Sander, Daniëlle & EmilyOur Family life...

Our Family life...

From Nürnberg to Tokyo…
And as usual we are prepared for our vacation a couple of weeks before departure and the only thing we needed to do is packing our suitcases. The plan was to start on friday evening after work but this was shifted to saturday morning, on saturday morning we delayed it until saturday afternoon and finally we started packing sunday late afternoon.

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Did you really read a ‘we’ in this part of the trip? Yes you did read that, this was probably the first time that I did most of the packing myself… Early in the evening our suitcase were finished except for the some smaller things.

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Monday morning we woke up from the alarm-clock and 1,5 hour later we left our house towards Nürnberg Airport where our first flight took of at exactly 10:25 but the start got aborted. For a moment we thought the plane had technical problems but 10 minutes later the pilot told he need to abort take-off because another plane was landing, a bit strange but at the world-famous and busy airport of Nürnberg such thing can happen. Only 5 minutes later we were in the air on our way to Paris.

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In Paris we had a very good experience at the airport, the queuing for our flight to Tokyo went well and you could already feel the Japanese influence. There were no arguments, no pushing, no queue jumping, no stress, … With 30 minutes delay we left Paris together with Air France in A380-800 towards Narita Airport (about 80 km. from Tokyo). The flight was long but excellent with the standard glass of Champagne and the meals we preordered Danielle went for the ‘ocean meal’ and I went for ‘italian’. Although we started later as planned we landed almost on time. After a really fast border control, we lost a bit of time while waiting for our suitcases but in the end we left the airport within 1 hour from landing.

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After we came to the border control we walked towards the JR East Travel Service Center to get a special combination for a round-trip with the Narita Airport Express (NEX) including a Suica prepaid card. The NEX is a train line which brings people from the Airpot directly into Tokyo and some surrounding areas and the Suica card can be charged at every station and makes it possible to pay contact free. But before we came to the Service Center we needed to catch a couple of escalators and this was actually a quite funny experience since after a couple of moments a line was behind us since people where lining behind us because we were both standing on the wrong side of the escalator. In Japan the people stay on the left side and walk on the right side which they also do whiteout questioning it.

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Before we left Narita we had a coffee at the Starbucks to wait for the 11:14 (local Japanese  time). After finishing our coffee we walk towards platform 1 where we boarded for a 68 minutes train ride towards Shinagawa Station. After our arrival we walked straight to our hotel and after checking we only had to wait 25 minutes before our room was ready. We stay at the 27th floor, get every day 2 new bottles of water, had fruit on arrival and on top of that we got upgrade towards a Premium King. During the wait for our room keys we also got our mail which contained the train tickets and also very important the Mobile Hotspot from a local provider.

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In less than an hour we took a shower, changed clothes and left for Tokyo DisneyLand for the 2nd part of our 32 hour-long day.

First day in Tokyo Disneyland…

Shortly after arriving in our room we left for Disneyland by Metro. We entered Shinagawa Station through the central gate and took an escalator down towards the JR Keihin-Tohoku line and there it went wrong again Danielle was blocking the walkers on the right side of the escalator. But the Japanese are polite and nobody complained. Within a couple of minutes we entered the Metro which was the fast connection towards Tokyo Station, at Tokyo Station we need to change metro to the JR Keiyo Line to get to the Disneyland Resort which meant a walk from about 700 meter below the ground.

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45 minutes after leaving our hotel we were almost inside the park, that was about 15:00 o’clock local time. First we changed our printed tickets for regular tickets which is easier due to the size and 2 minutes later we walked through the gates in the direction of World Bazar, this is the same as Main Street USA but with a roof and side streets.

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We walked towards Tomorrowland to check out the first waiting lines, we wanted to do as much rides as possible today because it would be the day with the lowest crowd. But after seeing the waiting lines for Monsters Inc. Ride and Go Seek 100 minutes, Space Mountain 150 minutes, Buzz Lightyear AstroBlasters 130 minutes and Star Tours 3D 80 minutes we knew we won’t do a lot of rides today.

From there we entered Toontown where we went on Roger Rabbit Cartoon Spin which had a wait-time from about 50 minutes, during the wait we tried a FaceTime call to Belgium which worked out pretty well for a distance rom about 9.300 kilometer in a crowded area. Normally we don’t wait longer as 30-40 minutes because we get irritated by the other people in line but here everyone is so easy ad polite you really don’t get frustrated.

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So this made us decided to try out some longer waiting lines. At Pooh’s Hunny Hunt the line was 120 minutes so we decided to go back to to the Monsters Inc. ride and wait for 120 minutes. During this wait we saw a lot of interesting things like a lot of school girls and as Disney characters dressed up girls which must be ill tomorrow because they showed too much skin for the temperature and the strongly blowing wind today, crazy people. Also everyone looks as ut but that’s probably because we were the longest 2 people in line and the only 2 non-asians. Also we got a FaceTime call from our little nephew which made the wait look a bit shorter and in the end we waited ‘only’ 90 minutes.

The ride was worth the wait it was a lot of fun shining with your flashlights and these ‘activated’ the monsters. From there we walked to the other side of the park through the shops, the merchandise isn’t so nice as in the american parks so that would save us some money,
icon_smile After a quick bite at a churros cart we found out that Pirates of the Caribbean had a wait of only 30 minutes which in the end only took us 30 minutes. After we left the ride it was 18:30 o’clock, only 60 minutes to the most beautiful evening parade of all we’ve seen, the Tokyo Disneyland Electrical Parade Dreamlights.

