My first trip for 2013, and my second trip to Japan.. Been to Kansai region exactly one year ago really made me fall in love with Japan. It’s the longest trip I’ve been planned so far.. Yeah, I don’t have the luxury of annual leave, with only 14days leave a year, luckily I only required to use 4days of my annual leave for the whole 10days trip as my travel time falls on 3 public holidays of Kuala Lumpur, the Maulidur Rasul, Thaipusam, and The Federal Day, plus 4days of weekends. Even that, I wish I could stay longer.. I and my other two buddies, Ili and Rushd really enjoyed our trip to Tokyo and Sapporo. We stay a night in Lake Kawaguchi nearby mount fuji, stay 5nights in Tokyo and 2 nights in Sapporo.
Our flight depart from LCCT late noon, half hour late due to one irresponsible late family. Luckily we landed 20minutes earlier than schedule, however, it was a very long queue at the immigration. It’s already 11.30pm when we exit the arrival hall. Although the night train from the airport still operating, we had planned much earlier to overnight at the airport to safe some cost. After finding ourselves a nice spot to stay, we make ourselves comfortable at the long bench. I’ve read some review from the internet that Haneda Airport was quite comfortable to stay, and it turn out to be true. The long benches outside the arrival hall was very comfortable to sleep on. The toilets was perfect for refreshing. They even have charging station for us to charge our electronics, and they also have free wifi.. And they even have 24hour convenience store just at the level below. Perfect.. I noticed that quite a number of people also decided to spend the night at the airport like us.
After having our first meal in Japan, sushi bought from the convenience store, Rushd and Ili took nap at their bench. I decided to do some work that I bring together. Yeah… thats me.. Leaving Kuala Lumpur for more than a week with lots of unfinished work really makes me uneasy. So, I decided to bring along some of my works and lappie together during this trip.. It turn out to be a wise decision. I manage to do some works during my spare time at the airport, even on the plane…. hehehe…
After refreshed at the airport big toilet, we took the early train to Tokyo Station, as we need to buy the JR Kanto Pass from there. The Travel center at Haneda Airport only open at 11am, and it will be too late as we want to use it to go to Lake Kawaguchi as early as possible. The JR East Travel center in Tokyo station is the earliest travel office opened at 7.30am. The journey to Tokyo Station was 30mins using the Keikyu airport line with 1 transit at Shinagawa Station. The Tokyo Station is huge !!! We took almost half an hour to find the JR East office, however it still early at 6am when we reached there. So we spend the rest of the time wondering around the tokyo station, taking picture inside and outside the train station until the JR office opened sharp at 7.30am. The officer was very friendly and informative. We bought the JR Kanto pass and made seat reservation for the next bullet train from Shinjuku Station to Otsuki.
From Tokyo Station, we quickly took the jr train to Shinjuku and manage to ride the shinkansen bullet train half and hour later. It was a smooth one hour ride to Otsuki and from there, we transfer to Fujikyu Railway line to Kawaguchiko Station, another one hour ride. The whole 2 hour journey was pleasing, while admiring the nice views along the way. The sky was clear, and mount Fuji can be seen even before we reached the Kawaguchiko station.
Once we reached the Kawaguchiko Station, we were excited to see the snow covering the area surrounding the station. It was quite cold but manageable. The guesthouse that we booked, K’s House Mount Fuji provided free pick-up so, we called them from the nearby travel center. 20mins later, a van came to pick us up from the station. The guesthouse was actually very near the train station, just 5mins ride. We unable check-in yet as it is still early at 11am, so we decided to proceed for sightseeing. After storing our luggage at the storage room, we rent bicycles from the guesthouse to explore the Lake Kawaguchi area.
Guided by a simple map taken from the guesthouse, we set out cycling in the cold winter weather exploring Lake Kawaguchi area which just nearby the guesthouse. But first, we went to the nearby supermarket to shop for some groceries and food for our lunch and dinner. Then, we cycle towards the Lake Kawaguchi, crossing the bridge to the opposite side of the lake. It was long since the last time all of us cycling a bike, and cycling a big bicycle on the slippery and snowy road make it even tougher. However, all of us really enjoyed the views of this Kawaguchi area. The town, the environment, the landscape really take our breath away and make us smile the whole day. The views of Mount Fuji was amazing, especially on the crossing bridge and at the opposite area. There is also some nice souvenir shops nearby. Despite the cold weather, we ended spending the whole day at Lake Kawaguchi area until sunset and only reached back to the guesthouse by 7pm when its already dark. We took our luggage and quickly headed to our room to rest. Since it is our first day and we haven’t adapt to the cold weather, we feel very tired and decided to spent the rest of the day in our room.
The sunrise was early at 5.30am, still tired from yesterday activity, plus the comfort sleeping under the thick futon made all of us neglected to wake up early.. hehehe.. At 8am, one of the guesthouse worker sent us to the train station after we breakfast and check-out. We took the train back to Tokyo and proceed to Ueno Station, where our hotel located. The Weekly Mansion Higashi-Ueno was located 10mins walk from the Ueno Station. Its already noon when we reached the hotel, and we check-in right away. After refreshing, , we went out for sightseeing. At the Ueno Station, we went to the JR travel office to make seat reservation for shinkansen for our trip to Nikko the next day. Our earlier plan is to go to Ginza area, however, we’ve been informed that the JR Kanto Pass do not covers the tokyo subway lines where Ginza station located. To avoid paying more on trains, we changed our plan and decided to visit places along the JR lines by using the Kanto Pass.
