Day 1 Honolulu ~ Narita Airport
Due to spring break the TSA security check-in line backed up to the Starbucks near the entrance! There were many foreign visitors and local travelers. The tour group met at the gate around 10AM. Our flight was a bit delayed, but other than that everything went very smoothly. There were two delicious in-flight meals, for lunch and we had three meal choices of bibimbap, beef, or shrimp.
Day 2 Narita Airport ~ Tokyo
Upon exiting the airport, we were greeted by a microbus and our English speaking assistant to take us to our hotel in Ikebukuro. We enjoyed the view of the partially illuminated Sky Tree on our right. The beautiful Tokyo urban sunset provided the perfect backdrop as we drove down the relatively empty highway on Sunday afternoon. We arrived at the hotel after 6PM, ate dinner on our own and rested for the long day ahead.
Day 3 Tokyo
We started our day with a breakfast buffet at the hotel, which opened at 6:30 AM. The buffet consisted of a variety of different food choices from continental to traditional Japanese breakfast. This buffet would serve as our source of energy for the following days in Tokyo! We met with the group who had left Honolulu two days prior. The weather was perfect at 60 degrees F, and met our English speaking guide, Eri-san. We left the hotel in good spirits for Mitaka!
Our first destination was the Ghibli Museum. To access the museum, we walked through the Inokashira Park, where we were greeted by beautiful “Kawazu-sakura” cherry blossoms at full bloom.
The perfect setting for Hayao Miyazaki’s museum! Miyazaki is a Japanese animator and director, most famous for his Ghibli movies. The museum serves as a collection of artifacts related to his films. Some exhibits on display were the famous “Neko-bus” (Cat Bus) room from the movie Totoro and a short 15-minute film titled “Mizugumo Monmon”.
Second destination was the cultural distict of Asakusa. We visited the Sensoji Temple, said to have been built in 628. We were able to witness the Kinnryu (Golden Dragon) and Mikoshi (portable shrine carried in festivals) which is only on display a couple of days before the May festival. We also strolled through the Nakamise Shopping Street, a 250m street populated with 89 vendors ranging from traditional Japanese crafts to foods. The group enjoyed the takoyaki and chicken karaage.
The third destination was Edo Fuurin, where we learned how to decorate wind chimes from a master craftsman. It was quite difficult to paint the glass chime from the inside, but everyone did a great job! The chime rings beautifully in the Hawaiian breeze 〜〜.
The forth and final stop was the Samurai museum in Kabuki-cho. We witnessed the Samurai sword show performed by professional actors. It was a thrilling 15 minutes! The museum also had samurai armor and helmets on display. Members of the tour tried on the armor as well!
We arrived at the hotel around 7pm and had dinner on our own.
Day 4 Tokyo- Mt.Fuji – Hakone
We started the day by checking out of our room and leaving our luggage in the storage room. We prepared a bag for a one night trip and headed for our one night stay in Mt.Fuji and Hakone.
At Mt.Fuji, we were scheduled to go up to the fifth station, but due to the large amounts of snow we were only able to make it up to the forth station. On our way up we were able to see the wonderfully clear view of Suruga bay. Following the view, we had a steak lunch at a local restaurant about an hour away. This was the first time we ate as a group! It was delicious.
After lunch, we headed for the Lake Ashi boat cruise. The cruise was about 20 minutes, and we took a cable car to the summit of Mount Komagatake. The view of Mt.Fuji from the summit was absolutely magnificent. A few of the members in the group hiked up to a shrine Hakone motomiya located above the summit.We were able to see the Izu island, Shonan coast, and the Miura peninsula.
After returning to the base of the mountain we headed for the hotel in Hakone. We arrived earlier than expected, so we had ample time to change into our yukatas and got a tour of the onsen! We also walked to the Hakone Yumoto Station (5 min walk) to browse the souvenir stores and gift shops. We had a great view of the river with the sunset as a backdrop.
For dinner, we all ate the traditional japanese dinner of Kaiseki while dressed in our yukatas – a true Japanese experience! Each dish was carefully prepared and the final shrimp tempura dish was exquisite. How did you like the taste of Sake along with Japanese Kaiseki dinner?
Day 5 Hakone-Tokyo
We were very fortunate to have the beautiful weather continue into Day 5. We checked out of the hotel and headed for the strawberry farms. We were greeted by the local farmers and enjoyed the all you can eat strawberries for 30 minutes! Before we left the farm, we visited the farm store and bought souvenirs local to the Hakone area. The ice cream was very popular. Our English guide mentioned that we were extremely lucky to be able to get a view of Mt.Fuji throughout our time in Hakone !
We left the farm store for Fuji safari park. Due to it being a holiday, there were many parents with their children on this day. We were assigned to the “hippo” bus. We fed carrots to the bears, meat to the lions, and pellets food to camels. During our 1 hour ride we also saw giraffes, elephants, tigers, cheetas, zebras, and many more.
We returned to our hotel in Ikebukuro, and ate dinner at the Seibu department store area. There were lots of people and every restaurant was vey crowded. On our way to the hotel, some of us had a Taiyaki from a street vendor as desert.
