In June 2017, we made a 5-day trip to Tokyo for a short getaway. Last time, we spent most of the time in the bustling capital, with only a full day excursion to visit the World Heritage temples and Alpine scenery of Nikko. A year had passed. In late May 2018, we embarked on another Japanese journey to explore parts of Chubu Region (中部地方), the central region of Honshu (本州) between Kantō Region (関東地方) and Kansai Region (関西地方). The journey took us to the Prefecture of Nagano (長野県), Gifu (岐阜県), Toyama (富山県), and Ishikawa (石川県). We picked Kamikochi (上高地), a picturesque hiker’s hub in the Japanese Alps, and the charming city of Kanazawa (金沢) as main destinations, stopping by Matsumoto (松本), Shirahone Onsen (白骨温泉), Takayama (高山), Shirakawago (白川郷) and Gokayama (五箇山) along the way. We planned for five days in the city and five in the countryside, aiming for a balance between cosmopolitan and nature fascinations. It turned out to be a delightful and diverse experience with mouth-watering seafood, refreshing Alpine hiking, invigorating hot-springs, romantic Gassho-style villages, cozy morning markets, and a magical floating lantern festival.
Once again, our journey began in an early morning in Tokyo (東京), after our red-eye flight landed at Haneda International Airport (羽田空港) a little after 6am. At the airport, we first went to pick up our railway tickets and seat reservations at the JR office. It was convenient to make online reservations to ensure seat availability on trains of our desired schedule, but that didn’t save us from queuing for an hour before we reached the JR counter and finalized our purchases. We then braved the rush hour taking the Tokyo Monorail to Hamamatsuchō (浜松町駅), and switched to the JR Yamanote Line (山手線) to Shinjuku to drop off our backpacks at the hotel. After all the sweat of moving through the jammed platforms, cramped train cars and busy streets of Shinjuku (新宿) with our backpacks, time was perfect for a hearty breakfast to kick start our first day. We decided to take the Marunouchi Metro Line to revisit Tsukiji Market (築地市場), the legendary fish market that was about to be relocated later this year.
Our journey took us from Tokyo (東京) to parts of the Chubu Region (中部地方), staying overnight at Kamikochi (上高地), Shirahone Onsen (白骨温泉), Takayama (高山), Gokayama (五箇山), and Kanazawa (金沢), and passed by Matsumoto (松本) and Shirakawago (白川郷) along the way.
Our plane flew over the iconic Mount Fuji (富士山) before landing at Haneda International Airport of Tokyo.
We hopped on the Tokyo Monorail from Haneda Airport to Hamamatsuchō (浜松町駅). The train was soon packed with morning commuters after a few stops.
We arrived at the packed Hamamatsuchō Station (浜松町駅) and switched to JR’s Yamanote Line (山手線) heading for Shinjuku (新宿).
It was such a relief after dropping off our backpacks at the hotel in Shinjuku (新宿) and ventured out to Tsukiji Market (築地市場) for a seafood breakfast.