This also meant that the first spectators were already finding there spots, we decided we didn’t want to sit down and watch so we had some more time left. This because the first 4 rows stay seated during the whole parade, so we needed a spot in row 5. After something which looked like dinner at the Lucky Nugget Café we found our spot 30 minutes before the parade started. And we had a great spot as you can see on the pictures.

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After the parade we went to back to the World Bazar where the crowds where low because the parade was still running through the park. Directly after the park ran empty since the fireworks where cancelled because of the wind. After wandering to the park to get rid of the crowds at Maihama Stations we visit the Ikspiari, a modern shopping mall near the metro station before we went back through our hotel.

At 21:10 we boarded the JR Musashino Line towards Tokyo, in Tokyo we walked back the 700 meter to the Yamanote Line (Outer Loop) which brought us back to Shinagawa Station. And we also mentioned that most stairs help you count kCals!

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After getting some groceries at the 7eleven we went to our room where Danielle prepared tomorrow and I wrote the first of the 2 post about our vacation.

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At midnight I was to tired to continue and we both went to bed to sleep till 6:00 hour before we woke up.

A full day in Tokyo DisneySEA
After a good night sleep we woke up really early at 6:00 o’clock. Probably because the sun already shone through the curtains. But that was no problem, I finished the 2nd blog of the vacation while Danielle took a shower and in the end we were both ready to go at the same time. At 7:45 we left the hotel towards Shinagawa Station where we started with a breakfast to go at the Starbucks.

While eating we wandered towards the central gate and here we started to see some crowds. We went through the gates and took the metro towards Tokyo Station and in this Metro it was really busy, we thought more people inside would be impossible. After we had arrived at Tokyo Station we walked the 700 meters towards the 2nd metro and at 8:20 we arrived at Maihama at the Tokyo Disneyland Resort.

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Today we planned to visit Tokyo DisneySEA, which is the most beautiful theme-park I’ve ever seen. To get here you need to take the Resort monorail for which you need to pay, we went for a multi-day ticket so we can take the monorail as often as we like. The Monorail is in complete Disney style which makes it more a fun ride as a public transportation solution.

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At 8:35 we went through the gates at Tokyo DisneySEA and the first idea was to get a Fastpass for Toy Story Mania, looking at the crowds we weren’t the only one with this idea. But when we entered the area we saw a huge crowded and these people were waiting for the Fastpass line…we were both speechless a whole street was full with people waiting!

We walked towards Hightower Hotel, the Japanese version of the Hollywood Tower of Terror when Danielle spotted Shellie May as a photo opportunity. So I went to get us 2 Fastpasses for the Tower while Danielle queued up for a 70 minutes wait! Yes that’s long for a picture but this is the only place in the whole world where you can get the picture. While Danielle kept waiting I went to take some pictures around the park and was back in time for our photo-session with Shellie May.

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After the shoot we went to McDuck’s Department Store, the place to get your Duffy and Shellie May merchandise. But this was a deception most of the items are sold out so we left with way less as we had expected. After this short shopping trip we got ourselves a locker near the exit of the park before we found some more characters for pictures.

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At somewhat after 11:00 we decided to get a really early lunch at Vulcania at Mystery Island, which is a Chinese-styled buffet restaurant. We went for the Vulcano menu which was a combination of multiple dishes we went for Dim Sum, Fried Rice, Fried Chicken, Cheesecake and a Chinese Salad. Everything was delicious and compared to other options during a theme-park trip one of the healthiest places to go.

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Afterward we went for a walk with the target to get on Indiana Jones Adventure! And we succeed although the waiting time was  about 3 hours because the single rider line was open. In less than 30 minutes we were outside again and we got ourselves Fastpasses for the Raging Spirits, a rollercoaster with a looping.

We then were close by the Sinbad’s Storybook Voyage and with a 10 minutes wait this was a no-brainer. We couldn’t understand a word but it was a fun ride because of the music. When we exited the ride we went to the Little Mermaid Show where got translators which didn’t work. But this was not a big problem since the show is fun to watch and most songs are in English.

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At 13:35 it was time for our Tower of Terror Fastpass. This Tower is really beautiful but the ride itself is not so exciting as the other 3. When we exited the tower we almost stepped on 2 tiny mouse’s from the RescueRangers. And with tiny we really mean tiny, the funny things is that Bernhard and Bianca both really wanted to get a picture with us, probably because we where huge compared to them.

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30 minutes before the Legend of Mythica, a beautiful water-parade started we found a nice spot to lean against a wall and get some pictures.

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From there we walked to the StromRider to get Fastpasses which were valid from 18:55-19:55 just before we went in the Raging Spirits with the Fastpasses we took earlier today. From The Lost River Delta (back of the park) we took the DisneySEA Transit Steamer Line towards the Mediterranean Harbor area of the park (entrance), very convenient.

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At this time we got a bit tired and decided to sit down in the Ted Roosevelt Lounge inside the S.S. Columbia. Here we both got a cocktail and a delicious cheesecake with cassis ice cream. When we left the ship we walked directly in to a show called Table is Waiting and this show was a real joy to watch.

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At the end of the show it was time for our last ride of the day, the StromRider, this is a huge simulator ride in which you see how a huge storm gets stopped with a special weapon. After the ride it was already 19:15 and Danielle smelled strawberries and they came from a popcorn cart! In Tokyo Disneyland Resort they have many different popcorn stands with a lot of different tastes, this time Danielle couldn’t hesitate and needed to try.

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Since it was getting close to 20:00 o’clock we needed to find a good spot for Fantasmic! and I guess we found a good spot! Due to our length advantage we didn’t need to stand front-row. And this show blew us away, it was much better as we expected and it’s difficult to say which of the Fantasmic! shows is better the one in Orlando or the one Tokyo!

