Takao San #1

50mn train away from Shinjuku Station is Takao San, a mountain in Tokyo’s doorsteps. it is an easy hike, about 2 hours up, a lot of nature and peaceful moment. so it can end up being crowded but it remains a nice place.

Spring is nice, you avoid the heat in town, if you go in the morning, it is not that packed and the square close to the cable car has shops and cafes for a break

Taking the cable car also take you to a panorama, there is a cafe with terrace there that has barbecue in the late spring as well as beer garden

in the autumn, it is a scenic place to admire the autumn leaves so get ready for long queues, lots of people, packed trains. this is 95% Japanese tourism and not very known by foreigners (yet), I hope it stays like that

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Ueno

Tourists have Ueno Park on their list because of the many museums set in the park, this is located in the northern part of Tokyo.

What I like about it is that it has a vibe, local families wander there, it is noisy and lively, the station has a shinkansen stop for trains to the north, there is a massive shopping gallery in the station with boutiques and not only big department stores, it does not feel as posh as Ginza but is so Japan

 

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By the station, is a hard rock cafe, nothing special, nothing fancy, but for some reason, Japanese people like to queue and stand there for ever,

At the back of Ueno, is a great part with a shrine and a cemetery, not sure how it is called but it is truly beautiful, follow towards the pagoda at the back and you will find it to your left

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Ueno also has a modern metro station, very bright and polished, one of those nice ones

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Okayama #2 – Kurashiki

Kurashiki is only 15mn train away from Okayama, it is the Little Kyoto on canals with the famous ivy square, it is also know to be the place for Momotaro denim and handycraft

Beautiful village, you have to walk about 15mn from the train station to find the historical area and the shops but it is very well signposted.

Even the Telegraph wrote on how slower the pace is there, it is quiet, peaceful, relaxing, very nice day out, we spent half day and it was enough but we enjoyed very much the place

 

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Okayama #1

Okayama is a city located 30mn away from Kobe and 45mn from Osaka to the south. It is said to be the city of eternal spring, beautiful weather at all time.

After spending a week end there, I can say it is a quiet place worth 2 days and 1 night. We stayed at the ANA Crowne Plaza and loved it, very friendly team, very good breakfast, the hotel is directly connected to the station so very convenient.

What I liked about the city

  • Okayama castle, just another castle to me, but this one is all black and very elegant
  • Korakuen which is one of the 3 most beautiful gardens of Japan, it is smaller than the one in Kanazawa but also worth a visit, it took me 2 hours to explore, it is very peaceful, I got to see the tea plantation, but also red head cranes, beautiful and there were prayers in the temple which I loved, it added to the peace
  • Food is good although nothing really special outside of the yellow chives and of course the peach/momo (with the story of Momotaro)
  • People are friendly, easy going, you feel no stress
  • One thing that surprised me and I did not know is that the region produces blue jeans, called Momotaro Jeans, and you can see them everywhere, did you know?

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Kappabashi

This is an area in the north of Tokyo, close to Asakusa and Ueno, walking distance from both and at metro stop Tawaramachi where you can find all you need to cook

This long street is full of kitchen utensils shops, initially dedicated to restaurants but that grew for tourists and individuals. anything you want is there at very good prices

worth a visit, if you are into cooking, I spent 3 hours there wandering on a Saturday

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Tea Ceremony

This will remain as one of the highlights of my 2018 stay in Japan. A friend invited to join a tea ceremony class in April.

I was blown away by the level of quality, precision and meditation in there. We spent a couple of hours and every minute was inspiring, full of information. I was told this is one of the Zen pillars and I wish I would have time to continue the journey and take this class on a regular basis.

 

from the way you present the matcha in its box, to the  type of bowl you will use depending on the season, the way you open the door, close it, listen to the sound of water, respect the kakemono, walk across the room, everything is thought. loved it, absolutely loved it