Celebrating Golden Week (part 1)

First off, I want to welcome and thank my new blog followers! It’s nice to share my story with friends and family, but it’s also exciting to share it with new people.

And until I am final up-to-date with my blogs and my current time, I will try to write some sort of disclaimer about writing a post late and trying to be more consistent with my entries…therefore…DISCLAIMER!!! ( what I just said…)

Obviously when you think of holidays and countries, most people recognize that there are some that probably are unique to one country and others that are celebrated everywhere. In previous posts I wrote about celebrating the big American holidays in Japan and how I coped with being away from my family. (If you want to read them, click on these links:)

In Japan, one of the biggest holiday season is Golden Week. It is technically only 4 days, but some people get the early part of the week off, thus Golden “Week.” During the end of April-beginning of May, many people living in Japan travel and celebrate this lengthy time off from school and work. Although I’ve asked multiple Japanese people, I never really got an explanation for the reason of Golden Week. But who doesn’t like having vacation days?

One pretty obvious thing about traveling during big holidays is to try to book tickets in advance due to increased prices and limited availability on times and types of transportation. Luckily I found out about my days off and schedule, so I was able to make most of this long weekend! Due to this big holiday season, I knew (and heard) that ticket prices on the bullet train (the Shinkansen) would be extremely high. One way from Nagoya to Tokyo was around 8,000 yen, which roughly converts to about $80. Therefore, I took a different route: overnight bus! I heard a lot of good things about Willer Express, so I booked a roundtrip, overnight bus ride from Nagoya to Yokohama and vice versa. The bus left at 10 pm and arrived at 6am the following day. For my ride to Yokohama, I was able to book a “Ladies Only” bus, which was very nice, the seats were super comfortable, and I had a lot of space and privacy. We took a couple stops along the way to pick up passengers and take rest stops.

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I am lucky enough to have my college roommate and great friend, Mihi, living in Yokohama. She mustered up a lot of energy and met me at the station closest to my bus stop at 6 am! (What a trooper!) It took us a little while to decide our route for the day, but luckily we chose to go up to Tokyo and check out Tokyo Skytree first.

TOKYO SKYTREE

Once you arrive in the building, you wait in this long line for what seems like an eternity. Because they must control the amount of people going in and up the building, lines are formed in increments of time. We were lucky enough to make it to the first line and one of the last in it. Then you get to the ticket counter and pay to reach the first lookout/observation deck. It’s a 360 degree view overlooking Tokyo. It’s such a crazy sight to see and blows your mind at how endless the buildings and reaches of the city extend to. Like most Japanese main attractions, there are little souvenir shops and a cafe, with over priced items, of course. If you decide to pay an exta fee, you can then take the 2nd elevator up to the highest deck and see more of the city, which is 450 meters up.

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And of course, when we left to head toward our next destination, we wanted to take pictures with the whole building in the background πŸ™‚

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After walking for about 15 minutes, we made our way to our next destination: γ›γ‚“γγ†γ˜ (Sensoji–Asakusa Kannon Temple).

SENSOJI

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This Buddhist temple is the oldest temple in Tokyo. Situated in the Asakusa region of this bustling city, Sensoji has become a very popular and iconic destination for travelers from all over the world. After bulldozing through vendors, stores, and crowds of the popular shopping street, called Nakamise, one enters through the main gate known as Β Kaminarimon (aka “Thunder Gate”). Then you pass by the various booths inside the temple grounds where charms, tokens, and other good luck offerings can be purchased.IMG_4936

As we walked through the crowds and closer towards the temple, Mihee mentioned that we should stand where people were gathered around billows of smoke. As we got closer, I noticed a small enclosure with fire and incense. She explained that wafting the smoking over one’s head brings good luck and “blesses” them with intelligence. So we did it πŸ™‚ Then, like any other temple or shrine visit, we proceeded to purification area. [If you want to learn more about the purification process and proper hand-washing order, please check this link:Β http://howibecametexan.com/2013/03/30/how-to-purify-yourself-at-a-japanese-shrine-15-not-so-complicated-steps/]IMG_4944

Then we waited our turn in line to reach the shrine. You throw in coins as an offering; the 5 and 50 yen coins are supposed to be more valuable and meaningful as an offering because there is a hole in the middle of the coins, but I’m not entirely sure why that’s important…In addition to the purification before entering the shrine, one also goes through the ritual bowing.

1. Do 2 slight bows.

2. Do 2 claps.

3. Do 1 long, low bow.

Then you’re done πŸ™‚ People throw the coin first and then do the bowing-clapping order, in addition to saying a prayer/wish.

Afterwards, we ate snacks, did a little shopping, and I even tried my luck at γγ‚“γŽγ‚‡γ™γγ„ (“kingyosukui”–festival game in which participants try to catch goldfish in a shallow paper ladle). I was having so much fun that the lady in charge of the booth gave me an extra paper ladle to do another round after my first one tore.

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After a long busy day on a bus, on the subway and on the streets of Tokyo, we headed back to Yokohama and ate some delicious food at Mihi’s family’s Chinese restaurant in the popular CHINATOWN!

CHINATOWN

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I had some of the best chinese food at Mihi’s family’s restaurant. The entrees were excellent and the desserts were yummy! It was cool meeting her family and seeing her parents again. There was some sort of special holiday during that time too, and the Chinese dragon and drummers were going around different businesses.IMG_4982Somehow it was arranged for them to go into the restaurant, which excited many customers. Then Mihi’s dad gave us red envelopes to “feed” into the dragon’s head.–What happens is that you give the money, they yank on your hand a little, and if you’re lucky, they’ll actually “eat” your head, so your head is in the dragon’s mouth. It is a sign of good luck and hopefully that person gains lots of intelligence.–It was a very unique experience and you can see how much fun I had from my facial expression…

IMG_4986IMG_4988IMG_4996(I wasn’t entirely sure what to do after I got my head bitten…so I stood there….awkwardly….)IMG_4992(And then this happened….thanks for the great pictures Mihi πŸ˜› )Then we headed to Mihi’s family’s house, watched some tv, ate a snack with wine, and went to bed. It was a fun-filled, long day. It was great spending it in a bustling city with a great friend :)Be on the look out for Part 2!Wishing on a Star

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