February 26, 2014

Cherry Blossom Episode 5: Tokyo Day 1 (Shibuya & Tokyo Tower)

After checked in our hotel room at Agora Place, we had our late lunch and relaxed ourselves on the comfy bed. Honestly the bed in every hotel room we stayed in Japan is really soft and comfortable. We headed out before the sky gets darker, reached our destination at Shibuya around 5pm. The main objective was to see the Hachiko Statue at Shibuya JR Station. The story of Hachiko is here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hachik%C5%8D

I never seen any beggar in Japan until Shibuya JR Station. Apparently he sleeps in the station. Though a beggar, he is very organised. Things are sorted in order. Truly a Japanese. I didn't take any photo because their walking pace was fast and the traffic was heavy inside the building. 

It didn't take me too long to locate Hachiko Statue. Seems like it's famous meeting point for the locals too.

The crowd in front of Shibuya JR Station

Free Hugs Campaign

Durian, our King of fruits. This durian is from Thailand though.

Walking to Shibuya 109. Lotsa pretty Japanese girls inside the building. We didn't stay long since I am not into Japanese Fashion. But we bought a lot at Uniqlo, it is my favourite brand. 

After shopping, we made our move to Tokyo Tower for night view. Took subway Oedo Line to Akabanebashi Station. It was freezingly cold and we were exhausted after walking for whole day. Literally dragged our feet to reach the base of Tokyo Tower.

Close-up of Tokyo Tower.

Initially we thought of taking photos outside Tokyo Tower only. I made the suggestion to go up to the observatory floor for the night view of Tokyo. Mum hesitated but I insisted because we shouldn't miss and regret it later. One entrance ticket for adult is 820 yen. It proved that I made the right decision.

The night view of Tokyo city is breathtakingly beautiful. 

Spotted the Rainbow Bridge. But it's green colour.

Tokyo Tower in the heart

It has this look-down window too. But can't really see it clearly due to the bright lighting.

After Tokyo Tower, we dragged ourselves back to our hotel at Asakusa.

Some transport info:
You can download Tokyo subway route map from here: http://www.tokyometro.jp/en/subwaymap/

For your convenience, you can get either PASMO or Suica at subway station or card issuing machines. The usage of both cards is the same. Can be use for riding railways, subways and buses. I used PASMO card because I saw the PASMO issuing machine before Suica's. I didn't retain the card because I wanted to get my 500 yen deposit back. There are top-up machines available at every station.

PASMO Card 1,000 Yen

Suica Card 2,000 Yen

Remember to get a free copy of Tokyo Handy Guide book at Tourist Information Centre. It provides helpful tips like sightseeing bus tour, free shuttle bus and the transport charges between airport and main locations in Tokyo. 

Rakuzen Japanese Restaurant, Empire Shopping Gallery

Early this month, I had a short trip to KL. When about the dinner time, it is always a headache where to have dinner. I didn't want to have heavy meal and my friend didn't want to go too far. So we randomly picked a good rating Japanese restaurant from Google search results, Rakuzen Japanese Restaurant at Empire Shopping Gallery.

We didn't make any reservation but we were ok to sit at the bar. Didn't want to waste more time since we both were starving. I can't recall the price of the dishes because it's not my bill. The atmosphere is very similar to Sushi Zanmai at Fahrenheit 88. But comparing to Sushi Zanmai, the freshness of sashimi at Rakuzen is much better. It's weird that different branches deliver different quality of food. I tried two branches of Sushi Zanmai, first time at Fahrenheit 88 and second time at One Utama. I told my friend how good Sushi Zanmai is after I tried it at Fahrenheit 88 but it was disappointing when we had it at One Utama.

These are what we had at Rakuzen Japanese Restaurant, the branch at Empire Shopping Gallery. Photo quality is not so great since it's taken using iphone 4.

We both enjoyed the meal very much. If not mistaken, it costs about RM90+. It's okay to pamper ourselves once in a while.

February 16, 2014

Cherry Blossom Episode 5: Check-in Tokyo Day 1 (Sensoji Temple 浅草寺)

The next morning we relaxed ourselves and got ready to check out after breakfast. Informed hostel staff to drop us off at Kawaguchiko Station, a friendly staff helped us to book bus ticket to Tokyo too.

We departed Kawaguchiko Station at 10:10am and arrived Tokyo Shinjuku around 12pm.

With the luggage in hand, I didn't take any picture at Shinjuku. It took me sometime to find the subway station. The first thing to do is locate our hotel at Asakusa area. Took subway Ginza Line to Tawaramachi Station. Just a few walk we successfully found our hotel, Agora Place Hotel. Registered and paid our hotel fee 31,500 yen for 4 nights. We booked small double room.

