Sunday 8th July 2018

After getting the last of our bags all sorted we checked out of the Park Hyatt and got a cab over to the station. We could have taken the free shuttle but it would drop us on the whole opposite end of the station. We would have two ways of getting over to the New South Entrance to Shinjuku station. The first would involve crossing numerous platforms going up and down, more than likely stairs, to get to the platform we needed. The second option would be to wind through either streets or department stores. Taxi it is!

The taxi dropped us on a higher level than the train but a quick elevator ride and we were there. Pretty simple really. The platform for the Narita Express was well and truly on the other side of the station compared to say the Yamanote line. It felt closer to Yoyogi station than to Shinjuku. This was also the same platform for all the limited express trains that were used (so anything with a seat reservation). We got there just as the previous train was pulling into the station so we stayed out of the way as everyone piled on and the train departed. Mere seconds later our train rolled into the station and terminated. The cleaning crew went on so we would have to wait a little bit before we could use it.

Soon enough though we had access to the train and we got situated. The train was going to be relatively full with plenty of people getting on. Thankfully we were in the train in the first group of people as the train filled up people had problems storing suitcases (it only holds so many large suitcases but the racks were all full. The train rolled out on time to the second and off to Narita we went. The train followed the Yamanote line through to Shibuya to pick up more people and kept going all the way to Tokyo where it joined the rest of the train (we were the back half). From there the train picked up speed and ran express to Narita.

When we got to Narita it was a matter of a long long walk through to the station and a giant line of people at the ticket gates. Lines were a mess as people were lining up to have Suica cards refunded or fares adjusted and a lot of people were getting mixed up as they thought this was the line for rail passes to get out. It was a total mess! After winding our way up all the escalators to the departure level (numerous times i heard people say “should have taken the elevator”) and found our way to check in. Lines moved quickly and we were checked in quickly as well.

Soon enough we were off to security after checking the prices at the currency exchange (why didn’t we change it for the fantastic rate in shinjuku..why!). Security was easy and I didn’t have any troubles (i’m looking at you TSA) and then down to immigration we went. I tried to figure out how to fix up my tax free purchases with customs (apparently you just through the receipt in a box) and joined the extremely long lines for outbound immigration. After making it through the lines we headed off to relax in the lounge.

The ANA lounge was a shit show. People everywhere, crowding, very little in the way of seating, it was like being back at work, ugh. After finding a couple of seats and having to walk the entire length of the lounge to get a glass for a drink (again… ugh). We settled in to try and relax a little. We both were stressed over the environment and after a little while the lounge emptied out some so we found some more comfortable seats. Soon enough we left the lounge to head towards the gate via some final souvenir shopping.

We went to small shop that has always had good candy choices by the lounge. Without fail this place has always had choices that were not available elsewhere. Low and behold today was just like always. We managed to pick up a packet of Tokyo Banana kit kats and some pocky for Heidi before making the long trek to the gate.

The gate (58B) was all the way at the very end of the 50 pier and was both up a set of escalators and back down some stairs. Why… no idea! We got down there and went through a secondary security check (three times for me for some reason) and ran into some of Heidi’s friends we had drinks with the other night. We chatted before boarding was called and it was time to head over to the gate.

All Nippon Airways – NH178
Tokyo Narita to Seattle Tacoma
Boeing 787-8 (JA814A)
Business Class – Seat 9A

Boarding: 1751 (Gate 58B)
Push Back: 1815
Take Off Roll: 1840 (Runway 16R)
Top of Descent: 1028
Touch Down: 1100 (Runway 34R)
Shut Down: 1106 (Gate: S11)

Boarding was called for pre boards, though they didn’t go far as you could see them trapped in the jetbridge. A couple of minutes later boarding officially began with the traditional bow from the staff. Moments later after all of the top tiers were through the gate they let us on. Onto the exact same aircraft we had flown over on. So far this year I am 2/2 for registrations…. That isn’t all that much to talk about, but what is scary is that of 3 different flights on 787-8s with ANA, two out of three have been on the same aircraft. That is kinda of strange. If it had of been the same aircraft for all three, I would just give up!

This time Heidi was stuck sitting near me onboard, so there was no having to go back and forth between cabins. Thanks to Japanese efficiency they had the aircraft boarding right quick. Even with the fact that all of the economy class passengers were walking past us, it still felt pretty easy. Pre Departure beverages were served in plastic (but that is more of a need to be done quickly thing I think) and with a choice of OJ or Champagne. I took an OJ since I wanted to keep my single drink for something else later in the flight.

