Our primary method of long-distance transportation: Shinkansen (Bullet train)!
We dropped off our luggage in Osaka and left to visit Himeji Castle, widely regarded as the best intact Japanese castle (survived 400 years through WW2 and the 1995 earthquake!), its original construction dating back to 1333 (rebuilt in the 1600s).
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The castle itself sits on a hill, making the views from inside spectacular!
The breeze through the windows is also very refreshing~
It’s a bit hard to get good pictures inside due to the sun’s glare.
The castle itself has 7 floors, all of which are accessible through very steep wooden stairs.
Sign at the entrance of the castle complex.
Back in Osaka!
We were too tired to go out explore Osaka, so we just grabbed takoyaki at Shin-Osaka Station (Osaka being known for street food style food; eg: takoyaki, okonomiyaki, etc). So no Dotonbori/Glico Man, Denden Town, Abeno Harukas, Umeda Sky Building, Osaka Aquarium, Osaka Castle, Hep Five Ferris Wheel pictures to show here… >.<
The next day we went to Hakone, a region known for its picturesque views (with Mount Fuji in the background if weather cooperates) and onsen (hot springs) within reasonable distance from Tokyo (1h30 from Shinjuku station) making it the perfect weekend getaway for Tokyoites. The bus ride winding through the valleys isn’t really a pleasant one (tight roads, many abrupt turns) but from what I understand, we passed through the old Tokaido road linking Tokyo and Kyoto. The road was once made for foot travel, not cars so that makes sense.
The view over Lake Ashi was worth it though.
Our hotel was in Ryokan style of traditional Japanese inns.
The price was indeed expensive, but it included a hearty Japanese-style dinner served in our room and a breakfast.
It was hard to take good pictures of the lake view owing to the sunlight glare, but it looked much brighter IRL.
We visited Hakone Shrine next.
Two of Lake Ashi’s famous sights, the floating Torii gate, along with…
The pirate ship! xD
The sight just outside our hotel.
No pictures of the onsen (for obvious reasons) but I can say that anime/manga portrays it accurately (other than the usual tropes surrounding it).
The next day we took a cruise on the aforementioned pirate ship, and managed to get a glimpse of Mount Fuji (the tall faded mountain in the distance). 8D
Odawara Station, where we changed to the Shinkansen.
Back in Tokyo Station, we passed by the Suica store. Suica is an IC card, essentially a rechargeable card with electronic money used mainly to pay for train/metro fares (transport fares are mostly based on distance traveled in Japan, so buying a ticket every time you go out is a huge hassle), but it can also be used in many stores.
The penguin mascot is so cute. ^^
How Tokyo Station looks like from the outside.
We went out in Shibuya for supper. Here’s the famous Shibuya 109, that probably appears in every manga where the protagonists go to Shibuya for shopping. xD
The famous Shibuya Scramble about to unfold.
Mario-like go kart rides. Not sure if legal (foreigners driving vehicles on your streets without permits) but looks cool. :D
We then went to karaoke. Sooo cheap (360 yen per hour if I remember correctly; ~3.25 USD) and even the English song selection is better than those where I’m from, which is kind sad in a way. o.O
The next day we wanted to go to Mashiko, a little town known for its pottery, but got a bit confused on how to take the very local train there. Two young JR staff at Shimodate Station helped us out but after much lost time we decided to go back to Tokyo anyway. Here’s some pictures from your typical countryside Japanese train station.
Next up is Ueno Park. This is Saigo Takamori’s statue, a tragic figure in Japanese history. A samurai from Kumamoto Prefecture in Kyushu, he helped the Imperial faction win against Shogunate forces during the Boshin War (civil war between modernist forces advocating the restoration of power from the Shogun to the Emperor and the Tokugawa Shogunate). Thereafter, disgruntled samurai in his home province rebelled because their samurai privileges were being stripped. Takamori was personally against the rebellion, but eventually agreed to lead it and died in battle against the very forces he helped establish. He is the inspiration for Hollywood’s 2003 film The Last Samurai.
Ueno Park also has many museums, like the
National Museum of Nature and Science, which has a nice whale statue in front. :D
We didn’t go there though, instead opting for the Tokyo National Museum, Japan’s largest art museum. The pavilion buildings are nice-looking.
No pictures from inside as that would drag this post on even more. :P
Back in Ueno Park.
The top of Ueno Station.
Views on the Shohei bridge, near Akihabara where we went shopping after.
I went to Yokosuka alone the next day, a city with a strong naval heritage (hosts a major Japanese and American naval base).
I went there for the Mikasa, a preserved pre-dreadnaught battleship from 1902. What can I say, I like naval stuff. I won’t post the other 1.1 GB pics of it I took. >:D
Night shopping at Akihabara again.
Next up is Senso-ji Temple, Tokyo’s oldest temple.
Tourist-filled, but Nakamise Shopping Street in front of it is a great spot for souvenir-shopping.
Our final day was spent mostly in and around Harajuku. First stop is Meiji-jingu, dedicated to the first modern (post 1868) Japanese emperor, Emperor Meiji.
There was a traditional Japanese wedding ceremony when we were there:
Many foreign tourists here, so you won’t be the only one if you hang your Ema wishing plaque here for all to see. ^^
No visit to Harajuku would be complete without a stroll through Takeshita Street. Very touristy. Pretty sure it’s no longer the “central point of Tokyo teenage culture” anymore like it’s advertised in all tourist brochures.
View on Shibuya Station from our airbnb apartment on the last day. Needless to say, I was very sad that day.
Hachiko and the Green Car in front of Shibuya Station.
I reached the maximum photo limit (30) while drafting this post, so I’ll make a final post with miscellaneous stuff about my trip (food, drinks, non-shoujo otaku stuff). So keep watching out for that one. Hope it was entertaining ^^