vacation in japan

Parks & Toilets in Tokyo!

When Peter and I were researching things to do in Japan, we came across Tokyo Disneyland! In my 27 years of life, I had never been to any Disney anything! It has always been a dream of mine to go. Peter wanted to go as well, so I decided to take him as part of his birthday! Finding Disneyland was a complete failure! We still hadn’t mastered the train system and couldn’t figure out how to get on the right train to go to Disneyland. When we finally got directions, it was late in the afternoon and we didn’t want to pay the nearly $200 fee for two people and not get a whole day at the magical kingdom. So instead we went into central Tokyo!!!

By the way, the JR system is VERY busy and fast paced as you would expect in a big city. If you ask one of the railway workers, they are usually able to help.

(photo of central Tokyo station)

We ended up at the Central Tokyo station on a very beautiful day. Despite our original plans failing, I was so excited when I saw the park across from the station! So this was where all the tourists were! Tons of people taking photos, old men painting in the park, pretty flowers and fountains. I don’t remember the names of the parks that we visited, but they were all within the same area of each other.

At the entrance to the fountain park there were two bridges over a beautiful river. I saw a swan and turtle and was delighted when the swan floated toward me and I was able to take a picture of the two animals together! I actually took many pictures until I was reminded that there was much more to see.

The fountain park was sooo beautiful and the architecture was very modern. 

(A group of students who asked me to take a picture of them!)

As we walked through the fountain park, we stopped to have a snack and then continued walking toward the Imperial Palace. Although we couldn’t find the entrance, we wandered around looking at the trees, bridge, guards and statues. The sky looked like it had been painted! The day was perfect. I really like the trees at this park, and there were a lot of them. Much of the park was sectioned off so you couldn’t walk on the grass and instead had to follow the gravel path. When I saw the Japanese-style structures I then realized that I was in Japan! How did I get here when I never imagined EVER being here.

After walking around Tokyo, we hopped back on the train to Ueno. The sun was beginning to set when we made it to the station. Across from the train there was yet another park! This park was HUGE and had so many things to do, but since we were there so late we didn’t get to see everything. We did however manage to walk through the park and look at all the art and landscaping.

We saw these birds everywhere and decided that they were ravens. (If you know what they really are please correct me.) They are about twice the size of crows!

Why did I take a photo of this toilet?? Well, as you can see, it is QUITE different from any toilet I’ve ever seen. This bathroom, at the park in Ueno, had both traditional Japanese squatting toilets and Western toilets. I just thought it was  different. I did not use this and wasn’t even sure if I’d be physically able to!

Hello Shibuya!

Sadly, my week long vacation in Japan has come to an end. I never could have imagined JUST how much I would enjoy this trip. As you know, I’ve only been working at my current job for a few months and had to take unpaid leave. I was worried about the cost of this trip and unexpected expenses. I was thinking, “It’s Peter’s birthday so I just need to suck it up and let go,” and I did just that.

Friday, the day of our departure, Peter and I went to work and the minutes were ticking by SO slowly! Finally, 2:00 PM hit and I was out the door and on my way to pick up Peter. As usual, we were running late trying to finish last minute things. Our friend picked us up and dropped us off at the airport where we ran and made it just on time. The flight was smooth and quick. As we descended toward Japan I got butterflies in my stomach. Another stamp in my passport! Curiosity ran through my body as I imagined what it would be like.

 From the airport we found the JR (Japanese Railway) ticket office where we activated our week long train passes. We also bought train tickets to the Shibuya Station. There is this really good deal if you buy a pass, one way or roundtrip, and you are a foreigner you get a Suica card with 1500 yen (about $19.00 USD) per pass to spend anywhere that accepts Suica. The card is loaded with yen and all you do is scan it at checkout. Upon return of the card, you get 500 yen back. Pretty great! We used ours to buy drinks from the vending machines at the train stations.

 The vending machines are super cool! I was wondering why the drinks are so small, until later I realized that people chug their drink and throw it in the garbage bin located next to the vending machine. This also explained why we could never find garbages anywhere other than near the vending machine. People also don’t eat and walk. You could even buy beer from these machines!

We made our way to the NEX and took the train a few hours to Shibuya, Tokyo!

How we got around in the train station beats me. Everything is pretty much in Japanese, with a few signs in English. Luckily Peter brought his tablet and loaded a few maps on it to guide us. We made it to the hotel after crossing a giant intersection and weaving through the crowd of people. By this time my energy level boomed and I couldn’t wait to dump our luggage at the hotel and hit the streets for some adventures!

We stayed at the Tokyu Inn Shibuyu. I wish I had taken a photo of the room because it was SOOO small and the bathroom looked identical to an airplane bathroom plus a tub. The room was meant for two people but there was absolutely no walking space. But that didn’t matter because we really didn’t plan on spending any time in there. We unpacked our things, freshened up and headed out again.

We walked around the streets of Shibuya. Although there were a lot of people out, it was very quiet. I guess that’s one of the main differences I noticed while in Japan. No one talks on their phones while walking, people usually mind their own business and don’t pay attention to others and everything is absolutely clean and orderly. I love it! We searched for some food, but it was pretty late so we were stuck with Family Mart and 7-11! I found this random piece of pizza with corn on it and Peter had an assortment of foods. When we got back we found these funny little robes/pajamas on our bed. Peter and I wore them. We ate and watched the people through our window on the 7th  floor until we fell asleep.

The next morning we walked across the street to this small cafe. We don’t speak Japanese and most people we met in Japan didn’t know any English, so we communicated with hand gestures and pointing to pictures. We ended up pointing to this picture on the menu for breakfast and chose this delicious sandwich and two coffee drinks. Like most things in Tokyo, space in limited so we ordered our food downstairs and ate on the 2nd floor overlooking the streets. I really appreciate the attention to detail and the presentation. From the way food is placed on a tray, to the packaging of store bought items even how you present your money to the cashier at the register. Everyone takes pride in everything that they do.

After breakfast we headed to the train station, where we got lost in the station for about an hour! We FINALLY figured out that we can only us JR lines with the train pass and were in the wrong part of the station. So, we made our way to the correct area, boarded the train and headed to Ginza…