05 Sep Japan highlights – our 2014 trip
Taking the NEX
We left our apartment and walked to Shinjuku station to take the Narita Express to the airport. We had done a trial run(walk) the day before but the elevator we had used was now behind closed doors as it was part of a residential property. Just beside the entrance was an escalator so we were still able to get our luggage up easily. We had pre-purchased our NEX tickets so made our way to the platform and waited for the train to arrive. It’s about an hour ride from Shinjuku station to Narita airport and we spent the time catching our last glimpses of Japan from the train window.
Highlights from our second Japan trip
The first thing that we think of as an obvious highlight was viewing Mt.Fuji. When planning our trip, Mt. Fuji was high on our list of things we wanted to see, however we were aware that it may not be possible as the mountain is often hidden behind fog or clouds. We booked a night at the Nippondaira Hotel in Shizuoka because it promised a great view. When we arrived it was late afternoon and starting to get dark so Mt. Fuji was nowhere in sight. We were so excited to wake in the morning and walk outside to a great view. The morning was a little foggy and the mountain was partly covered by clouds but we could see it!
We then continued to get great views of Mt.Fuji during our time around the area.
What made viewing Mt. Fuji so enjoyable was having a rental car and being able to drive around the area at our own leisure. A lot of the places we visited are accessed by bus, which would be difficult when travelling with a child and would require more planning to make schedules work. With a car we were free to spend as much or as little time at each place as we pleased. Fletcher is used to car travel and easily slept in the car seat in the back. With the rental car we were able to view Mt. Fuji from each of the Fuji Five Lakes and we had views of the mountain from the road as we drove along.
Himeji Castle had always been a sight I pictured when thinking about Japan, so naturally seeing it in person was a big highlight. The castle was still in the stages of its long restoration. The scaffolding had been removed and the castle was now fully visible. I was aware that the castle’s interior could not be entered during our time there but I was disappointed to find a large section of grounds around the main keep were sectioned off by large fences. I Will be adding Himeji to the list of any future Japan trip.
The day we made the trip across to Miyajima it was varying between drizzly and heavy rain all day long. Even with the terrible weather, the view of Itsukishima Shrine sitting over the water was truly magical.
Strolling around Tokyo
Our youngest travel member was easily overwhelmed and worn out during our trip. Even though he had dropped one nap time at home, in Japan he was sleeping for 1-2 hours early in the day and would be tired again later in the afternoon. When he started to get cranky or showed that he was getting sleepy, we would put him in the stroller, recline it back and walk. We walked from Shinjuku to Shibuya and Harajuku, we strolled the streets around Kichijoji station and walked from Tokyo Tower to the Imperial palace. This gave us the chance to see a lot of the areas and time to chat to each other. This was something that was never planned and sometimes we were left worn out but it is something we really enjoyed.
What didn’t work
Not enough time for places
Our biggest issue was not having enough time to enjoy certain places. It’s always hard to plan out an itinerary as what looks good on paper doesn’t always work in practise. When with a child, things such as naps and food breaks come into play as well as short attention spans and lack of patience.
The part of our trip that we most lacked time to visit was Hiroshima. We had set aside time to visit the Peace Park and Museum in Hiroshima but hadn’t properly considered travel times to get there and back and ended up just viewing the park briefly, which felt kind of disrespectful. Kamakura was another area that I had grand plans for that didn’t play out. Fletcher fell asleep in the stroller and we were limited as to what we could do without waking him and folding it up. All of this falls back on a lack of planning and most importantly being realistic as to how much is achievable.
We love Japan
Although we over-filled our itinerary, we still enjoyed our short Japan trip. We find it such an easy place to travel around and will definitely return again.