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  • Writer's pictureRuss Tierney

Japan - An Itinerary - 17 days - Week 3

Week 3, and just three days left as we wind down in Tokyo..

Day 15

In the afternoon, we be doing a Comprehensive SAMURAI course at a real dojo.. "The experiences I provide are not a form of entertainment or performance. Some experiences do not offer a true Samurai experience because foreign visitors are not familiar with Japanese culture. I believe this should not be the case, and I teach authentic Japanese swordsmanship and spirit." Another one to tie in with the iaido, but as suggested, while I think the cutting experience at the Samurai museum back in Kyoto may have tourists in mind, today's session will be a real lesson. We're doing a group private session, and I think the guys also get to try on some armour. In the morning we're heading to Shinjuku because Dr Google suggested that's where we need to change trains for our journey to the Samurai experience. It'll kill two birds with one stone given we'd already outlined a few things in Shinjuku of interest while planning, too. Along with Godzilla who peaks over a building here, there's a 3d billboard that the nephews were pretty keen on seeing.

There's also the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Buildings which house an observation deck for free, so this is a good option if you want to get up high in Tokyo but don't fancy the entrance fee to the likes of Shibuya Sky or the Sky Tree. I'm not sure if we're heading back here after, but I gather it also comes alive somewhat of a night and is one of the main nightlife districts of Tokyo.. but it will be a Monday.

Day 16

Marc suggested watching Sumo wrestlers train of a morning while here in Tokyo, but I was well ahead of him and had already researched when Sumo season is, and fortunately, it's three times a year, of which one is September! While watching them train may offer a more personal experience, I think the cultural one is to be had at a tournament, and it's cheaper too. Luckily the 'Aki basho' aint too far from our hotel either, so we booked up some tickets.

We meet with the guide early afternoon, so it'll leave us the morning to do some more wandering/shopping in Akihabara, or maybe a sleep in! Again, i'm not sure what we'll be doing after, but after two weeks action for some chill time, or with shopping to be done, i'm sure we won't be caught short!

Day 17

Photo: Keisuke TanigawaUnicorn Gundam in Odaiba, Tokyo
Photo: Keisuke TanigawaUnicorn Gundam in Odaiba, Tokyo

Is the final day of action, but technically not the last, as that will be reserved for heading to the airport. We travel to Odaiba Island, which may sound exotic, but it's a man-made island in Tokyo Bay, and is less than an hour away on the train, and as always, that includes the walk. Again, it'll be a more chill day with shopping probably, and just going with the flow as to what we happen upon. In true Japan style, however, there is a full size Unicorn Gundam robot outside the Diver City Mall. Weirdly, there's also a small Statue of Liberty in the bay too, which apparently celebrates their relationship with France. It's seven times smaller than the one in New York. Odaiba is also the home of the Fuji TV HQ, a crazy looking building that also has an observation deck that looks over the bay and the famous rainbow bridge. I believe there are Fuji TV network related shops too, including one to Dragon Ball Z, which should keep the nephews happy. All in all, there should be plenty to see, do and explore in the local vicinity, you can even head out on to the water, plus I've read you may get a killer sunset over Tokyo from there too, assuming we're still around then.

Day 18 That's that, Japan done! 14 hours home. Japan is 8 hours ahead, so we'll still land on the Thursday, die of jet lag on the Friday, and then I have a full day's work on the Saturday.. fun fun fun! We've missed out so much cool stuff too, so while that's a packed schedule, I think it's a pretty realistic one that gives us time to find things along the way too, but in terms of places we considered that we cast aside (this time, maybe we'll be back?), i'll list a few below. These are places we thought were viable, or were high on the list when we were looking at locations in the early stages of planning and before realising they weren't. Japan is far bigger and more exciting than the little slice we've limited ourselves too!

What we're missing out on..

DisneySea - There's also a Disneyland in Tokyo too, but Disneysea is typically touted as being better and the one to visit if you have to choose, even if simply because there's only one in the world. The aesthetics do look amazing, we just ran out of days and I think we'd prefer to cram in some more real Tokyo locations than make believe ones. Eating Kobe steak in Kobe. While you can get Wagyu beef in the UK, it's widely considered that legit Kobe beef if the best steak cut in the world.. and the price reflects it! I gather you can get small cuts for $50, but it can go upwards of $200 too. Kobe isn't too far from Osaka, as quick as 12 minutes on the bullet train.

Himeji Castle - not least because it's twinned with one of our local castles in Conwy castle.. Himeji is in slightly better knick, though. For some reason we all figured it was near Kyoto and Osaka, but it's a good hour out on the bullet past Kobe.. and those things shift!

Conwy Castle, North Wales, by Splash Point Photo
Conwy Castle, North Wales, by Splash Point Photo

Nara Park - about an hour in the other direction, but technically closer as it's not on the bullet, you have Nara Park where you can feed wild deer. Nara Park is famous for those viral clips of deers bowing when you feed them. Bamboo Grove - I quite fancied going here prior to even knowing I was going to Japan, as i'd seen it on YouTube and knew you could do a rickshaw ride around it. It looked like one of the must-do photo spots, however, it was a good hour away from our hotel and is said to get mega crowded, and that's a long way to go for a picture that could be ruined. Don’t get me wrong, like the rest of Japan, i'm sure there's plenty to do local to it, but some things had to give, and I was happy to miss out n this one. We figured there may be bamboo spots near where we are with the monks too, maybe just a little more wild.

Ikebukuro - about the same distance from Shinjuku as Shibuya, and equally the same distance from where we're staying as Shinjuku, it's the home of the Sunshine city mall with the Pokemon Centre, plus it has the Sunshine Aquarium. I think it's kinda one of those must see districts again - Tokyo has many!

Tokyo Dome City - I found this while looking for baseball or football games. I'm not sure the others would have enjoyed either to be fair. In fact Marc said he'd often get dragged to baseball games while working in America. I do like my football, to be fair, but i'm not overly bothered by baseball, I think i'd just have liked to check out the atmosphere and park the once. It's massive in Japan I think, probably the biggest it is in any country outside of the USA. However, Tokyo Dome is where they play and next door I think, and Dome City is a small inner city theme park with shopping and attractions. It's actually only a half hour walk from Akihabara, so may be if we're stuck for somewhere to go, it's an easy option.

Jigokudani Monkey Park - Another image I see time and time again that I'd love to photograph, the snow monkeys just chilling in the hot springs. This is north of Mount Haruna, and despite the fact Mount Haruna is roughly 2/3rds of the way there, it actually takes about the same from our base near Mount Haruna as it does Tokyo! Again, just a stretch too far.

And i'm going to leave you there. That's our 17-day itinerary, plus with some stuff we're missing out on. The general vibe you get from people who've been to Japan is an absolute want and need to return, so i'll keep you posted on that one; and maybe one day, I can pick up where this leaves off.



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