At the main gate of Sensō-ji temple in Asakusa

The main gate of Sensō-ji temple in Asakusa

Dates visited: March 27, 2013 – March 30, 2013, and April 3, 2013 – April 6, 2013

I planned this trip to Japan for Prachi for two reasons: (i) she has pleasant memories about Japan from reading a book in her childhood by one of her favorite authors, and (ii) she absolutely loves cherry blossoms. So I planned this vacation, keeping my fingers crossed that our trip would coincide with the peak cherry blossom bloom. And we got unbelievably lucky with our timing as the cherry blossom peak came in about two weeks earlier than usual while we were in Tokyo and Kyoto.

After spending nine days in Japan, I have to admit, that among all the countries I have visited so far, the Japanese are the nicest people of all. They are just so kind, disciplined, genial, well-mannered and helpful. As we walked a lot and took buses, trains and taxis, we had ample opportunities to mingle with the locals and Japanese tourists from other parts of Japan, and it was such a enjoyable experience.

Here are the highlights of our fabulous time in Tokyo.

  • Sakura (cherry blossoms)—the most perfect time to experience celebration of beauty and harmony. We visited Shinjuku Gyoen (garden) that had over 1500 sakura trees just bursting with pink and white flowers! Despite thousands of flowers blooming on the trees, the ground was covered with thousands of fresh petals as the gentle breeze played tag with the sakura flowers. Another interesting aspect was watching hanami parties which are a century-old tradition of picnicking under a blooming sakura tree. We were hanami-virgins in Tokyo, but we lost our cherry (blossom) by having our own hanami in Kyoto’s Maruyama Park.
  • Shrines and Temples—Japan has Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples. I just loved the towering torii gates that are typically found at the entrance of a Shinto shrine, and the peacefully smiling Buddha statues in the Buddhist temples.
  • Shinkansen (aka Bullet train)—quite an experience traveling in these spotless and sleek, bullet-shaped trains. Everyone from the cleaning staff to train conductors bows to the passengers, but most importantly, before entering and exiting any compartment, they bow their heads and say a small prayer before starting their work. Their sincerity to work is commendable.
  • Shinjuku, Shibuya, Tsukiji, Ginza and more—these are just awesome districts in Tokyo that have their own unique characteristics. Shinjuku has the world’s busiest railway station, Shibuya has (supposedly) the world’s busiest intersection, Tsukiji has the biggest wholesale fish and seafood market in the world and Ginza is just plain upscale and stunning!



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