This trip has been planned for about 12 months, ever since one of Phil’s friends was over in Japan about this time last year. We had planned to come to Japan in 2019 since my sister moved over here late in 2017. We booked our flights last September 2018 with ANA. We were very happy with the service and the price for Premium Economy.
We arrived early to Sydney airport (due to needing to be there during peak hour) and had a customary drink in Rydges. We headed over to check in and got express through customs – got to love that. We relaxed in the lounge (which we were able to access due to flying premium economy). ANA were able to fix our seats on the flight so that we were sitting next to each other. The flight seemed pretty quick (it was an overnight fight) and we landed in Tokyo, Japan. We got to customs and we thought that the line for visitors was long. We were wrong. Whilst we were waiting to get through immigration, the line tripled, so we realised that it wasn’t long at all when we arrived. The Japanese people are quite efficient though and the line moved pretty quickly, although I am pleased that we were in the line where we were and not joining the end of it. The whole process was MUCH better than Russian immigration when we were on the cruise ship.
We were watching the luggage carousel waiting to pick up our luggage.. waiting… waiting… waiting. I saw another man, who told some other people waiting, that he had found his suitcases already off the carousel. Phil went looking and there they were. Someone had pulled them off to make room. So we went through customs and were through before 6am. We landed at 5:05 am, so we were pretty pleased. Chris came and met us and we navigated our way onto the local Tokyo trains.
We were very thankful that Chris, my brother in law, had made the effort to come and meet us to help us navigate the local trains. We had decided to go to their place first, have some breakfast and do some exploring before going to our hotel. We booked into a hotel for the first night (luckily as Dallas was staying with them). We went to a local restaurant to them for breakfast. Their neighbourhood is so beautiful. We saw our first cherry blossom tree in their local park. It was so beautiful. I had to stop and take in the moment, seeing cherry blossom trees in Japan in bloom. So beautiful.
After breakfast, we headed to Ueno. Today was all about the cherry blossoms. We will be back into Tokyo at the end of our trip for 4 days, but the cherry blossoms won’t be out then. We organised our JR Pass at Ueno station, however we could only book the first 2 sections (as the line was so long). We got the Shinkansen booked to Kyoto for tomorrow and then the leg to Hiroshima booked as well.
We then headed into Ueno Park. It was so picturesque. The cherry blossoms were just so beautiful and delicate. There were so many people out enjoying the beautiful sunny day, sitting with friends and family under the cherry blossoms, having ‘hanami’, a special picnic under the cherry blossoms. It was so beautiful. Sure, there were a lot of people around, however it is Tokyo and I expected that it would be busy. We went up to the shrine. The girls got a fortune paper and we said a little prayer.
We then headed over to a lake area with cherry blossoms and wandered around there. Our nieces got some potatoes on a stick and Dallas had a frozen banana coated in chocolate. The scenery was just so stunning. I knew it would be beautiful but I had no idea just how beautiful. The streets are so clean as well. We decided to get some lunch from 7-11 and sit by the lake. It was perfect! We had some sandwiches and tried some different Japanese sweets and drinks – well beer – Phil had beer. After sitting here for a while, soaking up the sunshine and ambience, we headed into a market area.
It was a completely different sensory overload. We had a quick look around, but both Phil, Chris and I were starting to flag. We caught the train back to Bronwyn’s and relaxed for a while. We then headed to Shinjuku, where we were staying. We checked in, put our luggage in our room and then headed out onto the streets of Shinjuku. Our nieces were eager to show us how good they are at a drum game so they demonstrated that for us. We found a shop that Chris recommended – a massive shop full of electronics. We were looking at getting some pocket wi-fi, however it was pretty expensive, so we ended up getting a data sim.
Next stop was dinner. We wanted to try a traditional Japanese restaurant, so we went to one that Bronwyn and her family had been to before. It was so amazing. We tried lots of different foods. We were exhausted, and seeing as how it was 9pm in Japan (but 11pm in Sydney) it wasn’t surprising. We headed back to our hotel. Off to Kyoto tomorrow morning.