After the show all the crowd left so we were confused, within 10 minutes the fireworks should start. At 20:35 we understood why everyone left, after seeing such a great show the firework isn’t important anymore to most people. But at least I found a spot where I could use my GorillaPod and try the new neutral density filter.

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After some more pictures of Mount Prometheus we went for another walk through the park where we took some more night pictures.

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At 21:15 we left the park and we took the Resort Monorail towards Maihama Station, here it became busy. And we thought it wouldn’t get any busier in the next metro this night. But…the train from Tokyo towards Shinagawa, on the Tokaido Line was extremely busy we didn’t had enough place to stand and we felt like we just fitted in. The next station 10 new people came in through our door and it also fitted! But we were lucky the next station we could get out of the train, and again many more new travellers entered the train. In some wagons the people were pressed in while the doors closed, with their faces pressed against the windows. We had only seen this online so far but it happens for real!

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At 22:10 we finally arrived back in our hotel.

Japanese rain…
The original plan was to visit Tokyo Disneyland again but due to the weather we’ve changed this. We’ve decided to stay in bed a bit longer and explore Tokyo by Metro today. At 9:30 we got in the first metro thinking that it won’t be really crowded anymore but we were wrong it was as crowded as the last 2 days.

The first metro brought us to Ginza, an upscale area in Tokyo. We wandered a bit through the area but nothing was opened yet and while the rain came pouring down we decided to go to a Japanese Donuts place called Mr. Donut near Shimbashi. We took the metro to get there to make sure we didn’t have to walk through the rain too much.

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After having  a couple donuts for breakfast we decided to go to the biggest Tommy Hilfiger Store of Asia in Meiji-Jingumae.  We took the Tokyo Metro line Ginza towards Omotesand┼Ź and then changed to the Chiyoda line towards Meiji-Jingumae. For everything there are signs, you always know where to walk when you go up or down the stairs as you can see on the pictures below, it’s quite easy but you have to look at it because sometimes the direction are the other way around. On some stations the platforms are secured by automatic gates probably for safety reasons if platforms get to busy to ensure none is pushed from the platform.

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What an experience to shop in Japanese store, all clothing is resized so I’m back to XL again, for woman they only carry S-M-L and the sizes do not compare to the size in Europe/US at all. The employees spoke perfect english and were really helpful, no questions kept unanswered and if we asked something which they could not answer they went to the manager to check. And they never used the word no! And  we were lucky because we saved a bit because Tommy Hilfiger is a registered Tax Free shop.

After this shopping adventure we both were a bit hungry and we looked in foursquare for a sushi place, we found a lot but one looked really interesting, it wasn’t an old-fashioned conveyor belt sushi, it was the modern version a so-called bullet train sushi restaurant. We needed to order the food on a touchscreen and within a couple of minutes the ordered food stopped in front of you. Beside the fact that it was a really funny experience it was also inexpensive, 2 pieces of Nigiri costed 105 Yen (0,75€).

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After the lunch we walked through the area before we headed to Akihabara by metro, we all found out that there are not so crowded metro’s in Tokyo.

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Akihabara is an area which is also called Electric Town and is famous for the electronics & anime/manga shops. In Akihabara we looked around in the Yodobashi Camera Store which is a huge Electronics store. And afterwards we explored the area.

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Due to the heavy rain we decided to go back to the hotel and rested a bit before we went out for dinner. We looked at some places I’ve been before during business trips and Danielle selected the Miyako a small japanese restaurant at the Takanawa exit (north). Danielle went for a noodle with pork and seafood, I went for a hot plate with baked eggs, a piece of pork (japanese style schnitzel) with rice and miso soup.

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After dinner we walked back to our hotel to get some sleep!

Winning the lottery…
We both woke up before the alarm went off this morning and that on vacation! We stayed in bed a bit before we got out to shower and get dressed. At 8:30 we left the hotel and we found out that the sun was shining bright this morning! We walked to the Yamanote line platform at Shinagawa Station, transferred at Tokyo Station and at 9:05 we arrived at the Tokyo Disneyland Resort for the last day of Disney fun during this vacation.

Since the weather was really nice we started with some pictures and went to the last ride we really had on our wish list: Journey to the Center of the Earth! The waiting line was 160 minutes but there were still fast passes available for 15:10-16:10 which made the choice obvious.

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With the FastPasses in the pocket we wanted to try our luck in the lottery. You must be wondering now why we would use a lottery in a theme park during your vacation. That’s quite simple in Tokyo DisneySEA there is one bigger show/musical called Big Band Beat which is very popular. To be fair to the guest and to avoid hours long waiting lines to get a seat they’ve developed a lottery system to select who is allowed to join and who is not and it even pre-selects your seat. We tried or luck and after a couple of touches to select the show we wanted to participate (the 17:30 one) and scanning our tickets we heard the music and the screen showed: CONGRATULATIONS!!! And a moment later our tickets came out, all Cast Members told us that we were really lucky to have seats for a show!

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After winning the lottery we went to Cape Cod Cook-off, a restaurant serving burgers and Duffy themed food. During your dinner you’ll seat in a theater where Duffy & Friends are performing on stage. The wait was about an hour according to the cast member at the start of the line. While waiting we saw something interesting, TDR has seats for Duffy installed throughout the park so you can make a picture from Duffy in a lovely setting, I asked a group of girls or I could take a picture with their Duffy.

