Some of our trip planning came from several articles like "Top things to do in Tokyo", "Must see things in Tokyo" "Off the beaten path places to visit in Japan". Our first week we were visiting some places Dave lived as a missionary 30 plus years earlier on the northern island of Hokkaido, so most things were obvious places we wanted to visit. And we went in February specifically to go to the Famous Sapporo Yuki-matsuri (Snow Festival). There were some events and places he was aware of as a missionary, but a missionary's life or budget doesn't have many options for festivals. It was fun to do some things he knew about and wanted to do when he was there years ago.
Then we went south to Tokyo and that was where we relied on some research. According to the Huffington Post, we were able to do 8 of their 10 "Top things to do in Japan".
(We passed on #3 and #8)
1. Sleep on the floor. We didn't mean to, or plan to sleep on the floor. We made reservations at a resort. It did actually have the option of a western style room or a traditional room. Unfortunately the photos on the website showed a western style bed in both options so we opted for a Japanese style room. Joke was on us. Where is the bed, you might ask? It was folded up in the closet. You can see it in the background of the photo. Yes, we actually slept on mats on the floor.
2. Eat fish for breakfast. This photo is also from the same resort. It was one of the most visually stunning displays of food offered in the dining hall. However, the options were quite unlike what we normally would expect for breakfast. We tried to be adventurous eaters for dinner, but it didn't quite settle well with me first thing in the morning. The 2nd picture shown here is where we often stopped in for some orange juice and a biscuit in the mornings.
3. Take a communal bath. Again, at the same resort we stayed in the first couple days of our trip, the website described hot pools (we had to 'Google translate' to read the websites, not always a reliable translation) (Dave speaks Japanese well, but doesn't read Japanese kanji) and I envisioned this type of a pool shown in the photo below, under the stars with snow drifting down into natural hot springs. Nope! It was just a community bath and shower area. Beautiful pools and saunas, yes, but we just weren't ready to bathe with the community. We opted out. (btw-- they were all segregated)
4. Sit on a warm toilet. Oh my heck, the toilets were a treat! We were traveling in winter, and all the toilet seats were warmed, and had all kinds of bells and whistles and buttons with instructions provided.
However, I did walk into a couple of bathroom stalls to this. A country of contrasts, I tell you!
6. People watch in the shopping district. People watching was fascinating!
7. Shop for toys. There are stores that are 6 and 7 stories tall with different categories of toys on every floor. We had a mission to find some Pokemon cards for a young friend at home, so we enjoyed searching through the toys.
8. Love hotel. ummm, no. We skipped this item on the list.
9. Gaze upon Tokyo. Although we didn't go to the Park Hyatt Hotel on the suggested list, we did go up into the Metropolitan Government Building, and on another day, we went up to the top of the Tokyo Tower and watched the sunset. We also went up to a viewing area in Sapporo, and in Hakodate. We enjoyed seeing all the cities from high above.
10. Zen out, visit temples. We definitely visited temples. This gold one was beautiful. You couldn't take a bad picture. All our photos were post card perfect.
And here is another temple. It was HUGE! If you look closely at this picture, you can see Dave standing in front of the doors in a red jacket -- a teeny tiny speck of red in the photo. (I was so glad for that red jacket. I could spot him anywhere!)
It's fun to visit places you've seen advertised and described when you were sitting at your computer on the other side of the earth. It's also fun to see things on TV or in movies afterwards and recognize them and say "I know where that is!" Season 26 of my favorite show "The Amazing Race" featured Tokyo and the Shinkansen Bullet Train just days after we returned from Tokyo!