Saturday, January 28, 2017

Tokyo 2016 - Part II pink swans and skyscrapers.

Our third day started out with a very relaxing morning in Ueno park a park surrounded by towers, immediately reminding us of New Yorks Central Park albeit on a smaller scale. Our approach into the park was met with a sea of brown 'reeds' that really seemed quite off putting. Surely the super clean Tokyoites wouldn't tolerate such a messy lake. We quickly realised however that this wasn't a lake full of scruffy reeds but actually a huge lotus pond associated with the temple located in the centre of this section of the park. This must look stunning in the summer time.

Heading round the park the larger body of water was home to a floating armada of pink swans (and blue, yellow, green etc), how could we resist!

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Tokyo 2017 - Part I towers, temples and neon!

After two flights, the first for three hours followed by a nine hour flight from Helsinki, we were somewhat relieved to see all the airport signs were in English. We were both amazed at just how smooth everything ran, disembarkment, immigration and baggage reclaim all dealt with in 20 minutes or so. If only that happened back home!

First task finding and buying train tickets into Tokyo, we had flown into Narita airport which is further out than Hanira(Check spelling) and a 40 minute journey into the centre of the city followed. Arriving at the hotel late morning we opted to fight the jetlag induced tiredness and set out to explore the bright lights of Ginza. 

Mount Fuji from our hotel
Stores in Ginza

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Tokyo - Mega City, Mega Holiday

Having just returned to the UK following a week in Tokyo I'm instilled with a sense of enthusiasm to put pen to paper or more aptly put fingers to keyboard. 

The last year or so has seen quite a reduction in the level of activity on Alternative Eden and this has been for a variety of reasons, firstly as we have alluded to before, we have both been a lot busier with work, working hard and then playing hard in our spare time meant the blog took a back seat. We have also spent a lot more time over the last year travelling, in 2015 we spent time away from the UK 10 times, something of a record for us. The garden took a slight back seat to a shift in lifestyle although that didn't prevent several projects and multiple plant buying escapades.

We had several conversations about what to do with the blog, should we just accept it had come to the end of its life as blogs frequently do, perhaps just blog occasionally or maybe allow the blog to change direction slightly and follow our lives and activities whatever they may be and wherever that takes us.

After some deliberation and another long spell without an update we opted to expand the focus of Alternative Eden and follow our lives, with that in mind I come back to the focus of this post - Tokyo.

January isn't the typical time of year to plan for a holiday, certainly not something beyond a weekend away. Christmas has just been and full of resolutions to reign in spending or cut back following a period of excess many opt for periods in the gym or otherwise. However we had wanted to visit Tokyo for some time, our interest aroused by keeping koi, the gardening styles and delights that Japan is famous for, and also a fascination with travel to the 'exotic' and unusual.

With all this in mind we planned last year for a January pick me up, an immediate antidote to best intentions and new year resolutions. Neither of us had been to Japan before so this was going to be a one week whirlwind to pack in as much as we possibly could.

The first major decision was on where to stay, we spent some time (we means Mark!) exploring the pros and cons of various areas, I was drawn to a hotel in Shinjuku with a giant Godzilla on the roof garden whereas Mark was attracted by the idea of staying in Ginza one of Tokyos upmarket shopping districts. 

With Mark allowing me to make the final decision I was swayed by the Ginza option due to the hotel being on the 16th to 27th floors of a modern tower with views towards Mount Fuji, Tokyo Tower and various other skyscrapers. The Mitsui Garden Hotel became our home for a week, and this proved to be a fantastic decision. 
Our Hotel at night - Mitsui Garden Hotel
Tokyo Tower -  taken from the hotel lobby
The hotel itself was well located, close to Shimbashi metro station, an easy walk with suitcases on our first day, plenty of restaurants in the area and also relatively quiet. We went to see the Godzilla tower and the area was heaving with people.

View from our room
Tokyo despite its population doesn't seem to suffer in the central areas from traffic problems. I don't know if this is due to the standard of the mass transit (excellent in our experience), cost of car ownership or political policy. Perhaps a combination of all three.


The reputation we had heard before was that Tokyo was a difficult city to visit for a western tourist but nothing could be further from the truth. All transport we used was signed in both Japanese and English, train announcements were in duel languages. Hotel staff all spoke perfect English as did most people in restaurants - or certainly enough to help us get by one. Restaurants proudly boasted menus in English - although many had pictures even if you were ordering from a local menu.

Over the next few days we'll share more details of what kept us busy.

Looking back as I am now, I can't believe just how much we packed in, and if you stick with us over the next few days we'll share our journey.