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And as the cast member informed after about 60 minutes it was our turn to order food, we both ordered a hamburger and a Happy Duffy dessert and afterwards we were brought to our seats in the theater. While we were eating we’ve seen 3 different mini-shows with Duffy, Shellie May, Mickey, Minnie, Donald and Daisy. After lunch we continued with what we started the day with, we made a lot of pictures.

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At about 14:00 we proceed to the harbor to find a good spot to see the Legend of Mythica, everything went well till 14:30 when the announcement came that the show was cancelled due to bad weather. All the Japanese guest response with a short: “Jeeeeh” and then they walked their separate ways to the exit, the stores, restaurants or back in to the park without being visibly angry or upset. That’s something I really like about the Japanese so much respect for each other.

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After this I felt like I wanted to try popcorn, popcorn in Tokyo Disneyland Resort is something special, it’s distributed all over both parks and in a lot off different flavors. I don’t like sweet popcorn or probably I don’t like popcorn in general but these flavors made me curious so I tried the Black Pepper Popcorn! And I’ve to admit it was delicious. I soon finished my box and it was time for Journey to the Center of the Earth, I only remembered a little bit from 2010 but it was better as I remembered!

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Since I got my own popcorn Danielle wanted here own taste too and went for the season special Soda Popcorn. These tasted a bit after a watermelon and the popcorn had a slightly green color. And while Danielle was enjoying her popcorn I took some pictures and we had a FaceTime call with little Jop (our nephew).

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We wandered through the park until it was our turn to enjoy the Big Band Beat in the Broadway Music Theatre. The show was really amazing, Mickey really blew us way with his drumming and dancing skills! Unfortunately it wasn’t allowed to take pictures. This was the last thing we did in Tokyo DisneySEA and we took the Resort Liner to Tokyo Disneyland because we both wanted to see a bit more from this park too.

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We entered the park and soon I fond another popcorn cart supplying Soy Sauce Butter Popcorn, this as also delicious. While I ordered and looked for a nice spot to watch the Tokyo Disneyland Electrical Parade Dreamlight Danielle watched the Oh Minnie, Oh Minnie! show. And at 19:30 sharp the parade started with even more floats as on monday. We both love this lengthy parade.

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We skipped the fireworks because I wanted to make some pictures through the park until a cast member came to me and told that a Gorillapod isn’t allowed to be used inside the parks. A bit strange in my opinion although I can understand that they don’t allow full tripods. While we left the park Danielle found Honey Popcorn and we got some snacks for on our way back to the hotel in Disney style.

At 21:55 we got back in our hotel to pack our trolleys for our Shinkansen trips the next 2 days. We don’t want to travel through Japan with 2 weeks of clothing in 4 suitcases.

As fast as a bullet to Kyoto…
Today we woke up early because this day we were going to leave Tokyo and drive with the bullet train to Kyoto.

As planned we left our hotel room to check out at around 07:30. We travel light which means we left our big suitcases in storage at the hotel and travel with only 2 small trolleys to Kyoto. Check out went well and we went to the Shinkansen gate at Shinagawa Station. Luckily those gates are  our side of the station. As soon as we put our train ticket and seat reservation into the slot of the automatic gate, the gate opened and we could search for the right track and car-number.

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Because it is not possible for non-Japanese people to reserve Shinkansen tickets in advance (the website is Japanese-only and a Japanese credit card is required) a Japanese colleague from Sander ordered the tickets for us. He got us seats for the Nozomi Shinkansen in car number 5, row 7, seats D and E. The Nozomi arrived exactly on time and we left Shinagawa at 08:27. From our seats we had a great view at Mount Fuji, or Fuji-San (that’s how the Japanese call Mount Fuji).

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After 450 km, 2 stops in Yokohama and Nagoya and 2 hours and 10 minutes later we arrived at Kyoto Station at 10:37. About 30 minutes later we were on our way to our hotel with the free shuttle service.

In Kyoto we will stay one night at the ANA Crowne Plaza Kyoto hotel. The hotel is located directly in front of one of Kyoto’s most popular tourist attraction, Nijo Castle. After check-in we went to our room and we have a view on Nijo Castle, which we will visit tomorrow. And of course we have a hightech-toilet! The lady from check-in recommended us to buy a 1-day-bus-pass and take bus-line 12 towards the Kinkakuji/Kitano area to visit the Kinkakuji Temple and the Ryoanji Temple.

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We were not the only ones with this idea do we ended up in a full bus driving through a very busy city of Kyoto. After 30 minutes we arrived at the Kinkakuji Temple. This Temple, also called Rokuon-ji or known as the Golden Pavilion, is a Zen Buddhist temple. Although not much information is provided in English it is really beautiful and you cannot stop taking pictures from the pavilion and the amazing landscapes. It is also a Historic Monument of Ancient Kyoto UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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After we had green tea and a little piece of cake in the tea house we left this beautiful site and went to KYOTO’s next UNESCO World Heritage Site, called the Ryoan-ji Temple. We went here by foot and during the walk we got ourselves something to drink from one of the vending machines you see every where on the street. And we also found our first Geocache during this vacation.

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The Ryoan-ji Temple is also a Zen Buddhist temple and is famous for its Rock Garden or zen garden. The temple belongs to the Myõshin-ji school of the Rinzai branch of Zen Buddhism. To visit the Rock Garden we had to take of our shoes before entering. After visiting this garden we wandered around and took a lot of pictures.

