Day 1- March 18, Saturday
Everyone was on time and checked in with no hassle.We took a ANA flight (9hrs 25 mins flight), Honolulu to Narita. Everyone enjoyed the in-flight entertainment and meal.
Day2 -March 19, Sunday
We took a chartered bus and checked in to Grand Nikko Tokyo Daiba hotel. Room keys were all ready, our luggage were transferred to the rooms by the staff of the hotel . Service at the hotel was excellent. There were varieties of amenities in the room. They have many restaurants and shops in the hotel for convenience. There are many shopping malls within walking distance. Some of the tour participants still had energy to walk to the nearest mall, Aqua City. They have shops and lots of eateries. Another malls are Diver City and Venus Fort, which we visited other nights.
Day 3- March 20, Monday
Our English speaking guide Setsuko Sho, came to pick us up in the morning. We left the hotel around 9am , 1st to visit Tokyo Metropolitan Edo-Tokyo Museum. We took a chartered bus and we wondered around the museum for about an hour. Beautiful exhibits of replica of Nihonbashi, a reconstruction of the facade of the Nakamura-za Kabuki Theater in the Edo period, Edo Castles and District zones, etc.
After the museum, we took the bus to Asakusa & Nakamise Shopping Arcade. Everyone enjoyed the process of purifying yourself before entering the temple. We also were lucky enough to see a wedding ceremony that was being held at the temple. Everyone enjoyed some free time shopping and trying food at the local vendors. Some of us went looking for Melon Pan (melon flavored bread) shop , as it was one of must try foods in Asakusa.
Then we proceeded to Meiji Jingu Shrine in Harajuku area. This amazing shrine was dedicated to Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken in 1920. Short walk into the shrine , we were again lucky to see a wedding ceremony there also. Some of us made a wish and hung the wish boards.
Then off to quick shopping in the busy streets of Harajuku, Takeshita dori and Omotesando. Few of us went to Daiso , one of the biggest Daiso in Tokyo, and to Kiddyland. Wow! the streets were full of people due to 3 days weekend. We were able to experience the real busy metro Japan city this day.
Day 4: March 21, Tuesday
Rainy day, but didn’t stop us from having a good time. Luckily we were indoors most of the day. After delicious breakfast at the hotel, we headed to Tsukiji Fish market , Sushi making , Sky Tree , and Soramachi shopping center.
Grand Nikko Daiba hotel was able to get us all umbrellas (25 of them) for this wet day. We headed to Tsukiji market ,where all the vendors are out selling wide varieties of seafood and other products. We tasted some fresh sushi (like fatty tuna that melts in your mouth, grilled and chilled oysters, some grilled scallops and sea urchins (uni), etc.
After a quick browse at the market, we headed to make our own lunch. Sushi making at a culinary institute. What an experience! We all felt like we can open our own sushi restaurant. We made nigirizushi and chirashizushi, and were also served some udon and chawanmushi.
Our stomach was full with this Ono food. We headed to Sky Tree tour, tallest structure in Japan after Tokyo Tower. This tower broadcasts television and radio primarily for the Kanto region. We could see the Tokyo city 360 degrees view and down below through see through glass bottom floor.
Day 5: March 22, Wednesday
We had our big suitcases sent to Kyoto via courier service and packed a overnight bag and traveled to Kawaguchi. Kawaguchi is near Mt Fuji and we were very lucky have a clear day. We saw Mt Fuji as we drove to Kawaguchi side. First stop was Fuji Safari Park, where we jumped on an animal bus and fed the animals like bears and lions as we drove through the park. We saw many wild animals in their habitats, most of them taking a nap in a nice and sunny day. Then a lunch break at the park and free time to see some more animals in a petting area.
After fun filled time with the animals, we drove to Yamanashi area to pick some Japanese strawberries for our desert. Yamanashi is famous for seasonal fruit picking for travelers. We were given a small container to put the strawberries and some condensed milk to dip the berries. It was all you can eat for 30 minutes.
We checked in to Hotel Regina Kawaguchiko and we were all flabbergasted with the view of Mt Fuji. Each room had Mt Fuji view at this hotel with nice onsen on the 1st floor. We got ready for Kaiseki style dinner after dipping in the onsen. After the dinner, some of us made use of the Karaoke room and sang our hearts out.
Day 6: March 23, Thursday
We left early in the morning, after delicious breakfast buffet , to catch a Bullet train (Shinkansen) Hikari to Kyoto station from Odawara station. We bought lunch box (Obento), like anago bento, katsu bento, etc. at the station for our lunch on the train. It took about 2 hours to get to our destination and our new guide for Kyoto area was waiting for us at the station. Upon arrival we took a chartered bus to Green tea factory, Marukyu Koyamaen co.ltd., an award winning green tea factory. Superior taste of macha is produced here. We learnt how to make maccha in some what traditional way. They go very well with Japanese sweets (dango).
After the maccha factory we were off to Nara to see the Great Buddha’s statue at Todaiji Temple and to the Nara Park to feed the deer.
Day 7: March 24, Friday
After New Miyako hotel’s heartful breakfast we went on a Sagano Sightseeing Tram ride. Beautiful view from the train of Hozu river, where we took a boat ride after the tram ride. Although we didn’t see any cherry blossoms, we all enjoyed the beautiful scenery. It was quite cold at first but the excitement of the boat ride made it all go away. We enjoyed all the small rapids along the way.
Free time and lunch on own was in Arashiyama, where we wondered the busy street with local delicacies and souvenirs. We had couple hours to explore then headback to the hotel to freshen up. Some of us went to the nearby shopping area for last minute shopping. Don Quijote and AEON mall is very close by from New Miyako Hotel. Then we were picked up by our guide and the chartered bus for our Kaiseki style dinner at Ganko Takasegawa restaurant (Japanese set menu) for delicious meal. We also celebrated one of our customer’s birthday. We also took pictures at the beautiful Japanese style garden at the restaurant. They even had 1 cherry blossom tree in full bloom.
We even took a night tour to Kodaiji Temple. We had a nice walk here, but it’s not for everyone. Night view of the temple was wonderful.
Day 8: March 25, Saturday
Our last day in Japan. All our luggage were packed and ready to go. They were hauled under the chartered bus and we headed for our last day’s tours. First stop was Kinkakuji Temple (Golden Pavilion). It was crowded, but we all took beautiful pictures and bought some souvenirs. Then we headed to Hands on experience of making “Yatsuhashi” sweets.
Making the sweets was really a fun experience. We then headed to the Nishiki Market (Kyoto’s out door market) for last minute souvenirs and lunch on our own. Everyone enjoyed sampling pickles , grilled seafoods, etc.
After the Nishiki Market, we went to Itami Airport to catch the domestic flight to Haneda airport. It was a short flight of 1 hour or so. Then there was more shopping at Haneda International airport for duty free items . Return flight was much shorter and we all reached safely back home.
Posted by Monica Kayano
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