After they closed the door and came around to get all the cups we started to push off the gate. We pushed back and made the long long trek to the other side of the airport following a long line of other aircraft. As we taxied out to the active there was a long line of aircraft taking off right outside my window with an amazing sunset as well. Watching the aircraft take off gave me chances to practice some panning shots with my point and shoot camera. It went pretty well in my opinion.

It was finally our turn and we turned quickly onto the active and off we went. Although coming out of Narita is usually pretty bumpy, this evening it wasn’t that bad. Not saying there was no bumps, because there was a couple, but it was pretty easy. As we climbed out it was a matter of getting comfortable for what was slated to be a quick flight. Although it’s normally a 9 hour or so flight heading east, we apparently had some good tailwinds tonight as the flight was dropped down to just over 8 hours. Pretty slick, but it meant no real time to relax and sleep or enjoy more than the two meals… no snacks tonight apparently!

As we climbed out the service started with the handing out of menus, when they came back around to take orders they took drink orders and also the meal orders at the same time. One thing I noticed with ANA is that when they have a full cabin, they tend to take a while to get the service moving. When they do it is slow, but it’s very determined and thorough. This is not always a bad thing, but on a flight that may be short like tonight, sometimes you just want to get through the service. I guess you could just order a smaller meal like a bowl of the ramen and get some sleep, however that was not what I wanted to do tonight.

I went with the Japanese course as it would give me a final chance at some kaiseki. Although not as extensive as the first course option, the business class meal looked pretty impressive. There was some conger eel on it, which I never really enjoy, but I would still give it a go. The meal was delicious, extensive and just downright fantastic. But by the time it was almost over it had been 2.5 hours since we took off. This is a loooong time! When dessert came by I was a little greedy and asked for both options (but I didn’t have any cheese, if that helps). This got a strange look but I was the last person in the cabin to be served so i guess it was fine. I tried to use the provided spoon for the blueberry tart and it cracked in half. Thankfully I had already eaten the cassis parfait (which was delicious!).

After dinner was finished I had a cup of coffee and a sake. Yep… sake. I got chastised by my wife for having sake when I shouldn’t have, but I didn’t care. I sat down and enjoyed it with the coffee and slowly sipped away at it. It was pretty delicious! By the time it was all said and done I was almost through my second movie of the flight. The FA came to take away all of the items and i put the seat back to try and get some sleep (though it never really came). I drifted back and forth between rest and awake for a number of hours and eventually got up about 3 hours out.

I didn’t bother to try and get some food when I woke up, because I knew that at two and a half hours out, they started to offer the final food options throughout the cabin. So i fired up a final movie and just waited it out. As the time progressed towards Seattle you could smell the food begin to be heated up. The smell of warming bread just filled the cabin, so that was a great chance for me to get myself all sorted. When they came around to check on us, I took the option of the western breakfast with some cereal as well, because I had not had any in weeks… I was desperate!

The western breakfast was a great spread and included a lovely omelette. None of these fake crappy omelettes from the USA, this was a true, french style omelette, something the japanese do well. It tasted fantastic and was a good breakfast/early lunch as we would touch down just close to lunch time.

As the meal was cleaned up we were about an hour out from Seattle so I got myself sorted for the remainder of the flight. Getting my shoes on, getting the earplanes in and situated, cleaning up around the seat. We passed Victoria BC just as we started descent into Seattle. It was a nice sunny day in Seattle as we began to head down the Olympic Peninsula towards Tacoma and having to head back up. We passed over Bainbridge Island which meant out my window you could see downtown Seattle. You could see the three ships in port picking up boatloads of tourists up to Alaska.

It was sad to have the flight end which meant the vacation to Japan was finally over. We turned over Tacoma to line up for SeaTac and the end of this adventure. As we came into SeaTac there was a giant smackdown and a bounce to the left. Way to finish the flight with a bumpy landing. But the roll out wasn’t too bad and the taxi back to the S gates was relatively quick. We pulled into the gate and low and behold right next to us was a 777 from British Airways starting to be unloaded. This meant a rough time during immigration with a whole 777 load of people right ahead of us. Joy!

Leaving the aircraft, thanking the crew, it was off into the FIS at SeaTac. I have been through there once in the past, on ANA back in 2013. Back when there was not as many flights into the airport. 5 years ago half of the international flights into SeaTac didn’t exist. Now it can be an awful experience. When we got down there though, the lines didn’t look too bad. We skipped all the way through to the Global Entry area which had no one there at all.

