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What an AMAZING couple of days. I’m shattered and I think I’m coming down with a cold but it’s sooooooo been worth it!
Yesterday I took on rush hour on the subway and beat it hands down! I’ll tell you what though – London aint got shit on this place! They actually have station staff to push people onto the trains it gets that crowded and you don’t have to worry about falling over when the carriage moves because you physically can’t go anywhere! Imagine that for 30 minutes :p
But anyway, I arrived safely (and easily) at the bus terminal and within 15 minutes we were off. As soon as I got on the bus, the girl next to me and I started talking…Chontae from Brisbane, Australia. She was 19 and in Japan for three weeks as an exchange student. We pretty much hung out together all day and she said it felt good because she was worried she wouldn’t have anyone to talk to. Amen to that! Oh, and there were two other Aussies on the trip; guess where they were from…yep, Brisbane! Lol.
First stop was the Meiji-Shrine which is the ‘mecca’ for Shinto religion and on New Years Day 2 million visitors will attend! Ridiculous! It was lovely to see and weirdly quiet being that it was so close to a busy part of the city. After that we hopped back onto the coach and went over to the Imperial Palace East Garden which was gorgeous and, again, eerily quiet given that there was a building site just opposite. Gorgeous black pine trees, koi carp and the beginnings of cherry blossom. The annoying thing is that we didn’t go on to the bridge to get the ‘it’ view so I’ll have to go back solo for that one. It was also really nice to travel by coach; all I’ve seen of the city is the underground until I pop up somewhere so it made a change. We stopped off at the Asakusa Kannon Temple which is one of the oldest Shinto shrines in Tokyo. It was huge and very busy but gorgeous in the sun! Not to mention all the lovely ponds, pray houses and atmosphere. The temple was stunning inside and the intricate detail was fascinating! We then travelled up to the North of Tokyo and had lunch in a hotel over-looking Tokyo Bay which was pretty cool and the views were amazing; because it was a pretty good day weather-wise meaning you could see for miles. We then went on to a cruise around the bay before travelling South to Odaiba which is the man-made reclaimed part of Tokyo…it was very windy and cold and we simply stopped there to travel over the Rainbow Bridge and see the copy of the Statue of Liberty which was cheesy and a bit pointless but hey ho. Chantae and I were talking non-stop all day and had a lot in common so it certainly made the trip easier and we agreed to keep in touch 🙂
After that I was so tired that I just headed back to the hostel grabbing a pot noodle (it sounds like cheating but that’s how they eat over here and it was soooo good!) on the way and having an early night. I couldn’t wait to get to sleep!
But today?! Absolutely amazing day that makes every crappy feeling and pending cold worth it! Why you ask? Because I got to see Mount Fuji! Not just go there to see it covered with cloud as we were scheduled to do (because it’s a mountain that likes to ‘hide’ 90% of the time in winter) but actually got to see it with blue sky and a perfect view!
Again we started off at the Hamamatsucho bus terminal (and yes I can now pronounce it AND with the right accent – check me!) before driving for 90 minutes down to Mount Fuji. Our guide Atsuko was fantastic and she knew so much but kept it light-hearted and fun all the way. I started talking to three people as soon as I got on the bus so ended up hanging out with Jo, a retired woman from….Brisbane (!!) on holiday for three weeks and a newly married 30-something couple from…Brisbane – not I’m not shitting you…6 Aussies in 2 days and they’re all from Brisbane. Something tells me it’s a place you leave from not arrive to!
We all got chatting on the way down inbetween Atsuko giving us information and telling us about Japanese customs. And when we got close to the Mount (after she told us how shy Mount Fuji was and not to expect much) she literally jumped in the air and screamed down the microphone that we could see the summit. We couldn’t believe our luck but kept our fingers crossed that the clouds didn’t come back before we got there. We had a break at the tourist centre at the bottom and off we went to the 4th station. The 5th station is the highest transport can go but that station is only open in July and August when the mountain is open for climbing. HOWEVER…we got back on the bus and Atsuko told us that because the weather was so good we would be allowed to the 5th station and were the first people to go up there this year! The whole bus erupted with cheers and excitement and I couldn’t contain myself at the thought of what I was about to see. And 40 minutes later we were there. At the ‘top’ of Mount Fuji seeing it with nothing but the sun streaming over it’s snowy summit; words can’t describe its beauty and even typing this makes me get excited all over again. It was just spectacular. It was exactly how you saw in the photos only I was there and taking my own photos! Just amazing. Can you hear my excitement?! Haha. Oh and mum? You’ve got a postcard coming your way…don’t even think about pinning it on the noticeboard; I want to keep it as an in tact memento! You had the opportunity to buy a postcard, have it franked with a special Mount Fuji stamp and posted from the 5th station itself so I took it since we were the first people up there all year so far!!
After 30 minutes of freezing our asses off we got on the coach and travelled back to the bottom of the Mount for lunch and then drove on to Hakone National Park where we took a cruise on Lake Ashikaba. It was very cold and because all the trees were bare, it felt a bit like we were in Scotland hunting for the Loch Ness Monster hehe. We then jumped on to the cable car but the clouds were setting in and by the time we reached the top we literally couldn’t see 2 metres in front of you and the wind made the cold run right through you so we were all pleased to get back on the bus. It was sad to end the day with cloud and cold (and that we didn’t see much cherry blossom) but we really didn’t care since we got to see Mount Fuji in all its glory. Our journey back finished on the Shinkansen (bullet train) which was a pretty cool experience…when you see it run through a station it’s ridiculously long and quick but when you’re on it you don’t feel like you’re going 250mph!! Brilliant stuff. And that was it. My fantastic day came to an end. I said goodbye to the friends I had made with invites to bring Sheepy and Duke to Brisbane and the promise to keep in touch whilst thanking Atsuko for a great day. She really did ‘finish’ the whole experience off so well. She talked through customs, showed us trick box puzzles, taught us how to make an origami Mount Fuji whilst we were still on the bus and always had a smile on her face. I couldn’t recommend the tour enough.
I’m shattered though and again just grabbed a pot noodle on the way back before crashing here at ‘home’. I was due to check out tomorrow and move on but the room rate is pretty good in comparison to others and the location is good so why bother moving? Oh and after all my panic and worry about my bank card being blocked etc if I used it, I took money out of the ATM. What a weight off my mind!
Going off topic as it were, I have to say that I’m really struggling with the food over here. I came with the attitude (in the words of Chris from Family Guy); ‘I don’t know what you are but I’m going to eat you too’ and I’m failing miserably. 90% of their food here is some variety of seafood and despite thinking that if I try it fresh from the ‘home’ of sushi etc I would like it, I still hate it! At least I can say that I’ve tried it and I’m pleased I have but because of that, as I said, I’m finding it difficult to eat ‘well’ i.e. healthy/balanced.
Anyway, I’m absolutely stoked with today. Mount Fuji was superb and we couldn’t have asked for a more perfect time together as a group and ‘new friends’. Ace.