Day 6 Tokyo
We were warned about the Skytree being crowded due to spring break, but we were able to get up to the observation deck smoothly with a very short wait. The elevator to the observation deck travels at speeds of 600m per minute! Impressive!! At the observation deck, we had a 360 degree panoramic view of the Tokyo cityscape. We traced our travel over the past few days, from the Sensoji temple in Asakusa to the Sunshine tower in Ikebukuro. We could even see Tokyo Disneyland in the distance! We also saw Arakawa River and Sumida River.
Our second stop of the day was the Sumida Aquarium, which is located near the base of the skytree. It has one of the largest open pool tank in Japan, and is home to more than 10,000 sea creatures. The museum itself was very modern, with vibrant colors and patterns to help the fish stand out to visitors. We were able to witness the feeding of the garden eel! It was very interesting to see them poke their heads out of the sand.
Following the aquarium, we had lunch at Solamachi, a cafeteria located at the base of the skytree. Food choices at cafeteria were Japanese, from Donburi to ramen noodles.
We left the Solamachi for the Edo Tokyo Museum. It first opened its doors in March 28, 1993. The permanent exhibition shows 400 years of history and culture, from the Edo Period to the present day, using replicas and a variety of authentic items.
Because we had extra time, we were able to visit the Ryogoku Edo Noren, which is a two-story complex with an old Edo style feel featuring a multitude of shops and restaurants, and even a sumo stage for events featuring cultural and historical aspects of Tokyo’s past. They even had a sake testing room!
At about 4:30 we returned to the hotel, and left again around 6:00 PM for the Ninja restaurant in Akasaka. We divided into two groups, and each group was welcomed by one ninja, who took us into the restaurant which was designed like a cave. There were secret passageways that led to the restaurant that only the ninjas knew about. On top of the great experience, the food was very delicious! The ninja magic show was very entertaining to finish our dinner time. We had a good laugh.We returned to the hotel at 9 oclock to rest for the day to follow.
Day 7 Tokyo
Today was a free day where the group split up to do separate tours. We each used a Suica card to go to various destinations around Tokyo. A few members went to the bonsai museum, and the rest of us traveled as a group to various locations.
Our first stop was the Tsukiji outer fish market. We browsed the market and a few of us bought dried goods. Some of us bought Maguro-donburi for 700 yen, and Akoyagai (Grilled Scallop). We had a great time. The next stop was Ginza to eat a steak lunch. This restaurant does not take reservations so we went before they opened to insure that we were the first in line. The line extended down the block!
We went back to Ginza 4-chome to eat Sakura Anpan (Bean paste pastry). We went to a popular department store to eat more food. We hopped on the Marunouchi subway Line and headed for Shinjuku.
We got off at the Shinjuku Gyoen to see the early blossoming of the cherry blossoms. The present site of the Shinjuku Gyoen was originally one part of Edo residence of the Lord Naito, the vassal of Ieyasu Tokugawa. In the Meiji era it became an agricultural experiment station, and then in 1906 it was made into an imperial garden. After the war in 1949, it was opened to the public as a national garden. The garden contains three styles, Landscape Garden, Formal Garden, and Japanese Traditional Garden, and is considered to be one of the most important modern western style gardens in the Meiji Era. We were able to view the Ume, Mokuren, Bokeh, and the early blossom Someyoshino. Some of us went to Harajyuku after Shinjyuku by JR Yamanote line.
Next day we exchanged interesting stories of our days adventures with the other group. Some of us took JR Saikyo line to Omiya and visit the beautiful bonsai museum in Saitama prefecture.
Day 8 Tokyo-Narita-Honolulu
This was our final day in Japan. On the way to the airport we stopped at the Naritasan Temple, a Shingon Buddhist temple located in central Narita.
Naritasan was build in the year 940 around its main sacred object of worship, a statue of the Buddhist Fudo Myoo deity. Kobo Daishi,one of the most important figures in Japan’s religious history, is said to have carved the statue. Naritasan’s Omotesando is a lively street lined by numerous restaurant and stores that have been selling traditional craft, souveniers, and food to pilgrims and tourists for centuries. Unagi (eel) is the most popular food served at the restaurant. some of us tried delicious Unagi here!
Our last destination before our flight was the Aeon Mall. We had about 2 hours to shop, and everyone’s luggage was full by the time we finished. We arrived at the airport and checked in very smoothly.
We said goodbye to our English speaking guide. Narita airport’s new waiting area is really well refurbished. There are restaurants from casual to fine dining and places for small children to play.
Our flight was on time and we arrived in Honolulu 25 minutes early. The inflight service was great and we had two full meals.
This trip was condensed with many activities and destinations throughout each day. Thanks to the group’s punctuality, we were able to get to each destination smoothly, and had extra time to enjoy the moments which will be in our memories forever. I hope that everyone enjoyed this trip and the fun that Japan has to offer during the early months of spring. Please join us on future JTB tours for another unique experience!
Posted by Tina Kondo
Please inquire detail for 2019/2020 escorted tours at:
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1450 Ala Moana Blvd., Suite 1370
Honolulu HI 96814
www.jtbusa.com >> Branch Special >> Honolulu
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