Global entry for Heidi went off without a hitch. For me though, not so much. For one, the machine refused to read my green card without the help from one of the CBP agents. From there it just started going downhill, not that I didn’t expect it. So because i am in the waiting period again, apparently Global Entry isn’t valid for me (not that anything anywhere says that). Apparently I also need to have my own customs form and need to go through the main line. Thankfully the CBP guys took pity on me and put me through the process without having to go back over to the other side with all the giant lines. Thank god!

They were all nice about it, which is perfect for me, but for next time I will make sure to do it the right way, rather than the way it happened. Hopefully this will all be sorted out soon enough so that there isn’t too much of a problem. Once through immigration we spent more time waiting for our bags to come out, so I guess it was fine to take a little bit longer. All the bags arrived intact and customs was a non issue. When asked what food we had the answer was “kit kats” “but you can get them here” “not these ones” “how many did you bring back” “too many”.

Onto the train back to the main terminal, Lyft ordered and by the time we got out to the pick up point, we only waited a few minutes before the driver was there. Minutes later we were home, into the house, with Darcy in heidi’s arms within seconds.

Thursday 5th July 2018

We woke up this morning and went for a walk out to the Imperial Palace to start our day. Today would be a big day as we had to change hotels from the Marunouchi/Nihonbashi area out to Shinjuku. We had a light breakfast in the hotel but our first job of the day was to get our bags packed. For a small amount ($18 per bag) we could send our bags across town with same day delivery. That was so easy for us as we didn’t have to drag out suitcases on and off trains or through stations. Bargain! We got that sorted with the help of the concierge (after a back and forth about what we had been told vs what they were going to do on the day, but it all worked out) and let them handle our bags and we paid for it on check out.

As we departed the hotel we headed off towards the subway so that Heidi and I could head out for a day visiting my friend Rumi. We went to TAFE (Technical College for all my seppo friends) when I was just out of High school. We have known each other a long time. She moved back to Japan in the early 2000s and we caught up the last time I spent a good amount of time in Japan (2011) but it has been a long time since we last saw each other. Rumi wanted to meet up just below the Tokyo Skytree area so we headed out on the subway.

Sadly today the weather was not that great with plenty of rain around. We looked around the shops below the skytree and even stopped to get a bit of a photo of the bottom of the skytree. After walking past the Japan Post Museum we stopped in there as well. It was a small place but still extremely interesting. My favorite part was exploring all the stamp collection they have of stamps from all over the world!! We had a stop for lunch in the food court area because there was so much selection and we enjoyed each other’s company a lot. Eventually though Rumi had to go meet up with her son as he got off from school and Heidi and I were off to keep exploring.

We braved the rain in Asakusa to see the Senso-ji Temple and that was when I realised I had lost my umbrella 🙁 It was a fantastic umbrella that could withstand a lot of punishment and I was gutted to have lost it 🙁 Heidi gave me hers (since she doesn’t like using them) but I was still pretty gutted and made me feel awful losing it. We explored through Sensoji and I bought some little Ningyo-yaki which are little red bean filled pancake kind of things. They are usually different shapes as well (birds, fish etc). Very tasty! We decided to walk back towards where we could take a subway home and the rain started to come down heavy. As we walked down a street Heidi saw a sign for a cat cafe and it was as good excuse as any.

The cat cafe didnt have a usage charge for the first hour, just a minimum drink requirement and the drinks were not cheap (which is probably why there was no usage charge). It was also technically a bar, so you could get beer or wine if you wanted. It was pretty relaxed and a great way to escape the rain. Heidi was pretty happy so that is a win win I guess. We left just before an hour was up and headed off to catch the subway back to the hotel. After grabbing our bags from the concierge, we were off to Tokyo Station to get the train to Shinjuku. On the way through we tried to find the second assassination spot, but we couldn’t from the way we entered the station. O well, maybe next time! The train was relatively packed but not that bad so we had come through at a good time.

The Chuo Rapid line out to Shinjuku takes about 10-12 minutes and it is an easy ride. We hopped off at Shinjuku and it was time to battle our way out of the world’s busiest train station. We had decided to take a taxi to the hotel rather than trying to find the free shuttle, because I had read that it was very badly sign posted. Finding the taxi was easy and within a few minutes we were off to the hotel. The ride was short and relatively cheap (600Y) and we were dropped right at the door of our hotel, the Park Hyatt Tokyo. Funnily enough as we arrived, the staff were just getting our bags we had sent to the hotel onto a cart. It was quite the coincidence! We were shown upstairs to check in and after a little while was walked up to our room.

