Travel Notes – Tokyo & Hokkaido, Japan

Tuesday, December 26th, 2006

The decision to choose Japan as our winter holiday destination came almost instantly. The kids have been nagging me to take them to Disneyland in Hong Kong and I for one, was not too keen on going there. I certainly wasn’t going to go to the US, not with the way the US airports treat Indonesian passport holders. So, Japan it was. Besides, my sister and her friends were also going to be there so we teamed up with a cousin who happens to live in Tokyo to plan a perfect winter getaway. Our main destination was Tokyo, with the kids wanting to go to Disneyland and Disneysea.

Tokyo is indeed a city of lights and I never even once saw her doze off to sleep during our stay there. The food was heavenly delectable and a stroll in Asakusa on our last day was just filled with food galore as we stopped at every stall and bought traditional Japanese snacks to indulge our taste buds. Ueno was a heaven for shoppers and the scenery in Odaiba was just breathtakingly beautiful. The kids ate onigiri in the streets of Ginza after a gentle evening drizzle and we had mugs of hot steaming chocolate in Shinjuku at the end of our first evening in Tokyo. The trees in Roppongi were sparkling with white and blue lights during this festive season and we took pictures of ourselves with Tokyo Tower as the backdrop.

We strolled through the Imperial Palace gardens and for a moment thought that it was autumn in Japan instead of winter. Abang and Dede had a blast at the Sony Building where they tried all sorts of Sony’s newest technology and they befriended an old man selling yakitori near the Ushigome Yanagicho subway station who they call Grandpa Yakitori. This old man kept giving them bonus sticks each time the kids went there for his delicious grilled chicken on skewers.

And since they wanted to see snow as well, a few days in Hokkaido in Northern Japan was also added to our itinerary. The island is famous for its beautiful scenery in all four seasons and at the time we were there, it was minus -18°C! We stayed in Niseko in the western part of Hokkaido and it was an experience we’ll cherish our whole lives. We bottled mountain water from a natural spring in front of our hotel in the mornings, played with snow in the afternoons and soaked our tired bodies in the hot onsens at night before sitting down to delicious traditional Japanese dinners in our kimonos.

But apart from the magical time we had in Hokkaido, Disneyland and Disneysea, probably one of the highest point of our winter adventure was a visit to the Ghibli Museum in Mitaka. If you’re a big fan of Hayao Miyazaki, like the children and I, you’d be squealing with delight, too, once you enter its gates! Here, I managed to get DVDs of Kiki’s Delivery Service and My Neighbour Totoro which I’ve been looking for since ages ago. Too bad we weren’t allowed to take pictures inside the museum since I really wanted to take a picture of Miyazaki’s desk, filled with his sketches, pencils and crayons along with his coffee mug and unfinished snacks. But the kids did get to play in the giant cat-bus and we saw a short movie in the Saturn Theatre inside the museum. I’m now using my museum ticket as a bookmark. Click here for an illustrated guide to the museum and here to see how to buy tickets from overseas. Anyway, that’s all for now.

Pictures will follow soon. I’m still compiling the 700 something frozen moments I captured with my camera.

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