Thursday, December 31, 2015

Day 4: Theme Park day - Universal Studio Osaka, DisneySea, JWorld

On our 4th day, we had separate itineraries but everyone went to theme parks!

My sister and I went to J-World before watching CNBLUE's concert
Anime homage 
J-World is located in Sunshine City, it's an indoor theme park for "Jump", "One Piece", "Dragon Ball" and "Naruto" anime fans! We only had 2 hours so we decided to eat our lunch and try one attraction after exploring the whole place. The entrance fee is 800yen but there's also the "Unlimited Atractions Pass" worth 2600yen for those who wants to try everything J-World has to offer.
Dragonball burger and Naruto Curry

cutesy and yummy green tea & strawberry ice creams
We're torn between One Piece Soldier Dock adventure and Seek! "Dragon Balls!". All of the attractions cost additional 800yen but the first one involves horizontal 360-degree spin ride and we're too full from out lunch. We ended up choosing and enjoying the 15 minute mission game of finding all dragon balls! Unfortunately, my sister and I were not the right people to save the world because we only found 5/15 dragon balls =))

Our J-World souvenir!

My parents, siblings and aunts went to Disney Sea! They've been to DisneyLand HongKong before and wanted to try the other theme park which was highly recommended for adults.
DisneySea Tokyo
Peace!! Neon leggings hahaha
My friends, Jess & Kat, rode the overnight bus to Osaka and enjoyed Universal Studio Osaka. I also want to try the Harry Potter ride!!

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Day 3: City Discovery Mt Fuji & Hakone Tour & Tokyo Station

We booked a Mt Fuji & Hakone day tour through City Discovery.  We paid PHP6,800 per pax and it included all the transportation, entrance fees and Japanese style lunch. If you want a cheaper option, you can try the City Discover Motorcoach tour or the Hato bus tour.

Tokyo Tower
By 9AM, we're at Hamamatsucho Bus Terminal, our meeting place and it turned out that City Discovery booked us to JTB Sunrise tours. I also came across that tour operator but City Discovery has better price, We rode a bus and our tour guide Eriko talked about the landmarks that we passed by, this is to compensate for the hop on hop off bus tour that we missed!
on going roof repair
After 2 hours, we arrived at the Fuji Visitor Center. We're only given 15 minutes bathroom break but we're able to sneak in some time to capture Mt Fuji..with photo bombers!!

The bus drove to the 5th station where we enjoyed the amazing view. We actually thought that we'll go on the actual mountain =))
Eriko told us that we're one of the lucky ones to see and photograph the world heritage site, Mt Fuji. The weather was perfect, it wasn't too cloudy and there were snow on the floor.
We enjoyed our Japanese style lunch at Fuji Q Resort. We're able to experience Kaiseki or the traditional multi-course Japanese meal. We had soup, tamago, chicken, fish, salad, pork and vegetables.

We headed to Hakone for the Lake Ashi cruise. The sightseeing boat was spacious. The cruise lasted for 15 minutes and it transported us to the next stop.

We rode an aerial cable car to go up Mount Komagatake.
The view below is spectacular! The cable car is not that high and we're able to see the trees neatly lined up below.
It was very foggy when we reached the viewing deck. Our tour guide Eriko, just pointed that right side is the Hakone National Park & Mt Fuji while the other side is the Pacific Ocean. It's also too cold so we just spent few minutes then we rode the cablecar back to the tourist area where our bus is parked. We also spent some time on the souvenir store where I ended up buying 2 more Kokeshi dolls and green tea.
We also experienced riding the bullet train, it only took us 35 minutes to go from Odawara Station to Tokyo Station. The seats are comfortable and with better leg room that Cebu Pacific lol.
We explored Tokyo Station and had our dinner at Ramen Street located at the Yaesu underground exit . It's amazing how even the locals are lining up to these restaurants.  

Day 2: DIY Nikko - Edo Wonderland & Shibuya

For our second day, I planned a day tour outside Tokyo. Originally, we're supposed to do a ski trip in Nagano but a day tour is not very sulit considering that we'll use the bullet train to go there. I've researched enough about this dream ski trip that I can write a separate blog post about it!

That left me with choosing between Kamakura, an ancient city 1 hour away from Tokyo that boasts a bamboo garden and Nikko - with world heritage site and several theme parks! We leaned toward Nikko because there's a lot of sites to visit in Nikko but the problem was, almost every stop closes by 5PM so instead of hoping from one place to another, we just decided to allot the day for Edo Wonderland.
I bought the Kinugawa Pass at Asakusa Tobu station, it's a special discounted promo for foreigners, Y3,800 cheaper than paying individually for fares and entrance fee. I was supposed to buy it at Narita Airport but it wasn't available, it's better to buy it ahead of time because they only release limited number of passes per day.  The pass includes roundtrip bus and train fare plus entrance fee to Edo Wonderland. The only disadvantage is the time constraint, you have to plot the time and be there on the dot or else you'll wait for the next train/bus that arrives in 30 minutes interval.
we passed by Tokyo Sky Tree
inside the Tobu train
We occupied the entire train couch, maybe because it's a weekday and not everyone is keen for a day trip outside Tokyo. I liked that there's enough leg room and the seats are comfortable for long train ride. There's also a comfort room available for guests, we really needed that for the 2 hours train ride from Asakusa Tobu station to Nikko.
bus stop
We only had 10 minutes to go from the train station to the bus station.  I actually stopped my mom and aunts from going to another bathroom break because we might miss our bus and true enough the bus arrived on time. It stopped on Tobu World and several recreation areas then it took us 20 minutes before we arrived at Edo Wonderland.
We showed our Kinugawa pass, the receptionist ripped the coupons and exchanged it to entrance tickets. We arrived there at 11AM so we had to be strategic about our plan. We targeted to catch at least 1 ninja and 1 geisha performances.
time travel
Walking inside the village felt like we time traveled back to Edo period because of the rows of old Japanese houses, ninja village, samurai and geisha area. We also passed by an open theater live action show when we're rushing to a geisha show.
15 minutes geisha play
We arrived just in time for the Warakatsu-ya show, a story of an aristocrat looking for love in the red light district of Edo. The funny part is that the aristocrat was chosen from the audience. It was entertaining for the first 5 minutes but then we got lost in the language barrier, the show is in Nihonggo! The locals were laughing their hearts out while we're wondering what's happening! =))
catch up with my girls!
Edo style lunch

