Last month I was very fortunate to take the family trip of a lifetime to Taiwan and Japan. This was a very special trip to me for many reasons. It was my first time visiting Asia, the first big trip with my husband since we got married, and a first time meet many of Jack's, and now my, extended family. Traveling with my husband's parents in Taiwan made the experience really neat as we visited some incredible off-the-beaten path destinations and tried a much wider range of dishes and cuisines than we ever could have on our own. We spent 4 days in Japan and 8 or so days in Taiwan.
To get to Japan from Boston we flew over the top of the earth (or at least very close to it). The views from the plane were INSANE. I had to keep reminding myself that I was looking at the earth and not some mysterious, far-away planet.
After about 14 hours, 3 movies, several naps and 2 in-flight meals we landed at Narita. If you are traveling to Tokyo, consider the fact that Narita is a good distance from Tokyo. Cabs are very expensive and transportation time can be highly variable due to traffic. We took the high speed rail. It was affordable, fast and super easy. By the time we got to the hotel, jet lag had set in and a nap was necessary. Later that evening my in-laws finally arrived after many travel set backs thanks to plane issues on their first flight. By this time we were all deliriously tired and hungry. Thank goodness for late night ramen spots. I got the sense that its more of a fast food in Japan as the hotel concierge was surprised we were looking for ramen. We ended up at a little hole in the wall joint with the late night office crowd right near Daimon. It was very casual, cheap and delicious. You chose your meal and paid using a vending machine and handed your ticket off to the cook. They were playing western 80's and 90's hits (aka Madonna) seemingly unironically. Definitely an experience.
After dinner we saw the first of several really hillarious things that would be seen over the next two weeks: this dog in blue jeans and a plaid shirt. This was the first building step in the decision to buy our cat a dress intended for the body of a weiner dog.
The most fashionable dog in Tokyo
Long story short, it turned out to be a poor decision as the dress was way too small. This is how we discovered that our cat is in fact not small as we had always thought, but average sized with an abnormally small head. Back to the story!
Day two, our first real day in Tokyo, was spent visiting shrines, temples and the royal palace. Most Japanese people claim Buddhism and/or Shintoism. From a western viewpoint, it was surprising to learn that many Japanese people practices both. Below are some photos from the Meiji shrine (shrine = shinto), which is dedicated to the Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken. The shrine was originally built in the 1920s, but destroyed in WWII and rebuilt shortly after. Unfortunately it was raining pretty hard all day but I hope you can still get a sense of its beauty.
Barrels of sake donated to the shrine
Jack at the Torii Gate
Washing up prior to entering the sacred grounds
The main building of the Meiji Shrine
Wishes and thanks hang around the trees
Next we went to Senso Ji, the oldest temple (temple = Buddhist) in Tokyo. The temple's history began in 628 A.D. when two fisherman netted a giant statue of the Buddhist diety Bodhisattva Kannon. The statue was brought to shore and a was temple built in its honor. The statue has been hidden from human eye for over a thousand years. I loved the story behind this sacred place.
The main building of the Senso Ji temple
The next day we tried to catch a glimpse of Mount Fiji but didn't have much luck. Our tour guide said she is "shy" and it can take a few visits to see her. I'll take this as an excuse to go back again. We did see the beautiful lake Ashi and rode gondolas up Mt. Komagatake to see the Hakone Mototsumiya shrine. It was really foggy that day but it made for some beautiful pictures. We were also lucky to catch the cherry blossoms, aka sakura. People in Japan go nuts for cherry blossoms.
A Peak of Mount Fiji
Ships in the fog at lake Ashi
Duck boats waiting for a sunny day
Me at the Hakone Mototsumiya shrine at the top of the mountain
Sakura (cherry) blossoms
More to come on this trip in my next post!