Naha Airport has wonderful displays of tropical orchids dotted throughout, a nice reminder of the place you are arriving into – or leaving.
2hr 30mins flight back to Haneda Airport in Tokyo, where I was very excited to purchase a Suica card – personalised with my name! These ‘IC’ cards (SuICa, ICoca, Pasmo and others) are similar to London’s Oyster transport cards, but also allow you to make contactless payments in combinis, vending machines etc.
My home for the last few nights of the trip was the Hotel Kaminarimon in Asakusa, sadly closed for renovation until 2019. Simple hotel with traditional rooms, right next to the gateway to the shrine. Quick trip to Shinjuku for dinner, then an early night.
Breakfast at Cafe Danke in Asakusa, tiny cafe with just 4 stools at the counter. Their speciality – Butter Blend Coffee, the beans are roasted, then steeped in melted butter before grinding and brewing. Very smooth flavour but still strong. Interesting technique! Paired with a very tasty cheese on toast.
Walked through Kappabashi to pick up a sharpening stone for my knives, then on to Ueno Park. Spent a few hours in the Tokyo National Museum, impressive collections of artwork across many centuries.
Then on to Ueno-koen (Ueno Park). I’ve visited several peaceful spots so far to view cherry blossom (sakura) – this wasn’t one of them, but it was fun! Loads of sakura viewing parties (hanami), and plenty of food and drink stalls. As you can see from the photos, much drinking to be done.
Walked on to Yanaka district, an area that escaped most of the devastation caused by the Great earthquake of 1923 and the Second World War. Many fine old buildings and temples. Strolled around Yanaka-reien cemetery, visited the resting place of Tokugawa Yoshinobu, the last of the shogun – fitting, as we had visited the shrine of the first shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu in 2 years ago.
Set out after a lie in and packing. Headed over to Shinjuku to try and find a Nintendo Switch for James – alas Tokyo appears to be a Switch free zone. However there were a group of real life Mario karters riding the road…
In search of another craft beer place (sadly closed at this time on a Sunday), I came across a magnificent bronze statue of a noble beast, the Tanuki Yokai. Notable for his large… package, these tricksters are legendary in Japanese folklore.
Train back past Asakusa to the Tokyo Skytree – however as it was Sunday, and school hols, queuing would have taken a very long time. So walked back to the Sumidagawa (Sumida river) to discover many more Sakura revellers lining the banks.
There were also what I only describe as floating karaoke party boats – touring up and down to look at the trees and blossom, while belting out distinctly Japanese songs.
Then on to the Sakura-bashi (Sakura bridge) where I found a local Taiko group entertaining the crowd – very talented, including the young new recruits.
And so back to the monorail and Haneda Airport for a very late flight home. Until next time…