"Once you’ve met someone you never really forget them."
A line taken from the famous Studio Ghibli film, 'Spirited Away.' While I've yet to watch the film, this line resonated with me. I think of every destination similar to how you would see a person: full of unique personality, different appearances and having their own particular charm. Some places left me in awe while others left a lackluster impression.
Tokyo captivated me.
For our last two days in Tokyo, we decided to let our inner tourists to take the stage, mostly visiting traditional, historical destinations. Seeing these magnificent structures with my own eyes - after years of seeing it in mangas and animes - left me speechless and filled with gratitude.
DAY 4: Asakusa, Ueno, Odaiba
December 16, 2015
Our busiest day in Tokyo, definitely! After a home-cooked breakfast, we made our way to Asakusa to visit Sensō-ji, a Buddhist temple and the oldest one in Japan. Once you step out of Asakusa Station, you'll immediately see the Kaminarimon (Thunder Gate). Going through Kaminarimon will lead you to a shopping alley of sorts, reminiscent of how markets used to be in Japan, called Nakamise. Eventually, you'll reach the inner gate, Hozomon (Treasure House Gate), and beyond that is Sensō-ji, among other structures.
The temple grounds is beautiful, like a scene plucked out from a movie.
We spent a lot of time marveling at the details of each structure, the stories that came with it, and the culture that it helped foster.
From the temple grounds, you can see the imposing structure of the Tokyo Skytree! After spending what it seemed like the entire day at Sensō-ji, we made our way to Ueno-koen.
When I think about the few hours we spent at Ueno-koen, the word 'serene' comes to mind. The park area was massive but very open and spacious. Yoyogi-koen was filled with tall trees so it made me feel enclosed and enveloped by nature but Ueno-koen made me feel free and expansive.
To end our day, we went to Odaiba for the life-size Gundam statue because #childhooddreams From Ueno-koen, we had to transfer to Rinkai Line to get to Diver City (the names sounded so Pokemon-esque!). The moment we stepped onto the Rinkai Line train, I felt like the vibe shifted from modern professional to nerdy gamer real quick!
There were Mario-inspired signage inside the train and the station we alighted at was called the Tokyo Teleport Station. Love it.
The Gundam statue was... huge. For reference, just look at the photo below where Nico stands a couple of feet away from the statue. And the amount of detail that went into it? Insane. Down to the 'Caution' signs for each part - as if pilots were actually assembling and using the Gundam suit.
This day was tiring and we definitely hit our 'tourist' quota. I think my health app registered around 18,500 steps! We also had to start packing since we're moving to Osaka the next day.
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DAY 5: Tochō, Nakano Broadway, Tokyo Midtown Illuminations, Traveling to Osaka
December 17, 2015
Our final day in Tokyo! I honestly loved the city - the mix of nature, history and modernity just gets me excited and pumped. Every corner is always a new discovery. If it weren't for the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, I would've preferred to stay in Tokyo for the rest of the trip. But alas, all good things must come to an end... for now. This just means I need to make my way back to Tokyo soon, right?
We went back to Tochō because we wanted to check out the view from the other observatory that was closed then. The view here is even more stunning because you get to see how, literally, Yoyogi-koen is in the middle of the sprawling city. The cloud of trees juxtaposed with the thousands of Tokyo buildings was an interesting sight.
After failing at finding anything we liked at Akihabara (the place was just too in-your-face for us), I took Nico to Nakano Broadway. I went here last 2014 at the recommendation of my professor and I really prefer this over Akihabara. They have the older mangas and animes (my faves are the classic ones - Rurouni Kenshin, Hunter x Hunter, etc.) so we had more luck finding Zero (Nico's favorite character, ever) here than in Akihabara. (Spoiler alert: no luck, apparently )
After checking out from our Airbnb, we had time to kill before our overnight bus ride to Osaka. Tina recommended that we see an illuminations show at the Tokyo Midtown Plaza.
We went there and you guys, the Christmas / holiday spirit is strong with this one! There were beautiful light installations everywhere and the Plaza had this romantic vibe with it. We bought coffee and my favorite Starbucks dessert in Japan (why can't we have this in Manila??) and spent the night just perusing through the installations and taking lots of bokeh shots.
The actual illuminations show was short but it puts you on a trance-like state. I uploaded a video on Instagram:
After the Illuminations, we hurried back to our Airbnb to grab our luggage and then went off to Tokyo Station to catch our overnight bus (there's a fail-moment here as well, continue reading...) but guess what, we missed our bus! It turns out that instead of taking the train that goes directly to Tokyo Station, we rode the one that goes around the Yamanote Line. The mere five-minute difference meant that we arrived two minutes late at the station.
Japan is REALLY serious about their time, a stark contrast to the infamous 'Filipino Time.' After a panicked few minutes, we booked another overnight bus via JR Express and cozied up on our uber comfortable seats.
And this ends the Tokyo leg of our trip! Five days in Tokyo is NOT enough especially if you're like us who prefer slow traveling. Quite a chaotic night but it does live up to the 'Tokyo' rep. Here's a visual of most of the places we visited:
If you haven't seen the first post in the series - where we visited Meiji Shrine, Yoyogi Park, Shibuya, Shinjuku, Imperial Palace and more - you can read that right here.