I have always dreamed about going to Japan, and I finally got a chance to explore Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka with my husband in a nine-days trip (and seriously, it was definitely not enough!) last summer. We went on our own, but we booked some activities through a travel website, which actually gave us a delightful time and some insights that many of which I would share with you on this blog. Our first stop was Tokyo, and here are some of the facts and sceneries we encountered during our trip in the most populated city in the world.
1. (VERY) Limited garbage bins
It only took us a few hours – or less – to find that something is quite unusual in Tokyo, that the city is very clean and we see no garbage on the street, but neither is any garbage bin! We were pretty confused about where to throw the empty bottles, receipts, and also the food wrappers, because trash bin is very hard to find even at the stations.
We later found out that the reason why is because of what happened in 1995 where a cult poisoned over 5,000 people inside Tokyo Metro trains with sarin gas. The incident was followed by some other terrorist acts that forced the government to perform preventive actions, one of which was to remove trash bins from public streets, parks, and stations.
The crowd in Shinjuku
2. Mount Takao
Of course Mount Fuji is the most popular among all mountains in Japan, and you can see it on a lot of paintings and various souvenirs, even snacks and cakes, sold in the country. However, just like Jakarta people has "Puncak" to go to when they need a short weekend gateway for a hiking or to simply breath a fresh air, Tokyo people have their own Mount Takao, by which you will actually pass on the way to Mount Fuji.
Located only one hour from downtown Tokyo, Mount Takao, which has obtained three stars Michelin Green Guide, is one of attractive day-trip destination options to be put in your itinerary. The mountain offers such a beautiful sceneries and even a view of Mount Fuji when the sky is clear. You can also find a temple with statues of the infamous Tengu standing close to the mountain's peak.
Mount Takao Hiking Track
Photo courtesy of japan-guide.com
3. Mount Fuji up close
After few hours sitting on the bus from midtown Tokyo, we finally arrived at Kawaguchi Lake, which apparently is the most developed among the five lakes at the base of Mount Fuji. It was a breathtaking experience to see Mount Fuji right in front of our eyes. We were taken to a souvenir area before the bus brought and dropped us off at the 5th station which is the starting point of the climbers that is surrounded with restaurants and shops.
There were large crowds the time we got there, because our visit apparently fell on one of the peak days within Mount Fuji’s official climbing season that only lasts from July to mid September. It doesn’t mean that you can’t climb outside the official climbing season, but the risk of off-season climbing is higher because of unfriendly wind and weather conditions.
Mount Fuji view from Kawaguchi Lake
"Dango" around Mount Fuji area
4. The encounter with ninjas
You might have heard a lot of stories about Ninja or “Shinobi”, one of the most popular icons in Japanese martial arts. Ninjas were trained and equipped to be able to serve as spies, and although the skills have no longer been passed on, we can still view some “ninjas” at a location near Mount Fuji named Oshino Shinobi no Sato or what people call as Ninja Village.
There are some attractions in this small park that allow you to experience the ninja life like Ninja Trick House and ninja tricks performances, and you can even get yourself introduced into the shuriken (ninja star) throwing techniques. At the same location, you can find a kids playground that was built with a ninja training area setting. There is also a restaurant where you can taste some ninja-style feast if you happened to get hungry.
The best part is, they provide ninja clothing for both adult and kids, so that you can stroll around the beautiful park and take pictures in such the iconic black suit!
Photo courtesy of Maren Pauli
The rest of our Tokyo trip was spent in famous tourist spots like Meiji Shrine, Shinjuku, Shibuya, Ginza, and Tokyo Tower.
We had a great time finding new things like how Japanese people are willing to stand for hours just to have some ramen (or other food), and we also gained unique experiences like visiting some standing-only soba restaurants where the food is prepared right in front of us and no seat available at any corner of the room. However, I found that the two next cities were more likely to get my second visit.
Hence, don’t forget to check out my next posts to read about my trip to Kyoto and Osaka!