Day Four: Ginza, Hakone

November 28, 2016 at 1:31 PM (Uncategorized)

Ok I had completely forgotten about my intent to blog every day until yesterday. Like, not even “oh I’m too tired to blog” but a “OH I forgot about this platform!”

It’s  5am in Japan right now so sure,  ok time to blog! I have been waking up every morning around 330am Japan time aka 1030am CA time,  but normally I’m able to fall back asleep.  We’re staying at a hot springs hotel where our room has our own private hot springs tub fed by the running brook next to us. Maybe it’s supposed to be a quiet bumbling brook but as it’s fall and it just recently snowed here,  I think it’s become a very loud river.

We are provided breakfast and dinner at this place. Last night was an eight course meal including a giant vegetable platter where we dipped raw tomatoes, leaves, root vegetables (aka radishes,  potatoes,  carrots) into an anchovy and olive oil sauce.  Also had some grilled sablefish,  snapper carpaccio, a delicious beef thing and more! We have one Japanese style breakfast at 830, another Japanese style dinner then a western style breakfast when we check out.
I’ve already taken a sit in our private hot springs tub which felt fantastic after several days of Tokyo exploration. I’m normally not a hot tub kind of person.  I’m sure people know in Japan you must be naked for hot springs. I kind of want to go into our hotel’s public one to see what it’s like, but then probably leave immediately.

Our day started with our Tokyo hotel’s free breakfast which I have loved going to.  We get toast , paninis, fresh vegetable and fruit smoothies,  and some pastries.  Oh and a matcha latte from the coffee machine which is delicious!!! We  had a lighter meal then set off for the Tsujiki Fish Market. I had not researched it at all,  other than knowing that 1 people go very early to see it aka 5 or 6am, and 2 we were not going to wake up early. I think if I traveled alone or with my mom I would have made it,  but I don’t feel like I missed out on that much.  Because according to the site I read,  you have to get there early enough to be the first 120 people to get in , and after that you’re only allowed to stand in a designated viewing area. It makes sense since it is a serious place of business,  but I imagine I’d have difficulty getting a good shot, being timid and not having a professional camera.

So instead we went around 845am, walked there from our hotel which was a fifteen minute walk. The hotel is within a business area,  or maybe all hotels in central tokyo are considered to be with in a business area… anyway there were tons of people walking to work. I stuck out because this was the day I decided to wear my bright yellow Uniqlo jacket and literally everyone was wearing black or navy blue. I’m bummed now that I didn’t get a picture of myself with the crowd, but at the time it did feel quite a bit off putting.

My thoughts on the fish market: I love walking around markets so it was a lot of fun.  I wonder how crowded it would have been at 6am. I always presume every tourist wants to be the first ones there,  and when I am there bright and early,  I’m usually surprised to find people prefer to wake up at a normal hour and have relaxing vacations. There were definitely some cool food stalls with food I’ve never seen, Robyn got a 1000¥ grilled scallop with sea urchin,  which is about $10. but many of the things,  I thought, I am pretty sure I could find that in 99 ranch and if not,  Mitsuwa definitely. I am pretty sure I had read somewhere that the sushi there is for tourists and not the greatest quality even though they’re a stone’s throw from the wholesale area. We sat in a stall and shared a sushi rice bowl, and,  while the sushi was at least better quality than what we had at the Robot Restaurant which tasted like airport quality,  it definitely wasn’t anything stellar. It was crowded but not terribly so.

Then we went back to the hotel, had some time to relax and packed our things. At this point,  I have my suitcase,  a crammed backpack, and a plastic bag of accumulated snacks to carry around. I have a little more space in my suitcase if I’m more strategic about where I put things, and Robyn has a collapsible duffel bag that is taking up half the room in my backpack. so,  there’s more room for souvenirs!
This new phone of mine is killing me! It does not auto capitalize my first words of sentences even though that option is ON. And it does not space correctly!!! ARGHHHHHHH it also doesn’t auto predict that well. It also doesn’t capitalize i and that annoys me. i should just wow a sentence wiring ecru singing ira woes from what i meant. (I should just write a sentence without ever changing its words from what I meant)

I don’t think anyone in Japan uses Samsung phones because none of the cases for sale are Samsung, they are alllll for iPhones!