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CHUBU (中部地方) 2018, Japan, 2018.05.25 – 06.03
Day 1: Tokyo (東京)
1.1 TSUKIJI OUTER MARKET (築地場外市場)
1.2 TSUKIJI INNER MARKET (築地中央卸売市場)
1.3 MORI ART MUSEUM (森美術館), 21_21 DESIGN SIGHT & CAFE KITSUNE
Day 2: Matsumoto (松本)& Kamikochi (上高地)
2.1 MATSUMOTO CASTLE (松本城), Matsumoto (松本)
2.2 “ALL ABOUT MY LOVE”, Yayoi Kusama’s Exhibition at Matsumoto City Museum of Art (松本市美術館), Matsumoto (松本)
2.3 MATSUMOTO PERFORMING ARTS CENTER (まつもと市民芸術館), Matsumoto (松本)
2.4 FROM MATSUMOTO (松本) TO KAMIKOCHI (上高地)
2.5 ARRIVAL IN KAMIKOCHI (上高地), Chūbu-Sangaku National Park (中部山岳国立公園)
Day 3: Kamikochi (上高地)
3.1 MORNING WALK IN KAMIKOCHI (上高地), Nagano Prefecture (長野県)
3.2 DAKESAWA HIKE (岳沢), Kamikochi (上高地)
Day 4: Kamikochi (上高地) & Shirahone Onsen (白骨温泉)
4.1 TAISHO POND (大正池), Kamikochi (上高地)
4.2 RETREAT IN THE JAPANESE ALPS, Shirahone Onsen (白骨温泉)
4.3 MOMENTS OF ESCAPE, Tsuruya Ryokan (つるや旅館), Shirahone Onsen (白骨温泉)
Day 5: Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.1 CITY IN THE MOUNTAINS, Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.2 HIDA BEEF (飛騨牛), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.3 SAKE (日本酒) BREWERIES, Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.4 YOSHIJIMA HOUSE (吉島家住宅), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.5 HIGASHIYAMA WALKING COURSE (東山遊歩道), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
Day 6: Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山), Shirakawa-go (白川郷) & Ainokura (相倉)
6.1 MIYAGAWA MORNING MARKET (宮川朝市), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山), Gifu Prefecture (岐阜県)
6.2 OGIMACHI IN THE RAIN, Shirakawa-go (白川郷), Gifu Prefecture (岐阜県)
6.3 SOBA, TEMPLE & LOOKOUT, Shirakawa-go (白川郷)
6.4 RAINY AFTERNOON IN AINOKURA (相倉), Gokayama (五箇山)
6.5 GASSHO MINSHUKU, FLOWER BEDS & RICE PADDY FIELDS, Ainokura (相倉), Gokayama (五箇山)
6.6 CROAKING FROGS AND MOONLIGHT REFLECTIONS, Gokayama (五箇山)
Day 7: Kanazawa (金沢)
7.1 DEPARTURE IN THE RAIN, Ainokura (相倉) to Kanazawa (金沢)
7.2 A SEAFOOD PARADISE – OMICHO MARKET (近江町市場)
7.3 D T Suzuki Museum (鈴木大拙館)
7.4 Kenroku-en Garden (兼六園)
7.5 Oyama Shrine (尾山神社) and Nagamachi Samurai District (長町)
7.6 Nomura Samurai House (武家屋敷跡 野村家), Nagamachi Samurai District (長町)
7.7 Sushi Ippei (一平鮨), Katamachi (片町)
Day 8: Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture (金沢, 石川県)
8.1 Iki Iki Tei (いきいき亭) and Higashide Coffee (東出珈琲店), Omicho Market (近江町市場)
8.2 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art (21世紀美術館)
8.3 Kazuemachi District (主計町茶屋街)
8.4 Higashi Chaya District (東山ひがし茶屋街)
8.5 Kaga Yuzen Toro Nagashi (加賀友禅燈ろう流し), Asano River (浅野川)
8.6 AFTERMATH OF KAGA YUZEN TORO NAGASHI (加賀友禅燈ろう流し)
Day 9 & 10: Tokyo (東京)
9.1 Marunouchi (丸の内) & Nihonbashi (日本橋)
10.1 OEDO ANTIQUE MARKET (大江戸骨董市), Tokyo Forum (東京国際フォーラム)
10.2 FARMER’S MARKET, United Nations University (東京国連大学), Aoyama (青山)
There are a handful of cities around the world that I have often found reasons to revisit. In Spring 2016, my mother and I had a brief getaway trip to Tokyo (東京). We shopped, visited galleries, wandered in different neighborhoods, had a self-served grilled oyster dinner, and hopped on a bullet train to Karuizawa (軽井沢) for a day excursion. In Tokyo, we chose to stay at Shinjuku (新宿), one of the city’s major commercial, administrative and transportation hub whose railway station is renowned as the busiest station in the world with 3.64 million passengers passing through each day.
