A first-hand account of Joseph, our Cruise & Stay Expert’s, trip to Tokyo
Japan – the Land of the Rising Sun – is a place shrouded in mystery and intrigue, and one I’ve wished to travel to for at least five years.
The day finally came when I would depart rainy Heathrow for my bucket list adventure, and I think it’s the understatement of the century when I say I was very prepared for this trip. I’d charted my course and looked up every conceivable detail. I would start my trip in Tokyo before embarking on the bullet train to Hiroshima, Osaka and Kyoto, before returning home.
I was staying in the heart of Tokyo, in the ward of Shibuya. Famous for its scramble crossing where hundreds (if not thousands) of people cross the road at the same time. Shibuya is the social hub of Tokyo, with many locals using the area as a common meeting spot in the city.
Having arrived at my hotel, I decided that it was time to venture out into the largest city in the world. I first wanted to see Tokyo from above. In the part of the Shibuya Stream complex I was staying in, there was an observation experience called Shibuya Sky, a 360-degree open-air observation deck. Being able to look out at the vast city below was incredible.
The best way I can describe the centre of Shibuya is it’s like Times Square, with its array of bright billboards and an energetic atmosphere. There’s so much to see and do in this one area of Tokyo.
The next day, I headed to a digital art museum called Team Labs Planets. In all honesty, I did think this would be gimmicky, but Instagram had convinced me to book the experience. I was so blown away by what I saw next. The art installation rooms were all different sensory moments; in one, I had to take my shoes off and walk through the water as koi fish and cherry blossoms were projected onto the water. Another room had thousands of real, hanging orchids moving as you walked past. This really was one of the highlights of Tokyo and I would recommend it to everyone visiting this incredible city.
I spent the rest of the day near Tokyo Sky Tree. Standing at 2,080 feet tall, Tokyo Sky Tree is one of the tallest towers in the world. World-class shopping and eateries lined the base of the tower, so I had plenty to do before making my ascent. You can probably sense by now that I love going up super tall buildings and seeing the city from above!
My third day in Tokyo was spent leaving the city in pursuit of the elusive Mount Fuji. The volcano is covered in clouds most of the time, and I was told multiple times that seeing Mount Fuji with little to no clouds was rare. As we drove from the city through the mountains, I just had a feeling that today would be the day to see it in all its glory, and boy was I right! We arrived at Chureito Pagoda and climbed the 500 steps to see Mount Fuji with barely any clouds. This was a real ‘pinch me moment’ as the mountain is magnificent to see with your own eyes. I spent 30 minutes just staring at the mountain and in that time, the clouds moved in and covered the view.
I then visited Lake Kawaguchi for lunch and moved on to a traditional Japanese village before returning to Tokyo.
The next day was all about Disney Land! I just knew before coming to Tokyo that I had to visit Disney Land as it’s considered one of the best theme parks in the world. I won’t bore you readers who are not interested in Disney with all the details, but what I will say is the cast members, service and rides left my jaw on the floor with how amazing they were.
I woke up bright and early to start another day in Tokyo. First on the agenda was shopping and there was only one place to go: Ginza. This is a renowned shopping district full of flagship stores from all the big-name brands. I try to forget about this part of the trip as major damage was done to my credit card!
After a quick trip back to my hotel to drop off my shopping bags, I pushed forwards to Akihabara, the electronics and gaming centre of Tokyo. Small shops full of vintage Nintendo’s were next to towering skyscrapers selling the latest technology, and massive gaming arcades were full of all different people playing their favourite games.
I ended the day in Asakusa, an older area of Tokyo that’s home to the famous Sensō-ji temple. Traditional craft shops and food stalls surround the temple, as well as a vibrant waterfront. Sensō-ji temple is Tokyo’s oldest and most popular temple; it’s such an impressive structure and it’s amazing to be surrounded by new buildings but then step into a temple that’s so old.
A quick side note about cherry blossom before I tell you about my final, full day on my Tokyo holiday package. The blossoms are on most streets that I came across. There are specific areas you can visit to see a lot of trees. Cherry blossom season, whilst being a big deal with tourism, is also a massive deal to the locals, as food stops offer cherry blossom-themed items and festivals take place. There’s even a special section of the news, almost like a weather report for the blossoms. This time of year in Japan is very special; you can feel the excitement building as trees bloom.
My final day in Tokyo had arrived and it just so happened to be full bloom day. I started by going to a popular spot called Meguro River. The cherry blossom trees line the river with lanterns between the trees. When the wind blows, the petals fall into the river and create a blanket of pink and white – it’s such a beautiful area to visit with little cafés along the river.
My next stop in pursuit of the blossoms led me to Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden. All the locals were having picnics under the trees, so I figured “when in Rome” and joined in. A quick stop to the nearest convenience store and I was set up for an afternoon of daydreaming under the blossoms. A few hours passed by and I thought it might be time to move on but the blossoms are just so enchanting that I stayed until sunset.
I spent the evening in Shinjuku, in what is a bizarre mixture of business and pleasure. The district is split down the middle by the train station. One side has hotels and offices, the other has shopping, bars, and entertainment. Most of the guests we book through Bolsover Cruise Club stay in the Shinjuku area, so I made a point to check out the hotels. The hotels are in a quieter area so no issues with the nightlife on the other side of Shinjuku. I had a little bit of envy as I walked past the hotels, as they all looked fabulous.
As I departed Tokyo to continue my journey across Japan, I was left with the impression that I had just visited one of the world’s most magnificent cities. The exceptional combination of people, food, transportation, and sightseeing – along with the exquisite cherry blossoms in full bloom – truly made this trip a truly once-in-a-lifetime experience.
VIEW OUR EXCLUSIVE CRUISE & STAY PACKAGE: CHASING THE CHERRY BLOSSOM >