Tokyo city

As I mentioned in a previous post Tokyo is a vast place, composed of many smaller city areas and as we had an excellent tour guide in my son Jake, we saw a lot of it while we were there.

Our first trip was to one of the many viewing towers, we chose the Tokyo Skytree. Ironically, although we had brilliant sunny weather for most of the time we were there, that day was a bit dull and misty, so we didn’t get the full effect.

It was still amazing though, with a brilliant shopping centre and food court below it. The tower is 634 metres high, and is still the tallest tower in the world. The tallest structure is the Burj Khalifa in Dubai.

We went to the lower viewing platform, a mere 350 metres in height. From here you can get a sense of the scale of the city.

There is also a scary bit of see through floor, that is a long way down!

We visited many different areas of the city on the excellent public transport system. Although it is vast, and there are so many people, it didn’t seem really crowded until we went to the Harajku shopping area, where we got caught in a crush of fairly epic proportions in one of the streets.

There are many parks in the city as well, as an antidote to all that hustle and bustle, larger ones such as the Imperial Palace Gardens, and small ones like this little temple garden, just a few minutes away from Harajuku.

We visited the Palace Gardens on a beautiful sunny day. It was lovely to see some original architecture as well. Sadly due to bombing during WW2, and many earthquakes, little survives of older architecture in the city. However these guardhouses date from the 17th century and were built from wood with amazing roof tiles.

The gardens also include tea houses, built when the gardens were first opened to the public in the early 1900s, and many gorgeous plantings of blossom trees and my favourite rhododendrons. There was also some amazing bamboo.

There were some beautiful coy carp in the ponds too.

We did also visit some of the smaller residential areas as well. There were some interesting examples of housing in these streets.

A feature of Japanese construction is that all powerlines are above ground due to the risk of earthquakes, so there are jumbles of wires everywhere.

A fascinating city and well worth a visit. I will be back as soon as possible with a post about rural Japan, which was just as beautiful as I had hoped. I would love to go back to explore more of that, there were so many of my favourite features, mountains and rivers.

I have been busy with the Barbie clothing since I got back, I am aiming for a spring collection of six outfits for the next of my fundraisers so just have one fabric and one more knitted one to go, but am very pleased with progress so far.

I will share all of that soon as this afternoon I am finishing sewing the last dress. I have plans to get out on my bike as well today, before it gets too hot as it is up to 25 degrees today.

I hope that you are enjoying life, whatever you are doing have fun, take care, stay safe and thanks for visiting.

Temples, shrines and Buddhas

As you will know if you have been reading my blog for a while I love visiting religious sites, and we were lucky enough to see many temples and shrines while we were in Japan.

I will post separately about our rural trips, as there were smaller shrines there, but these were the ones within the cities of Tokyo and Kamakura.

Shrines are everywhere in Japan and one of the first that we visited was this one within Ueno Park when we went to see the blossom. Many of the shrines are not old, as they have been damaged by earthquakes, but some parts have been preserved, like the face of this Buddha, which is from one that got destroyed several times.

The Buddhist and Shinto religions are very different from others I have visited previously, such as Catholic and Muslim. The focus is on personal devotion, of visiting shrines, lighting incense, and buying good luck charms, rather than on collective worship.

These plaques that you could buy to write your prayer on were everywhere, with some lovely messages written on them.

The next shrine we went to was a small city one, visible from the train line and just above the street market.

It was again full of prayers and scores of lanterns.

We also went to the most visited temple in Tokyo, the stunning Senso-ji, which is very popular with people who rent kimonos and dress in them for their visits.

As well as the temple complex there are beautiful gardens and lots of people posing for photos, in kimonos as well as these beautiful Korean Hanbok outfits.

These women were kind enough to let me take their picture, there were so many beautiful kimonos there that day.

One of our rural trips ended in Kamakura, which was the ancient capital of Japan until 800 years ago. There we visited the largest seated Buddha in Japan.

This Buddha dates from the mid 1200s. It has survived three major traumas of earthquakes and tidal waves, and has been repaired and restored many times.

I love the temples and shrines, as they are so different from other types of churches. Although they are crowded and noisy, rather than peaceful like other churches I have visited, it is fascinating to see the different types of beautiful architecture, especially my favourite, lovely doors!

It has been a quiet first week back in Spain, deliberately as I am off on my travels again tomorrow, away with Mum for her birthday, so I will be busy updating the blog with all the rest of the Japan adventures and that trip when I return.

It is lovely to be back home. I have been unpacking all of the haberdashery goodies from New York and working on some Barbie outfits, as I have a fundraiser coming up in a few weeks.

