December 23rd 2015 to January 2nd 2016
Wednesday, December 23rd
Lessons learned from previous trips – I arrive in Copenhagen one day early, to spend the night at WakeUp. So I do – I hardly don’t get any sleep due to a miserable cold.
My cold is also not the best thing for a 10 hour flight to Tokyo in an up-pimped Airbus, with new entertainment-system and very old movies.
Thursday, December 24th
We arrive in Tokyo Narita at 10.30 am. I’m absolutely done. 10½ hours of flight with hardly no chance to move around. That’s not funny. But Narita is friendly and effective. I rush through immigration and customs, and you are met by friendly people all over – taking a bow every time they talk to you. I buy myself a Metrocard for the local transport, before I head down to take the Skyliner to Ueno. Ueno is where I am staying, so it’s a short walk to Centurion Hotel Ueno. The room is not available yet, I have to wait until 2 pm. That’s not what I need – I need a nap and a shower.
Finally, I can get into room 412. Very small but with all that is needed. Time for a shower and a 2-hour nap. At 5 I take myself out of bed. I walk to Ueno Station and take the Metro to Tokyo Station. There’s some Christmas-thing going on tonight. Lamps in the trees, loads of people and the station is illuminated. I take a look around before heading back to Ueno for my Christmas-pizza. At 8 I’m back at the hotel for relaxing and going to bed early.
Friday, December 25th
Today’s walk is from page 160 in Lonely Planet Tokyo. It’s a bit of the beaten track. I start in the locak park – Ueno koen. I check out the temple Toshu-gu. I did the same last time I was here, back in 2010. It’s still a nice place. Then I cross the lovely park and head over to the neighborhood called Yanaka. There are more small streets with small houses to check out. There’s a few small temples as well. Then I cross a local cemetary – Yanaka-reien – it’s huge and old. The cemetary ends at Nippori-station. That’s supposed to be a good spot for trainspotters – but there are noone today. Then I head down to the oldfashioned shopping-streets at Yanaka Ginza. This is old school shopping. They have something with cats in this street. There are pictures and scultures of cats all over – and a living one sitting on the stairs is having all the attention it needs. Finally I end up at the Metro-station Sendangi, where I take a train back to my hotel.
I’m still pretty miserable due to my cold. The rest of the day is relaxing with a book and Netflix in the room. Not why I travelled all this way, but no more energy is left for today.
Dinner in the restaurant at the hotel. There’s a small band playing old christmas songs. The band contains an electric piano, a lazy guitar, a flute and a soft hat.
Saturday, December 26th
If I had been at home I would have make a cup of tea, lay down on the sofa and switching between Premier League and Netflix all day long. But I’m not, and being on the opposite side of the world I have to check it out.
So me and my running nose head out for a morning trip to Akihebara – also known as Electric City. All kinds of elecronic shops are here, together with a lot of youth culture. I buy myself a good pair of headphones for my Iphone – to replace the 10 miserable I have. I also try to play some Pachinko – something that a lot of Japanese youth spend a lot of time and money doing. It’s very noisy and I don’t win shit. At several places around the area there are queues. I don’t know the reason, but in one of them all the people have brought pictures of a local pop-star. They seem to be sharing them while waiting in line for something – mayby concert-tickets – who knows. After a few hours I return to my hotel.
Later this afternoon I head out again. This time to Shinjuku - a huge shopping- and entertainment area. I thing most of Tokyo is here today. There are so many people. A part of it is called Kabukicho and according to Lonely Planet it’s “seedy”. But that’s not much in the middle of the day. On my way around I accidently stumble into the area called Golden Gai. It’s very different from the rest of the area. It’s small, old, wooden-houses now turned into bars and restaurants. Most are closed during day-hours, but it’s pretty fun to walk the streets here anyway. Finally me and my running nose return to the hotel. Tonights dinner is a burger from a local fastfood-joint. I can’t stand the music in the Restaurant.
Sunday, December 27th
The Hotel is pretty much full – and that goes for the breakfast as well. Most of the visitors look more local than europeans or americans.
Todays first trip is to the temple Meji-jingu. I was here on my first visit to Japan as well. It’s located inside the park Yoyogi koen. There are quite a lot op people, but not crowded. It’s a nice thing to leave busy Tokyo for the temple and the park. I check out the temple end the habits of those visiting. Then I take a pretty long walk in the fine and peaceful park. After lunch at a café in the park, I head down to the not so peaceful Takeshita-dori. This is where japanese youth come to pick up the latest fashion. There are many japanese youth on the street today, so it’s hard to get anyway but follow the stream. I do so – and then I go back to the hotel.
Trip 2 is for a sight that wasn’t here last time I was. It’s called Tokyo Skytree and it opened in 2012. There are great views from the platform at 350 meters. You can get even higher, but the Tokyo night views from 350 was fine for me – a fantastic sight.
Monday, December 28th
Sometimes its fun to see areas with not many or any tourists or sigths for the matter. Kagurazaka is such a place. Page 144 in my guide has a fine walk in the area. Not that there are many sights, but more to see local life. So it’s a walk around hilly Kagurazaka-dori and the small alleys around Hyogo-yokocho – an old geisha area – more shopping in Wasafi-doi and a temple called Akagi-jinja. It’s different from other temples I have seen, since it’s located in a residential area and it’s new and modern – from 2010. My walk takes around 3 hours – including lunch – before heading back to Ueno.
My local hood Ueno is the target for the second walk of the day. This is not tourist area, but mainly locals and people working here. But there’s a high pulse and a lot of life. There are shops, restaurants, a market and people, people, people. On this Monday night it’s hectic – because it’s the last working day before new years day off for a lot of people. Restaurants and café’s are full of people enjoying themselves. Eventhough things are a bit hectic, you never feel unsafe – and that includes the area containing hostess-bars, massage-parlours and love-hotels. This area is also known as a red light district.
