Thursday, June 09, 2016


Asakusa, Tokyo
27 May 2016

Yet again, it was a last minute arrangement for the trip to Japan. Partner In Crime was really eager to go to the Land of the Rising Sun (I suspect due to his manga reading and Gundam robot collection), and so Japan it was! The plan changed from Tokyo-Fuji to Osaka-Kyoto and finally to the Alpine-Takayama-Matsumoto route via Tokyo. When I googled the places of interest around Tokyo, it didn't really fascinate me, so the plan changed to Osaka-Kyoto, but I have already made the trip here back in 2013. And then a friend, Nurul told me about her trip to Kanazawa-Takayama-Shirakawago (it was the first time I heard about those cities), it totally blew my mind. Then while searching the internet, I found out about the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine route, and I decided I wanted to do this!

However, it was a challenge to squeeze it all in an 8 day itinerary, coming in and leaving via Tokyo Narita (we redeemed our Enrich 38250 miles, paid tax RM167), furthermore with only about 2 weeks to the trip. Luckily while searching the internet, I discovered A Traveller's Note blog, and her itinerary completely fell into place with our plan. So I decided to copy her itinerary, as there wasn't much time left for me to do my own research.

So here we are, discovering Japan's Alpine area, starting our journey from its capital, Tokyo. Our first day in Japan was spent in Asakusa before travelling ahead to the beautiful mountainous area. Our plane touched down in Narita as scheduled at 7.40am. We had arranged to sit on the left side of the plane to increase our chances of viewing Mt Fuji from the plane, but it was not to be as it was drizzling at the time, and the weather was cloudy from the skies above. We did check on the weather forecast prior to coming, so we had brought our raincoats along. I had also planned to bring the slip on spike attachments for our shoes to walk on the ice at the alpine route, but scrapped it as we didn't want to check in our backpacks (it wasn't a good decision, as we found out later that the hiking trail at the alpine route was still heavily covered by ice - it was too slippery to walk without them). More on that later.

rainy day at Narita airport

Another thing to note- for me at least, I wouldn't need data roaming or pocket wifi rental in Japan. Free wifi is everywhere - at the airport, train stations, public areas under the municipal council, cafes and our hotel room of course.

Back to Asakusa. From Narita airport, we took the Sky Access direct line to Asakusa for JPY 1290. The journey took about 1 hour. We passed by some paddy fields along the way. When we reached Asakusa (Toei line), it was still drizzling. Please note that there are 3 lines serving the Asakusa station (Toei line, Tobu Skytree line and Tokyo Metro Ginza line). The complexity of the train network in Tokyo can be daunting. We put on our raincoats and made our way to our accommodation - Hotel Wasou Asakusa (JPY 7200 including 8% VAT per Japanese style room per night), passing through Nakamise shopping street and Sensoji temple. The place was already crowded albeit the rain. It wasn't hard to find our hotel, thanks to the free offline map app, We used this app to find our way in Cairo and Alexandria as well. Since check in time is only at 4pm, we dropped our backpacks first before coming back later.

Sky Access train gate at B1 floor

inside the Sky Access train
Sky Access train ticket

passing by paddy fields

Hotel Asakusa Wasou
Hotel Asakusa Wasou

our Japanese style room with attached bathroom

We walked back to Sensoji temple, a Buddhist temple built in 645 for the goddess of Kannon and its surrounding historic places (Stone Lantern of Rokujizo), Five Storied Pagoda, the mighty Kaminarimon Gate (Thunder Gate) and the Halls of Sensoji, taking pictures in the drizzle. It wasn't a detriment to some locals who still walked and posed around in their kimonos and yukatas, complete with the white socks and clogs. Pretty and impressive!

Sensoji temple from the side

Sensoji temple

pretty in kimono / yukata

shrine at Stone Lantern of Rokujizo

garden at the Sensoji temple area

Five Storied pagoda

Karminarimon gate

giant slippers at Kaminarimon gate

We took a peek at the souvenirs of Nakamise street, taking note of the items of interest that we would only buy on our last day in Japan as we had to move around to the other cities with as little baggage as possible. So souvenirs would have to wait for later. We did buy the halal seaweed rice cracker (JPY 650) which was delicious!

Nakamise shopping street

souvenirs at Nakamise street

mochi and biscuits

halal rice crackers (JPY 650 per pack)

Next we walked to the nearby Sumida river, enjoying our rice crackers which invited some feathered friends. But there were signages reminding not to feed the birds. Across the river is the Asahi beer headquarters.  Feeling hungry, we decided to have lunch at the halal ramen Naritaya restaurant, but could not find it. So we settled for Sekai cafe, another halal eatery, very near to Nakamise street, ordering Nishoku don set i.e. chicken with rice, vegetable, miso soup and green tea (JPY 1200). Sekai cafe also sells halal foodstuff such as ramen and chocolates.

Sumida river - on the left is Tokyo Skytree, on the right, Asahi beer HQ

the water bus can go to Odaiba

hello there

Sekai halal cafe

Nishoku don (JPY 1200)
halal ramen at Sekai

halal Samurai ramen at Sekai

After replenishing, we decided to take the Metro Ginza line to Ueno (3 stations away from Asakusa, JPY 170 per way) to stroll along the Ueno Park. It is a popular spot for hanami (sakura viewing picnic) during the sakura season. No more sakuras though at the end of May. There is also the Ueno Zoo here which Partner In Crime wanted to go, but since it was already 3.30pm then, we only had 30 minutes before last admission at 4pm and exhibit ends at 4.30pm. So we decided not to go. There is a pretty shrine nearby- Toshogu shrine, built in 1616. It has the Torii gates at the entrance, although not as many as the Fushimi Inari in Kyoto. We also wanted to go to the Shinobazu pond, but it was covered by water lilies, the pond wasn't really visible.

Metro Ginza line

Ueno Park

Ueno Park

Ueno Zoo

Toshogu shrine

Toshogu shrine

Torii gates at Toshogu shrine

From Ueno, we went back to Asakusa to check in our hotel. On the way to the hotel, we passed by Hannayashiki-dori street again to find the elusive halal Naratiya ramen. To our delight, it was there! We didn't see the shop earlier as it was closed for Friday prayers, and only opened at 3pm. So we decided to have dinner there. After refreshing ourselves, we walked back to Naratiya and ordered rice with wagyu beef small (JPY 1000) and ramen (JPY 700). The owner of the eatery is of Indian descent, so the taste isn't really authentic Japanese. There is a space for prayer with ablution facility available here.

Hannayashiki-dori street

Naratiya halal eatery

rice with wagyu beef


After dinner, we walked back to the Sennoji temple to take pictures of the night illumination. From there, we went to the Sumida river again for an evening stroll before going back to the hotel to retire. Tomorrow will be an early start to Fuji Kawaguchiko.

Sensoji temple illuminated

Sensoji temple at night

Kaminarimon gate illuminated

Five Storey pagoda at night

deserted Nakamise street

Sumida river at night



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