This is the second part of 7 Days in Tokyo. In our first four days in Tokyo, we went to Odaiba, an entertainment district on an artificial island; Nikko, which has temples and shrines inscribed on the World Heritage list; Tokyo Station, which is not just a station but also a tourist spot; and Harajuku and Shibuya, which are both famous shopping destinations in the city.
In the next few days, our schedule was more flexible. By then, we already got a bit more accustomed to the complicated train system. I also got over my shyness and started using more Japanese words when conversing with the locals.
We got out of Tokyo and headed to Mount Takao to see a bit of nature. There are a few trails to choose from. Because I was with my senior citizen parents, we chose the easiest trail. We took the cable car near the entrance. A round trip costs 930 yen per head. The cable car is more of like the Hong Kong's Peak Tram, which is a funicular railway. So if you're scared of heights like I do, there's nothing to worry about. You can see trees from the window and I can imagine how beautiful it would be in autumn.
Near the cable car terminal is the Monkey Park. It has an entrance fee of 420 yen per head. The park has only one enclosure for all the monkeys. The shows are in Japanese. We left shortly after the show begun. I was disappointed with the park and I wouldn't recommend it to you.
We left the park and went ahead on our trail. The path is paved so it's not difficult to walk on. There is a rest stop where you will see a shop selling dango or black and golden sesame dumplings, hot drinks, and gelato. There is also a tea house. Free hot tea is provided for tired guests. If you like their tea, you can purchase them from the shop. There are plenty of benches in front of the store where visitors can rest. I love the black sesame dumplings. The sticky dumplings are salty outside but sweet inside. Each stick costs 310 yen. One stick is already very filling.
From there, the path gets a little bit steeper. There are also several flights of stairs to climb on. We had to stop several times to rest. It was embarrassing that while we were panting, everyone else was outwalking us, including the grandpas and the grannies with heavy backpacks! I guess we need a serious change in our lifestyle!
After several minutes, we reached another rest stop. We had lunch at a soba restaurant. The restaurant has some tables on tatami where customers have to remove their shoes. The place has a really Japanese feel in it and I like it. However, we chose to sit on the regular tables so we didn't have to take off our shoes. My sister and I ordered zaru soba while my parents had totoro soba. We also had yakitori (chicken barbeque) as our side dish. They were very delicious!
We realized that we were not far from the top. A few more meters and we had already reached the Mount Takao sign on the summit. We did it! 599 meters. Not that high compared to other mountains but still, wow.
Although it was winter, the view was still fantastic. A map shows which mountains you can see from there. On clear days, Mount Fuji can be viewed from Mount Takao. I could see a very faint figure of Mount Fuji. A lot of visitors were having a picnic as they waited for the sunset. It was cold so we did not wait for long. We left and the route back was surprisingly easier. I bought a gelato from the same store we bought dango. It was yummy!
I saw Youtubers Texan in Tokyo but I was too shy to say hello. You may check out their videos. The one below is their video on Mount Takao, apparently shot in a different month.
We did not expect to arrive in Tokyo early so we decided to go to Ebisu. It was not in our itinerary and we did not know where to go. We just roamed around a mall nearby where we also had our dinner.
Tokyo Skytree Tower
The way to Skytree Tower is similar to Nikko. From Asakusa Station, we transferred to Tobu line and got off at Tokyo Skytree Station. We headed to the ticket booth on the 4th floor and we were lucky that the line was not that long yet. Each ticket costs 2,060 yen (more expensive than Tokyo Tower!). You have to pay extra to go to the topmost deck but I think there is no need to spend that much since the lower deck already provides fantastic views. There are three stories in the lower deck.
Right after purchasing the tickets, we were directed to the elevators to the observation deck. There were so many people but it did not take long to get into the elevator. I like the decorations inside the elevator. There is also a screen that indicates how many meters you are above the ground.
What I appreciate about Skytree Tower are the maps and the sectioning of the windows. Each section has a number, and you can refer to your map (available in different languages) to see which landmarks you are currently facing. There are also interactive maps where you can magnify the place that interests you. I think locals will find this most interesting and meaningful (it must feel amazing to see your home or your school from up there!) while some foreigners may get bored at looking at all the unfamiliar buildings. Nevertheless, it's a great experience and our trip to Tokyo wouldn't be complete without seeing the panoramic view of the city.
There are "lookout windows" where you can see the ground hundred meters below. You can step on the glass to feel how high you are above the ground.
At the bottom of the tower is the five-storey mall called the Solamachi. We did not have enough time to really explore the mall, but there are a lot of interesting stores. It also has a food court.
Sensoji Temple, Asakusa
It was New Year's Eve at the time of our visit so the temple was very crowded. Many visitors were taking photos in front of the iconic gate. There are shops on the way to the temple. Because of the crowd, it was difficult to shop. Be careful, especially when you're with your kids, because it's very easy to get lost in the crowd. My mom loves the market. I don't know if the items are cheaper than in the malls, but they do sell traditional items such as Japanese food, yukata, fans, toys, decorations, and the like. You can find lots of great souvenirs here.
There's a similar gate at the end of the market, which serves as the entrance to the temple. From there, you can view the Skytree Tower. There is also a pagoda in the premises.
The market at Sensoji Temple is very crowded. Don't stay too far from your travel buddies.
If you want to see anime and electronics, Akihabara is the place to go. It's so popular that it's always been featured in documentaries and travel shows.
We went there on New Year's Eve and most stores had already closed even at 5pm. We roamed around and went to random shops that were still open. We went into a building that sells all kinds of anime stuff - gachapon, figurines, robots, and of course manga (graphic novels). They also have DIY toys like ships, famous landmarks, and food stalls.
We also went into an electronics and appliances store. They have all sorts computer-related items. It was getting late so we were not able to see the upper storeys.
We decided to take the Airport Limousine which stops at our hotel to make our travel hassle-free. We did not travel by the Narita Express because tickets from Tokyo to the airport are not discounted. The Airport Limousine is actually a bus and it cost 3,100 yen per person. It's pricey but taking the Narita Express would probably cost us more.
We had a really great time in Tokyo. All I can say is a week of stay in the city is not enough. I'm sure that there are still a lot of interesting places that we haven't explored yet. I would love to visit Tokyo again and stay in Shibuya or someplace with many people.
© Rainy Kua 2016