I hope that you have all had a good week and are enjoying spring (or autumn, depending on where you are). This is my favourite time of year in Spain, it is sunny, but not yet too hot, so I have been enjoying evenings sitting on the terrace reading and watching the glorious sunsets.

Hope you enjoy whatever you have planned for your time, have fun, take care, stay safe and thanks for visiting.

Almond little fish, Hello Kitty, and sushi on the move

We are now safely back from Japan, an epic return journey involving 18 hours on two separate planes, a hotel at Heathrow, and a short train journey back, including going in a wonderful little Pod transport from the hotel yesterday morning.

This is the future people, the pod seats four, and runs on a little track that looks a bit like a mini roller coaster. It looks like the sort of thing that you would find in a Star Trek movie and was a fun end to the trip.

I have so many things that I want to share with you, and it was difficult to know where to start but I thought that I would begin with the food. There was so much wonderful food available and it really made the holiday.

We were doing lots of sight seeing, so time was limited, and if there is one thing that Japan excels in, it is very good quality fast food. We tend to think of the USA as the home of fast food but Japan wins, as the choice, quality and cost was amazing. Especially for Ellen, as she has quite serious wheat intolerance, so it was lovely to go everywhere, and have lots of choice in what she could eat, rather than the usual limited options.

The choice of food from the convenience stores was what amazed us the most. Jake had said they were good, and that he bought most of his meals there but we didn’t realise the range, and the beautiful fresh options that you can get every day.

Much of it is very healthy as well, with lots of salads. There were also so many delicious varieties of drinks on offer. Our favourite were the rice balls, ‘onigiri’, which come in so many different varieties, with or without seaweed wrapping.

The train station also had amazing food outlets everywhere, with the most beautiful bento boxes, one of which I had for tea one day.

This delicious selection of salmon, rice, chicken and veg cost the princely sum of £6.60, which is amazing when you consider that it was bought at Tokyo central train station. Far better than the usual sandwich or salad meal deals we have in the UK.

There were some very unusual offerings as well. There were lots of food stalls selling delights such as kits to make your own versions of snack food out of what appeared to be jelly, many different varieties of favoured hard boiled eggs, and flavoured beans,

I was delighted to see that you could could get filled, deep fried Hello Kitty at one of the many food stalls in Ueno Park. It was incredible to watch them pour batter into the moulds and produce these tiny little fried cakes.

We weren’t brave enough to try the various squid options, although ‘Almond Little Fish’ and dried squid on a stick of varying varieties were plentiful.

As we were there during blossom time there were many blossom, or ‘sakura’ flavoured options, such as this ice cream, so we had sakura chai, sakura sweets and sakura moochi, a type of sweet rice bun.

The Japanese clearly love sweet foods, I have never seen so many stalls selling versions of biscuits, cakes and chocolate in so many varieties. These macarons were so cute, especially the ones with eyes!

We ate at restaurants most days as well, some were more like fast food chains, such as the ‘beef bowl’ restaurants. These had a wonderful selection of not only bowls of beef, chicken, with rice or noodles, but also sides.

My lunch one day was this delicious miso soup and salad combo. The prices here range from £2 to £4 a dish and it is all freshly prepared and served within minutes.

Our favourite restaurant, which we visited twice, was one called, ‘Sushi Ro’. You order from a tablet at your table, and the food is delivered by a little conveyer belt which runs alongside.

Absolutely delicious fresh plates of sushi and sides and a meal for three of us was about £24 with drinks and desserts.

I was so impressed with the value, I was expecting Tokyo to be an expensive place to stay in but it was brilliant and very budget friendly. You could feed yourself very well eating out for under £10 a day here which would be challenging in other major cities like New York or London.

As well as generally being a great country for lots of different diets, the specific gluten free options Ellen found meant that she could have ramen. Helpfully they had a little pot with hair bands so you could avoid getting your hair in your bowl!

She also found a gluten free pancake place, that serve the traditional very fluffy pancakes, which looked incredible.

We also ate at some food courts, where the options were helpfully displayed in plastic versions, so that you could see what they looked like.

Even the food at Disneyland was varied and well priced. I will post separately about our trips there but have to commend them for their creativity with the Mickey’s hand shaped bao bun chicken sandwich and the Mickey’s head shaped boiled egg. We are still not quite sure how they did that!

I am flying back to Spain tomorrow so will be able to post again soon about more of the things that we saw. It still doesn’t seem real that after all these years we got there and it was particularly special to spend so much time with Jake and see all the things that he has told us about over the last few years.

I hope you have been having a good time, and having a good Easter break if you celebrate. We have missed that this year, but have had so much lovely stuff to eat that we haven’t missed the chocolate!

Have fun, take care, stay safe and thanks for visiting.