As we had to leave Vietnam anyway and we were still left with almost two weeks until our flight back home from Hong Kong, we decided to fly to Japan where spring and with it the cherry blossom season is about to start.
A Cold Welcome to Tokyo
We were both aware that cooler temperatures will await us in Japan, and at least I was looking forward to it after 2.5 months of tropical heat. However, a cold front hit Tokyo the night after our arrival and temperatures dropped to as low as 2°C. One morning we actually had snowfall in the city. That was much colder than anticipated, and caused us some problems as we are both travelling with summer clothes only. But luckily, there are plenty of heated indoor options in Tokyo, be it shopping centers, cat cafés, museums, or restaurants.
After two days of winter temperatures, the weather got warmer again and spring finally arrived also in Tokyo. In many of the parks, the cherry trees started to blossom. As the start of the cherry blossom season varies from year to year and it only lasts for two weeks, we were unsure when booking our flights to Japan if we would actually witness it, but it turned out we hit the perfect moment. The most beautiful park was Shinjuku Gyoen Park, but also the cherry trees near the imperial palace in Chiyoda, Ueno Park, and Koishikawa Kōrakuen Garden were very beautiful.
Shopping in Tokyo
Tokyo is a paradise for shopping – both for Ilinca and me. While Ilinca was amazed by all the different cloth shopping opportunities, I was really blown away by Yodobashi, one giant electronic megastore on six floors. It had basically everything on display that exists for the consumer market. Hundreds of camera’s with all possible lenses, tripods, literally at least a thousand different headphones, TVs in all sizes, audio systems, and so on. During our stay in Tokyo, I visited Yodobashi three times and stayed several hours. It is truly a paradise for anybody interested in electronics and a good place to get rid of some unnecessary money. To avoid problems with Swiss customs, I however refrained from buying anything.
Eating in Tokyo
Japanese cuisine is not really made for vegetarians because they eat tons of fish and also meat. Often when walking through the streets looking for a place to eat, we had to skip traditional Japanese places because there was no single vegetarian item on the menu, or eat separately. In Tokyo this was luckily not such a big problem as there are also many international restaurants. So in order to have dinner together with Ilinca, I tried to satisfy my sushi addiction and my need to try local dishes during lunch time when Ilinca was either visiting a museum or shopping somewhere, and then we went for dinner together. Once or twice we even found a Japanese restaurant with at least one vegetarian meal.
Personally I really like Japanese food. More popular than sushi actually are noodle soups (Ramen or udon), cooked with some deep-fried meat. Also curries are quite popular in Japan. And after eating, I usually felt much less full than after eating at a western restaurant.
Other Things to Do in Tokyo
Tokyo has lots of interesting sky decks with great panorama over the world’s largest metropolis (with more than 37 million people in 2016). Due to the often present mist, the city limits cannot be made out easily, and only on very clear days Mt. Fuji, japans highest mountain that lies around 100 km from the city center, can be spotted also from Tokyo. One day we had the luck to spot Mt. Fuji from one of the two towers of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building.
Tokyo also has plenty of excellent museums. One of them, the Tokyo National Museum, I visited already on our last visit 10 years ago and hence did not visit again. However, I paid a visit to the Mori Art Museum that had an excellent exhibition from Leandro Erlich, an Argentinian artist that plays with optical illusions. The museum was very interestingly made and the fact that it’s located on the 52nd story of a skyscraper makes it even more special.
Streets at Night
Tokyo is known for its waste of energy. The streets of Central Tokyo are literally filled with light emitting ads, especially in Shinjuku. While this is helping in preventing global warming, it is still nice to watch.
Visiting Mt. Fuji
On my last visit 10 years ago during summer, I climbed Mt. Fuji during the night and then enjoyed watching sunrise from the summit. On the way down the volcano however got wrapped in clouds and because of that I never really saw the volcano during daylight. As Fuji is only a 1.5 hour drive away from Tokyo, we rented a car for three days in one of the suburbs of Tokyo and explored the Fuji region during sometimes fantastic weather as you can see from the pictures.
As the whole region is an active volcanic area, there are lots of natural spas called Onsen. As the temperatures were quite chilly during the evenings, it was a welcome opportunity to warm up in up to 42° C warm water.
Returning Home to Switzerland
Japan was the last destination of our 6 months travels, and we will return home from Tokyo via Hong Kong and Munich on March 31st. It was a wonderful experience to travel for so long and experience so many different cultures, but nevertheless, I am happy to go back home, first to see my relatives and my cat, second to go paragliding again, and third to start a new professional adventure.