Picture derived from Agora Place Hotel website

As the check-in time is 3pm, we left our luggage with them (free of charge). Decided to take a walk to Asakusa.

My bento, bought at 7-11, 398 yen.

Sensoji Temple is within walking distance from our hotel. Just a few minutes walk, we arrived at Kaminarimon Gate (雷門, "Thunder Gate").

There are handsome guys selling their rickshaw tour in front of Kaminarimon Gate.

The street view

Vendors along the way to Sensoji Temple

Sensoji Temple

We saw many pets in Sensoji Temple compound. The white dog looks huge.  

This dog got all our attention. Super kawaii right?

Big round eyes

The owner with his dog

This cat also gained a lot of attention too. The lady behind is the owner.

Beautiful purple flower

Lingered for a while, we headed back to our hotel. Decided to take a short rest and have our meal.

February 12, 2014

Cherry Blossom Episode 4: Kawaguchiko 河口湖 (Kawaguchiko Natural Living Center)

After checked in at the counter, the helpful staff passed me a guide map and introduced the best view spot of Mount Fuji. Our major objective for this trip is view Mount Fuji, so hiking and touring are actually not in our plan. Moreover, one day tour is not enough to cover all areas.

Fuji has 5 lakes: Lake Kawaguchiko, Lake Saiko, Yamanakako, Shojiko and Motosuko.

Picture derived from japan-guide.com

The only lake we visited is Lake Kawaguchiko because it is most accessible via bus. Earlier upon arrival at Kawaguchiko Station, a guy passed me a 2-day retro bus pass because he was about to leave and the pass is still valid for a day. So nice of him. Since I have one pass already, I would have to get another one for my mum.

2-day retro bus pass can be purchased from any bus driver. There are 2 bus lines:
(1) The Kawaguchiko Line operates along Lake Kawaguchi's eastern and northeastern shores
(2)The Saiko-Aokigahara Line operates along Lake Kawaguchiko's southern shore and around Lake Saiko.

2-day retro bus pass for Kawaguchiko Line is 1,000 yen per adult, if you want to include the Saiko-Aokigahara Line, you would have to top up 300 yen. Sorry, there's no separate fare for Saiko-Aokigahara Line. Fare for both lines is 1,300 yen.

After asked for bus stop direction at the counter, we headed out. I was thinking if we can get there on foot. Based on the map, it seems like the distance isn't too far. That's silly thinking ok. Don't take the risk. I got the bus stop location wrong at first, we arrived at Kawaguchiko Ohashi Bridge. Snapshot a few photos, Ohike Park, Herb Hall & Perfume House and Yamanashi Gem Museum are within neighborhood areas.

Spotted unique cloud too

After waited for quite sometime, we got on a bus which cover both bus lines and the driver couldn't understand nor speak English. I showed the 2-day pass I got and passed him money to buy another pass for my mum. He asked me for extra 300 yen because my existing pass is not sufficient. In the end, he asked us to get off the bus because it is not the destination he is heading to. I was confused and found him quite rude. This is the only unpleasant incident I encountered in Japan. Chased us down from bus yet he didn't return my 300 yen. Doh! Anyway, it's past. Lesson learned, must check the bus sign first before get on the bus.

The frequency of bus is quite low, 2 buses per hour. So better count your time right. We waited quite long time for bus actually. At last we got on the right bus, didn't get down at any tourist spot until the final destination at Kawaguchiko Natural Living Center. As recommended by the hostel staff, this is the best place for viewing Mount Fuji.

The retro bus

Mount Fuji

Kawaguchiko Natural Living Center

Cute purple flower

We didn't linger long at Natural Living Center. After taking photos, we got on the bus and randomly stopped at a bus stop following the crowd. We arrived at Kawaguchikko Konohana Art Museum.

More sakura! It is nice to see more cherry blossom at different locations in Japan. 

I am stepping on the ground of Lake Kawaguchiko

The peak of Mount Fuji

Cute Corgi with the owner. I wish to own one too.

Trying to capture cherry blossom with Mount Fuji. Well.. not artistic, I know. Hahaa..

Regretfully we didn't enter Kawaguchiko Konohana Art Museum. Mainly outdoor activities. We headed back to Kawaguchiko town for food hunt. This been introduced in my post before: http://www.igomakan.com/2013/08/hoto-noodles-from-kawaguchiko-mount.html

Hoto noodle is a must try food in Kawaguchiko. Highly recommended!

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