Two weeks ago, I finally set foot in the Land of the Rising Sun. It was so surreal because planning for this trip hasn’t been the easiest (and the cheapest). We only booked our airline tickets three weeks before we were supposed to leave, booked a flight to and from the wrong airport (we were supposed to stay only in Tokyo but I got a ticket to Nagoya), finalized our itinerary two days before flying out, and so much more. It was really stressful but it was all worth it. As I got off the plane and felt the cold spring breeze, I knew that the past month’s trip planning stress would be replaced by complete happiness.
FINDING A PLACE TO STAY
Like I’ve said, we were supposed to stay in Tokyo/Yokohama (where one of my mom’s friend lives). Mom and her friend flew in ahead of us, and my cousin and I were supposed to fly in 4 days later. We were so psyched (and pressed for time because plane tickets are already getting super expensive) that we booked a flight to (and from) Nagoya without realizing how difficult and expensive it would be for us to get to Tokyo. Good thing mom has another friend in Japan who happens to live in Nagoya, and who was kind enough to let us stay with her for the night and even fetch us from the airport!
It was such a relief because our parents didn’t want us to take the bus or the train at night since we barely have any idea how Japan’s transportation system works. So we stayed the night in Nagoya and Tita Salen and her husband were nice enough to take us to the Nagoya Public Aquarium before we headed to Kyoto.
One of my close friends in highschool moved to Japan a few years back. While I was planning our trip, we got to talking and I knew I needed to see her. But she lives in Osaka which is about 2hrs away from Nagoya, and a single journey shinkansen ticket costs A LOT. Mechelle was nice enough (and missed me too much, lol) to agree to take the afternoon off from work and meet us at Kyoto and show us around.
We went to Fushimi Inari Shrine together, and because I was late for about an hour and a half, she had to leave right after. So she just taught us how to ride the train and which stops to get off at to get to Kiyomizu-dera Temple. Bad timing though because when we got there, it was already closed. 🙁 So my cousin and I decided to check out Gion District. We felt very brave then because we’re exploring a different city in a different country on our own. 😛
From Kyoto, we took an overnight bus to Shinjuku. We got to the bus stop at around 9PM and we just wandered around the station, had a convenience store dinner, and froze our butts off until it was time to board the bus at 12MN. I underestimated how cold it could get because I was only wearing a thin material culottes, a short-sleeved shirt, and two thin jackets. The temperature reached 6C — I can barely move my fingers to update my mom about how we were doing. Lol.
The bus ride from Kyoto to Tokyo was an exhausting 8 hours. We mostly just slept on the bus but you can’t really get a comfortable sleep in a moving double-decker vehicle. I’m very thankful for the heater though! Mom and her friends picked us up at the Shinjuku Expressway Terminal and we rode the train to Kanagawa where her friend lives. They’re very nice people who were so accommodating! Upon getting settled, we showered and took a long, solid nap. Mom woke us up and told us that Tita Risa and Tito Onnie were taking us to Zama Park to see cherry blossoms.
SO. BEAUTIFUL. There were so many trees and the cold breeze made it even better!
The next day, they took us to Lake Kawaguchi to see Mt. Fuji. The weather was beautiful because the skies were clear so we had an unobstructed view of the mountain but it was also still cold so I didn’t mind standing under the sun to take countless pictures. 😛
After Mt. Fuji, we headed back to Tokyo and went to Showa Kinen Park to see more cherry blossoms and tulips, and a lot more flowers. It was such a beautiful sight to see so much sakuras and its flowers showering down when the wind hits it.
For dinner, we had ramen and it tastes amazing! They have huge servings and I struggled to finish it. The noodles were cooked perfectly and the pork was tender, and the broth was seasoned well.
ASAKUSA AND SHIBUYA
The next day we left to go to Asakusa. It was a whole aisle of souvenir shops as well as some clothes and bags. Mom forced me to buy an Anello bag to use for med school because the shops were tax free. I weren’t planning on buying a bag (I was looking forward to buy a new pair of shoes, lol) but since it was the first time that mom made me buy something, I gave in.
We visited Senso-ji Temple and had some Matcha ice cream. I forgot the name of the ice cream store but it was SO GOOD!
We took the train to Shibuya to see Hachiko’s statue and to see the world’s busiest intersection — Shibuya Crossing.
TAKING A BREAK
For Easter Sunday, we just stayed in Zama. My cousin and I just walked around the neighborhood, and went inside random shops. We even found a thrift shop where we found cute stuff for cheap prices! We also found our way to Piago which is like a department store, and we were so psyched when we found out they have a 100-Yen store. So I bought all kinds of knickknacks to bring home as pasalubong if anyone would ask me for one. Haha!
It was time for my mom and her friend to leave home for Manila so we got up early and rode the train with them to Shinjuku. We parted at Shinjuku station and my cousin and I were left to explore the city on our own. We first had breakfast at McDonald’s and headed towards Shinjuku Gyoen National Park. It was still closed when we got there so we walked to Hanazono Shrine.
At 9AM, we headed back to Shinjuku Gyoen to explore the massive park! Such a beautiful place to be in. It was quite difficult to imagine that it is situated in the middle of a city as busy as Shinjuku!
After lunch, we thought of going to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building to see a bird’s eye view of Tokyo. It was about an hour walk from the JR Shinjuku Station. I was feeling feverish and my feet were about to fall off from exhaustion but seeing the view of the city made it so worth it. It was beautiful.
On our last day, we took the shinkansen back to Nagoya. We originally planned to only take the bus as it was cheaper but mom felt sorry for us that she offered to give us extra money so we could take the bullet train instead of the 6hr bus ride. We were so glad she offered to do so because we were able to squeeze in a trip to Nagoya Castle.
It’s a 30-minute walk from Nagoya Station or about a 20-minute bus ride. Hanami was already over so the cherry blossom trees were already bare. I bet the sight would’ve looked better with all the pretty flowers but it was an amazing castle nonetheless. We didn’t have much time to spare so we headed right back to Nagoya station to take the Meitetsu train to Chubu Airport.
This trip is one that I didn’t really expect to come true but I’m so glad it did. I’m very thankful for everyone who made this trip happen (daddy, mommy, Tita Gina, and Tita Chie) as well as for those who took such good care of us in Japan (Tita Salen, Tita Risa and Tito Onnie, and Mechelle). This is one of the trips that I will always look back on with such fond memories. I will surely come back to explore a bit more of Tokyo, more of Nagoya and Kyoto, and visit Osaka and Hiroshima. <3
Will blog about the places we went to in the coming weeks! 🙂