The check in took a little while because they had to check on the status of our room. Which was strange because the room we had been assigned on the form was a higher floor than what we recieved and the room we were shown into had someones suitcases in it…. Awkward!!! We eventually settled into the room and got ourselves situated. The room was definitely still luxurious compared to Osaka but not the best of the trip. The hotel was nicely kept up for a hotel that hasn’t had a major overhaul since opening but the green colored hallways are a tough choice.

We rested up for a little bit as we had been on the go for quite some time and contemplated dinner. We decided to take the shuttle over to the station (so we knew where to go) and then walk around to the far side of the station to a spot with plenty of nightlife. I was hoping to find a place that I had visited in 2011 but I didn’t know the name, just the look and only had a photo to go by. We did manage to find it and I enjoyed my Okinawan dinner. Heidi didn’t seem all that pleased to begin with but she did enjoy what she chose. The meal was cheap and plentiful and we both walked out with full bellies. We strolled around Shinjuku, picking up some stuff we needed for the next few days and ended up getting the shuttle back to the hotel and passed out on the stupid hard japanese bed 🙁

Friday 6th July 2018

This morning we had a quick breakfast after waking up later than usual and we got ready to meet our tour guide. We were going to meet a guide and head off to the Tsukiji Fish markets today. I had been before but Heidi had not. In my visit I was up stupid early to see the tuna auctions but Heidi vetoed that and just wanted to see the wholesale market and the surrounding areas. With another free guide planned it was going to be an easier day and a better explanation of how things worked and what things were.

We met our guide in the hotel lobby (he was waiting for us as we got down the first set of lifts from our room) and we headed off towards Shinjuku station. It was a rainy morning so I made sure to have a hotel umbrella with me today (since I was not going to risk losing another one). We were heading towards the Toei Subway’s Shinjuku line which took us to the Tsukiji fish market area. It was a simple ride we just got on and waited for a while before getting off. Simple. Even though it was after 9 before we got on the train, the commuters were still in force and the crowds were there for a while before they emptyed out around Roppongi.

We got to the market and the guide took us into the outer market area which was all we could access for quite a while. We wound back and forth through the streets looking at items for sale. While not much fish around this area there was plenty of other items for sale for both locals and tourists alike. One of my favorite items was the 100 Yen stick of Tamago…. It was delicious!!! We also saw some of the more famous Sushi shops and they were stupidly crowded. Some of them were over 100 people in line…. Pass!

We did what we could to pass the time as the wholesale market just changed restrictions to now only allow access after 11am so there was lots of people standing around waiting to get in. When 11am came it was like the flood gates for tourists opened and everyone bolted for the gates. We wound our way through this area but it was mostly closed down with very few stalls still open and most people were cleaning up. Sadly this will probably be our last ever visit to the market as it moves next year. O well!

We left the market headed for the Ginza area and a stop for sushi lunch. The guide took us to a rather respectable looking place that I would not have even approached. It didn’t have any english anywhere and those are the places I would probably not try on my own. The restaurant opened at 11:30am and we showed up at 11:28am giving me time to pack up my umbrella before we sat down. We got in before the big rush of people coming in for lunch as this was Ginza and there are plenty of businesses around. Being in Ginza you avoid the Tsukiji mark up prices that everyone in the market area charges, but you are close enough you get the exact same fish. Score!

As soon as they opened we were shown to a table and several other people joined us directly after. The chefs were churning out sushi minutes later as people came in and sat down. As we were at a table and not the counter we had to wait for our plates to be finished first before getting food, if you were at the counter, they got shoved in front of you as they were finished being made. The sushi was delicious and the omakase was a good choice. It was around 1600 Yen each so very reasonable for the quality and size we were served.

After leaving lunch our guide walked us down to the central part of Ginza and we parted ways as we thanked him for showing us around. He suggested we head up to Ginza Six to the new garden on the rooftop and you know how Heidi likes gardens. The view of the buildings was good from up there and I could see how nice it would be on a sunny day, but the rain was a killer. We left Ginza Six and walked our way through to Yurakucho station (after some shopping) to jump on a train. We had to change in Akihabra to a new train line for this trip as we were taking the local towards Shinjuku not the rapid.

We jumped off at Iidabashi and headed towards the main shopping street and Kinozen. If you have seen some of the random shows that pop up on Netflix you may have seen Kantaro the Sweet Tooth Salaryman. This is one of Heidi’s favorite shows and her favorite episode is the Matcha Bavarois. Well that episode is filmed at Kinozen as the show may be a drama but the places they go to are real. So we decided to head off to Kinozen for some Wa Sweets.

