Travels in Japan: Tokyo (September 29, 2017)

I visited Japan with my family for about 7 days (September 29 to October 4, 2017 and October 14-15, 2017). Exploration of the following cities: Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, and Himeji were self-planned and organized based on district (since the cities were too large to explore on our own).

Before we started our trip, we used Japan Guide and Japan Experience to plan out the attractions and order the Japan Rail Pass— a must-need for transportation in Japan. Also, it is recommended that you purchase a Pasmo Card, an IC card, for paying public train transportation fares. The IC card can be recharged at any subway or public train station in Japan. For navigation and convenience, I highly recommend the Pocket Wi-Fi so that you can have access to Google Maps to get to your destination.

Note: The hotels that are mentioned in this Japan travel log series are Western-style hotels with four twin beds.

Asakusa Station at Night

September 29, 2017 Tokyo Skytree (Oshiage), Asakusa and Ueno

Attraction List:

  • Tokyo Skytree (Oshiage district)
  • Sensoji Temple (Asakusa district)
  • Ueno Station
    • Ueno Hard Rock Cafe

We took an overnight flight on September 28th to Hong Kong and then connected to a flight to Tokyo. We arrived in the afternoon on September 29th at Tokyo Haneda airport. At the airport, we immediately went to pick up the Japan Rail passes and the pocket wi-fi that we rented. Afterwards we purchased the Pasmo card and loaded each card with 2,000 yen.

Tip: Make sure you have enough currency on hand to load the IC card. I guarantee that you will have to recharge the card often. Public transportation is a must when you travel Japan.

View of Tokyo Skytree from Tobu Levant Hotel

We took the train to our hotel, Tobu Hotel Levant Tokyo, in the Sumida district of Tokyo and dropped off our luggage before exploring the area. It was about 4PM when we set out to look at our surroundings to get orientated. The Sumida district is regarded as a peaceful district with traditional bath houses, small shops, and high-rise apartments hide under the presence of the Tokyo Skytree. The Tokyo Skytree is the tallest tower in Tokyo, rising to 634 meters, and often hosts special events as noted on the official website. Continue reading

A Study of Cats at a Cat Café

Lounging

Imagine yourself lounging in an easy chair, trying to relax from a busy day. A curious feline jumps down onto the couch next to you and pads his way toward you purring. Stirring with curiosity, you reach out tentatively. The cat sniffs at your hand and licks it. A smile beams on your face and gently you stroke his head behind the ears. The cat purrs appreciatively and lays down enjoying the tactile sensation. An hour goes by swiftly but all worries slip away with the company of a feline.

~

Cat Walk

Cat cafés are not new. With the perfect ambiance and environment, one could pay for an hour to play, observe, or enjoy a beverage in the company of cats. The first cat café, Cat Flower Garden (貓花園), originated from Taipei, Taiwan in 1998 (see the Taipei Cat Café blog for reviews). This first introduction to Japanese tourists became the fuel that started the trend in Japan. Continue reading

Arts: Cupertino Cherry Blossom Festival (Japanese)

Hosted on April 25-26, 2015 in Cupertino, CA

The 32nd annual Japanese Cherry Blossom Festival was hosted this past weekend to celebrate the long-standing friendship with Cupertino’s sister city, Toyokawa, Japan and the Japanese culture. The festival had many cultural displays of the fine, classical arts and live entertainment in the outdoor amphitheater.

Of the cultural displays, visitors have ample opportunity to peruse the many outstanding collections of embroidery, origami, calligraphy, bonsai, ikebana, and kimekomi dolls.

Origami dragon

Origami dragon

Origami (the art of paper folding) dates from the Edo period (1603–1868). It was used for both ceremonial and recreational purposes. In 1797, the first book of written instructions for origami was called Sembazuru Orikata (or “thousand crane folding) by Akisato Rito. The book was an inspiration for Sadako Sasaki from the 1950s who folded 1,000 cranes for world peace.

Bonsai

Bonsai

Bonsai (the art of minature trees and plants) originated from China but is a major aspect of Japanese culture.

Birds of paradise arrangement (ikebana)

Birds of paradise arrangement (ikebana)

The art of ikebana (flower arrangement) has over 500 years of history behind it. Similar to much of Japanese culture, ikebana emphasizes nature and the ability to express beauty and human emotion in a single piece. Often times, it is “like a poem or painting made of flowers” (Ikenobo Ikebana Society).

Tale of Genji dolls (kimekomi dolls)

Tale of Genji dolls (kimekomi dolls)

The kimekomi doll-making technique was created during the Genbun period (1736-1741) in Kyoto at the Kami-Kamo Shrine by Tadashige Takahash. He carved the figures from willow wood and clothed the dolls with leftover fabric from the robes of the Shinto priests. His technique would be passed onto the future generations and further perfected by Mataro Kanabayashi I, whose technique is used today (Mataro doll craft). Continue reading