Day 1 Departing @ Singapore Changi Airport

It's 9.12 pm... according to the computer clock at T3.
Yes... already checked in and bought another power adapter... despite the fact that the flight only depart at 11.45 pm.

Indeed, didn't 'kill' any frog today, except sorting out the unmarked worksheets, and the handouts, circulars, etc... oh yes, to tidy up my table... a ritual whenever I leave the country. Packing only began past last midnight... and packed till this morning... and continued as I was chatting on the computer...

What's next? Hm... walking around... window shopping... and going to wait..........

Let's hope the internet access at Japan works well... hm... the last time I went Osaka, didn't do any live-blog... hope this time works...

... blogging from Changi Airport Terminal 3 - departing at Gate B5...

Day 2 Meiji-jingu Shrine 明治神宮

This is the first item in the entire itinerary:

Meiji-jingu was founded in 1921 to enshrine the Emperor and Empress Meiji, Japan's first sovereign following the demise of rule by the samurai class. Most of the major buildings of the shrine were burned down in 1945 due to air raids during World War II, but all were reconstructed in 1958.

Greeted by the largest wooden Torii in Japan

Surprised or not... there were barrels of wine and sake in-the-making... lined up neatly at the 2 sides of the path...

It is not uncommon to find stores selling accessories for different kinds of good blessings...

There, we witnessed a wedding that took place at the shrine.

According to Jeanette (the guide), the Japanese would associate shrine with happy occasions like birth, celebrations of success and weddings.

Wishing for good things to come...

Photographs @ Meiji Shrine (click HERE if slideshow is unavailable)

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Day 2 The Imperial Palace Area 皇居周辺

The Imperial Palace, where their Majesties the Emperor and Empress reside, is situated in the center of Tokyo. The palace is surrounded by a water-filled moat and tree-covered grounds - a precious taste of nature within the bustling metropolitan city.

First look at the exterior of the Imperial Palace reminded me of the Osaka Castle that I visited last November - the moot, the bridge and the huge gate; but this time, there's a barricade at the entrance, which was guarded by 2 military personnel. There wasn't any sign of 'castle' or 'palace'. The feel-and-look was... it's so heavily guarded and gave the impression of lack of 'freedom'.

Here's the steel bridge (2nd bridge) which is supposed to be the more important one, according to Jeanette.

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Day 2 Asakusa浅草

Located in Taito-ku along the west bank of the Sumida-gawa River, the Asakusa district once thrived as a temple town for the nearby Senso-ji Temple, but now it is a downtown area that rivals Ginza, Shinjuku, Ikebukuro and Shibuya. The history of Senso-ji Temple goes back far into the past. Legend has it that fishermen brothers discovered an image of Kan'non (the goddess of mercy) in the Sumida-gawa River around the year 628 and were inspired to enshrine it. The temple's symbol is the Furai jin-mon (Gate of Wind God and Thunder God) adorned with a large red paper lantern that bears the inscription "Kaminari-mon" (Thunder Gate).
It's the 2nd time visiting Asakusa. It's still as busy as the December I went a couple of years ago; but minus the festive atmosphere. This time, we entered by another gate, which is nearer to the temple. Nevertheless, it's a pity that it's undergoing some retrofitting work which is closed to visitors.
(Click HERE if slideshow is not available)

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Day 2 Akihabara 秋葉原

The name Akihabara is now world famous. More than 250 electrical appliance and electronic shops of all sizes are located in a small area centered around Chuo-dori Street, to the west of Akihabara Station.

Indeed, it is a place that's considered uniquely modern Japan - the animae culture and today's youth.
(Click HERE if slideshow is unavailable)

Here, it's not difficult to find uniquely dressed youngsters...

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Day 2 Ginza 銀座

Ginza, a district in Chuo-ku, is one of the most famous downtown areas in Japan. Ginza means "silver mint," and its name derives from the silver-coin mint established there in the 1600s.

Indeed, it's a place littered with branded shops all over the place. One of them is Burberry, which is the only outlet in the world that we could find the Blue label and Black label series.

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Day 3 Mt. Fuji富士山

Mt. Fuji is 3,776 meters high and is the highest mountain in Japan, situated at the border of two prefectures, Shizuoka and Yamanashi. With unrivaled magnificence and a beautiful cone shape, Mt. Fuji has often been selected as the subject of paintings and literature. It is the world-famous as a symbol of Japan.

(a) Mount Fuji - It was supposed to be the highlight of the day - to view one of the most-spoken about landmark in the world. However, the weather was no good at all... Did not catch any good view of the mountain. We were told that the area near the Visitor's Centre offered one of the best views - unfortunately, it was a coat of "white" - no sign of the mountain at all. Eventually, when were reached the 5th station, a quick view - not spectacular at all. One of the biggest disappointment of the entire trip. Of course, to see from another perspective, not many people would have seen Mt Fuji in this 'state' - half seen half unseen.

Well, I ended up spending more time at the Post Office at 5th Station where there were some very unique postcards. By the way, the postcard I sent arrived before I reached home :D

Indeed, the drive up to the mountain brought me back to my trip to Bumthang, Bhutan, about 5 years ago, when we drove through layers of crowd along the mountain route.

