We started our tour with four days in Tokyo, followed by long train rides to an overnight stay at Kinosaki and then two nights in Kyoto.
Part I - Four nights in Tokyo
Tokyo was intense, I felt like an ant at the heart of the colony. On our first day we got to experience the full Tokyo morning rush hour as we crammed ourselves into an impossibly full subway car. It was just like in the movies, just as the train pulled into the station I saw a guy literally sprawled and squeezed against the door. It was quite the exhilarating experience.
We spent our morning at the Tsujiku Fish Market. Nearly got ran over multiple times but sadly didn't get to see any giant fish.
From there we headed to see the Meiji shrine and walked the Harajuku area.
We took a small retreat on a rooftop Starbucks. Now those who know me will know that I try to avoid Starbucks like the plague. But their location was so awesome, the breeze was cool, the music was relaxing, and the comfy chairs all over the patio were just delightful.
After that short break we spent a few more hours walking the small streets of Harajuku. By the late afternoon we were so exhausted and jetlagged that we simply collapsed on our hotel bed. The only thing that got me out of bed that evening is the need to eat. We walked and walked and walked around the Shinjiku station area in hopes of finding food, but without our ability to read the signs on the restaurants we had a tough time make a decision about where to dine.
We finally settled on a tiny restaurant in a back alley. Just the place to go into where no one spoke english. The waitress handed us a Japanese menu which of course was useless. We asked her if she had a picture menu we could look at (they had one outside). Well the poor girl actually went outside and took down the menu and brought it in for us to look at. We were so absolutely embarrassed, but the soup and noodles were worth it!
Despite our food adventures we had a wonderful time walking around in the evening. I don't think I'm a big city girl at heart, but I did enjoy the hustle and bustle of millions of people all rushing in different directions.
The next morning we took a quick walk to get some coffee and then packed up to go to the hotel my husband's work had reserved for him while he was doing work related stuff.
I've never stayed in such a fancy hotel ($400/night!) the concierge did not know what to make of us and our giant backpacking packs we had on our backs. They are used to helping businessmen with suitcases but were a bit confused about our packs.
I won't lie that the next 1.5 days I got to be a tourist on my own were just spectacular. I love my husband, but there was something so glorious about being a lone traveler. I could go at my own pace (sometimes he complains about my slow tourist-pace) and didn't have to worry about anyone's needs but my own. Those are the days when I got the majority of my shopping done. I went to so many stores everything just kind of became a blur. I took shop till you drop quite literally, heck I even took a bath at the hotel when I got back.
Even something simple like shopping at a small street pharmacy was a lot of fun. I loved the huge section of foot comfort products. I suppose its a necessity considering pretty much everyone woman we saw wore high heels.
I loved the bento box selection and now regret not getting more boxes to bring back home!
Another shopping experience I must write about is the craft store I managed to locate after much wandering around. My google maps was off by a building and so after accidentally stumbling onto a book store (and buying lots of crafting books in Japanese) I finally made it into a crafting store. The craft store was huge, I was ready to pass out after checking out row after row of yarn. There was just so much of it. I didn't even bother with the buttons, I couldn't see straight. Then there was the fabric department. I was in love with so many of the prints, but decided against bringing a bunch of fabric home. It was heavy and I didn't know if I wanted to lug it around with us for the remainder of the trip.
I also managed to only embarrass myself once, actually I'm sure I was contiguously making terrible social mistakes, but only once did I wish for the earth to open up and swallow me. I was dining alone at a sushi conveyor belt restaurant where I attempted to put powdered green tea in my wasabi bowl. In my defense the tea was green, and in a little black box that looked just like the kind of box that holds wasabi here in the US. The poor waitresses were horrified and jump at me to prevent me from doing it. There was a nice guy sitting next to me and he offered to help me figure out the system. Oh boy, I bet he had a good story to tell his friends :)