The Land of the Rising Sun – Tokyo Edition

Before leaving Korea, we made a short list of places that we would like to visit.  Although we won’t complete it in time, we marked a huge one of my dream list by traveling to Japan two weeks ago.  We can’t really travel like we used to – changing hotels and cities every day or two – because we have a baby in tow.  We have to respect some semblance of a routine for Stella or we will be in for a difficult day, so we made the decision to base ourselves in two places -Tokyo and Kyoto.  We flew in to Narita International Airport and one of Bobby’s friends, who is currently stationed in Japan and lives in Tokyo, picked us up.  We spent 2.5 days in the capital city.  Even though I expected Tokyo to be just another big city, I was pleasantly surprised.  We ended up really enjoying ourselves and preferred Tokyo over the Korean capital city of Seoul.

Although our first day was rough due to a really early wake up (2:15am), bus ride, plane trip and hour car ride into the city, we tried to keep Stella awake so we could go to bed at a normal hour.  We plopped her into the stroller and walked about 45 minutes from our friend’s apartment into the city to see the Tokyo tower.  It is most beautiful at night and is strikingly similar to the Eiffel Tower in Paris.

Tokyo Tower

Straight on view looking up

333 meters (1,092.5 feet) tall

333 meters (1,092.5 feet) tall

Organized chaos.

Organized chaos.

Clear night and we had a full moon

Clear night and we had a full moon

Of course, you can’t walk all of Tokyo (although I’m sure Bobby would probably like to try!), so we ended up taking the metro a lot.  It was Stella’s first time on a subway and I can say with certainty that she loved it.  She loved the lights, people watching and seeing the trains come and go.  For a girl that loves stimulation, Tokyo was great to her.

Taking in the scene

Taking in the scene

First time on an escalator (kids, don't try this at home! :) )

First time on an escalator (kids, don’t try this at home! :) )

We forgot Stella's hat, so Dad loaned her his.

We forgot Stella’s hat, so Dad loaned her his.

She was pretty happy about it too.

She was pretty happy about it too.

We traveled up to Senso-ji Temple via the metro and ended up spending more time at the surrounding market than the temple itself.  The market had about every Japanese dessert you could think of, so naturally, we thought it was our duty to try most (read: all) of them.

Scores and scores of market stalls (and people!)

Scores and scores of market stalls (and people!)

The sweet bread shaped fish filled baked with custard on the inside

It just looks like bread, but it’s baked with custard on the inside! (Note: some are filled with bean paste, which we avoided)

They make them in these cast iron fish-imprints

They make them in these cast iron fish-imprints

The most delicious sweet bread ever

The most delicious sweet bread ever. We actually had 2.

Not pictured are the rice cracker ice cream sandwich and the sweet bread filled with ice cream that we devoured as well. :)

This pretty much summed up our food experience.

This pretty much summed up our food experience.

The market also had a lot of trinkets, as you can imagine at a touristy place, but I really liked the displays of masks.

They were a little over our budget, but cool nonetheless

They were a little over our frivolous spending budget, but cool nonetheless

Tower framed from the market

Tower framed from the market

I'm not sure what this was for, but why not?

I’m not sure what this was for, but why not?

Stella continues to be an international phenomenon with her red hair and blue eyes.  Here, near the shrine, she is getting several photos taken of her simultaneously by Chinese tourists. Not pictured is the selfie stick that got shoved in her face.

She *is* pretty cute!

She *is* pretty cute!

The Senso-ji Temple is most well-known for its gigantic red lantern hanging inside the entrance gate.

Entrance to Senso-ji

Entrance to Senso-ji

The 3 lanterns

The 3 lanterns

The actual temple has another lantern just inside.

The actual temple has another lantern just inside.

In the above photo, you’ll notice the large crowd around the bronze incense burner. People stop here before heading up to the temple to cover their bodies in the smoke, which is believed to ward off illnesses.

Just beside the main temple is a tall, 5 tiered pagoda.  It’s really impressive, but it doesn’t get much love. Maybe it needs a lantern.

I promise it has 5 tiers!

I promise it has 5 tiers!

In front of most Japanese temples are fountains where visitors are supposed to cleanse their hands to purify themselves.  It’s a common ritual and is practiced by young and old alike.

 

Bobby and I were pleasantly surprised about the lack of graffiti in Tokyo. I had always thought of it as a city of street artists, but honestly, we didn’t see much.  The art we did see was in the form of scenes painted on shuttered storefronts.

Colorful way to close up shop

Colorful way to close up shop

I wish I could read Japanese

I wish I could read Japanese

I didn’t get many photos of the temple itself, but we also visited the famed Meiji Shrine. It is surrounded by a vast park and a series of large wooden gates framing the pathway.  We ran into a ceremony of some sort and a short procession of Buddhist monks, which was rather interesting.

Entering the park surrounding the shrine

Entering the park surrounding the shrine

Sake barrels

Sake barrels

Soju, Japan's alcohol of choice, in barrels leading up to the shrine

Sake, Japanese rice wine, in barrels leading up to the shrine

Mom and Stella with the shrine in the background

Mom and Stella with the shrine in the background

We couldn’t go in because of the ceremony, but I did find it interesting that the monks were guarded by this man at the gate.

Not sure what his role is....

Not sure what his role is….

The ceremony was frequented by many in traditional dress.  The kiddos were especially cute.

How adorable is this?

How adorable is this?

The Meiji Shrine also had one of the purification fountains out front, except this was a simpler bamboo version.

The cleansing fountain

The cleansing fountain

Prayers, written in many different languages, left at the shrine

Prayers of peace, love & good fortune, written in many different languages, left at the shrine

<3

Love.

The procession of monks

The procession of monks

My favorite place we visited was probably the Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden.  It is a traditional Japanese garden with picturesque landscapes framed by some pretty awesome views.  Although it was raining, the fall colors made for a beautiful backdrop.

Floating pagoda

Floating pagoda

Perfect place for a photo op, right? Apparently Stella disagrees.

Perfect place for a photo op, right? Apparently Stella disagreed.

Lovely autumn colors

Lovely autumn colors

Stepping stones

Stepping stones

One of the best views in the entire garden, in my opinion

One of the best views in the entire garden, in my opinion

The little red bridge poking out of all the greenery

The little red bridge poking out of all the greenery

People were really determined to capture the red leaves

People were really determined to capture the red leaves

Lovely pond

They are gorgeous, so I can kind of understand.

See? Pretty fantastic.

See? Pretty fantastic.

I thought that the food in Japan was going to be difficult for me.  I’m not a sushi person (I know, GASP!), but I do like fish and I can always go for some good ramen or a rice bowl.  Luckily, our friend pointed us towards an awesome rice bowl place where we had the 3 meat variety (pork, beef and chicken) and then topped it off with a crepe on Takeshita Street.

Ramen!

Yummmmmm!

Stella at the entrance of Takeshita Street

Stella at the entrance of Takeshita Street

This was our first, but DEFINITELY not our last.

This was our first, but DEFINITELY not our last.

Most genius idea of making a crepe ever (in a cone shape!). They filled them with everything from fruit to ice cream to slices of cheesecake!

Most genius idea of making a crepe ever …it’s coned shaped! They filled them with everything from fruit to ice cream to slices of cheesecake.

Another popular treat on Takeshita Street (we didn't partake)

Another popular treat on Takeshita Street (we didn’t partake)

One of the last stops we made in Tokyo was the famed Shibuya Crossing, known as the busiest pedestrian intersection in the world.  Stella was amazed.

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