A WEEK IN TOKYO

 

Tokyo is an incredible, crazy and vibrant city that has been at the top of my destination list for so many years! I couldn’t believe that I finally got to visit Tokyo this year, and it lived up to my expectations and more. I wanted to share with you all my favourite parts of our week, and of course some photos. Make sure to also check out my previous posts on this trip which can be found below!

 


EXPLORING CENTRAL TOKYO

 

Most of our time was spent in the city centre exploring and finding the little gems of Tokyo. Shibuya is of course the hub of activity here, with its famous crossing. I’d recommend going up to the Starbucks at Shibuya crossing – it is super busy but gives you the most incredible view! You will notice in the pictures below the amount of brightly coloured signs and posters on each building – Tokyo is completely filled with colour and sound everywhere you go. One of my favourite things I saw was the Mario Kart road race where you get to dress up as the characters and race in real go karts throughout the city centre, something that I can only imagine taking place in Japan! In Shibuya there is a statue dedicated to ‘Hachiko the Faithful Dog’ who is remembered for his remarkable loyalty to his owner, and here sits two beautiful cats who seem to keep the dog company all day long! No one is quite sure who they belong to or where they have come from, but they are so cute as you can see below. As I said there are so many brilliant places to be discovered in Tokyo, just by spending your time walking around, using the public transport and discovering.

 

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Make sure to check out Tokyo’s famous ‘Purikura’ photo booth shops! Here you can do your hair and makeup and head into a photo-booth where you are told how to pose. Then onto an editing room where you can change your eyes and add stickers and effects! This was so fun and seems to be a huge part of teen culture in Japan, with lots of girls coming specially dressed up to take pictures.

 

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POKÉMON CENTER

 

The newly opened Pokémon Center is a must see! We only went to the store, but you can also pre-book to go to the Pokémon themed cafe, which given more time would have been great to visit (click the link for more details). Be prepared to enter one of the craziest rooms in the world. The store is filled with everything Pokémon from face masks to toys. It’s an incredible store with great service, as always in Japan, and brilliant products on sale. However, I wouldn’t recommend it for anyone who is anxious in crowds as It’s extremely busy and loud.

 

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TEMPLES AND SAKURA IN THE CITY

 

We were lucky to see the first few days of Sakura season when we were in Tokyo. The best of these were at the Meiji Jingu Shrine, located in the beautiful Oyogi Park. Seeing shrines and temples in the middle of the city was something I didn’t think was possible – somehow these places seem to retain peace within the madness of Tokyo. We also found some beautiful Sakura at the Imperial Palace, also pictured below. At night I would highly recommend visiting the Sensoji Temple which is one of Tokyo’s oldest temples, founded in 628! This temple is breathtaking day and night, but the night lighting seems to make it even grander.

 

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GREAT BUDDHA

 

We went to see The Great Buddha of Kamakura at Kotokuin Temple, about an hour out of Central Tokyo. Being located on the coast, this bronze statue has been destroyed multiple times by typhoons and a tidal wave and therefore since 1495 it has been standing in the open air. The Great Buddha is truly breathtaking, whether you are religious or not this is an unbelievable sight. There is lots to explore at the temple as well for example there are lots of blessings and gifts for sale and you can also go inside the Buddha to see its construction, which is pretty amazing and also very scary! I would definitely recommend taking the train to Hase Station and seeing the area around it, there are beaches and great views as you can see below. It is important to remember that this area is on the coast and therefore prone to natural disasters so check news and weather updates before going!

 

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I just wanted to mention a few final things that I loved! One was a small gig in Tokyo where we met the most wonderful band called Jebiotto. They were such brilliant performers and it’s always great to see the music scene in different countries. The Japanese arcades are also brilliant and crazy places, perfect for evening times, alongside the Karaoke buildings where you can get your own private Karaoke room and drinks for such good prices! In Tokyo we also visited the Mocha Cat Cafe which was so fun, the cats here are really playful so definitely check it out if you’re an animal lover.

 


 

I want to go back right now! Visiting Tokyo was such an incredible experience that I wish I could  relive. Tokyo is often seen as a very expensive city, however we found that it was still cheaper than London when trying to find food, drink and activities. Also be open to exploring areas that are on the train routes out of the city, for example the Great Buddha and snow monkeys were both out of the city centre. Make sure to check out my other posts on Tokyo, and the rest of my Japan trip, they are all be listed below and in my sidebar! Keep up to date by subscribing on WordPress or via email. You can contact me at elena@elenaswanderland.com

 

ELÉNA. 

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HOW TO SEE WILD MONKEYS AND DEER IN JAPAN

 

During my recent trip I was able to get up close to some of the most amazing wild animals! In this post I’ll tell you how easy it is to meet the wildlife of Japan, just outside some of its biggest cities. The Snow Monkey park and Miyajima deer Island are my two highlights that I will show you pictures from below. Make sure to follow or subscribe to keep up with my posts and let me know what you think in the comments!


