Overview of the Trip
This trip has been decided upon one day before departure. No bookings is needed since we are travelling by train this time round. For this trip, we will be visiting the popular environs of Tokyo. They are mostly day trips with the Saturday night spent in Tokyo central. Here is the plan:
1. Nikko (Day 1)
- Toshogu Shrine
- Rinnoji Temple
- Futarasan Shrine
(For more information about Nikko, please click here)
2. Ryogoku (Day 1)
- Visit the Sumo Stadium
- Sample Sumo food
3. Roppangi Hills (Day 1)
- Visit Mori Towers
- View of Tokyo Towers
4. Capsule Hotel overnight (Day 1)
- Stay over at Japan's largest capsule hotel in Shinjuku
5. Hakone (Day 2)
- Hakone Tozan Railway
- Hakone Open Air Museum
- Lake Ashi
(For more information about Hakone, please click here)
6. Odawara (Day 2)
- Odawara castle
Met up with my friend at 6.30am in the morning. We were planning to catch the 7am train which takes the least amount of time with only 2 transits to get from Koriyama to Hakone. While waiting at the station, I noticed an extremely enticing sight, a eat-and-go soba shop right in the middle of the station waiting area. Since we only have 10 minutes left, I decided to give it a skip and just wait till we arrive at Nikko.
The journey takes approximately 3 hours long and it is 10am when we arrived at Nikko central. We popped into the Tourist Information Center and asked them for recommendations on Nikko. They mentioned that one of the popular food here in Nikko is Yuba. A picture of a shop which shows Yuba Ryori (Yuba Crusine) as its specialty is shown below.
We went into one of its many shops. Here is what a Yuba soba looks like. Yuba is made of bean curd and to us Singaporeans, it is known as Tao Ki in Hokkien, which can be easily purchased from the cook food stalls. It is one of my favourite side orders.
We took the city bus and went off to the first stop of the day in Nikko - Rinnoji Temple. Since no photos are allowed in the temple, I will describe the main highlights of it. The Sambutsu shrine is the main attraction in the temple. It consists of 3 main Buddha/Bodhisattvas representations which is close to 3 levels high. At the centre is Amitabha Buddha and to its right is 1000-hand Kannon and its left is Bato (a horse manifestation of Kannon). The temple sells some very unique amulets and I took a snap shot of it. There is also a prayer hall in the temple grounds where a venerable will always be there conducting prayer services.
And next stop now is Toshogu Shrine. It is the mausoleum of Tokugawa Leyasu. Here is the path up the shrine.
Belong is a view of the five-storey pagoda to the left entrance of the Toshogu Shrine.
At the top of a stable in the shrine is carved the famous 'hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil' threesome.
At the upper storey of one of the sacred storehouses are imaginative carvings of elephants by an artist who have never seen the real ones before.
And now we are on the way up to the main shrine.
Since no photos are allowed in most of the sights, I shall roughly describe what is seen. Just next to the main shrine is a hall with a huge ceiling painting of a dragon. When we were there, the monk explained its significance by banging two wooden sticks together. The sounds that resonate through the hall feels like the roar of a dragon.
We left the shrine and went back to the city central. We passed by the scenic Shinkyo Sacred Bridge.
Thereafter we took a quick bite and it is off to Tokyo Central. Next stop - Asakusa.
Upon arriving at Asakusa station, we switch over to the subway and arrive at Ryogoku station 2 stops later. Here is a view of the stadium.
A great sumo leaving the stadium.
We came upon one of the shops offering a dietary special which is taken by sumo wrestlers daily.
A close up view of what is offered. And we decided to go for it. Even though it costs 3000 yen per person.
Here is their mega meal.
3. Roppangi Hills
Next stop is Roppangi Hills. Roppagni Hills is a major business and exquisite residential district, fronted by a lively night scene. The major IT company, Livedoor, that made the news recently is located at one of the top floors of Mori Towers. Here is a sky view of the tower.
The first 6 floors of Mori Towers are accessible to the public. Next to it is Hyatt hotel. We find the design of the mall to be unique. It feels like a multi-layered mini-city. From the photo shot below, it shows 4 levels at different angles in a picture. Quite confusing sometimes.
A beautiful night view of Tokyo tower which is fully illuminated at night.
Asahi TV is located at Roppagni hills. Here is a unique scene of 5 glasses with streaming videos projected onto them from the ground.
4. Capsule Hotel overnight
It is coming close to 9pm and it is time for another adventure. We will be attempting the famous capsule hotel of Tokyo for the night. We have selected the largest capsule hotel which is in the heart of Shinjuku district. It is called Green Plaza which has 660 capsules in all. Green Plaza is written in large Katakana fonts at the building's neon lightings.
The whole process of checking in feels much like Odaiba Onsen which we went the last trip. We went straight to bath and ofuro. Thereafter it is exploring our capsule. Here is a scene of our capsule section.
That's me in it. It is actually quite adequate for a quick overnight stay. There's television and radio in the capsule. Overall, I find the night to be more accommodable than Odaiba Onsen. At least I can be jumping around and doing readings on the subsequent day journey instead of dozing straight off.
We took a one hour and a half train to Hakone from Shinjuku station. Since we bought the 5500 yen Hakone Free pass, all the journeys from the station and back are free.
Once we arrived at Hakone station, we transit straight away to the Hakone Tozan Railway line. The unique feature we have observed of this line is that it will actually perform 3 switch-back. Where the train actually travel in a zig-zag manner front and back 3 times. Thus the front and back train captains will switch their places 3 times throughout the 30 minutes journey. Why does it travel in a zig-zag manner if you ask. It is because the train is travelling uphill and it only has limited space to build its railway track.
We alighted one stop before the funicular and explore the Hakone Open Air Museum. Here is a scene from the Hakone Open Air Museum, it is actually powered by the water fountains. The video of its dynamics is also recorded below.
A great overview of the journey we will be taking. From right to left, first is the train from Tokyo to Hakone, follow by the Hakone Tozan Railway line, next is the funicular up to the mid-mountain. It will be cable car to the top of the mountain - Owakudani. Then it will be another cable car down the mountain to Lake Ashi. And finally a ferry through Lake Ashi.
Here is a view of the funicular when arrived at mid-mountain. The height is around 600 metres now.
Next is the cable journey further up. It takes another 15 minutes to get to the mountain top.
At the mountain top station, we were given free samples of the famous sulplur boiled eggs. It is said to prolong life.
A paranomic view of the sulphur mountain - Owakudani. The height is around 1000 plus metres.
The whole place smell of sulphur and we were advised not to stay here for too long. Else instead of prolonging life, it will shorten it.
The river that flows through the mountain is full of rich sulphur.
And finally we are down the mountain towards Lake Ashi. Here is a splendid view of the valley from the cable car.
The ferry we will be taking through Lake Ashi. It should span around 30 minutes long.
Here is a view of the famous torii gate in the waters which we always see in some of the Japanese tourist magazines.
The town has a super mega torii gate.
Thereafter we took a bus back to Odawara. Having some time, we decided to explore the famous castle of Odawara.