Tuesday, December 29th
All-day trip by bus to Fuji Mountain. The trip starts at 8.30 at a hotel close to Shijuka train station, and the bus is full.
It takes 2 hours from Tokyo to the mountain. Then we continue all the way around the mountain anti-clockwise. During the trip there are 4 stops where you can watch Mount Fuji from a clear sky. That’s some kind of a special gift for us. It’s very rare. First stop is at the mountain. You can go up to 4th station at 2000 meters. You can’t get any higher due to snow. The mountain is 3776 meters high. Our guide has been to the top 30 times.
Next stop is Oshino Hakkai. It’s some small lakes made of melting water from the mountain. It’s a cozy place, with great views of the mountain as well. Then we head on to a local Shiinto-shrine. It’s located inside a small forest and is very pretty. I forgot it’s name. It’s not on the normal tour-list, but the normal one was closed due to a Marathon. This one is fine though. Finally we get to Shiraito Falls, some waterfalls in a small valley. That’s very pretty as well. Then we return home. The trip back is 3 hours due to heavy traffic. We are back at Shinjuku at 5.30 pm, and then it only takes about 15 minutes to get to the other side of the city – Ueno – on the very efficient local metro. There are places where public transport works – and where life would be impossible if it didn’t.
Back home it’s time for a relaxing evening at room 412.
Wednesday, December 30th
Page 74 – todays walk in Lonely Planets fine Tokyo guide. The area is Tsukiji. Oedo-line takes me to Tuskijishio station, and first stop is a very special house called Nakagin Capsule – build like industrial containers on top of eachother. It needs repair – or maybe even domolition as it stands now. Next stop is a huge garden – Hamarikyo Onshi-teien, but it has been closed down for new year. So – no garden. Then on to the super-sight of the area – the huge vegatable and the enormous fish-market in Tsukiji. If you get here at 5 am there’s a famous tuna-auction. But that’s not for my clock. Here at 10 it’s still very much alive, and you walk around the area together with people selling and buying – and some just watching. And if you doesn’t watch carefully chances are that you will be run over by an electric truck transporting fish around. I survive – and head over to the nearby area with a fine temple and lots of restaurants serving sushi.
Then I continue along the river Sumida to an old area called Tsukuda-jima. Among all the new and higt buildings there’s a small pocket of houses from the 50’s. From here – Oedo-line back for a break.
My evening trip is to Shibuya – head of youth culture in Tokyo – if not the world. They also have the most busy pedestrian-crossing in the world. I take a walk across and in the streets where japanese pop-music is playing out through loudspeakers. No shopping for me – but I’m not in the target groups for the shops here.
Thursday, December 31st
A quiet day on the tourist-front. First down to say hello to the emperors palace in downtown Tokyo. His garden is closed for the holidays, so I can’t watch that. The emperors place is a huge chunk in central Tokyo. Among it rises the government building, banks and other “powerhouses”.
Then on to another area called Ningyocho. That’s a local neighborhood off the tourist-track. It’s cozy. Local people are standing in line in front of the local shops to get the best pieces of meat for tonights new years dinner.
Then back to the hotel. Afternoon is relaxing. Dinner is at a restaurant on 4th floor in a local building. Many restaurants are not on street-level here. You take a lift – and there it is – like it was a private apartment. Then 20 minutes of Pachinko before I have lost it all – and leave with no coins and unable to hear anything. I thought there would be more action in Ueno on a night like this. At midnight I head up to the park and the temples and shrines. Here people gather to ring the bell at midnight, but it’s all quiet and down to earth. I see no fireworks, but there’s a nice athmosphere around it.
Friday, january 1st
Another fine day of sunshine. I have been very lucky with weather on this trip. Today – no clouds and 12 degrees celsius. Not a bad start for the new year.
I take a trip to Asakusa and the fine temple Senso-ji. I’m not the only one with that idea. The place is packed. The queue is long but well organized. While you wait you can shop in the many stalls en-route. When you get inside the temple – that you don’t actually get inside, since it’s not a closed building – you throw some coins in the bucket, and you can be sure for a happy 2016. If you want to know more you buy a card for 100 Yen. I pick the card from a drawer in a dresser, and it tells you what will happen to you. A bit like a horoscope I think. I don’t know if anyone believes in this or if it’s just a happening. A hang out for a few hours in the area that is full of restaurants and small shops. In front of most of the shops there’s a line of people waiting to get served. Japanese don’t care about waiting in lines, as long as they are waiting for something good.
I don’t wan’t to wait, so I head back to the hotel picking up a sandwich on the way. The afternoon is spend in my room 412 watching the emperors cup on TV. Gamba Osaka wins 2-1 against Urawa Red Diamonds.
Later a sunset trip to Ginza. That’s high end shopping. No japanese pop-music here, but plenty of fancy shops. Most of them are closed today, so I don’t get to buy myself a new Cartier-watch this time. New Years day is one of the few days shops close in this town.
Saturday, January 2nd
Last breakfast at my fine Centurion Ueno Hotel. Eggs, rice, chicken and ham is on my menu this morning – and John Wayne is on the big screen.
It’s time to leave. At check-out I even get a small new years present. Then a walk to my Skyliner to Narita. My local travelcard is used for paying. Transport has been very simple with the card. And you can use it for buying coffee as well in a lot of places.
From Narita it’s 11 hours of flight to Copenhagen. The food is mediocre. We arrive in Copenhagen at 15.30, and as usual you have to wait long for your luggage here. Train to Aarhus at 16.55 and 3 hours later I’m back home.