Day 1 Mar 30 (Fri) Honolulu ~ Narita Airport
On the day of departure, everyone arrived at the airport early. We checked in very smoothly for Korean Airline Flight 02. We had plenty of time to explore the airport terminal shops before boarding time. Our flight was on time and we had a pleasant ride to Narita. Korean Airlines Inflight service was excellent! We had a choice of Beef and Potato, Chicken and Rice, Bibimbap followed by a scrumptious brownie. Yummy! A second meal was also served before landing.
Day 2 Mar 31 (Sat) Narita Airport ~ Tokyo
We arrived at Narita Airport on time at 3:20 pm. The immigration process was reasonably quick. Our driver and English-speaking assistant welcomed and took us to our hotel in Odaiba. During our ride there, we saw the Tokyo sky-tree on our right just before Tokyo Station area. Unfortunately, we missed the peak season for cherry blossoms, so some of the flowers had already fallen. However, it was still a beautiful sight to see the half bloomed cherry blossom trees. After a 90 minute bus ride from Narita Airport, we arrived at our hotel. Our room had a beautiful view of the full moon and the ocean!
Some of us explored the AquaCity and DiverCity, two separate malls with over 100 shops and restaurants. Others went to Shibuya to take pictures of the Hachiko dog statue and the famous Shibuya crossing scramble. Wow, so many people there at night, including tourists, just like us! The weather was perfect!
Day 3 Apr 1 (Sun) Tokyo
The sun rose at around 5:30am. We were definitely not used to that! We had beautiful morning to start our first day in Tokyo. We met our English speaking guide. The first stop was Ueno Park. When we arrived it was crowded with many people there to view cherry blossoms. Next, we visited a sushi restaurant to learn how to make an authentic nigiri from a master chef. We ate our own nigiri….so good!
After that we stopped by the famous Tsukiji fish Market and went to Ginza. Since it was a Sunday the roads were completely closed off to cars and traffic. The streets were for walking pedestrians only. There were many cute goods being sold related to cherry blossoms. Pink everywhere! At 4:15 pm we returned to the hotel. Luckily we got there without losing anyone in the crowded streets of Ginza!
Day 4 Apr 2 (Mon) Tokyo~Mt.Fuji~Hakone
At 8am we left the hotel for Mt.Fuji. We had a clear view of the mountain from the bus. We made a stop at Kawaguchi lake, located at the base of Mt.Fuji to take pictures. Mt.Fuji is known to be “shy” and doesn’t show herself very often due to the fog and clouds, which surround its snow-capped peak. However, we were lucky enough to see the summit from the lake. Lucky us! Our English guide taught us how to make a paper Mt Fuji, (origami). Yes, we were able to make it along the song of Mt. Fuji. After lunch, we went to Oshino-hakkei, a collection of famous ponds surrounding Mt.Fuji. We visited Kagami-Ike, a lake famous for reflecting Mt.Fuji onto it’s surface.
Next we took a cable car (known as “Rope way” in Japan) to Komagatake, known for its spectacular view of Ashinoko, Lake Ashi. Some of us visited the Hakonemotomiya shrine, located at the summit of Mt.Komagatake.We checked in the hotel and enjoyed a Kaiseki dinner wearing our yukatas. Some of us went to the onsen, hot spring and some enjoyed a Japanese style massage in the room. So relaxing , Have a good night!.
Day 5 Apr 3 (Tues) Hakone~Odawara~Kamakura~Yokohama
We left early in the morning for Odawara castle. Odawara Castle was originally built in the mid 15th century and soon fell into the hands of the Hojo Clan, one of the most powerful clans during the Warring State Era. Today it is the closest castle to Tokyo. We were overjoyed and so excited to see that the cherry blossoms were in full bloom there. We took so many pictures! Next, we went to the strawberry farm to pick “Benni-hoppe” strawberries, which means “red-cheek” strawberry. We had a 30-minute “all you can eat” time limit. Vitamin C overload!
After eating delicious green tea noodle soba and chicken rice for lunch, we visited the Kamakura Great Buuddha Kotokuin Shrine. The Great Buddha of Kamakura is a bronze statue of Amida Buddha, which stands on the grounds of Kotokuin Temple. With a height of 11.4 meters or standing about 38 feet tall, it is the second tallest bronze Buddha statue in Japan, We enjoyed taking pictures.We left for Tsurugaoka Hachiman Shrine. We took a picture in front of the sake barrels. Here’s an interesting fact- the barrels were empty! We learned the traditional Shinto style prayer from our guide: two bows, two claps, and one final bow. We are all experts now! We checked in to our hotel in Yokohama, which was located near the train station and various retail shops and restaurants.
Day 6 Apr 4 (Wed) Yokohama
We arrived at Sankeien garden in the morning. Sankei garden was established in 1902 by Yokohama businessman, Sankei Hara (1868-1939). Sankei Garden was badly damaged in War War II, and in 1953 the Hara family turned it over to the Sankeien Hoshokai foundation, which tried to restore the Garden to its original state. Although the sakura were not in full bloom, we were able to see the other flowers in the garden. There are different flowers based on season and we were able to view them in different stages of bloom. The flowers and tree that were beginning to bloom were azalea wisteria and kerria. The garden is responsive to the seasons and each season’s bloom is unique and special in it’s own way. Most of us enjoyed authentic Japanese tea while viewing the garden. So relaxing!
After that, we headed for the Shin Yokohama Ramen Museum. The museum recreated ramen shops from the Showa-era, and we each ate at our restaurant of choice. So nostalgic! Following the ramen museum, we went to the Cup Noodle Museum where we each created our own custom cup noodle. Our last destination for the day was Yokohama Chinatown, the largest of Japan’s Chinatowns. There we had an early supper on our own. We returned to the hotel after a long day.
Day 7 Apr 5 (Thur) Yokohama~Tokyo~Narita~Honolulu
On our last day, the temperature was much colder than the day before (dropped to 57 degrees F). We headed for Asakusa on the Sumida River Boat Cruise. Asakusa was very crowded, but we managed to enter the Kaminarimon Gate, shop at the souvenir stores, and visit the Sensoji temple. The Sensoji Kannon temple is dedicated to Kannon Bosatsu,the Bodhisattva of compassion, and is the most widely visited sacred site in Japan with over 30 million visitors annually.
We enjoyed our last meal at a restaurant located near the Tokyo Tower. We ate a eight course lunch of tofu. The restaurant included a Japanese garden and the tableware followed a spring theme. The service was truly exceptional and represented the true refined culture of Japanese service, Omotenashi. It was great to end the trip in a secluded restaurant of a bustling city where we could recall and reminisce on all the great times we had. We ended the trip going up the Tokyo tower where we saw the cityscape of Tokyo before we headed toward the airport to return to Honolulu. We made a lot of great memories and experiences. We had a pleasant flight with Korean Airline KE01. We arrived at Honolulu on time.
I hope that everyone enjoyed this trip and true beauty of Japan. I look forward to seeing you all our future trips to Japan.
Posted by Tina Kondo
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