After our two days exploring in Kyoto it was time to head back towards Tokyo. Jane lives in Saitama, so that became our home base for the next couple of days. I liked getting to see Saitama because it did not have either the touristy focus of Kyoto nor the big city feel of Tokyo.
In Saitama, Jane took me to the Omiya Bonsai museum. Sadly, I wasn’t able to take pictures of all of the trees (like a super cool bonsai shaped like a dragon!) so I will leave you with this adorable fruit true.
Shopping and Karaoke
After the Bonsai Museum, we did some shopping and I was able to get a bunch of souvenirs at the ¥100 store (the equivalent to a dollar store here in the U.S.). They actually had pretty decent stuff!
We met up with one of Jane’s friends for dinner and then I got to experience Japanese Karaoke! What I liked about doing Karaoke in Japan was that the three of us had our own private room so I didn’t have to worry about looking foolish in front of a bunch of strangers.
We mixed it up with some pop songs (that I could only half-remember how to sing), some Disney, and some Japanese songs (I left those to Jane and her friend). By that time of the trip, Jane and I had discovered a mutual love of Hamilton and had been quoting it everywhere we went. Jane pulled up the soundtrack and lyrics on her phone and we were able to fake-karaoke to it by holding her phone up to one of the mics.
The museum included a lot of replicas- both miniature replicas like the one pictured above, and life-size replicas of the Edo Bridge, a Kabuki theater. Sadly, the only replica we could go inside was the one of a traditional Japanese home (from the 1800s or early 1900s).
Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building (Tocho)
The next thing on our list for Tokyo sight-seeing was the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building (Tocho for short). We took the elevator to the observatory of one of the towers where we were able to get a birds-eye view of Tokyo.
The observatory of the building was… interesting. At the center was a souvenir shop that looked like a mix between a children’s museum gift-shop and Toys-R-Us. There were a lot of Sailor Moon and Pokemon toys/ memorabilia. It was extremely touristy. There was a nice looking cafe at one end of the observation deck. Jane and I got very excited when we saw a sign for Afternoon Tea (like English/French Afternoon Tea with cakes and everything). Sadly we had missed that by just 30 minutes.
The views from the Tocho were amazing and definitely made up for the tourist-trap feel of the observation deck. It’s also free, unlike the Willis Tower in Chicago.
Final Day in Japan: Tsuki Shrine
I still have one more post to write, dedicated entirely to the food I ate while in Japan, but I wanted to wrap up this series of posts with some closing thoughts.
My time in Japan was absolutely wonderful. I loved experiencing a culture that is so different than the one I am used to. I have always been interested in Japan’s history so it was fantastic to get to see Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples in person. I am also grateful that Jane allowed me to visit her and showed me around. She really did all of the planning and navigating. It was actually strange (in a good way) not to be the one in charge of the trip itinerary for once. I also feel like I got just a little closer to seeing the “authentic” Japan rather than just the tourist version thanks to Jane’s knowledge and the fact that she has lived there for a few years.
I don’t know when, but I will definitely go back to Japan some day. There’s still so much to see and I can’t wait to explore more of the country!