Time well wasted at Haneda Airport
We arrived at the airport around 1:00am which meant waiting till 5.30am when the metro lines opened to head to our hotel! Nothing strikes boredom into the heart of any traveler than the idea of waiting around in an airport, however, we were pleasantly surprised with how we could fill our time. We started with a mini tour of the airport followed by a tasty croissant at one of the cafes which happened to be open at that time; Cafe Cardinal.
We then came across quite a novel idea where you purchase a small wooden tag from a vending machine (obviously), write a personalized note onto it and hang it next to thousands of others on their Wishes Wall. Another great and strangely exciting discovery occurred inside the restrooms at the airport. They were seriously high tech with a range of buttons positioned on the wall which would clean the toilet for you!
Tokyo Subway: The mayhem begins
When it came to transportation, our luck was about to run out when we ventured inside the subway for the first time. Unlike the toilets in the airport, the only thing we were impressed with here was the locals ability to actually read the evil metro map! If it wasn’t bad enough that we had to try and figure out where on earth we were going, it was all written in Japanese. Obviously. A smaller map in English gave us a little clue, but not much. I passed on much of the navigating responsibility to my husband, then at least I couldn’t be blamed if we got completely lost! However, near the end of our trip we had almost mastered the metro map!
Accommodation: Everything in small in Japan
We finally arrived at the Yokohama Sakuragicho Washington Hotel and were extremely happy with our hotel choice! Set in an awesome location just 2 minutes from the train station, there was a great array of restaurants, attractions and cafe’s just a short walk away. Not only was the location perfect, but the view from our room was stunning, overlooking the large Ferris wheel in the bay.
Even though the rooms were really small (like most things in Japan) we had everything we needed and wanted! Checking out of a hotel is normally a standard procedure passing your key to the front desk, but not here. Machines are available for you to simply insert your room card, pay any remaining fees and away you go!
After robots checking us out of our hotel we took a different approach to our accommodation in Tokyo, staying in a wonderful place through Airbnb. Our host was just great and the room was rather spacious, which is always a plus!
Theme parks ban the Selfie Stick?!
Japan boasts an abundance of attractions to suit everyone’s taste and even though we had only a short time here, we managed to fit quite a bit in! Just like Dubai, there were many theme parks, zoo’s and malls like the Yokohama Red Brick Warehouse which we thoroughly enjoyed, Akihabara where we picked up some amazing cosmetics and even Tokyo Train station, yes, you read that right. This station is no ordinary train station, but is home to an unbelievable underground shopping mall with every retail outlet you could imagine!
Disney Land was a simply magical place (obviously!) which brought back so many childhood memories as you pass by Disney princesses and enjoy all the bright colors and fun activities. But as you can imagine it was super crowded and we had to queue for hours to get on a single ride!
Lines weren’t as bad at other theme parks such as Yokohama Cosmo World which had a ton of great rides but also had the most baffling rule I have ever encountered. Signs covered the park completely banning selfie sticks. I know everyone has a different view on the Selfie Stick Trend but that was just amusing!
Visiting the Amazon in JAPAN?
Roller coaster rides can give you the screams and excitement but nothing can compare to the feeling of returning to your childhood like a trip to the zoo! We can’t rate the Yokohama Zoo; Zoorasia high enough. Each area throughout the park was themed, so you would take a journey through different areas across the globe from the Amazon to the Dessert all in one place, seeing the different species which walk the lands.
In comparison, Ueno Zoo was nothing to write home about. It was considerably smaller than Zoorasia and nowhere near as nice, however, our trip wasn’t for nothing, we wanted to visit the panda’s, an animal you can’t see at Zoorasia!
Hot chocolate with a group of cats!
Japan is known for the weird and wonderful and if you are cat lovers like we are, then a trip here would not be complete without a visit to the Cat Cafe. Enjoy a drink while being surrounded by purring felines! It can be quite torturous as they have a rule that you can’t go around picking up the cats, you have to wait for them to come to you, which is fair!
I mentioned in my previous blog post about some of the struggles we had finding food, however it wasn’t all doom and gloom towards the end of our time in Japan. While exploring ChinaTown and browsing at the souvenirs we came across Strawberry Cheesecake KitKat. Yes. Strawberry. Cheesecake. KitKat. To be honest, if you don’t at least get yourself a different flavored KitKat in Japan your trip pretty much doesn’t count!
Combining culture with couture
The big tourist attractions are all well and good, but we wanted a little culture on our visit too. Sankeien Gardens is a photographers paradise, with open ponds, tree’s in full bloom and historic Japanese buildings to explore made for a wonderful contrast and a beautiful experience. Japan has an intriguing way of combining history, beauty and shopping, so at least when you are browsing the different shops you can also feel as though you are getting a bit of culture too.
Sensō-ji Temple was another location which we loved so much we returned for round two! Not only do you get to admire the stunning ancient Buddhist temple, but the surround area is home to an array of shops, which kept me happy on more than one occasion! Asakusa was a similar area which combined plenty of shops as well as the Buddhist temple; Sanju.
Yes, malls seem to dominate Japan, however, you can get your culture-fix without being tempted to splurge on ANOTHER pair of stilettos. When we came out, we knew that Japan was famous for its innovative technologies and advanced forward thinking, so it was great to see it in action at the Mitsubishi Minatomirai Industrial Museum which is perfect for the geek which lives within us all as we browsed through all the latest gadgets and technologies.
If you don’t fancy getting your geek on at the Museum, then you can let your inner art critic out at the Hakone Open Air Museum which has some amazing art pieces. We were lucky enough to be blessed with gorgeous weather that day which made for even more incredible views!
Lake Ashi stole my heart
Coming from Dubai, I have seen the big theme parks, the flashy shopping malls, I wanted something more. Up until this point, I had seen a fair amount in Japan considering the short duration of the trip however, nothing stood out more than my trip to Lake Ashi in Hakone. Out of the hustle and bustle, my lungs were filled with fresh air as it’s cool grasp swept gently across my face with majestic mountains dominating the surrounds. Unfortunately, we weren’t allowed to access the mountain due to the surrounding volcanoes being rather active! However, ever single time I look at my photographs taken here, I have the overwhelming feeling to take a long deep breath.
My time in Japan will never be forgotten. It was crazy at times but I think that’s just what makes Japan so unique. Maybe next time we could stay a little longer and return back to the beauty of Lake Ashi for one more breath.