There was a small wait while some people headed out but we didn’t need to look at a menu, we knew how to order this one. Ni Matcha Babaro kudasai… well that’s what i attempted to say, whether that was correct is a different thing. The wait was nothing and we had the lovely Senbei Rice Cracker in the shape of a pig (delicious) in our hands within seconds. The dessert showed up and Heidi was excited. It looked delicious, it tasted devine and I can see why people come here a lot.

Japanese desserts have always been so good with the attention to detail you don’t get anywhere else. They will pick one specific item and focus so much on it to make it perfect. It warms my heart! After finishing our desserts we decided to walk along the canal to the next stop on the train since the rain had stopped and it was only about a 30 minute walk. By the time we made the other station we had been on the go for a while, so we headed back to the hotel for a bit of a relax. For dinner that night we headed off through the park around the hotel to find a Coco just a couple of blocks over…. Delicious way to end the day!

Saturday 7th July 2018

Our last full day in Tokyo before heading home was a Saturday and that would be ideal for the kinds of places that don’t really happen during the week. After a gym work out this morning we headed off on a bus (for the first time in Tokyo…. ever), The first stop of the day was NHK Studio Park. We both love Domokun and they have a small NHK store at the main studios in Tokyo. They also have like a small museum place and for 200 Yen entry its a bargain.

After a small hiccup finding the right bus stop we finally got moving towards NHK along the edge of Yoyogi park. The park looked great and had a lot of different parts including the Youth Olympic facilities, the Horse Club and a number of small playgrounds. We got off around the corner from NHK park and walked up to be greeted by a Giant Domo Statue… love it! There wasn’t any english translations for a lot of stuff at the Studio Park but we made due and it kind of kept in line with a lot of what we did while in Japan. Found random things to go to, where we couldn’t really read it but still had a great time. We got a number of freebies for our $2 including a wrist strap, some file folders and some stickers. We made one or two purchases at the store but we also got to watch rehearsal for an NHK talk show thing… maybe… we weren’t sure.

After leaving NHK we walked down into the Shibuya area taking a stop on top of a building with a free view of the scramble crossing before braving the crossing on our own. We were getting hungry but neither of us could make up our minds what we wanted and we spent plenty of time just wandering around trying to find something. We decided on a couple of sandwiches and some salad from the Tokyu department store. Pretty delicious! After walking around some of the department stores we head off to the Mega Don Quixote for some shopping. This was when we had both decided to leave all of our souvenir shopping till so that we didn’t spend all trip carrying them around Japan.

I went a little bit nuts getting all the different Kit Kat flavors and almost filled the entire basket. I wanted to check out a few other things while I was at it but Heidi got a few pieces in the stationary sections. We were able to get our purchases tax free as we spent over a certain threshold (and were willing to not touch the items before we left….. tomorrow). It was a good deal. We came out of the store with a 100 Yen soft serve to help with all of the stress and frustration of dealing with a Don Quixote store (Aisles are small, lots of people). We made our way out of Shibuya via some back streets before heading up to the station for our next stop… Harajuku.

This was going to be a rough stop as it was by now the middle of Saturday afternoon, it was hot, humid and the crowds of tourists were out in force. If the train was any indication of what was to come, I should have cut and run. But we made our way over to Takeshita Street in Harajuku for the street of doom. It was wall to wall people walking up and down one tiny street. We shopped for a little bit, but didn’t spend much just browsed slowly up and back. By the time we got down to one end, we were truly over it and just wanted to get out. Back through the crowds to the station we went, bravely exiting the tourists for another day.

We journeyed back to the hotel via the New South Exit from Shinjuku station and after walking for almost 6 hours we were done! We collapsed on the bed of the room for a little while before heading out for a final dinner in Shinjuku. We headed to a place recommended by Rumi as her favorite Ramen. I loved it (Heidi wasn’t loving it too much due to the shellfish broth) and thought it was a great place to go! We left there and Heidi wanted to play some pachinko, but she didn’t realise just how noisy they were… holy crap they were loud… like deafening loud. You need earplugs just to even walk in the building. Instead we hit up an arcade to have some fun spending some last cash.

Sunday 8th July 2018

We woke up this morning, our final morning in Japan and walked down to Yoyogi Park. Intending on just walking around the park itself we ended up coming into the entrance with the Meiji shrine. So we walked up to the shrine, explored for a little bit and made our way back to the hotel to pack things up. Packing took a while as there was a lot to do. We had packed an extra bag so that we could carry all the souvenirs (although we usually just fill it with dirty clothes).

