This week has been absolutely crazy, prepare for a very long blog post.
On Monday night my friend and I got on a night-bus from Kyoto to Tokyo which would arrive at Shinjuku Station at 6.30am on Tuesday morning. The night-bus was so strange. The seats were all separate with 3 to a row and curtains either side to make your own little cubicle. You had a foot rest and the seat reclined but not far enough to be considered comfortable. Through all the research I did, this was the cheapest and most efficient way to get to Tokyo from Kyoto and meant that it didn’t take up any day time which could be used for exploring. However, no matter how hard I tried, I could not sleep on the bus which meant that I was exhausted for the busy day ahead.
When we got to Shinjuku nothing was open so we spent half an hour trying to find an open Cafe. Much to our delight, by the time we found a Cafe that was open at 7am, it was 7am.
The rest of the day involved the exploration of where I used to live in Tokyo. Roppongi was just how i remembered it. I remembered each road and how to get to my favourite spots. Whilst most of the shops had changed, as it has been 10 years since I was last there, I still knew where I was. I visited my old school and we sat on the swings in the park opposite as we watched the park get busier. It was still very early. We then walked to Arisigawa park, Azabu-Juban and ended up at Sakura-zaka in Roppongi, a road and park famous for its beautiful cherry blossoms. Whilst we sat and enjoyed the beautiful weather it was wonderful to be engulfed by the huge sense of nostalgia that ran through me. I felt so comfortable there.
The afternoon was then spent walking to Tokyo Tower and having lunch under its huge shadow. We went up to the observation lounge and spent rather a large amount of time examining an object on the horizon which looked like a giant egg – we still don’t know what it was.
That evening we had dinner with some old family friends in a restaurant that was a huge staple of my childhood – Gonpachi. Only a 10 minute walk from our old apartment, I think we must have gone at least once a month. We then were lucky enough to stay at their house overnight.
The next day was again filled to the brim with exploration. We went to Meiji Jingu, Yoyogi Koen, Harajuku, Omotesando and Shibuya all before 3pm. We then got the train back to Shinjuku to go to a Cat Cafe – a dream come true!
That evening we had dinner with my friend’s family in Odaiba with a beautiful view of the Rainbow Bridge and Tokyo Tower.
Thursday was no different. We went to Ueno park which had the most glorious Cherry Blossoms and was absolutely heaving with people. We then got the train to Asakusa to visit Senso-ji, a huge Temple with a whole row of Japanese market stalls on the way to it. We then spent time exploring Tokyo Tower 2.0 – the Sky Tree. Unfortunately, it was a little to expensive to justify going up to the observation deck so we just explored the shops and the Pokemon Centre on its lower levels.
After all of that we went back to Shinjuku to catch our night-bus back to Kyoto but first we went up the Metropolitan Government building which has a free observation deck of the whole city at night and then grabbed some dinner.
I still didn’t manage to sleep on the bus. This was made worse by the fact that classes started on Friday morning at 9am. We barely had enough time to get from Kyoto to Kyotonabe, have a shower and then walk to Campus as the bus got into Kyoto at 7am. After surviving 2 lectures and some pretty surprised lecturers (I’m not sure any of them knew that they would have exchange students in their class), I finally got back to my flat at 2pm and completely crashed, sleeping right the way through to 8pm.
It was all absolutely worth it as the weather was perfect for all 3 days and I got to explore Tokyo, my home, again.
Whilst we were at the Sky Tree, we decided to go into the Cold Stone Creamery there. Having heard a lot about it, I was super excited and wanted to film my whole experience. Once the waitresses knew I was filming they asked if they could sing a song for us. Of course my response was ‘Yes’ and they proceeded to sing the cutest song ever. From that moment on, we were both completely in love with them. I will cherish the recording forever.
One thing I would like to briefly talk about are the Sakura and whole concept of Hanami, a Japanese tradition of welcoming spring.
The Cherry Blossom come out every year and every year without fail the paths underneath the Cherry Blossom are heaving with people, all wanting to appreciate the delicate pink flowers. From the turnout it is clear that no one has become bored with the idea despite the fact that the Cherry Blossom appear every year without fail. From what I know, there doesn’t seem to be an equivalent celebration in England where you are merely appreciating the temporal beauty of nature. And this is something that Japanese do twice a year – First with the Cherry Blossom and then with the Maple leaves in Autumn. I think it is absolutely wonderful and will never get bored with the Sakura. The Cherry Blossoms have a very dear part of my heart as they always bloom around my Birthday and the symbolism they hold within Chinese and Japanese culture really speak to me. In Japanese culture the Cherry Blossom represents the fragility and the beauty of life. It’s a reminder that life is almost overwhelmingly beautiful but that it is also tragically short. Whilst in Chinese Culture the Cherry Blossom represents female beauty and power. These are both hugely provoking representations.
You cannot believe how happy I am to be here at the most perfect time of year – despite the fact that it has been raining all weekend.
Essential photo of Shibuya Crossing.
The Bourgeois Spider & Roppongi Hills.
Ueno Park Sakura.
That’s all for now.