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October 24th 2015
Published: October 25th 2015
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After a wonderful long weekend in Mito, we were off again to our last destination - Tokyo! We got up early to say goodbye to Yotsuha and Mika who had to go to school and work. Mika's parents took us to the station. A short train ride later, we were in Tokyo! Our hotel was in Akasaka, a really trendy district - smaller streets, dotted with restaurants and shops and really vibrant at night. We walked around while waiting to be checked it and got to know the area and has lunch. Later that evening, we went to Roppongi, which is known as the entertainment district of Tokyo. It was certainly more impressive than Brisbane and any Australian city for that matter, however we preferred the intimate and vibrant feel of Akasaka. We went to the Mori tower to level 52 (!) to the observation deck 'Tokyo City View' 250 metres high!! It was absolutely stunning at night - the twinkling lights and buzz of activity down below. We could even see the runway of Haneda airport in the distance. While there, we got a professional photo done, with a Halloween theme since Haloween (which the Japanese seemed to have taken a real liking to) was around the corner. There was even an ultra expensive champagne bar there which wasn't very popular. Later, we went looking for a good place to eat and stumbled across Kirin City, one of many Kirin beer halls dotted across the city. I tried a frozen beer - he head of the beer is frozen malt which later melts into the beer and gives it a malty taste and different colour and Bill had a half and half - half stout, half kirin premuim. Later, we decided to get some food from the convenience store and drink wine in the room!

The next day we went to Senso-ji, a popular temple complex is Asakusa. The temple was built in 645, and legend says in 628 two brothers fished a statue of Kannon, godess of mercy and the statue later always came back to them even when they put it back in the river. The temple is painted prominant red, and attracts thousands of tourusts and locals a day. The market that runs down from the metro station to the temple, Nakamise, sells lots and lots of souvenirs - it took us quite awhile to get the the temple! Once we got tnere we lit some insense and I paid my respects to Buddha in the main hall and tne smaller complex behind, we explored the backstreets of Asakusa. Later, we went to Harajuku. Famous for being home to the cute 'Harajuku girls' we walked around in amazement - this place was filled with teenegers, cute pop songs and characters in shop windows, and not to forget the condom mania shop near the metro stop. We walked into a food court - and it was bright pink full of sweet smelling food and teenage girls. Bill said it made him physically ill all that pink! I bought Shaabi a small dog hat, however later discovered I had left it behind at a restaurant. After Harajuku, we went to Shinjuku - now THIS is the Tokyo we had seen on TV. Giant skyscrapers, neon signs everywhere, tv screens and millions of people. It was chaotic, fun, ecletic.... This is the place the locals, especially salarymen, go to relax. Gone are the formalities during work hours, now it beer hour! The smaller streets were just as bright and as close to a 'red light-' district as you might get in Japan. Many bars, kareoke dens, restaurants you name it, straight out of cyberpunk. We had a Yakitori dinner in a small Yakitori bar, washed down with some beer. Shinjuku is the place to be in Tokyo!!

The next day we set off to the Tokyo National Museum. A large complex, it houses many collections including Japanese art from various periods including Jamon, Yayoi and Kofun, Buddhist art in the Heinan - Muromachi period, Attire of the Military elite, National treasures, Japanese archeology, ceramics and archeological objects of the Indiginous people, the Ainu and Ryuku, the indigenous population of Okinawa. Afterward, we went to Ginza to experience for ourselves this famed shopping district. Flanked by tall skyscrapers and high end stores, Ginza was abuzz with business people and tourists, mainly older tourists with cash to burn, unlike us (I think we are more Shinjuku people!) Still, after a walk and a bite to eat Bill headed to a coffeeshop while I had a bit of a shop and visited the largest UniQlo store in the world - 12 stories! Later that evening we ate locally at Akasaka - yummy fresh sashimi and sushi. Late that night I tried the hotel's indoor onsen which was divine!

The next day we went to the Japanese Sword museum - it was smaller than expected and pricey. However as Bill is an avid long-swordsman we went. However, we weren't allowed to take photos. The collection was from several eras and this particular collection was called 'Supreme Sword Country Bizen'. Later, we walked through the lovely backstreets and park back to Harajuku. While there, we visited the Ukiyo-e Ota Memorial Museum of Art which has a large collection of art, many of which are woodblock. Ukiyo-e originated at the beginning of the Tokugawa era as a form of popular art and ran until the beginning of the meji period. A lovely collection, we bought some art books to remember our visit. Afterward, Bill went back to the hotel and I went shopping in Harajuku, as well as going back to Senso-ji to buy a Yukata, as well as pay my respects at the temple. I also visited the Meji Shrine in Harajuku, which is a Shinto shrine dedicated to Emperor Meji and Empress Shoken. it was a much larger complex than I thought - lush trees and a long stoned wakway, it felt like you were walking in a forest (with tourists). Along the way there were barrels of sake wrapped in straw which signifies Emperor Meji's lead on industrial growth and modernisation of Japan during the meji era and it is said his soul is enshrined here. There were also barrels of wine that was gifted from various French dignitories. I walked all the way up to the shrine and did the ritual cleaning of hands and mouth and prayed at the shrine as did other tourists. It was such a beautiful complex. Later I took the long metro ride back to Asakusa to shop at the Nakamise markets for a Yakuta! It was twilight and Senso-ji looked so beautiful. It was closed, however tourists lined up at the door to pray and make a wish, in which I joined them. And I got my Yukata - bliss! For dinner we went back to Shinjuku for a Yakiniku (BBQ) dinner and more walking and photos around this crazy place! As it was the ladies night in thd hotel onsen, I went to the onsen and after midnight seems to be the time to go to onsen. It was very relaxing, particulary after a long day of walking!

Our last day in Tokyo - we checked out and went to the Tsujiki fush markets. Famed for the live tuna auction (at 5am limited to 120 tourists to view this per day - we had no chance!) The market was bustling on a saturday morning - fresh seafood, restaurants and stalls selling various things such as cooking implements. We took a walk around, bought a few things and then it was back to our old hunting ground Shinjuku for a visit to Kirin City for one last (giant) beer! Afterwards we quickly went to the Maranouchi building near the Imperial Palace (we wanted to visit the grounds but time got away from us) for a final shop at Loft. Then, just like that time to collect our bags at the hotel, off to Tokyo station and on the express bound for Narita airport.

Japan is such a welcoming, friendly country and I recommend it to anyone. As with most countries I've visited, the Japanese are ultra polite and keen to help the 'lost' tourist. I can't help but thank the Masaki family enough, not only for their hospitality but for initially sending Mika to Australia for student exchange in 2000. Now I have a constant connection in Japan 😊 And thank you to Jhum and her family for their warm hospitality and Thai food! I look forward to showing Aunty Nik (Jhum's mum) photos when I visit Thailand next year. Whilst I'm never thrilled to return home, I know we must return, work hard and make more money for the next adventure xx

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