SNOW MONKEY PARK


 

My number one highlight of our Japan trip has to be seeing the Snow Monkeys of Nagano. These beautiful animals live in the Jigokudani Yaenkoen park (or Snow Monkey park) which I have read has been open since 1964 and welcomed thousands from around the world to observe the beautiful Japanese Macaque monkeys. The park is situated in a valley nicknamed ‘Hell’s Valley’ due to the hot springs there, however this seems to be a haven for the monkeys, especially in the extreme cold conditions they can experience! They seem to completely ignore their human visitors which makes it an even better experience as you really get to see them in their natural habitat, searching for food, washing each other, playing and sleeping! It’s beautiful to see these confident monkeys in their natural habitat, rather than in a zoo. They seem well cared for and unlike other species of monkey will not try to jump on you or steal any of your things – they really seem to keep to themselves and just enjoy their surroundings. Of course it is also important to respect that you are in their home so no feeding or touching is allowed.

I wanted to share with you some of the photos I was able to take here. Most were taken on my Nikon camera however some of these were taken on my phone, which just shows how close I got! You can see below the baby monkeys, families huddling together for warmth, bathing in the hot springs and searching for food! To visit the park its a bit of a trek from Tokyo but is so worth it. You can use the Shinkansen for just over an hour to Nagano, and from here purchase a Snow Monkey day pass which will cover all your train and bus travel to the park. There is also a 30 minute walk once you get there through the woods  – it’s definitely a day out that I would recommend booking when in Japan.

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MIYAJIMA DEER ISLAND


 

Now onto another fantastic destination to get up close to Japan’s wildlife. Miyajima island is overrun with tame deer! This beautiful and peaceful Island can be accessed from Hiroshima by a short ferry ride (this is included in JR Rail Passes if you have purchased these for a trip). Known mostly for its stunning temple and shrine, Miyajima island is a popular tourist destination for this reason, however the friendly creatures that live there have definitely attracted even more visitors over the years. Here the humans and deer live happily side by side, with the deer being incredibly tame and will even pose for pictures! I read online that the deer in Miyajima were considered sacred messengers from the gods, and until 1637, killing one was punishable by death! They are still protected today I presume in a similar way that swans are protected in England. You can easily pet or feed these deer however it is not recommended to do either, it is still important to respect that they are wild animals! But all the same they are so beautiful and it’s really surreal to spend a day with them. I would recommend staying at this island if you have the time, it’s peaceful, has stunning views and packed with things to do.

 

 

I have been so lucky to see all of these wild animals, being up close to them was very surreal and these have become the best memories of my trip. If you’re visiting Japan then seeing the wildlife is essential and so easy to access by train and boat at good prices! For example if you have a JR pass then visiting the deer is technically free. For animal lovers you will see how well looked after they are here and that’s the most important thing. 

 


I will be uploading lots of content over the next few weeks covering my travels in Japan, so make sure to follow me on WordPress or subscribe by email: both are easy to do at the bottom of the post, homepage or on my sidebar! You can now contact me by email – elena@elenaswanderland.com or leave a comment and like down below. Let me know if you’ve been to Japan and what your favourite parts were!


 

Eléna x

 

ST PATRICK’S DAY IN TOKYO

As the weekend comes to a close I wanted to share with you some of the pictures from an amazing St Patrick’s Day weekend, here in Tokyo! This is by far the best St Patrick’s Day parade I’ve been to – it even tops New York.

Firstly on Saturday Tokyo produced a super fun ‘I Love Ireland’ festival with pop up Irish bars, music and dancing. This was free to get in to and such a good day out, you could even get Guinness, Magners and special green cocktails here. Even better than this was today’s St Patrick’s Day Parade! This took place in Shibuya and attracted huge crowds in the Japanese capital. People from all over the world stood and watched the biggest St Patrick’s parade in the whole of Asia. It was so well put together and included pipe bands, ceilidh dancers, traditional Geisha women, and even three Santa’s dressed in green white and gold! It was the ultimate Irish celebration especially with the final group who solely celebrated Niall Horan which was hilarious for us to see. With so much variety in this parade I would definitely rate it above the New York parade which I was able to see in 2011. See below some of the photos I took today!


The opening line of the Parade included St Patrick himself and both Japan and Ireland’s Miss World Contenders. The parade was jam packed and did a loop around this Main Street in Tokyo so everyone had a good view.

Pictured below are some brilliant traditional dancers who had endless energy to perform throughout the parade!

Now we can see some of my favourite representations of Ireland including the U2 supporters, Irish dancers, Dubliners Irish pub and a man running around on a leprechaun.

