Spending Christmas and New Year in Japan
Spending holidays in another country alone sounds exhilarating and crazy at the same time. And for a woman, it can be scary too. Some people say I'm adventurous but I think I am just curious. As I have stated on my previous blog entry, I was supposed to explore Japan with an acquaintance but then plans were changed into just solo traveling, I can say it was an eye-opener experience. I learned a lot of things.
I arrived in Tokyo on Christmas day and it was around 2pm at Haneda Airport. After fetching my luggage, I readied my maps and things to do in order, like acquiring a SUICA card, a card used in Tokyo metro subways, booking for a bullet train trip which was four days ahead because I know it is holiday and it could be hard if I get a ticket on the same day of travel. Haneda is a charming little airport that is very easy to navigate and very clean. I think cleanliness is very common in Japan.
And oh, I must tell you, and I think you will feel this more in case you travel alone -- if you don't know Nihonggo, it will definitely be a culture shock -- you know hearing the Japanese language in and around the airport, I felt scared at first but felt relieved to find that some people, especially those in ticket counters spoke English. And as expected, everybody is very polite.
|At Haneda Airport|
The next photos around Shinjuku where I booked my hotel.
|Vendo machines sprouted like mushrooms|
As you can see, though it is Christmas, you won't see Christmas lights on the streets, I mean not everywhere. You can only find them at well-known landmarks like Ebisu Gardenplace and the like. It was a very, very chilly in Tokyo, even locals are bundled up.
People usually are found in cafes in this kind of weather.
This picture below was an Italian cafe near my hotel, and the only Christmas vibe I saw in Tokyo. I didn't go around too much as I have planned because of the cold weather, though I did go to must-see places like Harajuku and Akihabara which I will blog soon.
Arriving at my hotel left me with a sense of accomplishment for the day. I got lost on the train a few times, haha! And also struggled to traverse the map because of the cold weather. But thanks to all the people who helped me. The hotel was warm, well, at least the lobby, which I appreciated very much. So this is what it feels like during winter. I became very thankful that weather in the Philippines is really, really good.
|My first dinner in Tokyo, curry rice|
Maybe the one big reason why I would encourage you to visit Japan is the Golden Pavilion (below). Isn't she a thing of beauty? No words to be added really, but I would want to make separate blog entries for each temple I visited in Japan. This temple by the way, can be found in Kyoto, Japan. Two hours away from Tokyo by bullet train (shinkansen).
|Isn't this postcard perfect? Super-duper amazing view|
Kyoto City has a quite different aura from Tokyo. It is a smaller city and there are more cars and buses on the streets. And there can be heavy traffic too. Also, I think Tokyo subway system is way better than in Kyoto. In Tokyo, I used subways all the time and it is just fine. I mean I can go to siteseeing places just by taking the subway. In Kyoto, I need to take the bus but buses are stuck in traffic usually, and usually has specific routes that eat up your travel time, and they can also be very confusing. They use bus numbers in Kyoto.
Below is a picture of me and newfound friends on our New Year's eve dinner. We ate okonomiyaki for dinner, plus Japanese sake, of course. New Year's in Japan is very silent and dark even. Unlike in the Philippines or in other places where it is celebrated with fireworks, firecrackers, in Japan, people go to the shrines (for Shintoism) or temples (for Buddhism) in the evening to pray for good fortune for the new year. The streets of Kyoto were crowded and even closed for vehicles. Good thing I have company because in case I did go alone, it will be very easy to get lost in the crowd.
|Higashiyama area in Kyoto|
Snow on the first day of the year
In Japan, it doesn't snow everywhere during winter. But snow is apparent in places in the northern part. So Tokyo and Kyoto only gets 1 or 2 days of snow each year and they don't last long. But I was lucky to have experienced it during my stay in Kyoto, and that was on January 1! I was very happy indeed.
The Hongaji Temple in Kyoto