Tokyo, Japan 2004 – And the hunt for Mt Fuji

2004 was THE year of traveling for me until I found myself unexpectedly pregnant. Since then traveling has been a whole lot more inconvenient but fruitful with children in toll.

Tokyo | 26.11.04

This was a free and easy trip which I embarked on with my brother. I was tasked with the full responsibility of finding accommodation and planning the itinerary. Thus far, the best trip of my life. On Day 1 we visited Tokyo city and got ourselves acquainted with the metro system. Although we had no grasp of Japanese, I was able to comprehend which train goes where. It was interesting that they had trains that ran only 3 stops, those that ran only a section of the route, those that ran the full route, and then those that ran the full route but only stopped at selected train stations. This day was spent finding places to eat and shop. Gosh the things are so pricey here!

Japan | 27.11.04

Day 2 we headed early in the morning for the Tsukiji Fish Market and boy what a sight it was. Around 6am, it was already all hustle and bustle with all kinds of seafood selling at prices that I assume are cheap compared to what we see in the supermarts. Also feasted my eyes and the HUGE blue tuna fish. And sea urchins, octopus, eels and what have you. Japan thrives on seafood. Thereafter we made a stop to the various interesting landmarks around Tokyo city, for eg the Metro Tower one of the tallest building in Tokyo at 40+ storeys and other temples.

Japan | 28.11.04

Day 3 we set out early to head to Hakone, in hopes of seeing Mt Fuji. But this time towards end of autumn and near winter, it was too misty to make out the peak. Man, it was so COLD here with the wind chill effect. I got myself a cold burn. Imagine! Great place to try out the hot springs too in this weather. I felt so frozen. One particular interesting event was when we were at the place where we can eat eggs cooked in the sulphuric acid of the volcano, I asked in broken Japanese if I could buy one egg from a couple because they came in sixes. And they gave me one. How nice. =p Which is actually what impressed me most about Japan is their culture of service excellence, politeness, organisation and efficiency. Simply amazing. The next day I was determined to see Mt Fuji but to no avail. In fact because of all the traffic jams, we mostly wasted the day stuck in Hakone. Actually wanted to head north to Gotembo, where I might have the chance to see Fuji but we missed the only bus for the day so my bro decided that we head back to Tokyo. During our stay there, we put up at a guesthouse called Big Apple, tucked neatly in a suburb area from the train Chuo Line to Higashi Koganei. It was a really nice and cozy town, peaceful and quiet. Because it was autumn the colors on the trees were simply beautiful. The guesthouse is pretty cheap too for first timers -39,000 yen per room per night.

Kamakura | 30.11.04

On Day 5, we bought a train pass and headed this time to Kamakura, kinda like a temple town. It was an uneventful trip and unless you have a penchant for Japanese structures, everything pretty looks much the same. And since we didn’t really know Japanese, it was hard to understand the history of each temple. But we did get to see the gigantic Buddha statue.

Odaiba | 01.12.04

Day 6 we bought a pass to Odaiba, some sort of futuristic town where all the buildings had a thematic structure to them. We visited the Toyota showroom of all kinds of cars, past present and future. Made a trip to the Science Exhibition Centre too. If I were more scientific in nature, I would have appreciated the exhibits more. Since this was our last night, we had a sumptuous buffet meal at an Italian restaurant. As stuff were so expensive in Japan, we had lived on instant noodles, bread and vendor machine stalls for most of our meals. Have got to try the ramen/udon/soba in soup with egg/meat or whatever else they have. Add in the chilli powder and chow it down hot on a cold day. Nice! On our last day, we were kinda late for our flight and I finally got the experience of the infamous subway crowd. We were totally packed into the train like fishes in a can. I couldn’t hold on to anything but it wasn’t necessary because we were so tightly packed, no one could have fallen. Made a mad dash for the train stations with lotsa confusion on which train to take to the airport which was about two hours away. But thank God by some strange miracle we made it. And on the plane back to Singapore, I finally caught my glimpse of Mt Fuji top view. It was totally awesome!

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