This was my first holiday to Japan and I was looking forward to visiting temples and shrines.
My husband had visited over 25 years ago and was keen to see the same as myself but also to visit the camera and electronic shops. He had great time in Tokyo !
We spend hours in Yodobashi Camera and Bic Camera.
We stayed at two hotels, the Keio Plaza Tokyo and Rihga Royal Hotel Kyoto. Both were of a very high standard and the staff were always very helpful.
We enjoyed the breakfasts at both hotels and were grateful to be able to use the courtesy shuttle at the Royal Rihga Hotel to and from the train station.
A huge plus was the overnight luggage service to our hotel in Kyoto.
We took our luggage to reception the night before and it was at our hotel in Kyoto before us ! This was really helpful as we had to take the train in the morning from Shinjuku to Shinagawa in order to catch the Shinkansen (Bullet Train) to Kyoto.
Travelling with just our backpacks was a relief as the trains and stations are very busy. The Shinkansen ride was very enjoyable.
One thing that stood out is the train stops exactly where it is supposed to. By that I mean, everyone lines up on the platform according to what’s on your ticket : your platform and car number.
So when the train stops and the doors open, you step into your correct car, and just need to find your seat. Couldn’t be easier. The passage is wide and there is plenty of room between you and the seat in front. Reclining seats are very comfortable with a tray table, and when the tray table is up, the diagram on it shows you where your closest toilet is.
An attendant with a food cart walks through now and then in case you didn’t stock up on all the fabulous looking food at the Shinagawa train station.
My husband told me I will find all that and more in Kyoto. Well Kyoto was fantastic food-wise, but Shinagawa takes the cake.
A word to the wise, be prepared to disembark very quickly. Have yourself organised before your stop. The trains run on time.
While in Tokyo we did the Tokyo morning tour and Sumo Wrestling. The wrestling was definitely one of the highlights of our whole trip, I highly recommend it.
The views from the Government Buildings opposite the Keio Plaza were amazing and this is where we could see a view of Mt Fuji.
We had our first Tonkatsu at Inabawako in the Takashimaya building in Shinjuku, it was delicious !
While in Kyoto we did the Kyoto morning and Nara tour. Kinkakiji (Golden Pavilion) was stunning, as was the Imperial Palace, unfortunately due to the heavy traffic we spent only a short time at both. The Todai-ji
Temple is impressive as you walk closer to it it seems to get bigger and bigger. Inside is a statue of the Buddah which is quite immense. In the grounds outside are deer roaming about that you can feed, they are quite friendly.
The second highlight of our holiday was the Fushimi Inari Shrine. Initially there were many other visitors, but as they returned to their buses and we climbed higher there were less people and it was much more enjoyable.
We decided to walk to the top and back down – we didn’t know how far that was! It took us 3 hours and we walked 4km. There were thousands of bright orange Torri gates shining under the sun. It was a magnificent walk.
We bought our own torri, had it inscribed then left it on the top of the mountain. If we couldn’t have done anything else in Kyoto we would have been content with visiting here. It was a great experience.
We took a local train to Arashiyama to walk through the Bamboo Grove, and then across the road to Okochi Sanso Garden. It was well worth the 1000Y to enter, the garden was quite beautiful and if you keep your ticket you can enjoy green tea at the tea house.
The Sanjusangendo Temple was quite impressive with it’s 1001 statues of the goddess of mercy, even though we were not allowed to take photos inside it was worth the visit.
The third highlight was our last day in Kyoto when we visited the Kokedera Temple ( Moss Temple), We had to book in advance to gain entry.
We took the hour long bus ride then were shown into the temple where the monks chanted for a short time and then we copied calligraphy.
This took us 90 minutes and it was a struggle to stand up after kneeling at the low tables for so long! There were tables and chairs outside but I wanted to be inside the temple to enjoy the experience.
It was worth it. Once we finished the calligraphy we were allowed to stroll through the garden. It was so beautiful and serene. As we had taken so long to do the writing, most people had already left the garden so we pretty much had the place to ourselves.
It would be worth revisiting in the rainy season when it would look quite magical. Definitely worth a visit if you have the time and book in advance.
The weather was 25C most days Tokyo and Kyoto. Some of the sites were very busy with local children on school trips, they were very well behaved and very polite.
Our overall impressions of Japan were the friendly people who were so happy to help us with directions, delicious food and beautiful gardens, shrines and temples.
Our tour guides were great giving us some history about what we were visiting.
We will definitely return to Japan. A special thank you to Yukari and her team at JTB New Zealand for booking our trip.