kakaioge soba
My parents and aunts enjoyed the yakitori sold on the street while me, my siblings and friends dined on an Edo style restaurant.
While waiting for the ninja show, we walked around the village and found various shrines
and a lot of interesting downtown old Japan houses that actually serves as museums, shops or restaurants as well.
with Ninjas
The best performance that we watched was the Ninja Karasu Yashiki. The great thing about this is that although the show is also in Nihongo, they provided an English copy of the plot. It's a live action set in a small room where they displayed amazing ninja skills. Two ninja clans were fighting for a star and they ended up fighting, flying, running, disappearing or suddenly hanging on the walls. Cameras were not allowed inside and it allowed us to enjoy the entire experience. It reminded me of Universal Studio Singapore's Lights Camera Action but less special effects and more live ninja skills.

We ended our Edo Wonderland experience by watching the Oiran Couresan Procession where the elegant oiran courtesans paraded through the streets of Edo. It's amazing how can she walk with those heels!
our view
The train ride back to Tokyo was more than 3 hours. During the early part we enjoyed the wonderful mountain, bamboo forest and sunset view. But when it got darker, we got oblivious to the long train ride, we kept on checking if we're back in the city =)))
Shibuya crossing
Our second day is the perfect combination of old and new Japan! 
Myeongdong feels
We spent the night in the vibrant streets of Shibuya.
Meri Kurismasu, Hackiho
We stopped by Hachiko, who's feeling the Christmas spirit! As expected, there's a long line of people waiting for their turn to have a photo with Hachiko.
Yamapi!!! Billboard =))
I, on the otherhand, happily took photos with Yamapi's billboard!
our destination
here comes my order!
We had sushi for dinner, in the most high tech and amazing way! Instead of choosing from a conveyor belt, we choose our order from a touchscreen tablet and in a minute or two, it's delivered by the "bullet train servers". 
Miso soup and seafood sushi
cheeseburger sushi
crepe of the day
How it ended!

Day 1: DIY Tokyo - Asakusa and Odaiba City

We arrived at Asakusa area at around 2PM and had a well deserved lunch at the same restaurant where I ate last time. 
late lunch
Instead of ordering the Kaminarimon bento, I tried the katsu set so that I can sample the deep fried fish, chicken, shrimp and vegetables. I can still remember the taste of the yummy and hearty miso soup.
Kaminarimon Gate
We missed the last Asakusa stop of the Hop On, Hop Off bus (I have no luck on these buses) so we just decided to shop and explore the area.
5 storied pagoda
Visiting Asakusa area on night time feels like a new experience. I was surprised that it now closes on a later time because I remember that I had to beat the 5PM closing time before.
craft shop in Asakusa
Nakamise dori, shopping area for souvenirs and Japanese arts and crafts. My aunt bought a cute kimono for her apo.
You can also try a lot of local snacks, from crackers to manju. They Japanese loves their red beans because almost all snacks have this as filling.
soft served ice cream
We're too full from our late lunch but Kat and I just couldn't resist soft served ice creams. I tried melon while Kat got the green tea flavored ice cream. The funny thing was we're not allowed to go out of the store until we finished our ice creams. We had to rush it because my family was looking for us but it also worked out well since it's really cold outside.
Kokeshi dolls overload
Of course, I came back to Asakusa to buy more Kokeshi dolls. I ended up buying the two white dolls on the bottom right. I had to stop myself because my shelves at home can end up looking like this - a store display!
Boots shopping
My mom and aunts were hesitant to buy boots in Manila because they think it's too expensive for something that they'll only wear for 6 days.  But then when they saw a store that sells winter boots for PHP600 and they ended up buying one each!
good or bad luck?
We went to the omikuji area and checked our fortune. I instructed them as I remembered, we took our turns in shaking the box until a bamboo stick fell. From there we can determine number assigned to us and then we look for the corresponding fortune box. After paying Y100, we got the fortune telling paper strip. 
leave the bad fortune here

After reading the fortune from the folded paper strip, we can either take it home (if it's good fortune) or leave it by tying on the bar. 

I wasn't able to go to Odaiba before so I included it on our itinerary. I wanted to try Oedo Onsen Monogatari, an indoor public bath onsen place, but we have too many theme park day already!

We had a hard time looking for Gundam Front, it was so cold and walking on the outdoor wasn't helping! Finally, Google Maps saved the day and we're able to see Gundam, the cafe and the winter illumination before eating our dinner on a food court.
Crepe with green tea ice cream
We chose the food court so that we can have different food options. I'm still indulging my sweet tooth and I tried my 1st crepe for this trip!
Rainbow Bridge and Statue of Liberty
On the way back to our AirBnb, our train passed by the beautifully lighted Rainbow Bridge and the miniature of Statue of Liberty. It is a replica of the Statue of Liberty in Paris and was given to Japan in commemoration on "The French Year in Japan."