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We wanted to see as much as possible from Kyoto today as we are here for only 1 day. We were recommended also to visit the Kiyomizu Temple/Gion Area at the other side of Kyoto. We walked a little around and took bus-line 10 right through Kyoto. Because of the amount of traffic it took over more than one hour t get there. As soon as we got of the bus it was time to find something to eat and we found a little place called Ringer Hut. Because we can not read Japanese we order food from the pictures and it is always a big surprise what you will get on your plate. This time we had some fried rice with gyoza. For dessert we went to Baskin Robbins for ice cream. I had three scoops of Love Potion #31, Easter Egg Hunt and Love Struck Cheesecake. Really delicious.

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Next stop was the Yasaka Shrine. We discovered some festivities but can not really what is was all about. Nothing was explained in English. But the were a lot of lights and candles. We walked further through the Maruyama Park and saw a little from the Higashi Otani Mausoleum and the Ryozen Kannon Temple. As it was getting a little darker the lights and candles everywhere got more beautiful. We walked up the mountain through small streets with a lot of small shops as we arrived at the Kiyomizu Temple. A very big complex of temples and shrines beautiful lit for great photo opportunities. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We stayed here a long time to take pictures.

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Than it was time to go back to the hotel. After we walked down the mountain we needed to find out where we exactly were and how to get back to the hotel. We walked back to Gion and took bus-line 12 back to the hotel. After arriving in the hotel we ordered Deep Fried Chicken as room-service because we didn’t feel like going out tonight.

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Tomorrow we leave Kyoto and go with the Shinkansen to Hiroshima.

One day in two cities…
Today we woke up in the ANA Crowne Plaza hotel in Kyoto. I opened the curtains and saw that the sun was shining and I had a wonderful view over the Nijõ Castle at the other side of the road which we were going to visit today.

After we showered and packed our suitcases we went downstairs to the breakfast buffet. Because we are IHG Platinum members we got a 500¥ per person discount. The breakfast was delicious with both Western and Japanese food.

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Next thing was visiting the Nijõ Castle. This castle is, like almost everything else in Kyoto, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We first visited the Ninomaru Palace and so we had to take our shoes of. On our socks we walked through the palace which is famous for its wall paintings and the Nightingale Floors. Those protected the occupants from sneak attacks and assassins, because the floors squeak like birds when anyone walks on them. This building has a lot of chambers which were all used for different purposes.

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As we left the Ninomaru Palace we took a walk through the gardens, the Ninomaru garden and the Seiry┼ź garden. We also saw some nice cherry blossoms. It must be beautiful when all the cherry blossoms are out.

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At about 11:00 it was time for us to go back to the hotel. During our walk to the hotel we found a geocache almost in front of the entrance of our hotel. Our second find in Kyoto. At 11:35 we took the hotels shuttle bus to Kyoto station. We arrived there about one hour before our Shinkansen departed so we had a little time to buy something for lunch. We bought sushi, some drinks and sweets for in the Shinkansen and then headed for track 13 where our train would depart.

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Exactly at 12:52 the Shinkansen left Kyoto station and after 350 km, 3 stops in Osaka, Kobe and Okayama and 1 hour and 39 minutes later we arrived at Hiroshima Station. We took a taxi to our hotel, which is the ANA Crowne Plaza Hiroshima. After 20 minutes we were checked-in and the lady from the hotel was bringing us to our room which is on the 20th floor and we have a view over the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park. We facetimed with Moniek, Hugo and Jop before we left the hotel to visit the Peace Park.

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The Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park is only a 10-minute walk away from our hotel.we also found another geocache on our way to the park. This park is “dedicated to the legacy of Hiroshima as the first city in the world to suffer a nuclear attack, and to the memories of the bomb’s direct and indirect victims”. I don’t think this needs. Further explanation because everyone what happened in Hiroshima. The park was really impressive.

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The only building which is remained after the bombing is called the A-Bomb Dome. It is the building closest to the hypocenter of the nuclear bomb. The A-Bomb Dime is also on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

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The Park contains a lot of bigger and smaller memorials and an other memorial is the Children’s Peace Monument. The monument is dedicated to the memory of the children who died as a result of the bombing. The statue is based on the true story of Sadako Sasaki, a young girl who died from radiation from the bomb. She believed that if she founded 1,000 paper cranes she would be cured. In the pictures you can see the collection of the founded cranes. To this day, children from around the world could cranes and send them to Hiroshima where they are placed near the statue. We thought that this is a very impressive story.

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Shortly after we left the Peace Park we went to get reservations for the ferry to Miyajima for tomorrow. Miyajima is Japanese for ‘shrine island’. We will leave by ferry tomorrow at 08:50.

We walked towards Hiroshima Castle. This castle was originally build in the 1590′s but was destroyed by the atomic bombing in 1945. It was rebuilt in 1958. As we visited the castle we did’t have to take our shoes of because it is a replica which serves as a museum. We climbed the stairs in the castle and enjoyed the beautiful owes over Hiroshimo. At the rooftop we called my parents with FaceTime.

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We walked back to the area where our hotel is located and visited a very busy shopping district with big department stores and small boutiques. It was also time the find us something for dinner. With a little help from foursquare we found a tinny-tiny restaurant from which I cannot tell you either the name or the dish we had. But I can tell you dat it was really good food. I ordered a beer with it because after my own experience from my time here in Japan it is the safest choice. All other times I ordered tea or something else and I ended being jealous of Sander’s delicious cold beer. So the food was good, the beer was cold and the people in the restaurant were very friendly. As dessert we got ourselves something from the Starbucks close to our hotel and we called it the day.

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Tomorrow we have to wake up early because we are visiting Miyajima and going back with the Shinkansen to Tokyo.

