Cannot believe it has already been close to two months since my last trip to Tokyo. Life is back to normal but I have my photos and these travel journals to remind me of my experiences. I had an incredible time and made the most of being immersed in what I consider such a beautiful country and culture. In this new blog series, I will share with you my travel journal. Several times a day, I would take the time to update my travel journal with notes and thoughts and experiences as they occurred throughout my day. The images I share in these blogs will relate directly to those experiences. When it came to taking photos, I just went with the flow and didn’t put too much pressure on myself. On to the travel journal.
Monday 27 May 2019
I had a troubled night’s sleep and even sat up for a bit in the middle of the night to watch some more crazy Japanese television. Despite this, I still woke super early at 6am. I got myself ready for the day and decided on the Kombini (convenience store) breakfast. And they had exactly what I felt like. An iced latte and a small tray with egg & mayo sandwich squares and katsu sando squares. No crusts. Super soft bread. Super delicious. Japanese sandwiches are a delight. I then spent some time packing my case as I will be taking it with me today. I have to make my way to Asakusa Station. It is from there that I catch the train to Nikko.
I dropped by the hotel breakfast buffet, not out of hunger, but for a cup of tea. It was only 7:30 and sitting there I found myself getting really drowsy. I decided to head back to my room – maybe I wasn’t ready to be up. Back in my room, I dropped into a sleep for a couple of hours. I woke feeling more ready to face the day. I pulled together my things and checked out. I walked to Shibuya Station and took the Ginza line to Asakusa Station. It was already getting hot. The day before was around 32 (39.5 in Hokkaido) so unseasonably hot that it was all over the news channels. Today was going to reach 30 also.
I found the ticket office for the Tobu Line to Nikko Station and paid for a reserved seat return – which came to about 3,500 yen. About $40 Australian. This ticket also includes unlimited use of the tourist bus that does a route around Nikko and all the popular sites. The train made its way from busy Tokyo, through suburban Tokyo and on to country Tokyo. I love staring out the window and studying the change of scenery. Car parks and apartment buildings are soon replaced with rice fields – small at first but getting larger the further we travel North. Towns thin out with more and more rice fields. Some houses are built up like islands surrounded by rice fields. Even cemeteries dot the landscape on islands surrounded by rice fields. Backyards are more like small farms with vegetables growing. Something very appealing about being more self sustaining.
The train is very neat and tidy – each train such as this is cleaned by a team at the station prior to commencing its journey. On some trains the seats are better than most airplanes and there is a huge amount of legroom. There is a drop down meal tray and a bottle holder. The window ledge is wide enough to hold things too. The seats can all rotate so you can have a party of four complete with a pull out table to sit in the middle. Prior to hooping on the train, I picked up an Ekibento from the train platform. This is a bento box sold for longer trips specifically at train stations. Some are seasonal and others are train themed – probably for kids. Mine was sukiyaki beef on rice with a boiled egg and some sort of pickled vegetable. It was bloody amazing and I washed it down with a beer. (Having beer on long train trips is normal – in fact the four older ladies sitting in the seats in front of me were opening their beers before the train even left the platform. I had to laugh to myself. There is a trolley that comes along now and then with a lady selling food and drinks. I grabbed another beer. Long trip!
The train is now gliding – that may beer the beer talking – through forest and in between mountains with fewer houses, but larger areas of crops and rice. It is so peaceful looking out on this. Before long my train pulls into Nikko Station. There are actually two stations in Nikko. One is where my Tokyo to Nikko train terminates. Then there are other more local lines that leave from another station about 100 meters away. Lots of tourist busses arrive here also – including the bus I can use.
Oh my. Nikko you are gorgeous! It is so quiet and peaceful – especially after the hustle of Tokyo. There is one main street and a central square outside the Nikko Station. The area is full of little family stores selling odd assortments of goods, cafes, restaurants and lots of shops selling tourist goods. They also sell lots of local sweets here in boxes to take home to family and friends. And then the whole town is surrounded by forest and towering mountains. Very picturesque and calming. And there is hardly any traffic at all. I stopped at a little cafe just across the road from my hotel for that night. A couple ran it and made hot and cold drinks, a few savory and sweet snacks and of course there was beer. I settled for an iced-matcha latte. It was so refreshing.
It is really hot here too, but there is a breeze and everyone just seems to be relishing the day. As am I. I am so glad I chose to come here – and I have not even left the Main Street! I almost cancelled this part of my trip at the last minute, due to my sore feet. My family talked me out of that and said just go and be and experience what you can. It does not matter if I don’t get to every site, every temple, every shrine. So true. I walked around town for an hour checking out the shops and the menus of the cafes. This is a tourist spot for the Japanese let alone anyone else. I made my way back to the cafe where I had my iced latte earlier. Earthan’s it is called. Lovely couple. They were so excited to see me return. Just having a cooling beer until my room is ready. I hope it has a bath so I can soak my feet and body too. In my hotel reception area I saw a sign for Onsen – traditional Japanese bath house. Might have to investigate that one! Although I am not so sure about being nude in a public bath house.
The lady that runs this little cafe just shuffled up to me and offered some fresh cut cucumber. I love cucumber. I took on and she offered another which I took. She waited for me to take a bite and I did. I shit you not, It was the greatest tasting vegetable I have ever had in my life. Raw, sweet, succulent and so much flavor. I showed my appreciation and a little rapture and she laughed! I think she knew what reaction she was going to get. I made my way across the road to the hotel. I dropped my bags off there earlier. I checked in and made my way to my room. It is quite large by Japanese standards and yes it had a bath. I did the traditional wash with the shower head and then poured a deep hot tub. Not a long tub but deep enough so it does not matter. So nice. I crashed on my big bed watching something on the television. Disturbingly, I woke to the news and Donald Trump was on television! He is currently in Japan meeting the locals.
Dressed and waiting for the dining room to open at 7pm! The dining room is quite beautiful. Two story ceilings with chandeliers and timber furniture. Even a table cloth. My mum would like that. Margaret Cromie loves a good table cloth. Lots of waiters. All in suits. It’s classy. Very European in style. I could not be bothered walking up the hill to find something else for dinner. So I figured this is nice. Prices are reasonable too.
I hardly took any shots today. A few from the train as I find Japanese housing architecture and the landscape fascinating. From the traditional to the modern you can see every era and generation on a train ride like today’s. I can see how the old has influenced the new houses. Everything in some areas is no taller than two stories. Then you come across rows and rows of apartment style buildings that are about 10 stories tall. All with washing hanging neatly from their balcony rails. They must air their bedding every day. So not many photos.
As it turned out, dinner was amazing! I ordered the Karaage Chicken Set. It came with pickled vegetables, a bowl of rice, five large pieces of Karaage Chicken, Miso Soup and a bowl of fresh-cut fruit with a little petite chocolate dessert. Perfect! Off to bed or the bar? I am on holiday. And I really want to try some Japanese whisky. Safer here where I am in my hotel than in a random bar. Or do I go to bed? The bar won. I am not a spirits guy at all. But I was keen to try the much hyped Japanese whisky. Wow. Smooth and kicking. Tried an 11 year old Whisky and an 18 year old Whisky. Tried a few more after that. Nothing outlandish, I hope! We will know in the morning when I get my bill. Ah, holidays. That was the end of my day.