Tokyo with Family (Day 5) – Hakone

April 6, 2015. Our last full day in Tokyo was spent outside the city in the resort area of Hakone (箱根) almost a hundred kilometers southwest of Tokyo.

On a good day Hakone offers spectacular views of Mount Fuji. On this particular day however overcast skies and slight drizzles hid much of mountain and the hues that would’ve otherwise made such a picturesque setting for a day trip.

After a brief stop in one of the stations on the slopes of Mount Fuji, we proceeded to a quaint hotel where we had lunch. Next, we rode a ropeway to the sulfur springs of Owakudani (大涌谷), where Hakone’s sulfur cooked black eggs are made. Our last stop was on a ferry through Lake Ashi (芦ノ湖).

Tokyo with Family (Day 4)

April 5, 2015. A visit to a Disney theme park in one city didn’t seem to be enough for my folks, we just had to go to another Disney theme park in Tokyo, Disney Sea. It would have been the more interesting theme park visit because it deviates from the classic Disneyland blueprint. However, the rains and the cold really dampened the mood, after seeing most of the park’s sections, all we wanted to do was go home and stay dry.

Tokyo Disney Sea, unique to Tokyo, is made up of seven themed “ports of call”–Mediterranean Harbor, Mysterious Island, Mermaid Lagoon, Arabian Coast, Lost River Delta, Port Discovery and American Waterfront.

Continue reading

Tokyo with Family (Day 3)

April 4, 2015. Our third day in Japan was spent with a tour group with a half-day itinerary to two of the city’s iconic landmarks — Tokyo Tower (東京タワー) and Meiji Shrine (明治神宮). In between, our shuttle made brief drive throughs of other landmarks in the city.

In Meiji Shrine we were fortunate to have witnessed a wedding ceremony and a miyamairi (宮参り, literally “shrine visit”) a traditional Shinto rite of passage for Japanese babies.

Continue reading

Tokyo with Family (Day 2) – Tokyo Disneyland

April 3, 2015. Tokyo Disneyland is Disneyland anywhere else in the world. All generally follow the same blueprint and themed sections, with some particular variations in attractions. If you have been to other Disneylands, this will be a familiar trip.

It was a weekday and despite the overcast and occasional drizzle, hundreds of school kids in their uniforms were in the park, which seemed as busy as it would have been on a weekend. Lines were long, so if you’re not prepared to stand in line and wait for at least half an hour for each ride, forget it! Ha ha. If you’ve been in a similar ride or attraction in another Disneyland, it’s probably quite the same.

Continue reading

Tokyo with Family (Day 1)

April 2, 2015. My family visited Tokyo, Japan right at the peak of the year’s bloom of cherry blossoms (sakura 桜). Part of the awe of the spectacle is the transient nature of the full bloom of flowers, which only happens roughly within the span of a week or so at a particular place, which makes one cherish the experience even more. This likewise explains why upon arrival, hanami (花見) or viewing the cherry blossoms was the first thing our family did.

In fact, the short-lived character of the beautiful bloom symbolizes many aspects of the sakuras’ cultural significance to the Japanese, centered on the beauty of life and its many aspects and their fleeting existence to be relished at their peak.

By the end of our short 5-day trip, the bloom had waned and the flowers have started falling down.

We were fortunate enough to be billeted in a hotel within walking distance from one of the best places in Tokyo to view the cherry blossoms, Chidorigafuchi (千鳥ヶ淵), or the moat the surrounds the northeastern part of the Imperial Palace.

As with any scenery that have been become familiar not by actual sight but by dominant cultural portrayal and association in visual media, seeing the cherry blossoms of Tokyo for the first time in person was a surreal experience. The trees in full bloom was indeed a sight to behold, especially as set against the cosmopolitan vibe of Tokyo.

Continue reading