6. Konnichiwa Japan!
Sunday (was that only yesterday??) could not have been a more perfect day for a flight!
We had a bird's eye view of the CBD of Brisbane.
It was such a quick trip - on the plane at 11am and off again at 7pm at Narita airport Tokyo, just one hour behind us. Qantas have an excellent entertainment system with touch screens that are really intuitive - scrolling pages by swiping and good movies. I watched Gone Girl (a bit weird) and Philomena - a beautiful true-story movie starring Judy Dench, about an Irish girl who got ‘into trouble’ in the 50’s, was sent to a Sisters of Mercy nunnery and had her baby taken from her and sold for US$2000 to an American couple.
Three friendly Japanese faces were waiting for us as we walked out of customs bowing and smiling. The meet and greet went well and I knew we were in Japan as soon as we boarded the bus into town. No mobile phones thank you. A great idea really!
The Tokyo Station and what is now the hotel was built in Victorian style and completed in 1914, survived almost intact after the Great Earthquake of 1923, but was very badly damaged by bombing during World War II. It's since been sensitively restored. We were very glad to see it and were dying to drop into bed.
We konnichiwa-ed and arigato-ed our way through check-in, bowing often. A staff member handed us an envelope supposedly containing our train tickets for the entire trip, and a couple of metro cards able to be used all over Japan. Unfortunately someone had handed our envelope to another hotel visitor. Our huge envelope contained one lonely card.
This is the view of the dome from our room. The to-ing and fro-ing about the envelope went on until nearly midnight. I must have dropped off finally at about 1am.
We bolted out of bed at 5am as we wanted to beat the crowds to see sakura at Chidori-ga-fuchi, part of a cherry-tree-lined moat area around the Imperial Palace. That and the fact that we didn't want to be too late for breakfast!
It was about 12 degrees outside, just beautifully bracing and there were plenty of Japanese joggers on the footpaths, mostly in black shorts and leggings.
Using the app City-mapper (although we could have just followed our noses) we took about 40 minutes to arrive.
We decided to do the full circuit around the palace moats. All the bridges over to the Imperial Palace were still closed.
It's a lovely walk, with seats, sculptures, and playgrounds along the way.
What a glorious day. Weren't we so lucky?
A carpet of petals covered the ground.
If I could do this, I'd probably show off in public too. He held it until we were out of sight.
By now one of the gates was open, but our stomachs were saying help!
This hessian wrapping was to protect a new cherry tree, lovingly wrapped and string. Would you call that takumi?
We were back at the hotel by 8am, at the 4th floor atrium restaurant by about 8.03.
It was probably the most spectacular breakfast we've ever been to, and close to one of the most delicious. Don't ask. You know I just can't do sashimi!
This was super good!
And this chicken and sesame..... out of this world!
I know, tempura for breakfast? Tut tut.
And dessert too?
The pink and green had the most fantastic consistency - sort of like jelly, but stretchy, and rubbery and well just quite amazing!
This was pickled aloe in syrup. Wonderful!
I tried a little of many things.
Including a petite waffle, with maple syrup and specially fetched cream from the kitchen. The lavender concoction was I think chestnut with the same stretchy casing. (Like my chef talk?)
This was the waffle chef. I liked him very much, specially after he made sure I had cream too.
I didn't want to be greedy, so I left the salmon roe for others. Isn't it pretty?
A small deputation of two uniformed staff approached our breakfast table with a large envelope. The missing tickets! Hurray….
Great hallways at the hotel! You could play cricket in them! We only had time after breakfast for a shower and repack before it was time to go to the train station of which the hotel is part.
Part of the facade of the railway station.
And one of the domes. It seemed strange to have a room overlooking part of a public space.
We had to change trains at Nagoya on our way to Takayama, so we each had a master ticket, a ticket for Tokyo-Nagoya, and a ticket Nagoya-Takayama. At the first barrier we had to put in the master ticket and the ticket to Nagoya, at the same time. Both were spat out at the other end at the same time. On our trip from Nagoya to Takayama, we had to put all three tickets in the pass-through turnstile, and all three were spat out. Lesson: never throw out a ticket in Japan until the journey is absolutely OVER.
We bought a bento box at the station for our trip - dumplings, battered pork, fried rice.
You'd wonder that we could eat at all!
This is me standing on the platform waiting to climb into carriage 9.
Although it was a dull grey day, Mt Fuji brightened up the scene when we were about 45 minutes from Tokyo. Make sure you reserve a seat on the right hand side of the carriage!
Looked like a business trip.
Takayama is a small highland city (population approx 90 thousand) in the middle of the Japanese Alps. Our train trip crossed a plain first, and then wound its way up through deep ravines with fast flowing cataracts dammed and harnessed for hydro-electricity.
There were flowering trees everywhere, even dotted all over the sides of the steep mountains among the forest trees.