Sakura Overload

Since I came to China I had been planning to visit Tokyo during cherry blossom season, mainly to check off my bucket list of seeing the cherry blossoms of japan, but also to visit an old friend. I had been planning the dates for a while, but kinda lost track of that in the midst of all the Chinese New Year plans and the chaos that hit when I returned. I quickly managed to book a flight, hotel, and pick up where I left off in my original plans.

Japan was everything I dreamed it would be. It was such an incredible place to visit. The people were amazing, everyone I ran into was extremely kind and so willing to help me. I spent most of my trip to Japan alone so I had plenty of time to reflect, write, and think. I learned a lot about myself on this trip. A lot about how I treat people and a lot about how I let others treat me.

I landed in Tokyo around 5 am. It was a quick and painless flight, although I think we were on the runway longer than the in the air. After my first confusing ride on the Tokyo metro and with help from a few very nice people, I made it to the hotel before 8am. Still too early to check in. I had some breakfast and took a nap in the lounge which had extremely comfortable hanging chairs. After a couple hours nap I set out to explore Tokyo. I took a walk around the busy but extremely quiet streets near my hotel. I saw the famous Kaminarimon Landmark and walked through the bust shopping street that led to Senso-Ji Temple. At the temple I shook a can to receive a fortune and tied it to the poles afterwards. There was also a fountain to cleanse your hands and mouth. After visiting the temple I walked along the Sumida River. It was a beautiful area with great views of the Tokyo Skytree tower, lots of daisies everywhere, and views of the first cherry blossoms of the season. My friend had warned me that I might miss the cherry blossoms because they only bloom for a short time, I was pleasantly surprised to find out I hadn’t missed them after all. There were a few groups of people having picnics beneath the trees, this I later leaned is a popular Japanese tradition. For dinner that night I met up with my friend Lee after many years of not seeing each other. He showed me around his neighborhood and his apartment complex and I got a glimpse into seeing what its like to live in Tokyo. So far my main concern was that there’s not many places for vegetarians to eat.

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The hotel I stayed in is very cool, and I would definitely recommend it for anyone thinking of Traveling to Tokyo. It’s a capsule hotel and its pretty much a fancy hostel. But its extremely clean, quiet, and you sleep in what looks like a storage pod. My only complaint is there’s no air vents in your pods so it can get a bit stuffy.

The next day I got lunch at a local restaurant. I had difficulty finding food that didn’t have meat or fish in it, and I’m still convinced it did since I didn’t feel too well afterwards. I then set out to explore Harajuku. I first went to the Meiji Jingu Shrine in the middle of Yoyogi Park. It was a beautiful and quiet walk through the park and was a really nice shrine. Much of it was covered for construction i’m assuming, but what I could see was enjoyable. After the shrine I went to Takeshita Street, a very popular shopping street in Harajuku. It was covered in lots of cute shops, costume stores, food stands, cat and other animal cafes, and a Disney Store. I of course went in the Disney Store and was pleasantly surprised to see Beast merchandise. I also got an amazing crepe at one of the dozens of crepe stands on the street. I then headed to Omotesando, another famous shopping area with more luxury and name brand stores. This street was stunning at night; trees, lights, and beautiful store fronts. I went to Pandora to get a Japanese charm for my bracelet. After that I went to Shibuya and ended up in the middle of the famous pedestrian crossing without realizing it. To end the evening I got a Sakura ice cream float, which was amazing!

