As the plane touches down in Tokyo, Emma, weary after a 13 hour flight absent-mindedly sings “Oh no, there goes Tokyo, go go Godzilla”. It makes Lily laugh and she sings it louder for everyone to hear. The Creekmore’s have arrive in Japan.
Six months ago I looked ahead to 2014 Spring Break and miraculously found tickets to Japan for the lowest (45,000 miles) rate on American Airlines. You’d think with all that time I would have built even a rough itinerary, but other projects took over, and I only cracked the guide books a few days ago.
So with only about a week to plan, I worked pretty furiously to build our twelve day itinerary. No spreadsheets this time. Here is what I came up with.
Day One: Non-stop to Tokyo. We take off in the early morning, stop in DFW for a bit and then the long 13 hour trip to Japan, where we barely lose any time and arrive in the afternoon. Our AirBnB place is in Yoyogi Park area, not from from Shibuya. Most likely we will roam about and find some food. First night is always a disaster with jetlag and hunger.
Day Two: We’ll head early to the Odeo Park and it’s many sights, Tokyo National Museum, to see historic Japan – especially the Horujii imperial treasures, then Tokyo’s largest cemetery and the very old community of Yanaka
Day Three: My most anticipated day starts with the latest Japanese craze, PANCAKES. We’ve been promised pancakes all over the globe, and usually they are like crepes. These apparently are the real American thing. Afterward we’ll hit the odeo Antique market, a hot tip from a recent Tokyo traveller. It only happens once a month and it’s apparently a blast. Then on to Harajuku, where ‘all the girls look like Sailor Moon’ Lily just informed me. And finally back home to Yoyogi park for the rockabilly boy scene.
Day Four: We’ll try to see Mount Fuji from the Tokyo Sky tree early, visit the highly regarded Edo-Tokyo museum and take a rickshaw around the Asakusa old town area before seeing Tokyo’s most famous shrine Senso-ji. I wanted to take the girls to Robot Restaurant, but they don’t allow anyone under 25, drunk or with visible tattoos. In the afternoon we’ll see the famous Tokyo intersection 109 Shibuya, and the Shibuya station with it’s Hachiko monument to a loyal Akita dog.
Day Five: 9am promptly we’ll be at the Nishiki fish market. And we might need to be hosed off afterward at home, but toward afternoon we’ll head to Akihabara electric town for electronics of all kinds, and giant video game parlors. Maybe some maid cos-play at Maid cafe? If we have time we’ll go to Shimo-Kitazawa for Tokyo’s hippest neighborhood and see what we can find.
Day Six: we leave Tokyo early, head down to Tokyo bay and start our two day adventure at…. Disneyland! Yep, we’re gonna do coasters and adventure rides screaming like japanese schoolgirls. Overnight we stay at the disney resort so we can get an early head start the next day. Most likely we will spend this slightly shorter first day in Disneyland, which is roughly the same as the Magic Kingdom elsewhere. (The promotional image, left, looks like a Mickey Mouse mushroom cloud – too fucking weird.)
Day Seven: And day seven, we’ll do the highly regarded Disney Sea park, with great coasters and rides. It’s comparable but better than California Adventure in Anaheim. It’s good to break up fast moving trips like this with some kind of kid friendly activities. I remember some of our best times in Paris were at the little kiddy parks. And of course there was the failed attempt to go to an amusement park in Cairo…
Day Eight: We’ll try to get to Kyoto as early as possible on a ultra fast Nozomi bullet train and explore the station a bit before we meet out AirBnB host. Our Kyoto airBnB is relatively close to town center. We’ll try to hit the northern temples of Kinkaku-Ji and maybe Ryoan-Ji before they close at 5pm.
Day Nine: To the west of Kyoto are a bamboo grove called Arashiyama and a monkey park that are both highly regarded the first for it’s other worldly presentation and the second for up close views of monkeys in a nearly wild habitat. In the evening, we’ll look for Geishas in the Gion district after after the annual spring Geisha show at Miyako Odori.
Day Ten: The big temple day: We’ll go south to the shrines I think the girls will like the most: Sanjusangen-do, Tofuku-ji, and Fuhimi-inari which should leave us pretty exhausted. Hopefully not too exhausted as we’ll end the day and out trip at the Nishiki food market in the evening before packing for home.
Day Eleven: We might do an early activity this day, although it’s mostly a travel day through Kyoto, to Osaka Airport, back to Tokyo and then back to the USA via Chicago. We’ll be exhausted and ready to come home I’m sure!
It takes about 2 hours, a little more, to get from Narita airport to Tokyo on the high speed rail. Lumbering clumsily through the metro with bags is something I rarely do – especially with three people. But I’ve been warned about the high prices of Taxi’s, and we are meeting our airbnb host at the metro station outside Yoyogi park.
The apartment is tiny, clean, and a little strange. It doesn’t have a refrigerator but it does have an ancient gas stove with this mini oven. Lily says ‘This thing has an easy bake oven!” And the host has this idea that we will buy little crafts and tours from him, a fancy I quickly dispell. His parting words were “We aren’t doing this leagally, so if someone asks you who you are, tell them you are ‘international friends of Ryoma”. Ok, I assure them.
Japans economy has been so bad for years, just chalk this oddness up to entrepreneurial 20 somethings. And when I looked at Tokyo there were NO hotels and very few AirBnBs. I’m psyched just to be in a flat near the center.
We head out, pretty hungry, eager for some japanese food. Emma and lily say they like sushi, but really Emma only likes Avocado maki, and Lily only likes tuna Maki. (They made a big jump the next day to eat cucumber maki.) That’s it. I’ve been vegetarian (again) for about 18 months, so we have some dietary restrictions and no japanese besides the phrasebook. I’m determined to eat japanese at a restaurant though. We begin walking toward Shibuya, a huge Time’s Square-ish area.
Tokyo is a food lovers paradise, and there seem to be more restaurants than New York, but English menus are scarce, and we have our restrictions. Two sushi places look ok, but there is no maki on the picture menu. And I’m pretty sure ramen places don’t have vegetarian options based on my research. In the end we ate a hamburger and two grilled cheeses on the sidewalk for $36 bucks, from a small street front place.
The walk was awesome, but we are exhausted. That first nights sleep is always glorious after a long trip.