Japanese office workers have been known for their high level of work related stress. A daily routine of an office worker begins from the moment when he or she squeezes into a commuter train bounded for the city centre. After an intense day of office work in an orderly and hierarchical environment, as night falls upon a totally opposite world awaits to unwind the mental tension of office workers. It is a world of colours, neon lights, chaos and desires, presenting the perfect counterbalance for the rigid real world during the day. Shinjuku encompasses both ends on the balance: a busy administrative and commercial district by day, and the world famous red light district, shopping paradise and dining wonderland by night. For any visitor, Shinjuku serves well as a springboard to obtain an introduce about the two faces of Tokyo’s urbanity.
West Shinjuku, the commercial heart and home of Tokyo’s metropolitan government, is cool, tidy and orderly.
Design to reference a cocoon, the Mode Gakuen Cocoon Tower is a highrise educational building by Tange Associates. Tange Associates was founded by Paul Noritaka Tange, the son of Kenzo Tange (丹下健三), one of the most influential Japanese architect of the 20th Century.
The concrete tower of one of Japan’s top three insurer, Sompo Japan Nipponkoa Credit Corporation, presents the typically unsympathetic appearance of the modernist architecture in West Shinjuku.
Designed by Kenzo Tange and opened in 1991, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building (東京都庁舎) is home to the metropolitan government of Tokyo.
A series of bronze statues are erected along the colonnade flanking the civic square in front of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building (東京都庁舎).
While the towers of Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building (東京都庁舎) resemble a Gothic cathedral, the square in front reminded me of a Classical colonnade.
Many buildings in the commercial and civic centre of Shinjuku are finished with either light grey, beige or silver materials, offering a rather monotonous and coherent cityscape for visitors.
At night, much of the commercial and municipal centre of Shinjuku is deserted, except groups of young dancers who come to practice their dance moves in front of the reflective glass curtain walls.
It is a totally different story just a stone throw away at the east side of Shinjuku Station, where neon lights and large LCD billboards begin to dominate the streetscape as soon as the sun sets.
In the area of Kabukicho (歌舞伎町), narrow alleyways are lit up by all sort of neon signage and restaurant shopfronts. The streets get even more crowded as the clock clicks closer to midnight.
Entrance of the popular Sakura Dori of Kabukicho (歌舞伎町さくら通り) is decorated by a atmospheric gateway and colourful signage.
Nightclubs and restaurants are everywhere as far as the eye can see. In order to thrive in such a highly competitive entertainment district, venues sometimes would opt for some sort of creative gimmicks such as the Robot Restaurant, where real robots and humans dressed in robotic costumes would go on stage for performances.
With the mighty Godzilla head perched over the podium roof, the tall and slender Shinjuku Toho Building (新宿東宝ビル) is a visual icon on the high street of Kabukicho (歌舞伎町).
Landing on a restaurant for dinner in Kabukicho (歌舞伎町) can be tricky as there are just too many choices.
The iconic neon gateway of Kabukicho Ichibangai (歌舞伎町一番街), the “Sleepless Town” (眠らない街) of the Japanese capital, is itself an urban monument.
It wasn’t until the reconstruction after World War II that Kabukicho (歌舞伎町) has gradually became today’s “Sleepless Town” (眠らない街). The name Kabukicho (歌舞伎町) was first used in 1948, after attempts to bring a Kabuki theatre into this new entertainment area of postwar Tokyo.
Outside Kabukicho, the Yasukuni Dori (靖国通り) is an important shopping and entertainment avenue of the city.
Looking back at the gateway of Kabukicho Ichibangai (歌舞伎町一番街) from Yasukuni Dori (靖国通り), the vivid neon lights of the vibrant urban scenery has undoubtedly inspired the imagination of any visitor, as if standing in the futuristic science fiction movie set of Blade Runner.