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By the third day of my trip I had fully jumped on the Sakura train. I stopped at Tully’s coffee for breakfast and had a Sakura waffle with a Sakura tea latte. There were both so delicious, I didn’t want it to end. After my cherry blossom themed breakfast, I went to the Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden to see the cherry blossoms. Some of the trees in this park were fully bloomed, unlike the ones I saw along the river on my first day. I later learned theres tons of different kinds of cherry blossoms and they each bloom at a different time and pace. I would see a tree fully bloomed and the one next to it would be empty. I had a really lovely walk around the park, of course taking pictures with people who asked, and checking off a bucket list item. It of course started to pour while I was out so I had to buy an umbrella at 7 eleven. It also was so comforting to see 7 eleven again. Next I went to Hie-Jinja Shrine to see the many orange tori gates leading up the stairs. A truly incredible sight. I just stood there for so long looking at this beautiful staircase before actually climbing it. The whole area was beautiful and so peaceful. Although the same can be said about all of the temples and shrines I saw on my trip to Tokyo. I walked past the beautiful National Diet government building, and headed to the subway to the Imperial Palace. Unfortunately the Palace Gardens were closed by the time I arrived but I was still able to walk around the grounds. I then took a stroll down the absolutely beautiful Maruhouchi Nakadori. Like New York, but so much nicer. I saw the Marunouchi buildings and the famous Tokyo Station. I had dinner at a restaurant in KITTE, a really cool mall. After dinner I went to Ginza to see the Wako Clock Tower and talk a walk around this famous shopping district. I really enjoyed that Tokyo had a large number of famous shopping areas, but i’m also thankful I don’t live there because I’d definitely go broke. Before the end of the night I went to see the Tokyo Tower lit up. It was really beautiful and I wondered if I should wait to see if this one would sparkle like the Eiffel Tower does. My mind then drifted to planning another trip to Paris until it started to pour and I remembered I was standing in a park in Japan.

So far I’m really enjoying Tokyo. It’s been so nice to see so much culture and modern things in one place. Though now I’m realizing thats what I enjoy about Asia in general. Tokyo is so much different than China though. It’s so much cleaner, smells a whole lot nicer, it’s much quieter (and I still think it’s pretty quiet in China), I noticed more english spoken, and the people are so nice. All that said, I still found myself missing China by the end of my time in Japan.

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My fourth day in Tokyo started with a visit to the Zoiji Temple, which offered great views of the Tokyo Tower through the cherry blossoms surrounding the temple. It was a really nice area with loads of shrines and statues hidden throughout. I really enjoyed all the ones dedicated to the orphan children, which people had knit little red hats for. After lunch I headed to Akihabara, the gaming and anime center of Tokyo, although I skipped most of those sites. It was extremely busy and filled with more comic books, arcades, and electronic stores than I could count. I headed to another temple and on the way back found a couple more hidden between the buildings. That’s my favorite thing about Tokyo; finding temples and shrines quietly nestled between the skyscrapers. On my way back to the metro I also found a beautiful church. Later in the day I headed to Shinjuku to explore and visit the Metropolitan Government building and visit their observatory. Shinjuku was filled with many complex and interestingly designed buildings and skyscrapers. After much research I finally found a ramen restaurant that offers a vegetarian/vegan ramen, Sinjyukugyoen Ramen Ouka. The restaurant was small, full of people, and had a waiting list. I waited almost an hour, but it was most definitely worth it! I really enjoyed the design of Japanese restaurants, where you sit almost at a bar wrapped around their kitchen. You can watch them prepare your entire meal. The owner and the staff spent so much of their time talking and really interacting with their customers. The owner was a really nice woman and even gave me business cards of other vegetarian restaurants in the area. The dinner itself was amazing. 好吃! It started with a creamy ginger tofu. Then came the ramen bowl and a stick of rice. It was the perfect amount of spicy and the portions were perfect after not eating very much the entire vacation. My tea came with a cute little timer to tell me when it was perfectly steeped. They also gave you an after dinner peach tea shot. I loved this place so much I went back a few days later. After dinner I walked around Shinjuku and did some shopping; this time I actually bought things instead of just window shopping like i’d been for the past three days.

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Today it became apparent that there are way more people in Tokyo now than there were when I arrived almost a week ago. Or maybe it was just that I did more ‘touristy’ things today. I got a late start and went to brunch at Suke 6 (also really good) near the Sumida river before exploring. I then crossed the river and went to the Skytree tower. This is when being a foreigner came in handy, they have a special line for foreign visas to skip the wait time for the elevator to the top. That helped, but the Skytree itself took much more time than I had planned. I did enjoy the views of Tokyo from the top but there’s something about seeing things from above that make your problems seem so small and insignificant. Next I went to Ueno park, and suddenly wished I had gone earlier in the week when there weren’t so many people in Tokyo, but I wanted to wait until the cherry blossoms were really blooming which they were. I was so happy to see these beautiful trees fully bloomed, framing the river. The park is huge and took a few hours to explore, probably would have been quicker if there weren’t so many people everywhere, but overall it was a nice experience. For dinner I went to another vegetarian restaurant and met a director of a language school in Japan, who ended up giving me his business card for any future thoughts I had. This was a pretty short day because of my late start and also wanting to get back early for the early morning bus to Mt. Fuji.

