The symbol of Japan, the rising sun, as we enter Tokyo Bay, on the final day of our voyage from Sydney. Our ship was too large to berth in Tokyo so we had to dock in Yokohama. The two cities have expanded so much that they have become one huge metropolis.
Many of the Sydney originating passenger were leaving the ship and either extending their holiday with land based tours or flying home. Many of us were staying on board for the first Japanese coastal cruise – called back to back. As such, I thought that Princess Cruises would have offered day tours of Tokyo, but they didn’t, just two tours aimed at those passengers who wished to fly out later on the day of arrival.
The tours offered by Princess would take about five or six hours to show the main sites of Tokyo before ending at one of the airports. The cruise company didn’t offer any tours for the couple of hundred passengers doing a back to back.
The two main airport for Tokyo are Narita, opened in 1978, and Haneda Airport, which used to be the main airport and on the opening of Narita became a domestic airport until 2010. The opening of the new terminal allowed Haneda to revert to being an international airport as well as domestic – it is also called the ‘downtown airport’ as it is close to Tokyo city.
The lack of ship’s tours for those staying on caused me to research tours for Maureen and I. This was when I found out about hiring personal guides, so we hired Masaharu to show us Tokyo.
With hindsight I think we should have still hired Masaharu, but to show us Yokohama and the surrounding area, because we didn’t realise how far away we were berthed from Tokyo city.
The train tickets were cheap enough, but the actual train ride was 45 minutes before we changed to another service within Tokyo city. I’d seen Tokyo some year earlier, but Maureen hadn’t, so one couldn’t come to Japan and not see Tokyo, even if it meant a long train ride.
Once again the trains were spotless and the stations very clean – the above is our origin station in Yokohama.
Stations and trains within Tokyo were as clean as those in Osaka. The use of escalators was limited and most people used the stairs. The stations did have lifts etc for those not as nimble, but when on the stairs or the escalators in Osaka we stood on the left, but in Tokyo we stood on the right.
The yellow line that can be seen is for sight impaired people so as to find their way around. The yellow line is made up of rubber ‘bubbles’ so that they can feel the bubble through their shoe or when using a cane. In the concourse areas the yellow lines followed the main direction so as to take a person to the correct platform. They had yellow ‘junctions’ to help guide people.
The Japanese drive on the same side of the road as the UK & Australia so crossing roads was not a problem for us.
After about an hour and a half of travel we eventually popped out of the metro near the Imperial Palace. The picture above is the outer moat.
It was quite a walk from the moat through the royal park to the inner moat. The bridge across the moat is the one used by international dignitaries when visiting the Emperor on State visits. Like Buckingham Palace in London, we were restricted as to how close we could get to the palace.
Beyond the bridge used by dignitaries, is another, but there is little chance of getting any closer.
I photographed the fence because it reminded me of Scottish thistle. Our guide did tell me what they represented, I think it was a pine cone. The park that we walked through had many pine trees.
Another train trip to an area in which we planned to eat, Asakusa, plus it was an area to see and perhaps shop for souvenirs.
As we came out of the train station it was the old meeting the new.
The above picture is from the Japan Travel site.
Lunch was at a famous restaurant Sushizanmai in Asakusa, and the owner, shown in the picture, owns quite a number, (about 30 I think) and in 2013 he paid about AUD $1.9 million at auction for a bluefin tuna, (222 kilos) the first of the season.
In Australia, at auction, people buy the first tray of cherries or the first mangos and the money goes to charity. Buying the tuna for such a high price is similar, and of course he was on national TV and radio, so the price was cheap considering the publicity for his chain of restaurants. I’ve been told that the owner of the Sushizanmai chain, Kiyoshi kimura, is one of the riches men in Japan.
Masaharu (our guide) went in to the restaurant and listed us down for a table, because the restaurant is open 24 hours a day and people are queueing outside all the time, particularly after twelve o’clock for lunch. We arrived about a 11.45 am and didn’t have to wait long before we were shown in to the restaurant.
Our table was being cleared of dirty dishes and the previous diner was still putting on his jacket – time was money.
We could have sat at the counter and watched the staff making the sushi, the process never stops, all day every day. The menu was all in Japanese (of course), but with pictures and having Masaharu with us, we were able to ask questions.
Once decided the service was very polite and friendly, and fast.
Masaharu and I had small battered items (not sure what was in them, but they were tasty) . The jug was full of Sake and small cups for our use. Masahaeu poured mine and I poured his, and Maureen’s. Sake is a rice wine with an alcoholic percentage of about 15%. It had been years since my last drink of Sake.
We ordered a mix of sushi with various different centers and pickles, (the white item on the left). All eaten with chop sticks of course (hashi in Japanese).
The suchi was followed by seaweed soup, I quite liked it . It didn’t taste of the sea, but it was different. Wild seaweed can be used, but the seaweed is mostly cultivated for quality and regular supply.
The meal for three of us, including the Sake and two beers (Masaharu & myself), came to about $54, cheaper than I expected.