimbashi via Tawaramachi Station which was another first for me as I have previously just gone back to Asakusa station.
Stay tuned for the next adventures where we catch our third wedding!!
Earlier in the year I was planning to go to Tokyo by myself. I knew Mum had a bit of annual leave accrued so decided to see if she would like to tag along, which she did. I got all our bookings arranged and then just had to count down to the departure date.
As I wanted to fly in to Narita we had to have a stop over in Brisbane on the way. By the time we got from the domestic terminal to the international and went through customs, we only had about 30 minutes before our gate opened. The flight was uneventful andmanaged to grab a little sleep as well as watch the latest Star Trek and Independence Day movies.
We caught the train from the airport to Shimbashi and then walked to Hotel Villa Fontaine in Shiodome.
After a good night sleep we went down for breakfast. Hotel Villa Fontaine serves a Japanese style breakfast andas it was quite busy I grabbed a table while Mum went for food first. I think she was quite lost with what to have until I came back with my tray. On offer was, meat balls(delicious) Tamagoyaki, pastries, rice, pickles, natto(nope, still haven’t tried it), 3 soups (including miso), cereals and fruit.
Our first day was clear blue skies and quite warm so a stroll through a park was first on our list. Hama-rikyu Onshi Teien was the grounds of a former Shoguns Palace. From the Meiji Restoration in 1868 it was a Detached Palace for the Imperial family until 1946 when it was taken over by the government of Tokyo and opened to the public.
There is a great deal of history within the garden walls and great care is taken in preserving the gardens. Two kamoba(duck hunting sites) are preserved and now make great spots for taking photos of wildlife with in the park. In the trenches leading to the kamoba we saw crabs and fish enjoying the tidal waters while ducks bobbed around on the outer lake.
There are three restored tea houses in the garden, two on the lake shore and one on an island in the middle of the lake accessed by three bridges.
We wandered around past the old wisterias trained over pergolas, along the river bank, past the fields that are planted to different varieties each season, we saw the last of the cosmos, past the Ume (plum) grove and around to the majestic 300 year old pine tree.
One of the most amazing trees in the garden is the 300 year old pine tree planted by the 6th Shogun Ienobu. The tree is majestically sprawls over its patch and due to its age many of the branches have supports to help them.
Then it was a short walk over to Ginza to have a wander through the shops and the fascinating back lanes.
Nissan caught our eyes with some concept cars they had on display. I put the Gripz on my Santa list and Mum put the IDS on hers.
After a good look around we headed back to Shiodome for dinner and a good night sleep.
Stay tuned for more of our busy week in Tokyo!