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Of course there were many other people also planning on Mt. Fuji for the day, so the bus tickets were sold out and I had to wait for the train that left much later in the morning. It all worked out in the end, but the set back was unsettling. I was also disappointed that the 5th station on the mountain was closed for weather still, so I wouldn’t be able to actually make it on the mountain. The train took me to Lake Kawaguchiko, one of the Fuji Five Lakes at the base of Mt. Fuji. It was a huge beautiful lake that offered fantastic views of Mt. Fuji, there was even a small window of time where the summit was visible, which is rare for that season I heard. The town itself was lovely, I wished I had more to spend there because there was much to do that wasn’t made known online. I did get a ticket for the stop and go bus and was able to see much of the lake and it’s different views of Mt. Fuji. Mount Fuji itself is breathtaking. (It’s also worth mentioning that breathing in Fuji is so easy, the air is so clean and pure. This is a big deal when you have so many allergies and live in China!!) I could have stayed there all day staring at this beautiful mountain. It was the most relaxed I felt on my trip to Tokyo and I wish that feeling could have stayed with me forever. The whole experience felt so surreal. I enjoyed some blueberry ice cream while taking in Fuji’s beauty before heading back on the bus. It’s apparently also referred to as blueberry town, so they had lots of cute blueberry things everywhere. My short time in Fuji was definitely one of my favorite things about my time in Japan. Their amazing bathroom designs and their heated toilets are also on that list.

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The next two days were spent at Tokyo Disney Sea and Disneyland! Both parks were incredible. Disney Sea is one of the most beautiful parks I’ve ever been to. Their entertainment options were amazing, I spent two days watching shows, music, and parades. The park was so crowded and there were two hour waits for everything so I didn’t ride much but I was so happy and content with just seeing all the entertainment offerings. I also loved running into so many characters that you would never see in the states. My only complaint with Tokyo Disney would be their lack of vegetarian options. In the state parks each restaurant, sit down or not, has a vegetarian option. There was one vegetarian option offered in the park and it was for a reservation only restaurant. I guess I shouldn’t complain too much though cause I spent two days eating ice cream, Japanese desserts, and trying their various popcorn flavors. Part of me regrets not buying a popcorn bucket like everyone else in Tokyo Disney was carrying. I really loved Tokyo Disney and spent way too much money on their amazing merchandise. They had an amazing amount of Beauty and the Beast and Peter Pan merchandise, my heart was so happy. I now only have one Disney park left to check off my bucket list, an item that’s been there since I was a kid. I now regret not going to Disney when I was in Paris even more. 

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My last day in Tokyo was spent lazily roaming the city, even going back to some places I really liked, and getting some last minute gifts. I met up with my friend Lee one more time before heading home to China. He took me to a place he used to work and I had a really nice Japanese omelet. My flight, which was supposed to leave late that night, ended up being delayed for over 9 hours so I got an extra night in Tokyo and had the privilege of spending it in the airport. (That of course is complete sarcasm; everything in the airport was closed, there was no where to sit, and I was starving until I arrived in China the next day).

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Overall I really enjoyed my time in Japan. It was completely different than life in China. The metro was really intimidating but by the end of the trip I felt like a pro. Everyone I ran into, sometimes literally, was so kind and helpful. Even if I didn’t need it there were many people that approached me while waiting for the train and asked if I needed help- something that never happens in China. I was also impressed with the amount of English people knew, compared to the amount of English used where I live in China.

Japan is definitely a beautiful country and i’m so glad I got to visit. I saw and learned so much while I was there. I also go to check many things off my bucket list in Japan. It’s the 10th country I’ve been to, I saw cherry blossoms, I visited Mt. Fuji, and I went to Disney. I would like to think i’ll go back and see more of it one day, maybe even add a few more items to check off the list. 

One thought on “Sakura Overload

  1. Looks amazing Ashley! Seems like you’re enjoying all of your travel! We have been reading your blogs and miss you! Can’t wait until you come home. 😘

    Like

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