Overwhelmed is probably the best way to describe how I felt in Japan. Overwhelmed by the heat and humidity. Overwhelmed bustling Tokyo and the serene mountains of Nikko. Overwhelmed by incredible beauty and fascinating history.
In between starting a new job and some general life craziness, I managed to tick a country off my bucket list – Japan. Thank goodness for a JetStar two-for-one flight deal! I spent a wonderful twelve days traveling to Tokyo, Kyoto and Nikko, indulging in temple hopping, sushi and sake.
Japan is a country I have wanted to visit for years. At primary school we learnt Japanese and while I remember very little of the language, my interest in Japanese culture has never faded. Japan has become a very popular tourist destination for Australians in recent years, with airlines such as Jetstar making this stunning country easily accessible. When I saw that two-for-one flights were available I didn’t even think twice about booking flights!
There are so many things to love about Japan. The people, the food, the culture, the history and the landscape are all special. I have hundreds of photos to share with you from my adventures, but for the moment here are some snapshots from Tokyo.
Gardens of Tokyo
Because of the heat (I don’t think we experienced a day of less than 38 degrees and crazy high humidity) we spent most of our time in Tokyo visiting gardens and temples. Luckily, Tokyo has no shortage of gardens and parks that allow you to cool off and escape the hustle and bustle of the city! What makes Tokyo so special is the blend of old and new. Modern skyscrapers surround city parks full of history, temples from an era long gone and bridges to help transport you through time.
Ueno Koen, has the most memorising body of water, the Shinobazu pond. Half of the pond is filled with people enjoying a relaxing afternoon in row boats and the other half is filled with a blanket of lilies so large you can’t help but think they are from Wonderland!
Shinjuku Gyoen, despite being popular with both tourists and locals, still manages to be beautifully serene. As one of Tokyo’s largest parks, Shinjuku Gyoen features many different gardens. Sprawling English landscape gardens lead to Japanese and French style gardens. There is also a greenhouse, which is home to many tropical flowers and plants. With many cheery blossom trees, Shinjuku Gyoen is one of the best places to enjoy cherry blossom season.
Before I went to Japan my friends all encouraged me to visit Harajuku, particularly Takeshita Street. However, my favourite part of Harajuku was Yoyogie Park. Originally the site for the Olympic Village of the 1964 Olympic Games is a great place to enjoy the lawns, ponds and forested areas that hide away the rest of the city. Particularly beautiful is the Meiji Shrine, a Shinto shrine dedicated to the spirits of Emperor Meiji and his wife Empress Shōken. The ginko tree forrest makes Yoyogie Park the perfect place to view the autumn foliage as the tress transform when the leave turn red and gold, or in our case, to escape the sun!
While none of the main buildings remain, the Imperial Palace still houses a moat, several guardhouses and entrance gates. With a lovely Japanese garden and lawns perfect for a picnic, the Imperial Palace Grounds a lovely spot to enjoy the tranquility of a garden and the views of skyscrapers in the distance.