We spent a short amount of time out of the hotel checking out the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building free observatory and trying to find an overview point of Shinjuku station I went to last time (but I couldn’t find it) before going to Mos Burger for lunch before heading back to the hotel. Our final morning in Japan was over, time to get back to reality.

Tuesday 3rd July 2018

After waking up super early when I didn’t need to I checked my phone to see the time and saw that the burglar alarm at home was going off. I checked my phone and saw that it was probably because of the person coming to feed the cat. So I disarmed the house, cleared all the problems and set it back up again. Nothing looked out of place, the activity log matched what I would expect, so all was fine. The cat didn’t seem to care.

We both rested in bed and watched some TV before we got ourselves ready for the last big internal travel day of the trip. Today we would be heading back to Tokyo on the Shinkansen. We had decided to take it easy this morning so that we would not stress ourselves out worrying about time. We gave ourselves plenty of time goals to ensure we made it to Shin-Osaka on time. We used our last breakfast coupon to get some pastries to go from a place in the station and then we scoped out a way to get to the subway line without steps (which we found).

After going back to the hotel, grabbing our stuff and checking out we made our way through the rush hour crowds of people coming out of the station into the hellmouth. When we got down to the platform, then it became apparent things were not going to be easy. The trains were pulling in almost packed full of people and there was still plenty of people piling themselves onto the train. When we finally found a spot where we could get on, we missed the first train because we were not game to throw our bags into the scrum. Then on the second go (trains were running about one every minute) only Heidi was able to get on and she got rammed into the train with everyone else. So it looked like we were going to seperate.

It took me two more trains before I could get on and i barely made it on with my suitcase and i got crushed in the process. Then I found out the train I was on did not go to Shin-Osaka but stopped short. So I had to get off at another station and risk the whole train jam thing again…. Fun. I made it through though and caught up with Heidi at Shin-Osaka. Thankfully we had given ourselves plenty of time.

We made our way through Shin-Osaka Station up to the Shinkansen platforms and found where we were departing from. We camped out for about 40 minutes or so (after several contemplations of ditching our train and heading for an earlier train to Tokyo, but we didnt). Our train pulled in and we jumped onboard and stashed our bags in the usual spot. We swam upstream to our seats and got settled in for the long (well not really) ride up to Tokyo.

Today’s train was a Hikari and would stop at Kyoto, Nagoya, a couple of other stops before Yokohama, and then into Tokyo. We had the usual seats and just enjoyed the ride. We finally ate our pastry breakfast and I worked on the trip report while Heidi did some of her japanese lessons. The train cruised north as we watched people get on and off. We pulled through stations we had seen in the daylight and some we had only seen at night. Sadly though the clouds were out so there would be no sighting of Fujisan today 🙁

As we pulled in towards Tokyo Station it was sad to be getting off. Waiting there at the carriage though was a staff member from the Shangri-La Tokyo, they were waiting to assist us with our bags and take us to the hotel. It was crazy though that they would offer this. It was not a problem though and they took one of our suitcases for us and escorted us through the craziness towards the hotel. After checking in and getting stuff sorted in the room, Heidi wasn’t feeling to crash hot so she crashed out in the room. I grabbed my rail pass and my camera bag and I headed out towards the station again. I have been wanting to take photos at Haneda for a long time, so that was my goal tonight. It was pretty easy to get out there. Take the Yamanote line to Hamamatsucho and then take the Tokyo Monorail all the way out to Haneda. The best part is the whole thing was free with the rail pass.

I checked the spotting sights to see which terminal was going to be better in the afternoon and it said Terminal 2, so ANA it was going to be. The terminal was great, bright and clean. It felt more like a shopping mall and even had a Lawson in it. So i grabbed a drink and a sandwich (since I had not had lunch yet) and grabbed an elevator all the way to the top floor. The observation deck was on the very top of the terminal and the sun was shining. I spent several hours on the roof of the terminal getting plenty of photos (and sunburnt at the same time). I got some good special liveries and a few airlines I had not gotten before.

After finally watching the weather start to get iffy, I retraced my steps back towards Tokyo Station and met up with Heidi for some dinner. We wandered the surrounding streets as we were both pretty tired and didn’t wish to go far. We came out of the night finding a small, local possibly chain, restaurant and had a great dinner. We picked up some treats for dessert and headed back to the hotel to crash out for the evening.