Boat, Taxi, Shinkansen, Tokyo…
We woke up early today (again) because we needed the 08:50 boat from Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park to Miyajima Island. After the usual morning ritual (shower, packing bags and breakfast) we arrived at the Peace Park at 08:35.

We bought our tickets and got our boarding passes and the boat left at 08:50 sharp. It took about 50 minutes before we arrived at Miyajima Island and the first thing we (and all the other visitors of the island) wanted to do was seeing the Itsukushima Shrine (another UNESCO World Heritage Site).

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A little information about this shrine:
Itsukushima Shrine is a Shinto shrine on the island of Itsukushima, best known for its “floating” torii gate. It is in the city of Hatsukaichi in Hiroshima Prefecture in Japan.
 
As we arrived at the shrine it was a low tide so we could walk to the torii gate and take pictures from close. The weather was great, the sun was shining so we managed to make some pretty pictures. And you all know the saying “one picture says more than a thousand words”, so here are the pictures.

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After taking way to much pictures we went into the Itsukushima Shrine where a Japanese wedding ceremony took place (as far as we know). Also from here we had a beautiful view on the torii gate. As we left the Shrine we walked around on the Island and took pictures from the Senjokaku (“1000 Mat Pavilion”) and the next door 5-story pagoda called Gojuto.

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Before we went back to the 12:05 boat heading for the Peace Park we also found 2 geocaches on the island. We were back at the hotel to pick up our luggage and before driving to Hiroshima Station we got ourselves a delicious piece of cake at the hotels restaurant called The Fruitier. Sander ordered a cheesecake and I had a piece of chocolate cake. A taxi drove us to the station where we needed the 15:13 Shinkansen (Nozomi 36) to Tokyo.

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This train ride to Tokyo was going to take about 4 hours so we bought ourselves some lunch and sweets for on board of the train. We had seat reservations for car 9, seats 7C and 7D which are also green car seats. Because traveling from Hiroshima to Tokyo takes almost 4 hours we reserved ourselves seats in de first class of the Shinkansen. Those seats have a lot of leg room and are very comfortable.

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During this train ride we had lunch and some sweets. We also prepared the first part of the report and pictures for our weblog for today.

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We arrived at 19:06 at Shinagawa Station and after arrival we first bought the Tokyo Starbucks mug before we headed to our hotel. We stayed in The Strings by Intercontinental again. We got our upgrade again and we stay on the 30th floor this time, the fruit in the room and 2 bottles of water. Also convenient was that the suitcases were already in our room.

After we dropped of our luggage we left the room to take some pictures from Shibuya by night. Unfortunately Sander forgot the filter in the room but we still have some great pictures from the Shibuya Scramble Crossing. At this crossing all traffic lights for vehicles turn red at the same time and at that moment the pedestrian lights turn green. This is really interesting to see, the best location to watch this crossing from is the Starbucks which has a seating area on the 2nd floor. We took some picture from each other while crossing the street.

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After this we went back to our hotel to finish the second part of the blog and figure out what we’d liked to do tomorrow.

Sightseeing in Tokyo…
After our little trip by train to Kyoto and Hiroshima today was going to be a full day of Tokyo.

We slept a little longer and at about 09:30 we were on our way to visit Roppongi Hills. We went there with first the Yamanote Line from Shinagawa to Ebisu and for. There we took de Tokyo Subway (the Hibiya Line) to Roppongi Station.

Roppongi Hills is a New Urban Centre and one of Japan’s largest integrated property developments, located in the Roppongi district if Minato, Tokyo. Main goal for us going there was to visit the 238 meter high Mori Tower and its Observation Deck. After buying our admission ticket we took the elevator to the 52nd floor. From the 52nd floor we had a beautiful view over Tokyo and also saw the Tokyo Tower. Sander took some pictures but it is always a bit difficult to make good pictures through glass. At 11:00 the open-air rooftop opened and we took the elevator to the 54th floor to take pictures from the rooftop/helicopter pad. The views were amazing and there were almost no people there.

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After Roppongi Hills it was time for lunch and today we took the Hibiya Line and Yamanote Line back to Osaki Station. We had lunch at the Gate City Osaki which is a complex with a lot of different cafe’s and restaurants. Today we went for some noodle soup with rice and chicken.

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Because the weather was so great today and the sun was shining we went to see the Imperial Palace East Gardens. We took the Yamanote Line to Tokyo Station. The main station facade from Tokyo Station is brick-built and looks a lot like Amsterdam Central Station.

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After a 10-minute walk we arrived at the Imperial Gardens. These gardens belong to the former Edo Castle. Edo Castle was the residence of the Tokugawa shogun who ruled Japan from 1603 to 1867. Emperor Mejia also resided there from 1868 to 1888 before moving  to the newly constructed Imperial Palace.

We visited the Tokagakudo Music Hall, the Tenshudai Donjon Base and the Ninimaru Gardens. Unfortunately there were only a couple of cherry blossoms out yet, but we could get a couple. Ice pictures. Finally we saw the Nijubashi Bridge. The bridge is one the most photographed scenes in Japan.

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At the end of the afternoon we walked through Hibiya Park and bought ourselves some Starbucks with a delicious piece of Caramel Macchiato Cake. We discovered that this Starbucks was next to the Toranomon Subway Station and from we took the Ginza Line to Omote-Sando and transferred to the Chiyoda Line to Meiji-Jingumae to do some shopping. In this area you find stores by Tommy Hilfiger, Louis Vuitton, Ralph Lauren, Michael Kors, H&M and many many more.

