Day Four: Ginza, Hakone

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 (after checking all of the social media activity in the darkness of night).  We’re staying at a hot springs hotel in Hakone 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, our first dinner here 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.

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We are also given these robes to wear around the hotel

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 and run back to the comfort of sitting in my own private hot tub.

Our fourth day started with our Tokyo hotel’s free breakfast which I have loved going to and will miss dearly. We get toast , paninis, fresh vegetable and fruit smoothies,  and some pastries. Oh and a matcha latte from the coffee machine which is delicious!!! For our last morning in Tokyo before heading to Hakone, we had a lighter meal and then went to the Tsujiki Fish Market. I had not researched it at all, other than knowing that 1) people go very early to see it in its full fishy glory aka 5 or 6am, and 2) we were not going to wake up that 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 to Tsujiki around 845am and walked there from our hotel which was a fifteen minute walk. This fish market is probably the closest major tourist attraction from our hotel. It’s within a business area (or maybe all hotels in central Tokyo are considered to be with in a business area) and 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, a little yellow thing in a sea of business people.

My thoughts on the fish market: I love walking around food markets so it was a lot of fun.  I wonder how crowded it would have been at 6am. I always presume for every major attraction, that every tourist wants to be the first ones there,  and when I arrive bright and early,  I’m always 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 here is a tourist trap 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. The market was crowded but not terribly so.

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Tsujiki Fish Market

Then we went back to the hotel, had some time to relax and packed our things.

Side note: 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 blog about!!!!!!!

We checked out, left our luggage with them, then went to walk around Ginza. 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. (Note from the future: it remains half completed six months later on her dining table).

We continued walk to Itoya, a nine floor stationary store. Though there is another building with the name Itoya adjacent to it with seemingly just as many floors that was never mentioned in the tourist book description. 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. Key word, free.

We went back to the hotel, got our luggage then off we went around 345pm to Hakone via our JR pass.

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View from the Tokyo Park Hotel lobby

My JR Pass side story:
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 with 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, you could purchase a one day pass rather than having a JR pass to use this line.

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 along with the passes, and I had read through that one day, but otherwise I never even looked at the vouchers. This was a huge mistake, because I never thought about the vouchers 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 the Vancouver airport and we still had two hours before boarding, and I had time to email customer support ask them what to do, and per their advice, order another one that would be mailed to our Tokyo hotel.

The question was whether it would arrive before we had to depart for Hakone and specifically, arrive in time for us to leave Tokyo and arrive at our Hakone hotel before the 7pm cutoff time in order to eat dinner.  To cut to the end of the story, we MADE IT!!! But it was incredibly stressful the entire day and involved a ton of confusion and I had written a giant paragraph describing all the things that went wrong that I will now delete because who needs to relive that.

A learning point was that I was very wary of taking the bus in Japan because, as an American, I have associated buses with lateness and confusion. Surprisingly, the bus we took was was clean, not crowded, and displayed the next station stop on a giant electronic screen in both English and Japanese. So, a complete 180 from the American bus system in that it made sense and made an effort to help its travelers.

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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The view from our Hakone hotel room
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