Wednesday 4th July 2018

This morning I got up early and went to the gym (while Heidi groaned and rolled over). It was relatively easy morning in the hotel as we had a breakfast meeting with the hotel (work requirement). The breakfast at the hotel was great and the pastries were excellent! It was a good morning and by the time we were finished it was around 11am. So Heidi and I decided we would take the opportunity to go out to Omiya & Saitama so that I could go to the JR East Railway Museum.

We took the Shinkansen up to Omiya (since it was free) and then connected on to the local strange subway thingy over to the Museum. When we arrived though, unfortunately there was a big sign saying “Closed”. No reason given (at least in english). Nothing online stating they were closed on the english site. They close tuesdays, but not wednesdays. This was confusing. We tried walking around wondering if it was just that entrance, but nope closed. Turns out that it was closed due to the preparations for opening the new section the next day. So that plan was out because it would be extremely crowded for the next few weeks. Pass!

So we got back on the shuttle thingy back to Omiya and then got back on the train towards Tokyo. We managed to time it pretty well because a few minutes after we got there, one of the Double Decker Shinkansen (the Max) was scheduled. Score! So we got our tickets and headed off towards Tokyo. We jumped off at Ueno so that we could walk around through some of the market streets between Ueno and the next station.
We continued down to Akihabara for some lunch and a bit of an explore through the streets. But during the middle of a pretty tasty lunch, my nose started to spew blood and lots of it. This was not good when I was running short of tissues, japanese bathrooms don’t have paper towels and there was lines to get into the restrooms. Ugh!

I did what i could and it eventually stopped but that pretty much killed my mood for the rest of the afternoon. I just was not in a good frame of mind. So Heidi and I went back to the hotel and settled in to watch some netflix to keep us busy. We ventured out of the hotel for some dinner and walked around the station area to scope out the finally finished Marunouchi side of the station. We happened to find one of the sites of an assassination while we were walking around. Neither of us was all that hungry for a big dinner, so we grabbed some food from the Daimaru department store and headed back to the hotel to relax. Not the best day, but it was still a good day in Tokyo.

Wednesday 27th June 2018

Waking up earlier than we really needed seem to be the way things were going to happen this morning. Sadly it looks like sleep patterns may be off because it just did not go to plan. Instead we bummed around in the room trying to keep ourselves on a relatively normal fashion. Today’s plan was to go for a walk this morning to get some breakfast, then head out to a museum out of town and then who knows what the rest of the day.

So we rolled out of the hotel (which we were really liking so far) and started to walk out of the neighbourhood. We followed the railway lines up towards Nagoya Station and our chosen spot for breakfast. Located in the depths of the surrounding areas of the station was a lot of different, i guess you could call them strip malls. They were rows of shops and restaurants for all differents kinds of things. In amongst this haven of deliciousness was our intended destination. We wandered streets till we found Chapeau Blanc.

This little cafe had a fantastic deal. For the cost of a beverage (490 Yen) you would also get all the pastries you can eat. So for $5 you can have pastries and the drink of your choice, that is a bargain. Don’t get me wrong the pastries may not have been the best you will ever eat, but the iced coffee was good, the pastries were decent enough (we went back a few times) and they throw in hard boiled eggs too. What more could you ask for?

All filled up we walked back through Nagoya Station to get our bearings, book some train tickets for the rest of our trip and head out to our destination for the day. We were to jump the same train we took to our hotel last night but this time go all the way to the end. Which we did, via getting stuck in some railway works. It was interesting to see how the city differed from the small amount that we had seen so far. You went from very commercial, to very industrial relatively quickly.

Our destination was the end of the line and the museum right next door, the SCMaglev Railway Park which is the JR Central museum. It mainly covers the Tokaido Shinkansen along with also the new Chuo Shinkansen being built (the Superconducting Maglev). It was an amazing museum with so many things to see and thankfully not crowded at all. We explored all kinds of trains and I had been wanting to come here for quite some time. Although I did not win the lottery draw to drive the Shinkansen simulator, I did get some time driving a normal train (I did good, or at least that is what the lady said).

We both enjoyed the museum a lot and we even managed to have an old train to ourself for lunch. That is right… for lunch. They sell Ekiben’s at the museum (because of course you would) and you can eat them outside, in an old train that is air conditioned. We had our lunch in there and at one point, we were the only ones inside! We both tried not to purchase everything in the store before leaving and we headed back to the hotel to rest a little bit as we were both feeling a little jetlag.

After a couple of hours of resting we walked back up to Nagoya station but this time in a different direction. We checked out some stores in the station area before jumping on a subway over to Sakae. From there we had dinner at a Japanese Curry house (CoCo for anyone who cares) and did some more wandering through shops. We cut things early because I wasn’t feeling good and hadn’t been for a good portion of the day. We got back to the hotel around 730ish and i was passed out in bed by 8pm.