(b) We also took the cable up one of the higher viewing points... well, what would we expect to see there? A sea of "white". A little 'compensation' is the pleasant surprise... meeting my idol...

and enjoying a piece of hot sweet potato in the cold...

(c) Kojiri Cruise on Lake Ashi - it was a misty ride... all the scenes were 'coated' with a layer of fog...

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Day 3: Tsukji Market 築地

Central Wholesale Market Central wholesale markets, established by local governments under the Wholesale Market Law, sell fresh foods indispensable to out daily life such as fish, vegetables, fruit, meat and flowers. It is difficult to store perishable foods for a long period as the spoil easily. In addition, the production of perishables is greatly affected by natural conditions such as the weather, so the price is subject to greater fluctuation than other goods. So the wholesale market, standing between producers and consumers, promotes the smooth distribution of perishables and contributes to stabilization of diet through the fair and speedy transactions between wholesalers and jobbers in the clean and functional facilities.

Indeed, we visited the market at night, after our Hakone trip. It was a pretty long walk - as we wanted to avoid the after-office hour crowd in the subway.

Though the market was already closed, we managed to take some pictures that were often not seen by others... For example, the thematically painted shutters of each stall...
(Click HERE if slideshow is unavailable)

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Day 4 Tanesashi Coast

(Hachinohe City, Hashikami Town, Aomori Prefecture) Tanesashi海岸(八户市,阶上町)
Early in the morning, we took the Shinkansen to Hachinohe, which marked the start of the Tohoku Journey:

The view along the way... from Tokyo to Hachinoche... we passed by Sendai, Fudai and Kuji... of which the scenery shifts from residential to industrial to agricultural areas.

Arriving at Hachinoche...

Lush natural turf stretches right down to the craggy rocks lashed with Pacific surf at Tanesashi. This coastal area stretches over 12 km from its northern terminus at Kabushima, famous as a breeding ground for black-tailed gulls.

(a) Tanesashi Coast - where our journey along the coastline began... Our very first 'touch base' with the Pacific Ocean... the main 'course' of the entire trip.

(b) The locomotive ride from Kuji to Fudai, of which, along the way, the enjoy the scenic view of the Pacific Ocean.

(Click HERE if slideshow is unavailable)

(c) Here's the boat ride - We set off from the Kihamabanya Fishing Village, the ride on the rough sea along the coastline to view the cliffs and rock formation.
(Click HERE if slideshow is unavailable)

It was kind of exciting... In fact, after the entire ride, we all agreed that it was a dangerous adventure which our lives were in the hands of the skilful fisherman who braved us through the rough and misty sea...

Day 5 Kitayamazaki (北山崎)

Kitayamazaki features high cliffs and caves offering splendid scenery. Sightseeing boats to see the “Alps of the Sea” including Kitayamazaki area start from Shimanokoshi Port.

Day 5 Ryusendo Cave (龍泉洞)

Ryusendo Cave is one of the three largest stalactite grottos in Japan. Noteworthy is a small lake at the bottom of the cave, 120 m. deep, filled with crystal emerald green water.
(Click HERE if slideshow is unavailable)

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Day 5 Jodogahama Beach (浄土ヶ浜)

Jodogahama Beach can be reached in 15 min. by bus from Miyako Sta. (Miyako is one of the largest fishing ports in Iwate Prefecture.) On the north of Miyako Bay spreads a popular beach, Jodogahama, which consists of white igneous rocks. The color of white rocks, blue sea and green pine trees creates a scene of perfect harmony.
(Click HERE if slideshow is unavailable)

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Day 6 Sunrise @ Pacific Ocean

Day 6 Kamaishi Iron and Steel History Museum (釜石)

Kamaishi is an iron making town where the blast furnace, the first of this type in Japan, was built. Nearby is the primary tourist attraction is “Kamaishi Dai-Kannon,” the big statue of Kannon or Goddess of Mercy (観音像), which is 48.5-m high that overlooks the intricate Bayof Kamaishi. Enshrined inside are 33 small wooden Kannon statues.

It started off with a multimedia presentation on the history of the iron and steel industry of the country where the first furnace was built. Yes, we saw the replica at the museum too. There were collections that illustrate the development of the industry in the country, too; including samples of materials extracted and products in its early days at the exhibition areas. Unfortunately, all the explanations were in Japanese which most of us could not quite make-out the essences of the presentation. It ended up as another site to take photographs. What a pity.

Day 6 Kesennuma (気仙沼)

Kesennuma, located at the southern tip of Rikuchu Kaigan (Coast) National Park, is a thriving fishing port of Miyagi Prefecture. Oshima Island, 25 min. by boat from Kesennuma Port, has an observatory giving a fine view of the well-indented coast and small islands. On the island are a National Vacation Village and other tourist facilities.

Just before lunch, we visited the Fresh Fish Market:
(Click HERE if slideshow is unavailable)

Where we found a range of seafood - fresh and alive!

Day 6 Sendai Tanabata Centre

(Click HERE if slideshow is unavailable)

Last but not least...

We were back in Tokyo in the last day of the trip. Went around the neighbourhood to experience what it's really like to 'shop' as a local.

Discovered one shopping outlet which resembles a mini-Mustaffa in Singapore, with very attractive price tags.