A little while back we were able to visit Tokyo, thanks to an invite from a friend who had a pretty flat in the laid back, artsy Tokyo neighborhood of Shimokitazawa. As an added bonus, we were able to see two other friends that we hadn’t seen in….three years, and two years respectively. There being the slight puddle called the Pacific Ocean between us. Although in the first friend’s case, it’s usually the Atlantic between us, but that’s neither here nor there I suppose.
After making the plane reservations a “birthday” surprise, and getting our affairs in order (mostly procuring a willing cat-sitter for kitty)….I pulled husband away from his studies and we were on a plane outward bound, with phrase books in hand.
I love traveling in the spring. I think that’s the best time to see a city. Everyone blinking at the sunshine, coming out of their offices to picnic and make merry as the weather allows for it.
These pictures are from Shinjuku Park. That was one of the warmest days. We walked around and marveled at the unusual plant specimens. School kids, retired people, families and all sorts of locals were out picnicking, with bento boxes, and eating ice cream sandwiches and jostling to take the perfect picture of the cherry blossoms and other things in bloom. Including the quince pictured above. Competitive flower photography you say? Husband was way into it, and I promised we could retire in Tokyo someday that so that he too could rove in a pack of old dudes with thousands of dollars worth of camera equipment and compete for the best cherry blossom photo ever.
I took some early morning walks while we were there. I’m not sure if I was out of my mind with jet lag, or just too excited to sleep, but I got to know our neighborhood pretty well that way.
Lots of well-manicured pooches in Tokyo. Many of them tucked into the couture handbags of some of the most exquisitely dressed ladies you will ever see. Walking the streets of Tokyo was not unlike a Pinterest page come alive.
Our friends were kind enough to take us to an izakaya the first night. I guess you could call it a sort of gastro pub… Needless to say the food was amazing and it set off a week long odyssey into the unparalleled delights of Japanese cuisine. From delicious seafood pancakes like okinomiyaki to salty roe filled onigiri to octopi-stuffed takoyaki to noodle-tastic ramen…let’s just say we were some happy food lovers.
What does the Fox Say?
We also had the chance to make a couple of day trips outside the city. We took the holiday train to Kamakurra one day, and later in the week visited Kyoto. Husband took over travel arrangements for the Kyoto jaunt. I hadn’t done any research on Kyoto, so it was a pretty great surprise when we arrived at the Inari shrine (Wikipedia article) and I saw the kitsune or fox statues scattered all around the temple grounds. This was hands down my favorite shrine. A mysterious path up a beautiful mountain framed by red gates and foxes? I was one happy critter lover. We saw shrine kitties cavorting at one shrine, another had a pond filled with huge turtles and one even had a little white fluffy dog who greeted everyone who came by. Then of course, as I said, we were walking up a mountain. All kinds of awesome.
And then of course there was haname…. translation…”cherry blossom viewing partay“. On our last night in Tokyo we partook in the custom of haname with some old friends and new in Ueno Park, a beautiful park covered in cherry blossoms in the spring with a big lake and beautiful pavilions and skyscrapers that come up right to the edge of the park. We picnicked under the trees with thousands of locals. It was perfect. So while we were excited to get home to our own critter, Cuchulainn the kitty, we definitely were sad to leave this vibrant and culturally rich city.
Arigatou gozaimashita Tokyo!