There was lots of support for both Japanese and Irish culture in the parade including the beautiful Geisha girls.

And the best part of the parade: a team of samba dancers in green feather costumes lit up the parade with both the amazing dancing and drumming that came with it!

Being in Tokyo and seeing the parade end with a Niall Horan supporters group was hilarious. Clearly Niall seems to be one of the most important worldwide aspects of Irish culture and he was celebrated here with a banner, music and his face printed on paper masks!

What an incredible day we have had! Thank you so much to the I Love Ireland group for organising a great celebration of St Patrick’s Day and to all those who took part in the Parade! I hope I get to experience this amazing parade again in the future.

BEIJING AND KYOTO

BEIJING

Starting my tour of Japan with a day stop off in Beijing! So here’s what we managed to do in under 24hours:

First of all we flew with Air China. I was super impressed with the plane and the service on board. Flying economy class, my expectations were low however it was comfy and there was a decent amount of in flight entertainment on offer, although the screen does take a while to get used to. The flight was around 10hours and I had a very positive experience on board.

We landed in Beijing at around midday – be aware that this airport takes a long time to get out of, especially if you are looking to get a 72hr visa, so do prepare for that! I’d also advise against booking quick transits from here as it’s such an enormous airport that I think making another flight quickly would be a struggle.

From here you can get the train straight into the centre of Beijing! This is so cheap – I think it cost around £2.50 for 5 of us to travel, amazing prices especially compared to London. We stayed in a hotel close to airport – the Beijing Aulympic Airport Hotel – and this was great for early morning transfers, especially as there is a complimentary bus service to and from the airport. This was included when we booked with Air China, and I think this is a great option if you’re looking to save money, be close to the airport but also have a night in good quality hotel. I was very impressed by the service here – there’s plenty of freebies in the room, WiFi, tea, TV and comfy beds. Considering it’s close to the airport I didn’t feel disrupted by this at all during the night!

 

With limited time we decided to pick one place to visit and that was the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square. Security is strong here so be prepared to queue to get into the square and make sure you have ID on you! Sadly for us we could only see the outside as there was a conference about to commence, however it’s well worth seeing and if you have limited time I suggest this is the best place to pick. Finding food is super easy, we went to the Raffle City shopping mall where there was so many cheap food options. Ramen is probably the best option if you’re looking for a good meal at a low price! It’s so easy to get out an about in Beijing, and with our particular hotel you could get the train back to the airport and take advantage of the free shuttle bus! If you’re on a stop off, a hotel near the airport is a must, especially with the large amounts of traffic on the roads and queuing in the airport.

 

KYOTO

Next stop was Japan! We flew from Beijing to Tokyo, again using Air China. This flight was just under 3 hours but there was still a meal and in flight entertainment included so that was great! We took advantage of the tasty food at Tokyo Haneda airport before heading to Kyoto. You’ll find that prices in Tokyo are higher than in Beijing, however it’s still easy to find a reasonably priced meal which is great quality.

 

 

Then onto Kyoto! On this trip we are using Japan Rail passes (JR PASS) which you can purchase in advance and use on mainline rail – not including the subway. We took the Shinkansen from central Tokyo all the way to Kyoto, a journey of around 3 hours. The Shinkansen is so easy to travel on with loads of room for luggage, and recliner seats to relax after a long day of travel. Staying a few stops out of central Kyoto is a great idea to save money and have a peaceful evening. We were lucky to stay near the Fushimi Inari Shrine which is Kyoto’s most well known destination. This is incredible – there’s something really special and peaceful about being here. You can walk through the 10000 gates, explore the shrine, buy blessings and wishes and taste some amazing street food.

 

 

Our next stop in Kyoto was the Railway Museum. This is also a popular destination and is very busy! It was actually so fun and interesting, a great place to take children if you want them to be entertained all day! Here you can see the history of Japan’s famous trains, with many full size ones to look around. You can have a ride on a steam train as well for around £3 per person. It’s hard to see everything here as it’s so enormous, but the main centre of the museum is enough of you’re looking for a fun day out.

 

 

And our final stop. As we only had one full day here we just picked one more place to visit and that was the Imperial Palace. You can buy tickets to look around the outside of the palace and it’s gardens on your own or with a guided tour. It is so beautiful here and if you like history and beautiful architecture then go and visit! You can get here by subway from Kyoto station and then there’s a short walk under 5mins. Definitely check entry times and prices before going!

 

 

During our time in Kyoto we found the best places to eat at the Porto dining area which you can access from Kyoto station!

 

An amazing start to this trip of a lifetime !! Next stop: Nagasaki. Keep checking for more posts in the next two weeks and sign up via email or WordPress by clicking my sidebar! Let me know what you think by commenting or liking down below x

(Also apologies to any email followers, I accidentally clicked publish a few times on this one!!)

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