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Slowly it was getting dark outside and it was time to go look for a place to have dinner. We took the Ginza Line to Shibuya and after some walking around we found a nice little place where we ordered dinner again from pictures and an English menu (I think they translated their menu on Google-Translate). We got some Skewwers with rice and of course a cold beer. For dessert we had a donut from Krispy Kreme Donuts and some ice-cream Baskin Robbins. At Baskin Robbins they have the funniest ice-cream flavours.

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We took the Yamanote Line back to our hotel and one station before Shinagawa Station the subway was almost empty. Sander thought this really uncommon for a Tokyo train/subway let’s take a picture. In the meanwhile a friendly Japanese man told me that the train was ending at this station and that we should take the next train to Shinagawa Station. Luckily we were not the only ones sitting in the train, also some Japanese people were still sitting in the train. After a couple of seconds the next train arrived at Osaki Station and brought is back to Shinagawa Station.

Crisscross through Tokyo…
Today was going to be another day of sightseeing in Tokyo. After we left the hotel we had breakfast at the Shinagawa Starbucks. At the table next to us were sitting a couple of Japanese people we were – I presume – having a meeting about ladies underwear. I think it’s very unusual to have meetings like that in public places like Starbucks but in Japan it is very common.

We had our breakfast and took the JR Yamanote Line to Kanda Station and there we transferred to the Tokyo Subway Ginza Line which took us to Asakusa Station. From here it was only a couple of minutes walking to our first goal of today, the Sensoji Temple, also know as Asakusa Kannon Temple. This Buddhist temple is one of Tokyo’s most colorful and popular temples.

The legend says that in the year 628 two brothers fished a statue of Kannon, the goddess of mercy, out of the Sumida River. And even though they put the statue back in the river, it always returned to them. Consequently Sensoji was built nearby for the goddess of Kannon. The temple was completed in 645, making it Tokyo’s oldest temple.

As we approached the temple, the first thing we saw was the Kaminarimon (also Thunder Gate), the outer gate of the Sensoji temple.

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After walking through this gate a 200 meter shopping street follows. The street is called Nakamise and it contains a lot of shops with Japanese souvenirs. At the end of this street we walked through the temple’s second gate, the Hozomon, and ten we saw the temple’s main hall and a five-story pagoda.

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We both spent ¥100 at Omikuji, which a written fortune. You wish for something and you shake with a metal box a couple of time and one wooden stick comes out of it. This wooden stick contains a number in the form of Japanese signs which is equal to the signs on a specific drawer in the wall. From this drawer you take your written fortune and after reading it you can take it home with you or tie is on a rack with other written fortunes.

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After taking pictures and searching (and finding) geocaches we walked in the direction of Ueno park.

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During this 2 kilometer walk we walked from geocache to geocache, unfortunately we did not find al the caches.But Sander found something to eat in one of the small streets we walked through and with hand and feet her was able to order 3 skewers with chicken.

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Ueno Park is a large public park in central Tokyo. We walked around in this big park with an ice-cream and discovered a lot of cherry blossoms, but still not all blossoms are out yet. As we left the park it was time for a late lunch or early dinner.

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We searched for a local place and found a little restaurant (from which I do not know the name). We ordered our food at a machine (thank god a waitress helped us because everything was in Japanese and nothing in English). We both ordered fried rice (with some strange pink things in it) and Sander also had rice with pork and on top of that a raw egg, which is very common to eat in Japan. And before some one has doubts it tasted great!!!



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Next stop this afternoon was Ginza (where we got with the Tokyo Subway Ginza Line). The Ginza area can be compared with Fifth Avenue in New York. All the big names in designer clothing, jewelery stores and electronic stores have a shop there. We walked around and looked at all the windows and visited the Apple Store, Abercrombie & Fitch (which has 8 stories).

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Because we were both very tired we decided to get some donuts and a drink a Krispy Kreme donuts and went back to the hotel.

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Tomorrow we are planning to visit the famous fish market in Tokyo.

Eating Japanese…
When we woke up it had already started to rain, and it would continue to do so till the evening. We decided to visit the fish market today and wanted to be there in the morning.

We started at Shinagawa staton with the JR Keihin -Tohoku Line towards Yurakucho Station. From there we walked towards the Hibiya station wo catch the Tokyo Metro Hibiya Line to Tsukiji Station from which it was just a couple of minutes walking towards the seafood wholesale market of the world largest fish market. We’ve never seen so much dead fish in one place. Lot’s of fresh tuna, most probably for sushi…

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It was quite funny to walk around there and the most important thing is not to disturb the business which is going on, some people didn’t like tourist taking pictures so we only walked through the area once.

After leaving we took the Toei Subway Oedo Line at the Tsukijishijo Station towards Daimon where we transferred to the Toei Subway Asakusa Line to leave the metro at Shimbashi. In Shimbasi we took a late breakfast/early lunch at the Mr. Donut.

After sitting for a while the rain got worse and we both felt tired which made us decided to go back to the hotel to get some rest. In the late afternoon we went back to Shinagawa Station to make the seat reservations for the Narita Express back to the airport on Saturday. We did this on one of the ticket machines available at the JR East office which went easier as expected. e put in the 2 tickets we got on the day of arrival in Tokyo and we got them back combined with 2 seat reservation tickets.

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In the evening we had an appointment together with one of Sanders Japanese colleagues which took us to a typical Japanese restaurant, a place where we would have never entered by ourself. But here we ate a lot of different delicious thing like Codfish eggs (Roe) in baked chicken egg, rice with egg, something with beef and most important THE INSIDE OF CHICKEN WITH TOFU!!! It sounds really interesting but it tasted better!