Thursday 28th June 2018

This morning we were heading south to Kyoto. After another pastry breakfast (this time from the 7-11) we headed off to the station. I was definitely not feeling well at all so Heidi made the decision that when we made it to Kyoto I was to ask the hotel about seeing a doctor. We made it back to Nagoya Station with plenty of time and waited for our train. While waiting on the Platform almost six Nozomi trains came through in the small 20 minute or so window. Those trains are really constant! Our train rolled in and we scrambled on with our bags. Soon enough we were in our seats and cruising out of Nagoya towards our next stop of Kyoto. Since this was Shinkansen we didn’t have long to wait.

We pulled into the Kyoto Station and found the nearest taxi rank (on the opposite side to I remember using last time) and we headed on our way to our hotel, the Ritz Carlton Kyoto (thanks work!). Upon arrival we were met by almost 4 staff and quickly sent off to our room. One staff member got a quick hand off of documents from the front desk and we were whisked off to our room for check in. Almost 6 staff helped us from the moment we got out of the taxi, amazing!. We had a beautiful room and even though it was on the floor above the lobby, it didn’t matter. We had a view of the river and it was quiet and peaceful.

After a site inspection with the sales rep, we headed off to get information on someone to go see to get me fixed up. With an appointment made for 5pm, we found the local 7-11, grabbed some lunch and then headed off to Inari station (took 2 subways and a train). After exploring the Fushimi Inari area with the million other tourists who were there, I left Heidi to explore on her own around the mountain while I headed down towards the town to explore. I found a cat cafe, the prices were cheap and included a free ice cream, so I was sold.

I spent a little while there (around 30 minutes or so) before walking off to meet up with Heidi. After heading back to the hotel for a little bit, we jumped into a taxi to head to the doctors. Low and behold after what felt like the quickest doctors visit ever I was given a prescription and then spent more time waiting for drugs than I spent with the doctor! We start to wander the streets after this in search of some dinner and found an Ippudo, however the wait was long, so pass on that! Around the corner from Ippudo was a good looking ramen place, with no wait and plenty cheap too. So we went in there! They had an english menu but we didnt need it because pointy talky ordering worked well.

After a stumble back to the nearest subway station and two trains and a walk back to the hotel, we flopped into bed to rest up before a big day the next day.

Friday 29th June 2018

Today was our big tour day of Kyoto. We were planning on getting in as much stuff as we could. We had arranged a tour guide with the Good Samaritan Club and they would help us get around the city. Our guide was due to meet us at 9am in the lobby of the hotel and we would head out from there. When we got down to the lobby it was full of guides waiting for their groups, so I guess a lot of people do it! Once we met up with our guide Nao we headed off on the subway. Umbrellas in hand today because the rain looked pretty nasty.

This morning we visited the Nijo-ji castle and the Imperial Palaces. The first being the spot where the Emperor would meet his guests and the second being his places of residence. Both were outstanding to visit and not that crowded thankfully. The rain was on and off all morning though so that was annoying. After the morning of the old reign of Japan we headed down to Nishi market for a stroll through and a look at all the tasty morsels on offer. I snagged a croquette for 100 Yen and ate it as we walked (although my guide was shocked since we had lunch upcoming but it looked so good!). After that we bought him lunch around the corner from the market at a place that had Curry Udon. I had a cold ramen dish with plenty of vegies and sesame dressing. It was delicious!

After lunch we jumped on a bus and headed out to the Golden Pavillion. This is where there were tourists and lots of them!! It was beautiful and stunning but holy crap it was like shooting fish in a barrel. From there we headed over to another temple which had less people. By this time we still had some time left with the guide so we headed off to explore a very little known perk of Amex cards in Japan. Apparently there is a VIP lounge inside one of the temples. The guide knew of the temple, but had never seen the lounge before we we headed over. It wasn’t much but it gave free access to a temple and some privacy away from the rest of the city. It was a good way to wind down and finish our tour.

After finishing the tour we headed back towards the city and it started bucketing down. Thank god for hotel umbrellas because we needed them! The rain was coming down hard and fast so we took refuge in a store that had over 300 different ice cream parfaits on offer! Yes please! With that as our early dinner we stopped by a store on the way home for a sandwich and a drink and soon enough back at the hotel after being gone all day. Tomorrow we would be leaving Kyoto and moving on. No doubt we will return.