Another Travel Day. But there was still some things to see in Kyoto before we wrapped up. The Kyoto Imperial Palace, or Gosho, was the former residence of the Emperor of Japan. But the Imperial family hasn’t resided here since 1869, when the seat transferred to Tokyo. Access is limited by formal request, except for two times a year where the gates are opened to the public. And we happened to be there for one of those times.
So, in order to maximize the intake of cultural sites, we arranged for a day-tour of Kyoto and Nara. If you’re ever in the area, we suggest you do the same. We arranged our tour via Japanican, a subsidiary of JTB. One can only do so many temples and shrines, but this tour gives a really nice overview, and makes accessing Nara easy. I should add, there is an important reason why you should see Nara along with Kyoto and Tokyo – by doing so, you’d be visiting the New Capital (Tokyo, 1869-present), the Old Capital (Kyoto, 784-1868), and the Ancient Capital (Nara, 710-784).
But, to begin, the Japanese breakfast of champions: 7-11 musubi and coffee.
Day 5 was a busy day. We went from one end of Tokyo to the other. But it was a Sunday in late March, so it was definitely all happening. You’ll see.
First stop: Ueno. So this was supposed to be prime hanami – or cherry blossom viewing – season. This is the time when the Japanese people come alive, start singing and dancing, and then pass out drunk under pink trees. It is the best time ever. Unfortunately for us, it was unseasonably cold that season, so as you can see by the picture, the cherry blossoms had only barely started budding. Here’s a calendar of hanami season when you’re ready to plan out your trip.
Not sure you can tell from the pictures but Day 4 of our trip was a rainy, windy mess of a day. We decided to stay mostly indoors and detoured to Odaiba, a shopping and entertainment district on an artificial island in Tokyo Bay. In the late 90s, Odaiba was the hottest place in Tokyo, but by 2012, it had lost a lot of its luster to trendier areas in Roppongi, Omotesando and wherever the kids are going these days. Still, it’s an interesting place to visit.
Amongst other attractions, there’s no less than four shopping malls, exhibition centers, museums, and a Edo Period-themed hot springs theme park called Oedo Onsen Monogatari. There are many ways to get on the island, but the most unique are the Yurikamome elevated train which traverses Rainbow Bridge and the Tokyo Water Bus.