I’ve been to many castles in Japan but my favourite has to be Matsumoto Castle, which I visited and fell in love with on my recent holiday.
Located in Matsumoto, the second largest city in Nagano Prefecture, Matsumoto Castle is one of Japan’s oldest and few remaining original castles. It is also a designated National Treasure of Japan.
During my time in Tokyo, I escaped the hustle and bustle of packed trains and busy streets for a day in peaceful Kamakura. The city is famous for its landmark monument of the Daibutsu (Great Buddha), which is the second largest statue after Todaiji in Nara.
The star attraction of Kamakura.
Nicknamed the ‘Kyoto of Eastern Japan’ thanks to its many temples and shrines, Kamakura is highly recommended for those who can’t make the trip down to Kyoto or Nara.
Kamakura is easily accessible by train and takes less than an hour from Shinjuku Station. While tourists can get to the Daibutsu directly from Hase Station, I chose to get off a few stops earlier at Kita-Kamakura Station.
The benefit of starting here is exploring the temples, shrines and historical buildings on the way to the Daibutsu.
I’ve been incredibly quiet on this blog and on social media this past week due to limited or no internet access and a lack of time.
However, even though it’s about 2AM and I’m desperately in need of sleep, I still want to write an update on what I’ve been up to so far.
Aside from shopping and eating in Tokyo, I managed to escape the city for a day trip in Kamakura to see the landmark statue of the Buddha and to check out the local temples.
The Great Buddha, Kamakura. (B. Wong)
It’s currently nearing midnight in Tokyo right now. I’ve been out all day long shopping and eating. My legs are so sore from all the walking, but before I call it a night, I’d like to share a photo of an interesting restaurant I walked past in Harajuku.
Happy ‘T.G.I Friday’!
Japan has a bad reputation thanks to its whaling industry and tonight, I visited a prominent whale restaurant called Taruichi.
Visiting the restaurant was an experience to try out whale meat. Taruichi, which is located in Shinjuku, serves different parts of a whale and in different styles. I sampled two: whale katsu (fried) and miso whale steak.
The dishes my friends and I ordered – katsu (L) and steak (R).
I am so happy to be back in Japan right now and my time in the airport reminded me why I love this country so much. Customer service is impeccable. The Japanese are so helpful with queries and any problems tourists may have. It was great to practise my Japanese again, however imperfect it was at times.
The first thing I did as soon as I collected my bags was to get my Japanese mobile phone working again. In my first month of exchange last year, I had used a Softbank pre-paid card before moving onto a contract. I had thought I could continue using this pre-paid card if I just topped it up, but I found out it had expired. However, that was not an issue as I was able to buy a new pre-paid card and use my phone. To anyone with iPhones or smartphones that are unlocked, you can get a contract with any of the phone providers but be warned, it is a bit expensive as you have to pay a 40,000 yen bond.
I was initially undecided whether to take an airport limousine bus or a train to my hotel destination, Hagashi Shinjuku. The train was about 1500 yen while a bus would cost 3000 yen. The bus provided a direct journey to Shinjuku whereas the train required up to three changes.
I opted for the bus. I was queuing up to get my ticket when an old man approached me with a query about a 3000 yen ticket voucher he had. All I could tell him in Japanese was that I didn’t quite understand him because it was my first time taking the bus. As I went to pay the woman at the counter, the old man rushed up and handed over his voucher telling me in English that he would cover some of the cost and that I would just need to pay him 2000 yen. I ended up saving 1000 yen thanks to this random act of kindness.
The bus ride took about two hours due to heavy traffic and upon arrival in busy Shinjuku, I was also reminded about what I dislike about Japan – the heavy crowds and immensely confusing train system. It’s a real challenge when you have baggage to carry around and you are trying to get from one place to another. Thankfully, I arrived in one piece.
It’s been a while since I last blogged here but I’m resurrecting it as I’m returning to my adopted home and looking forward to sharing my travels again.
It’s surreal that it’s only been 10 months since I’ve left Osaka. I’ve enjoyed being in Sydney again but I have been dying to get back to Japan!
To me, this trip is a ‘best of Japan’ holiday as I’ll be going all over the country. I’ll be starting in Tokyo then heading west to Kyushu, which I didn’t get to visit during my exchange, and afterwards I’ll be going to Hiroshima to spend time with my host mother. From there, I’ll travel up north to Aomori for a friend’s wedding then back down to Tokyo for an afternoon to meet a Japanese friend. On my way to Kansai, I’ll make a pit stop in Nagoya for two days and finish my holiday in Osaka.
I am so excited and cannot wait to see new places, eat real Japanese food, catch up with old friends, go shopping and just celebrate the end of five years at university.
I’m currently in Hong Kong Airport awaiting my flight to Narita Airport, Tokyo. The stop over was five hours but it surprisingly went past quite quickly. There are always things to do when you have free WiFi!
Here’s the view from where I’m sitting.