91 days ago, we stepped out of a plane and directly onto the roof of a skyscraper, where a woman clad in a kimono was bowing to greet us. “Welcome to Tokyo! We’re so glad you’re here!” She beckoned us to the edge of the building, so we could gaze out upon the city’s incomprehensible size. “Look at all that awaits you,” she said. Then without warning, she pushed us off.
It was our last day in Tokyo. Although we weren’t leaving until the early evening, we had finished packing by 10am and found ourselves with time to kill. Should we go see one last museum? Take a leisurely farewell stroll through our favorite neighborhood? Or… should we scarf down a final fix of ramen and spend our last couple hours in Tokyo playing video games? Sega Joypolis, here we come!
The Cute is everywhere in Tokyo, and you’re not going to escape it. You shouldn’t even try. This is a city with fluffy animals on every corner. Where buses prowl the streets disguised as pandas. Where every corporation and even the police force have their own charming mascot. The Cute cannot be avoided, so you might as well embrace it.
From late April to mid May, the garden of the Nezu Shrine bursts into life, as thousands of azalea bushes bloom, dabbing the green hills with their rainbow-colored foliage. This garden is over three hundred years old and contains a hundred different species of azalea.
We had enjoyed a deeply restful night of sleep at the Mount View Hakone ryokan hotel in Sengokuhara, and awoke eager to tackle our second day in the mountainous Hakone region southwest of Tokyo. After an early breakfast, we were at the northern shore of Ashinoko, a picturesque crater lake nestled in the shadow of Mount Fuji.
The forests, lakes, mountains and sheer natural beauty of the Hakone region are all great, but to tell the truth, we were most excited about the hotel which had invited us to stay for the night. The Mount View Hakone is a traditional Japanese ryokan in Sengokuhara, and we planned on taking full advantage of its baths, food, and relaxing atmosphere.
On our last weekend in Japan we abandoned Tokyo and headed for the hills of the Hakone National Park, in the shadow of Mount Fuji. Centered around a large crater lake, this is an area of hot springs, spas, traditional hotels, forests and mountains. It was the perfect antidote to the Big City Sickness with which we’d slowly but surely become infected.
It was 1958, and we were hungry. Luckily, we were near Narutabashi Station, where there are at least a dozen ramen shops to choose from. We sat down to big bowls of steaming noodles, and talked about the news of the day… Khrushchev seems a reasonable new leader for the Soviets, doesn’t he? Then my cellphone rang and I remembered: this isn’t 1958. And there is no train station called Narutabashi. The year was 2014 and we were inside Shinyokohama’s Ramen Museum.
The most popular spa in Tokyo is found on Odaiba Island. The Ooedo Onsen Monogatari isn’t cheap, but it offers more than just hot baths. While inside, you can dine at a variety of restaurants, sleep in a capsule hotel, watch TV, or enjoy the festive atmosphere in a hall designed to evoke Old Edo.