Japan Here We Come
We got together at Sydney Airport and set off on our epic journey. Tokyo-Haneda airport was to be our first destination in Japan, but not before an unexpected but totally awesome layover in Manila, the bustling capital of the Philippines. That’s right, on this trip Trusted Travel actually got to see two countries!
We spent our time in Manila eating classic local dishes such as pork adobo and wandering the streets taking in the atmosphere of this great Asian metropolis. Manila is home to over 12 million making it one of South-East Asia’s true super cities.
And if we thought Manila was big, we had to strap ourselves in for what came next. Tokyo – the biggest city on Earth – was still abuzz with activity when we pulled into our hotel at 3am. The Tokyo-Yokohama metro area is home to over 40million people!
After a few chaotic days it was time to get out of the cities. We joined up with the rest of our tour group and got on the road, led by our own Japanese guide Yu Ren. We left the hectic pace of Tokyo behind just a few hours after arriving and made our way to a peaceful lakeside where our crew of travellers enjoyed a lovely cruise around the lake taking in the 360 degree scenic vistas.
Next up was an absolute highlight of our trip – the iconic Mount Fuji – Japan’s tallest and most iconic mountain.
When we arrived at Mount Fuji’s 5th Station, some 2200m above sea level, the air was noticeably cooler but sadly the elusive mountain was unable to be seen through a thick haze of cloud. We enjoyed a quiet lunch and tried to make the best of the situation when something incredible happened. The clouds parted, the sun shone through and for 10 glorious minutes we stood in awe of nature as the mountain presented itself. As quickly as it appeared, it was gone again. One of our travellers described the experience as “powerful and inspiring.”
We made our way to the city of Matsumoto in the mountainous region of Nagano and checked into our hotel. We cruised the streets, were mesmerised by the lights and, with our first opportunity to grab an authentic Japanese meal, we headed to …… Maccas… Beef teriyaki burgers all round!
The following day was one of the history buffs. This was our opportunity to see an older and more traditional Japan.
First we headed to Takayama where we took to opportunity to stroll the streets of the old town, try famed local hida beef and explore the many quaint sake distilleries.
In the afternoon we made our way to Shirakawa-Go, a place steeped in beauty both natural and man-made. Here, old Japan came to life. There were stone buildings with thatched roofs punctuated by small rice paddies. The whole scene was like something out of a painting.
We made it Gifu that evening and once again headed out to the neon lit streets of a Japanese city. This time we found a lovely restaurant where we were able to fill up on sushi, tempura seafood, gyoza, chicken wings and more. Sharing is caring and we picked and pecked till our bellies were bulging.
Kyoto, the ancient capital of Japan, is old Japan writ large: atmospheric temples, sublime gardens, traditional teahouses. Instead of joining an organised tour, Trusted Travel’s own guides kicked into gear and navigated our own way to Fushimi Inari Taisha, a UNESCO World Heritage listed temple complex. It is famous for being home to over 10,000 red timber tori gates.
After experiencing traditional Japan, it was big city here we come! Our 2 nights in Osaka gave us an opportunity to experience all the wild, uniqueness of modern Japanese culture. We spent our nights cruising the vibrant streets of the Dotonburi area. We ate the best sushi we had ever had and sucked in the atmosphere of the Dotonburi Canal – a crazy area of vibrant night life that is like Times Square with a river running through it.
And during the day in Osaka, it was yet more of urban Japan. We went to the viewing platform of the Tsutenkaku, the city’s famous observation tower before heading down to vibrant tech neighbourhood of Nipponbashi. We spent heaps of time here browsing retro video game stores and reminiscing about the good ole days of Sega Megadrive and Super Nintendo (fun fact – it was called the Super Famicom in Japan). In particular a certain retro games store called Super Potato served as an important pilgrimage for one member of our group. A massive bucket list tick for this Trusted Traveller!
Osaka Castle, built from 1583-1597, is one of Osaka’s top attractions and is Japan’s largest castle. It marked our last sight before departing Osaka for the Tokai prefecture. We stopped of briefly in Nara to see the famous deer park before making our way to our accommodation for the night.
When we woke, we couldn’t believe it was our last full day in Japan. Better make the most of it! We got on the road and made a stop at a green tea factory to try some of Japan’s most iconic hot drink. Our final stop was Japan’s largest Budha, an imposing statue standing over 13 metres high. As an added bonus we were offered more spectacular views of Mount Fuji from the bus window for a good chunk of the day.
Our last night would be spent in Yokohama and we were determined to go out with a bang. Formerly the world’s largest Ferris wheel the Cosmo Clock 21 was an awesome attraction that gave us spectacular views of Yokohama, Kawasaki and Tokyo beyond. While we were at Cosmo World, some of our brave travellers even went on the terrifying roller coaster Diving Vanish. What a way to go out!
A massive thankyou to our guide through trip-a-deal, Yu Ren. You really made our trip with your kindness and great guidance. And to Coach Captain, the enigmatic super hero who transported us around the land, thank you too. And, most importantly, huge ups to the people of Japan for being so kind and accommodating in every little interaction. We will miss you and your beautiful country.
We were keen to get home to share our amazing stories with our family and friends. Well maybe not keen. Some of us wanted to stay forever… Regardless, we were all in good spirits. We would go our separate ways with new experiences, new friends and memories to last a lifetime.
We flew out of Tokyo-Haneda and behind us the sun set on the land of the rising sun.