Another season, another reason to visit Japan

 

It was nice to be back. After chasing the blooms of the cherry blossoms from Odawara to Yokohama to Tokyo, enjoying hanami under the powdery pink and white clouds sipping sake a year before, I was back in the Land of the Rising Sun to witness different hues this time, that of red, orange and gold of autumn.

Was I too early? Maybe. But temperature was dropping somewhere and foliage was donning its new colors. If I chased flowers before, let me chase the leaves this time.

 

Autumn in Karuizawa
Chasing Autumn. An unplanned trip to Karuizawa to catch the gold and red of the season

 

With the seven-day JR Pass, pursuing the goal won’t be a problem. I can hop on and off the shinkansen at any time to get to my desired destinations in no time. The more you ride, the better the deal you get off the pass. So I listed never-been-to places: Kyoto, Nara, Osaka and wherever the bullet train can take me in the seven days the pass allowed. Exciting.

 

Shinkansen train tickets
The plan? Kyoto is on top of the list, and wherever the shinkansen will take me with my ride-all-you-can JR pass.

 

In the Kansai region, Kyoto was the home base and hotel arrangements were made in advance—two nights at New Ginkaku Inn, conveniently located by the Kyoto Station (thanks to Takakazu Machinda and Hello World Tours* for arrangement) and another two nights in a capsule hotel (finally, this Japanese experience), First Kyoto Cabin Hotel Kurasama, booked via Agoda.

 

First Cabin caspsule hotel in Kyoto
Booked a capsule hotel in Kyoto! Always wanted to try this Japanese accommodation.

 

But first, a couple of days in Tokyo for a “refresher” and see new spots were in order before embarking on a new Japanese adventure.

Haneda Airport makes for a very convenient entry to Tokyo. It was a first for me and I loved the convenience it offered. It’s close proximity to the city center compared to Narita Airport, connection to a railway system and availability of other public transportations.

 

Arriving Haneda
Touch down Haneda

 

Haneda Airport bus ticket counter
The bus ticket counter at the arrival hall of the Haneda airport

 

Keikyu Line train ticket counter at Haneda Airport
Buy your train Keikyu Line ticket here. Mind the receptionists’ outfits.

 

Keikyu Line and Haneda Airport
The Keikyu tain line is connected to the Haneda AIrport.

 

Keikyu line train platform
Where’s the train? Waiting for my ride to Shinagawa.

 

A couple of stops away by express train is the Shinagawa station, a major railway station operated by the JR East. This was my take off point to wherever the Tokaido Shinkansen will take me. Very convenient the station is nearby my home base for the trip. Adopting me were John and Mitos Soria, whom I met on the previous trip and celebrated hanami with.

 

Train station in Shinagawa
One busy train station in Shinagawa

 

Hosts in Japan
Adopted by this lovely family in Japan, Mitos, John & Bernice

 

Not wasting time, I took on Mitos’ offer a quick tour around their neighborhood.

Shinagawa’s history is quite interesting, so it its present. It’s a post town, a role it took during the Edo period and retaining the role today. The ward is also home to ten embassies and the greatest concentration of hotel accommodations in Tokyo.

 

View of Shinagawa
Shinagawa was home base this time. A view of the modern neighborhood from my host’s balcony

 

First stop was the Shinagawa Shrine, a Shinto Shrine established in 1187 by Minamoto Yoritomo. Enshrined here is Daikokuten (god of food).

 

Temple at Shinagawa
But first, a tour of the Shinagawa neighborhood. Shinagawa Temple at dusk.

 

Across the shrine is the lane leading to the famed Tokaido Road.

The place was a surprise. I like how the old architecture blends with the new. Age-old shops still run by families, quaint restaurants, and residences occupy the low-rise structures.

 

Former Tokaido Road in Shinagawa
A charming surprise. Amidst the modernity of Shinagawa is the quaint former Tokaido Road.

 

It took about a couple of hours to complete the neighborhood tour and when we got home, it was time for some Japanese hot soup loaded with fresh veggies.

*Hello World Tour Inc. is at PNJK Compound, Angliongto Ave., Lanang. 305-6355. Good Japanese contact for your Japan tours.

 

Email me at jinggoysalvador@yahoo.com. For more lifestyle & travel stories, visit www.ofapplesandlemons.com & www.jeepneyjinggoy.com

Also published in SunStar Davao newspaper.

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