The long-awaited day of our departure to Japan had arrived. Our flight was scheduled at 7:40 so we woke up early in the morning, after just few hours of sleep. We drove to the Zürich airport, where we went through all the airport procedures and stop by at the Lindt store/bar for delicious Lindt hot chocolate. If ever at the Zürich airport and you’re sweet-tooth as I am, you should try it!
With our bellies filled, we’ve boarded the plane to Istanbul. The flight was calm and we were pleasantly surprised by Turkish Airlines services. Nice comfortable seats, clean aircraft, friendly cabin crew and a good food. Used of getting just a small snack or a sandwich on our flights across the Europe, we were pleasantly surprised when they served us a warm meal with the proper cutlery and offered us freshly squeezed lemonade and orange juice. Perfect start of our travel!
With slight delay we arrived to Atatürk Airport where we transfer for a flight to Tokyo. This flight had equally good service as the previous one. So far, we were more than a happy to chose to fly with Turkish Airlines.
After our arrival to Narita Airport, we went through the immigration and got our luggage. Since we were planning to get around Japan a bit, we got ourselves Japan Rail Pass (JR Pass) – a pass valid on the railways (including shikansens), buses, and ferry boats operated by Japan Railway Group. At the airport’s JR Office we’ve exchanged our vouchers for the JR Passes. We also reserved the seats at JR’s Narita Express train which took us to Tokyo station, one of Tokyo’s main transport hubs. Tokyo, precisely Asakusa, was our first stop at our journey around Japan.
Asakusa neighbourhood used to be an entertainment district. Nowadays is very tourist oriented, but nonetheless authentic and local. As it is one of the areas where you can still experience the atmosphere of Tokyo’s past, we’ve decided to chose it as our basis for exploring the Japanese capital. As soon as we arrived there, we knew we’ve made a right decision. Despite the numerous tourists, we liked the vibe of the neighbourhood and its narrow streets with its tiny shops, restaurants and unburied electric wires.
As we arrived to our hotel prior to the check-in time, we left our luggage at the lobby and went out to explore the area. Our hotel was conveniently located just a throw away from the main attractions: Senso-ji temple, Kaminari-mon gates and five-storey pagoda. Unfortunately, jet-lag took took its tool and after an easy stroll around the sights, we we run out of energy. We bought ourselves some drinks, sat down in the shade in the park and just observed the crowds at the temple grounds. There were tourists from all over the world, there were Japanese school children in their uniforms, there were families, there were elderly couples, there were people dressed in kimonos, etc. Interesting crowd of people of all ages and backgrounds.
By the check-in time we’ve returned to the hotel where our room was already prepared for us. Prior to our trip, I’ve read some of the rooms in Japanese hotels are tiny, but ours was just big enough to fit all the furniture and our two suitcases. The best feature of the room was definitely amazing view to the Senso-ji temple and the Tokyo Skytree.
After a shower and a short nap that refilled our “batteries”, we went out to try our luck to get to the sumo arena. The sumo is extremely popular in Japan. We arrived to Tokyo at the last day of the tournament. The tickets for that day were sold out way in advance. We were too late when we tried to buy them online from Europe. We were told, they are selling limited amount of tickets at the venue, but as expected, we were way too late to get them. Nevertheless, we walk around the area and feel the atmosphere of the tournament. We even saw the winner on his triumphal ride on the streets of Tokyo.
Our hotel was approximately half an hour walk away from the venue, so we decided to walk back to the Asakusa. Although it was already evening and was getting dark, we feelt safe. That feeling of safety remained with us all the time while in Japan.