Earlier this month was Golden Week in Japan. For those of you who doesn’t know what Golden Week is, it’s a public holiday that spans about 4-5 days. It was a break from school and a chance to travel and explore a bit more of Japan. However, it was fairly unexpected for many of us. We just arrived in Japan and began school only to take a break. Many of my fellow classmates decided to go to Kyoto and Osaka for the break. I didn’t have the mental preparation to do such a trip and so decided to stay in Tokyo with some of my other friends.
My first day of break (May 3) was spent in Shin Okubu and Ueno. Shin Okubu is Tokyo’s Korean Town. It was a switch of scenery and food, which was really great. Afterwards I spent the afternoon in Ueno Park. Ueno Park is comparable to my hometown’s park, NYC’s Central Park. Ueno Park had many museums, zoo, theater, shrines, and pop up shops. There is always many people there, tourist and locals a like. I decided to go into Tokyo’s National Museum. Tickets for many of these places are fairly cheap, costing around 600 yen, or if you’re a student a free ticket to some museums. In the National Museum, many artworks and artifacts of Japanese history was on displayed. It was an educational experience to learn the history of Japan. Coming to Japan, the only history I knew was WWII and some pop culture phenomena. I learned a lot about indigenousness Ainu people of the north and their life style. I didn’t know how diverse areas of Japan would be, since it’s a much smaller country than the US.
Thursday, I spent the day with my host family. They thought it would be a good adventure to bring me to Kamakura. They were a bit hesitant because of Golden Week traffic but ultimately decided to go anyways. Golden Week traffic is not a joke. Japan is already flooded with tourist 24/7 of the week, but Golden Week allowed many Japanese family to come to these areas as well. It took about 3 hours to drive there which typically taking the train would be about an hour and a half. In Kamakura, I went to Ugafuku Shrine. It’s a well known place for locals to come and wash their money in the purified water. It’s believed that washing money with the shrine’s water would bring about future fortunes. For dinner we drove to a nearby island called Enoshima. Enoshima is known for its Shi Ra Su (White bait) rice bowls. We waited for a seat in a restaurant for more than 2 hours. I got a normal Su Ra Shi, while my host brother and host dad ordered a tempura style rice bowl.
Friday, I went back to Kamakura to go to the beaches and play some beach volleyball with some friends. I spent all day in the sun, and by the end was fried to a crisp. I never realized how popular surfing was in Japan either. Many older adults and kids were surfing.
Saturday, I went to an onsen, Japanese hot spring, with a friend. Traditionally in onsens, one is suppose to be all nude, but because I was not comfortable with that idea, I found one that allowed bathing suits as well. Although I don’t really like hot springs I felt it to be necessary to at least try it in Japan. It was actually a better experience than I thought it would be. We were given a Japanese style robe to change into and found our way to the outdoor hot springs. There were multiple springs ranging from different temperatures and architectures. This is meant to maximize the level of comfort. It was a family friendly activity as kids of all ages were brought there and taught how to relax. The onsen also had open areas with futons that allowed people to nap, to eat, and catch up on reading. People spend almost the whole day in an onsen because its not just sitting in the hot spring that’s part of relaxing. It’s a process, you need to soak in the hot spring for a while, then rest up either eating, or lounging in the futons and then go back to the hot springs. It’s a whole process of relaxation and not just a single event when going to the onsen. After the onsen, I went to Odaiba. Odaiba is a man made island that was famous for it’s giant Gundam figure but has been removed only recently. However, there was still much to do in Odaiba. It so happened that there was many events being hold such as Cinco De Mayo celebration and a Hula dance demonstration. It was a nice way to end the day by walking along the seashore and viewing the Tokyo Skyline.
Sunday, was the last day of the break and it was a day of rest. In the morning I went to Tsukiji fish market. However, because I went around 12pm many of the shops were already closing. Tsukiji is known for it’s early morning tuna auctions but is limited to the amount of visitors. There are many shops and food stands that a seafood enthusiast would love. I decided to eat a raw oyster and some squid jerky. A walked around for about one more hour and called it a day and headed home to prepare for school the next day.
Although I didn’t go to Kyoto and Osaka for Golden Week , I was able to explore many parts of Tokyo that I wouldn’t have found if I did not stay. There’s always something to do in Tokyo even when you think you’ve done it all.
A shopping district in Enoshima island. Some popular products when looking around was mango ice cream as well as Shi Ra Su (white bait).
The skyline view of Tokyo from Odaiba. That is the Rainbow Bridge.
A Shi Ra Su (white bait) rice bowl! It was Oishi and such a large portion.
A picture taken on Enoshima island looking over Kamakura.
My friends Axel and I in Odaiba near Diver City, a mall.
Me with a towel tied behind my head waiting for lunch at the onsen! Getting out of the hot spring my appetite was huge!