We started our Tokyo adventure with a city. Our first stop was at the Sensoji Temple in Asakusa, which was per usual teeming with tourists. The weather was pretty cold, about 8C so we made sure to bundle up. The nice thing about having a private tour is that you can take your time. Sometimes group tours can really be stressful, especially if you have small kids in tow, like we do. Group tours mean you have to keep pace with everybody, and some actually mind having children on board. So we pretty much took our time, took a lot of pictures, and went back to the shuttle when we were ready. By the time we were done, it was almost lunch.
Since we were a big group, we asked our guide Yosuke to make reservations for us at Gonpachi in Roponggi, also known as the Kill Bill restaurant. I always wanted to see this particular restaurant since the first time we went to Tokyo in 2013. Unfortunately, the Gonpachi we went to then was in Shibuya. Gonpachi mostly caters to tourists, so it’s menu is a bit diverse and international. Nonetheless, food is very good and not terribly expensive. If you want to see the Kill Bill set, make sure to go to the one in Roponggi, as they have other branches in the city.
A Tokyo City Tour would not be complete without a visit to Hachiko in the busiest crossing in the world, Shibuya.
Our tour ended in Omotesondo, where of course we had to go to Kiddie Land. But be warned, items in Kiddie Land are overpriced. You can easily find toys cheaper elsewhere, like in Yodobashi or Donki. Personally, I love Omotesando! The streets are lined with trees and are so very pretty. The shops here are concentrated, unlike in Ginza where the shops and restaurants are too far apart. Last summer when we stayed in Ginza and Omotesando was one stop away, we would go there almost everyday. Omotesando and the surrounding areas just be my favorite in all of Tokyo. At the other end of Omotesando where you can find the Meji Shrine. And Harajuku where the ultra hip Takeshita Street is located.
While the rest of our family opted to go home, my boys and I decided to be left behind in Omotesando to, what else, but eat! Japanese food in itself deserves a separate post altogether, methinks! So I will go into that later.
The next day was Mt. Fuji day. It was about and hour and a half drive via private shuttle, a little more if you take a group tour. My family have been to Mt. Fuji before the first time we went to Japan in 2013. And let me tell you, no matter how many times I see it, my amazement and wonder at God’s wonderful creation and goodness does not diminish one bit. I was surprised that I still got really excited when I got a glimpse, just like I did the first time.
As bad luck would have it, me and the kids got sick the next day and opted to stay in bed. Another tip, before going on a trip, go to the doctor first and have a check-up. Which I did with my boys. I was armed with medicines and vitamins. Sadly, it was not enough. The day was spent sleeping and resting. It was the worst time to get sick. While we were recuperating, the rest of the group went to Kawamura, an hour’s ride from Tokyo. This is where you can see Kotoku-in Temple’s Great Buddha.
Our fifth day was spent at the Premium Outlets located in Gotemba. I made sure we were rested enough so we can go. It is quite near Mt. Fuji, and many tours offer Mt. Fuji in the morning and Gotemba outlets in the afternoon. We opted to spend the whole day in the outlets because we are talking about shopping here, lol, and we don’t want to rush. Unfortunately, the day we went, December 31, happened to be a holiday and there were tons of people around. The outlet there is the same Premium Outlet brand that has locations all over the United States. It is heaven for bargain shoppers like me.
It is fairly easy to go to Gotemba via public transportation. I suggest taking the shuttle at the Shinjuku Sation New South Exit. The last one leaves at 9am. You can also take the Shinkansen, but there are a lot of stops, take double the time, and very expensive. Likewise, a shuttle also leaves Gotemba and takes you back to Tokyo Station in the afternoon.
New Year in Tokyo was pretty quiet. There were no revelry or fireworks. Honestly, it was a little sad. I remember, more than 10 years ago, New Year in Hong Kong used to be quiet, too. I had to take my son to the hospital (indigestion, too much pork suckling) at midnight and there were no people in sight. I heard, later on, that there was countdown near Tokyo Tower, so maybe we should’ve gone there. Nothing really compares to celebrating New Year the Filipino way.
The highlight of this trip especially for the kids was hands-down the trip to Gala Yukawa, a ski resort 75 minutes from Tokyo via Shinkansen. We bought a Tokyo Wide Pass, an unlimited 3-day JR Pass you can use to go around Tokyo and it’s surrounding areas. It costs Y10,000/person and Y5,000/child. This is not similar to the JR Pass that take you all over Japan and you can only buy outside of Japan. You can get the Tokyo Wide Pass at the JR Tourist Center in the New South Exit.
It was absolutely beautiful. The view was breathtaking. There was powder white snow all over. It was the first time for us to experience snow. We feel so blessed and thankful to be there.
Japan is our favourite place in the world. We’ve been a couple times but I feel like there’s so much more to explore. The food is extraordinary, the people the kindest and most helpful. Can’t wait to go back!