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.
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.
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.
Not pictured are the rice cracker ice cream sandwich and the sweet bread filled with ice cream that we devoured as well.
The market also had a lot of trinkets, as you can imagine at a touristy place, but I really liked the displays of masks.
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.
The Senso-ji Temple is most well-known for its gigantic red lantern hanging inside the entrance gate.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The ceremony was frequented by many in traditional dress. The kiddos were especially cute.
The Meiji Shrine also had one of the purification fountains out front, except this was a simpler bamboo version.
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.
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.
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.