First, we went to Akihabara area where located just 2 station away from Ueno by using the Yamanote line. Akihabara area was amazing…. the whole area is full with electronics shops and anime shops. It reminded me of Lowyat Plaza + Berjaya Times Square in Kuala lumpur, but the scale of a town.. with big and colourfull signboard dominantly covering the shop facades. The streets is also full with people maybe because it is weekend. We walked along the main streets while taking lots of picture along the way. We found a halal kebab shop, and bought our lunch there. I also tried the most delicious tako balls I’ve eaten at a shop there. We hang around Akihabara area until dark.
After that, we proceed to Omotesando area via Harajuku Station. Again, we were amaze with the environment at this area. Our earlier intention is to shop for souvenir at the Oriental Bazaar, unfortunately the shop already closed when we reached there. We walk while window shopping along the main road until we reached the Omotesando Hills area. On our way back, we noticed that one of the mall, La Foyett is having grand sale, so we decided to take a look. We were surprised to see the whole shop is the mall is actually on sale. The whole mall was a chaos with lots of people. Lots of branded items sold at very cheap price, as low as 90% discount. We took the opportunity to browse around and I ended buying 4 jackets for only 500yen or rm20. I also buy a cheap winter hat at 100yen or rm4. When we went out of the mall, all our hands full with plastic bags.. hehehe.. who said we can’t shopping in Tokyo…. ??? hahahaha… Feeling tired, we went for a coffee break at a nearby coffee shop before we went back to Ueno. It almost 11pm when we reached our room.
We started our day with missed our reserved bullet train to Nikko… hahaha.. It was quite an experience… my first actually as I seldom ride a train even in Malaysia. We actually already arrived at the Ueno Station earlier than the departure time, but due to confusion finding the right platform track for the bullet train @ shinkansen, and also some obstruction at the gate pass, we was delayed. Lesson learned.. do not under estimate the Japanese hospitality. We had to wait quite long at the gate entrance waiting for the officer handling the passenger in front of us before we can get through the gate. Realizing that we was already late, we ran through the crowd, and the shinkansen platform was quite far, 3 level down from the gate. And by the time we reach the right platform, the shinkansen door closed and off they go in front of us.. huhuhu… Tired from the running and disappointed, we walk helplessly towards the JR office again.. Luckily we had a JR Kanto pass, so the next reserved train ticket can be booked without any additional charges.
Having to wait for another hour for the next shinkansen to Nikko had its own advantages. While waiting at the platform, we bump into the fast Hayabusa shinkansen, and mange to snap some pictures with some of the ‘handsome’ shinkansen train. We actually riding a Yamabiko shinkansen to Utsunomiya for an hour ride. Then we transfer to a normal train at Nikko line to Nikko. It was a wonderful 2hours to Nikko while enjoying beautiful scenery along the way.
Once we exit the Nikko Station, we feel very excited to see the whole area was covered with white thick snow and the weather was freezingly cold. Although there is a local bus from the Nikko Station to World Heritage area, we decided to walk leisurely to our destination, the World Heritage Area where Rinnoji temple, taiyuinbyo, futarasan & toshogu shrine located. Accompanied by a map that I print from the internet, we walk slowly pass through the Nikko Town. I really love this place. It was a laid-back town reminded me of the Nara area during my last visit to Kansai Region. The main road towards the World Heritage area are full with small shops selling arts and craft. We also stop for rest at the tourist information center during the 1.5km walk to our destination. The red Shinkyo bridge before reaching the UNESCO area was very beautiful. We didn’t go into the temples as we didn’t feel like to, but the surrounding area was very beautiful that we spend more than 2hours wandering around this area. By noon, we return back to Nikko Station to go back to Tokyo as we want to catch-up to view the Harajuku Teens in cosplay.
We arrived Harajuku Station just on time to watch the Harajuku cosplay gathering, however due to some issue at the station, we missed to see them. The group of cosplay teens just left when we exit the Harajuku station, leaving only a group of teens performing street dance. I feel soo dissapointed and angry, because Sunday is the only day that we can see the cosplay culture in Harajuku and we only have one Sunday for this trip. It really spoil my mood for the remaining day, as I really want to see them. After that, we walk through the Takeshita-dori Street, a vibrant street full with small shops selling fashionable teens clothes. The street was full with people, too much actually, until we can’t even walk properly that make us uncomfortable to shop there.
We walked until we reached the Harajuku Street area, an area full with small boutique shop. I love the environment there, less crowd and feel very cozy to walk around. Then, we went to Oriental Bazaar opposite the Harajuku area to shop for souvenirs.
It almost dark when we finished our souvenir shopping spree. Then, we walked towards Shibuya area through a nice shopping street called ‘Cat Street’. I also like the whole environment of this shopping street. I wish Malaysia will have this kind of cozy shopping street in future.
Reaching Shibuya, we decided to take a break and rest at Starbuck in front of the famous Shibuya crossing while watching the craziest and busiest road crossing that I’ve seen so far.
After a hectic day, we took the JR train from Shibuya station back to Ueno. We reached our hotel around 10pm.