2015 Classic Japan Autumn Tour Report
Our autumn tour started off with 3 days in Japan’s capital city, Tokyo (東京), home to 37 million people, making it the largest metropolitan area in the world.
It’s not a surprise there are endless things to do in the city, and it is also currently undergoing even more development as the host city for the future 2020 Olympic Games.
We based ourselves in the Asakusa district, famous for Tokyo’s oldest Buddhist temple, Sensoji, and near Tokyo Skytree, the second tallest building in the world. After visiting both these landmarks on the first day, we started Day 2 off at Tsukiji Market, the largest fish market in the world. It was a hive of activity inside the market with a seemingly endless variety of seafood on offer for sale.
Day 3 started off with a visit to Showa Memorial Park, where its famous ginkgo trees were at their peak autumn colours. Shichi-Go-San (七五三, Seven-Five-Three) also fell on this day (Nov. 15), a traditional rite of passage and festival day for 3 and 7-year-old girls, and 3 and 5-year-old boys. We were able to witness many families celebrating this day with their children at Meiji Shrine, all dressed beautifully in kimono, as well as several traditional Shinto wedding ceremonies, making for a colourful sight and a wonderfully rare photographic opportunity for our tour guests.
After Tokyo we made our way down to Hakone, a famous onsen (hot spring) area in Japan with views of Mt Fuji. It also has the unique distinction of requiring 5 different modes of transport to get around – train, cable car, ropeway, ship, and bus.
Hakone’s highlight in autumn is undoubtedly the Hakone Museum of Art. This museum features one of Japan’s finest gardens, featuring beautiful maple trees and moss everywhere.
Moss and maple trees, Hakone Museum of Art (箱根美術館)
Our next destination was Himeji to visit Himeji Castle. The castle reopened in March 2015 after many years of cleaning and restoration work. The result is a much cleaner and whiter exterior, reflecting its nickname of White Heron Castle (Shirasagijo).
One of only 12 original castles in the country, Himeji Castle is widely considered Japan’s most beautiful castle and has survived for over 400 years.
We visited Himeji Castle during some unseasonally rainy weather but that didn’t deter us, nor hundreds of other tourists, from checking out this amazing landmark.