We left Fukuoka for Tokyo this morning. We did not have reserved seats on the leg from Hakata to Shin-Osaka so we made sure to get to the train platform early and stand in line so that we would be assured of getting our seat on this 2 1/2 hour train ride. At the subsequent stops, there were so many people coming on the train that people were standing in the aisle for this trip. We were lucky to have gotten on the train when we did. We could eat our bento while seated and relax and even take a nap. The next shinkansen leg was from Shin-Osaka to Tokyo and we had reserved seats on so we were relaxed and happy when catching the next train. After arriving at Tokyo station, the first thing we did was find the McDonalds in Tokyo Station. There were a couple of limited time foods being released only on that day only at that one McDonald’s in Tokyo (and being released at other McDonalds across Japan later in the month.) I wanted to be sure to try it before leaving TokyoSuccess! I was able to purchase the Hokkaido Milk Pie and the Matcha McFlurry with azuki beans. The Hokkaido Milk Pie was released to help celebrate the new shinkansen line to Hokkaido. The Match McFlurry, I think, is a spring season only release. There wasn’t a long line to get these products.
After a long taxi ride (due to traffic congestion) from the station to the hotel, we finally checked in and explored the Shinjuku area where our hotel was located. It was so busy and crowded in Shinjuku. Lots of tourists doing the same thing as we were–walking, shopping, talking, taking pictures. The next day, we went to Tokyo Station to buy some souvenirs like the relatively new, sake-flavored Kit Kat. We then walked to the Imperial Palace since we had never taken the kids there and also to see if we could find any sakura trees blossoming. The last time I had been to the palace was as a sixth grader. Things certainly have changed since then. As a young girl, I remember running around in the grass, chasing birds at the exterior of the palace with my Tokyo cousins. This time around, the line to get in was marked (like those Disneyland queues) and we had to go through security. Aaron had a bottle of water with him as we went through security. The officer indicated for Aaron to drink his water and Aaron complied. Aaron thought he couldn’t bring liquids in (like at the airport) so he proceeded to try and chug the whole bottle as quickly as he could. As the officer looked on, he frantically gestured to Aaron that he didn’t have to drink the whole bottle and that I guess Aaron just had to prove that it was not poison or acid by drinking just a little bit of it. It was a nice walk with some sakura trees starting to blossom.
Yoyogi Park was next on our itinerary for the day. We love visiting Yoyogi Park to watch the rockabillies dancing and entertaining the crowd for their own pleasure. The soccer dudes were out there doing their soccer tricks again too. We even got to see the Pringles man who had some assistants with him handing out samples of Pringles. This park is one of our favorite places in Tokyo to hang out and people watch.We went to Harajuku which is just across the way from Yoyogi Park and walked Takeshita street amidst so many tourists and other gawkers. There was a long line for the huge and pretty cotton candy! It was as big as the heads of those who were eating it. We didn’t visit the Daiso here in Harajuku since we had already visited several others and got our fill of our 100-yen products.
We ended the day at Shibuya and met my friend Kurt and had dinner and drinks with him at Maruhachi, an izakaya that we had been to before. It was easy to get a reservation there, and they have good food and a friendly staff. We ate so many orders of umibudou (sea grapes) and edamame, I wonder if they had any left for their other customers. My son had three onigiri (rice ball) and was very happy. Everyone was full by the end of the evening.
On our last day in Tokyo, we went to Tsukiji market in the morning and I had an uni, ikura, maguro chirashidon for breakfast and Aaron ate ramen. We did some shopping there and found some kitchen supplies that we wanted. We also saw some very unusual foods. One of them was shirasu (baby anchovy) ice cream and whale ice cream. I wasn’t brave enough to try these flavors. After Tsukiji, we came back to the hotel, dropped off our shopping bags and then visited Shinjuku Gyoen (a national garden) to see if they had any sakura trees in bloom. They have so many varieties of trees and some were in bloom and some were just starting to bloom.
It was a relaxing time~except during the time we were trying to get the perfect family photo with our selfie stick. We took so many photos. We stayed at the garden until closing and then walked to the department store to buy some food to sustain us on for our journey home.
Throughout the trip, we kept commenting to each other about how surprised we were that we did not see anyone we knew. During our travels, we seem to always find Hilo people all over the world~in Japan, NYC, Grand Canyon, California, and of course, in Las Vegas. On this trip, we knew that several of our friends were in Japan and, in fact, were in the same cities as us at the same time as us, and we still did not cross paths. We even tried waiting for one of our friends so that we could surprise them at the train station since we knew what time they were coming in. We still didn’t see them. It turned out that they missed their train and came in on a later one. Finally, on our way home to Hilo, at Haneda Airport, we saw some Hilo friends who we did not know were in Japan. They were going home on the same flight as us. It was a nice spring break trip to Japan. We explored new places, ate delicious food, and saw family and friends. Best of all, we spent time together as a family and had fun together.