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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.