We decided to buffer our snow trip with a couple of days in Tokyo at each end. I didn’t want to travel all that way and miss exploring such a lively place. Tokyo is a modern, fast paced city and there are treasures and interesting things to be discovered all over. We choose to stay a little out of the CBD as I feel you get a more authentic taste of what Tokyo has to offer and the city centre really is all about business with people in suits rushing everywhere and tall, commercial buildings towering over you. We did venture in and found ourselves at the Imperial Palace Gardens which is a nice walk.
It is easy to get around on the subway trains as many signs are in English or numbered/colour coded and they run on time and are efficiently managed. I also found the iPhone app Tokyo Metro Subway and trains.jp to be of great help. There are two companies that run trains in Japan: JR (more regional express lines) and Metro (city to suburbs, stops all stations) so you need to utilise both apps (they didn’t need wifi when I used them) to find the most direct route or if you do have wifi and know where you want to go, the website HyperDia is quite useful.
Some notable suburbs worth losing yourself in are Shinjuku, Shibuya, the Golden Gai and the famous Harajuku. Takeshita Street in Harajuku is full of busy markets and quirky stores where you will find all manner of items. I go just to people watch and have glimpsed the Harajuku girls of Gwen Stefani fame a few times. There are awesome little food stalls everywhere and many are just a hole in the wall or down random stairs so make sure you keep an eye out. You can easily spend hours walking around the Tokyo suburbs and not get bored as the sometimes eccentric Japanese culture oozes from the pavement until the cityscape changes dramatically after dark.
Disneyland – The happiest place on Earth
Disneyland wasn’t originally on our itinerary however, we felt that we had seen a lot of Tokyo in the first few days of our trip. So we started researching how to get there from Tokyo while still in Niseko to discover it was a viable option for the two spare days we had on our way home. It turned out to be just over an hour train ride from Tokyo and was fairly easy to get to so, we made our decision and decided to go all out by staying on site to fully utilise our two days. At Disneyland, there are two whole theme parks side by side: Disneyland and Disneysea. I felt that Disneyland was aimed at a younger audience (parades, shows, mild rides) whereas Disneysea was more for the bigger kids (like myself) and included more rollercoasters and sea/water themed rides. We seemed to luck it in with the crowds as the park was not crowded for both of the days we were there, and the longest I had to wait in line for a ride was about 20 or 30 minutes (I have waited MUCH longer at Dreamworld at home). I also took advantage of the ‘fastpass’ system which allows you to collect an advanced ticket for a particular ride for a certain time period so you can jump the queue. This is explained on the many signs and does seem to work fairly well. We did this for most of the bigger rides that had lines or if we wanted to go on something more than once. We spent our days exploring Disneyland and Disneysea, eating the many flavours of popcorn and enjoying the atmosphere like excited children. We stayed at the Disneyland Hilton, one of the affiliated hotels which featured Disney themed levels and rooms with spectacular views of the harbour. It felt overly spacious and luxurious compared to the pension lodge we had been staying at, and it wasn’t so obtusely expensive that it broke our budget. It was a relaxing way to spend a couple of days letting our sore bodies recover before flying back to Australia.
That is where I will leave Japan for now. I will do another backlog blog about my second trip to Myoko, Japan a little later on. Coming soon is the Sri Lanka series.