Ok I still have half a day to go!!!!!!!

We checked out, our luggage with them, then went to walk around Ginza which is where our hotel is near. Ginza was described to us as the Rodeo Drive of Tokyo but it really just seems like a giant sprawling shopping area with nice dessert shops nearby. We first went to Hakuhinkan, a giant 8 floor toy store first established in 1899. Robyn found a 1000 piece puzzle of a Sanrio egg character she’s seen and taken a liking to. Here, I found out the mail I’ve been anxiously waiting to have delivered to our Tokyo hotel had arrived,  thankfully 5 hours before it said it would be delivered by. I’m partially sad we didn’t return to the hotel immediately but I’m partially glad we stayed to explore more of Ginza because I enjoyed it. I only wish we had had more time to sit and eat at one of the nicer dessert restaurants or walked around the flagship Uniqlo store or walked down more streets.

 

We did continue a walk to Itoya a nine floor stationary store. Though there is another building adjacent to it with seemingly just as many floors that was never mentioned in the descriptions. I came close to buying nice notepads but I’m glad I didn’t because I do love writing in free notepads with company logos on them.

We got back,  got our luggage and my very important mail which was our JR passes so that we could embark on our journey. then off we went around 345pm on a very stressful travel journey.  looking back it was only a two hour ordeal but it felt so much longer!!!!

The JR pass is only for visitors of Japan and it allows you to take the JR trains for free, unlimited usage,  for 7, 14 or maybe 21 days.  I forget the options,  I just know I have the 7 day pass. It is pricey, a $250 pass per person,  but would save about $100 for our itinerary. You would only want it if you travel between different cities, as it does not cover local lines in cities. Though there is a JR line,  Yamanote, that does a circle around tokyo that could get you around locally but a ¥750, $7.50, one day pass could be used for this so you probably wouldn’t buy this to travel locally in Tokyo.

You must buy this pass outside Japan and they will mail it to your address. this is generally very unlike me, but when I received the passes months ago, I put them aside on my kitchen counter and never even looked at them. I had ordered a free JR train book and I had read through that one day, but otherwise I never even looked at the vouchers. this was a huge mistake, because I thought I would have time to read the instructions on the plane and figure it out then. instead, because I never looked at the vouchers, I never thought about them and off I went to the airport without them.

I didn’t realize this until we were sitting in the Vancouver airport on our layover and I looked at the JR train book and loudly gasped and went “OH NO.” Robyn immediately guessed what had happened. Luckily I had discovered this in Canada and we still had two hours before boarding, and I had time to email customer support ask them what to do, and order another one to deliver to our hotel.

The question was whether it would arrive before we had to depart for Hakone and arrive before the 7pm cutoff time in order to eat dinner.  We did, but it involved confusion the whole way. 1 standing in a long line where I finally opened the voucher and read the instructions and discovered I had to activate the card at only certain transit offices.  2 finding out the long line I was standing in did not apply. 3 needing to buy a ticket for three station stops away from a machine and having no idea what the fare to pay should be because you had to enter in the fare you wanted to pay and the station map showing the fares was entirely in Japanese and we didn’t have WiFi. 4 arriving in essentially a Japanese grand central station and having zero idea where to go next.  5 getting out passes and getting our train tickets was easy. trying to understand where the platform to go to was not. 6 arriving at the next station and needing to buy a Hakone freepass. 7 missing our train by literally seconds. 8 figuring out that a bus would be faster and easier

In the end of that entire process,  the easiest mode of transit that I typically take every effort to avoid in America was the bus. It was clean,  not crowded,  and showed the next station stop on a giant electronic screen in both English and Japanese.

Ok I’ve been standing trying to finish this post before going into the hot tub for a 630am soak. that’s all !!!!

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