We Went to Japan: Part 1

Posted by: Peanut in MyBlog

Tagged in: Vacation , Japanese Stuff

Hello. Sorry for the radio silence. I’m going to break it by telling you all about our vacation this past March and since I have too many pictures to share, and too much to tell, for a single post it will be a little series.

As you may have guessed from my post title we went to Japan for Maisie’s spring break this year. It is the first time I have ever travelled to far and I will admit to being more than a little nervous, particularly about the nine and a half hour flight. I still think the the travel days were kind of nuts (what time is it? what day?) but our stay in Japan was great. Maisie was an awesome little traveller, tolerating long periods of waiting and sitting, as well as a lot of walking with her usual cheerful attitude. She was excited about trying new foods and particularly liked anything involving nori, noddles or fish. She was also very interested in learning and using Japanese words. She learned things far more quickly than I did and enjoyed saying “konnichiwa” to just about everyone.
We stayed in Shinjuku, which is a pretty densely populated area of Tokyo. Being in such a densely packed area was a little overwhelming for the first couple of days but once we were used to it (and I could walk around without getting lost) it was nice to be where there were plenty of things to do and see without having to travel much. Rob and I often like to explore a new place by planting ourselves in one spot and getting to know a neighbourhood. It was a lot of fun by the end of our trip to wander around and feel familiar with the shops and restaurants in our immediate vicinity. "That’s the place we had raman yesterday. This is where we eat breakfast every morning. Here is “our” konbini (convenience store)." Rob created a map of the area we were in and marked on it all the places we went and all the vending machines he got drinks from. He tried as many different coffees as he could find and said they were all really good. I still think it is awesome that you can get hot coffee and tea from vending machines. Maisie tried all the apple juices. They were all so much better than the apple juice we get here (unless you are buying the super expensive kind) and I noticed that different brands tasted like different kinds of apples.

Our first few days in Tokyo were cool and rainy - we even saw a little bit of snow - but that worked out rather well because it took us about as long to get ourselves falling asleep and waking up on Tokyo time and Maisie was very excited about getting to use her umbrella. We found a nearby place for breakfast our first day and pretty much stuck with it for the rest of our trip. They had a special kids breakfast of pancakes, edamame, jellies (like jell-o not jelly to spread on toast), maple syrup, chocolate drizzle (that she got to do herself!) and a flag. If you ask Maisie what her favourite part of our trip was she is probably going to say “pancakes”. Rob and I tried a variety of “grown up” breakfasts consisting of things like french toast (which is far more custardy than any french toast I have had in Canada), pancake (an inch think and so fluffy), eggs scrambled (but softer and sweeter than over here) or fried (with deep orange yolks), hamburger steak, and salad. There was something rather fun about trying Japanese versions of familiar foods.

The first really nice day of our trip was also the first day we went for a walking tour. Rob arranged it the day before and I still think that the private walking tours we did were one of the best things about our trip. I’m sure it is less expensive (though the tours we took were not terribly costly) to join a group tour but the private tour meant it was customized to us and we were able to asks our guide plenty of questions. Our first tour took us through the National Garden in Shinjuku, around an area full of sports complexes from the last and for the next Tokyo Olympics, through a public cemetery that is one of the most peaceful places I have ever experienced, to a beautiful little museum with a stunning Japanese garden, along a fancy shopping street where we all enjoyed looking in the shop windows and giggling over the prices of things, into a lovely restaurant where Maisie enjoyed soba noddles and Rob and I had some delicious seasonal sushi, along Takeshita street which was packed with people and seemed to have more crepe and sweets shops than could possibly fit, and finally to Meiji Jingu (Meiji Shrine) which, especially after Takeshita street, felt beautifully calm and quiet. Our guide provided us with some history of the shrine as we walked along and showed us what to do at the Tori gates, how to cleanse ourselves with water before entering the shrine and how to pray in the shrine itself. We took a train back to Shinjuku station, much to Maisie’s delight. Going on the walking tour really helped us feel more comfortable with both the area we were staying in and our interactions with people and I think the timing of it, early in our trip but after we were a bit acclimatized, was just right.