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And with every good meal you need a good drink. Danielle had a Sake with plume wine and a Matscha Sake Cocktail (Green Tea Sake cocktail). Sander went with cold sake, hot sake and something specific for Japan! Everything tasted great and soon it was 2 hours later and time to leave the restaurant. We had a pleasant time!

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Tomorrow will be the last day from this amazing trip..and we still have things we’d like to see. Tomorrow we’ll try to visit the zoo and watch Panda’s and Elephants.

Watching, walking, photographing, eating…
We still can remember the first day of this vacation like yesterday but today was already the last full day. We had so many amazing experiences that we can’t even tell which single one of them was the best one. Even today we had new experiences and we have so many things left today…

Today would be full of sunshine and we started today at 9:00 with leaving the hotel for a breakfast at the Starbucks inside Shinagawa Station, this is a very crowded one since a lot of people pass through the station on their way to work or while transferring from local transportation to the Shinkansen and vice versa. Danielle found us a place overlooking the hallway so we could watch the people from above.

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After finishing our breakfast we left to the metro area to board the Yamanote line towards Ueno Station. Here we exited to get to the Ueno Zoo. The Ueno Zoo is the oldest one in Japan and was first opened in 1882. The reason why we went there was besides the Elephants their most special two Giant Panda’s called Shin Shin and Ri Ri. And where everywhere else the Japanese line up this isn’t happening in the zoo, one giant group of Japanese trying to be on the first line to take a picture, luckily for us we have our length as an advantage and we were able to get some nice pictures.

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When we left the zoo we went to for lunch in the area around the Ueno Station, we found a nice sushi place where we got a place on the bar and could see how our sushi was prepared by the chef.

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Having finished our latest sushi from this vacation we started looking for a Baskin-Robbins to get ice-cream. Unfortunately the one close by was not opened because it was about to be relocated in a brand new mall. And at that moment we decided to first take the metro towards Akihabara and get ice-cream there. Within less than 30 minutes we were picking our scoops at the Akihabara Baskin-Robbins before we checked out Akihabara without rain.

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In Akihabara a lot of girls promote the so-called maid-cafes and cosplay-cafes dressed up in the style of the cafe and really belongs to this area. But as soon as you try to make a picture the girls turn around or put something before her face. So Danielle tried to get some girls on the picture without them noticing.

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After Akihabara we went to Shinjuku to visit the Shinjuku Gyoen park, this should be a wonderful park to view Cherry Blossoms but the blooming starts very late so we tried to visit the park on the last day. Unfortunately we were not prepared good enough since we arrived at 16:15 and the park closes at 16:30, not letting people in after 16:00. Another reason to come back to Tokyo in a future trip.

From here we went back to Shinagawa to find a place to eat. We wanted to find something special with food we had before during the trip: Yakitori. After looking at the pictures/advertisements of dozens of restaurant we finally found something. We got in an elevator to the 3rd floor of a building and when the door opened we entered a restaurant. And all employees shouted “Irasshaimase” which means something like “Please come in”.

We entered the place and got seated on the bar looking at the cooks preparing the food. Or at least they would be preparing the food as soon as someone ordered. They start with the words “No English”, so far so good!
icon_wink But with one word question we got 2 beer, something made from beef, Yakitori from chicken and pork (don’t ask which parts), black burned chicken and Japanese dumplings. So I would say it worked out perfect in the end. This was the perfect meal to end this vacation with.

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After dinner we went back to our hotel so I could write this blog and Danielle packed our suitcases.

From Tokyo to our home…
On Saturday 7:00 our alarm-clock went off for the last time in Tokyo. After a shower and packing the last items in our suitcases we check-out from the hotel at 8:00. We got the usual breakfast at Shinagawa Station before we boarded the Narita Express towards Terminal 1 of Narita Airport. Here we dropped the LTE Modem in a mailbox and we went with the free hotspots at the airport.

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After dropping of our luggage we went through customs to leave our tax-free shopping tickets in Japan before we went to the gate where the A380-800 from AirFrance was already waiting. The flight time was changed to 10 minutes early but unfortunately we still left on the original planned.

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The flight went very well we have seen some movies had plenty to eat and drink and a very pleasant flight crew. But due to strong headwind we arrived at the gate in Paris 20 minutes later as planned. Normally we would have had 1:15 minutes to get from the long haul flight to our next flight which is time enough but due to delay and the early boarding time of the next flight we had only 30 minutes left. This might sound more relaxing as it is but in between leaving the first plane and boarding the second plane we had to do customs, security check, walk/run about 2 km and take a bus ride from 15-20 minutes.

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So we decided to go for it and started running as soon as we left the plane, we passed a lot of people (there were 516 passengers on the plane and we were sitting in the back), we came to the security check very fast but it took 10 minutes for the first passenger to get his suitcases scanned. Finally we came through and started running to the next hurdle the elevator and afterwards the bus. It took the bus 5 minutes to arrive and then it drove to Terminal 2G for about 15 minutes.

At 2G we needed to get our passport checked which went pretty smooth and at that moment I heard our names being mentioned in the same sentence as last boarding call…I decided to grab one of our 2 carry-ons and started sprinting the last 500 meters to our gate! Yes I made it on time but Danielle wasn’t there so I left my carry-on and I went back for Danielle since the stewardesses told me they would leave the gate open. Sweating and exhausted we both made it on time and the plane left 18:20.

At 17:45 we landed at Nürnberg Airport , at 17:50 we had our suitcases and at 17:55 we drove out the parking garage on our way home where we arrived at 20:15, about 15 hours and 20 minutes after we took-off in Tokyo.