Japan 2023: The trip of a lifetime

After all the planning, all the hype and the sense of excitement accompanying our every move, Japan 2023 delivered on every level.

It’s difficult to pick out just one highlight from our trip to the far side of the world and the Land of the Rising Sun. Shebuya Sky, Tokyo Disney, Mount Fuji, sushi at the robot cafe, petting hedgehogs and a trip down to Osaka on the ‘Shinkansen’ (bullet train).

We packed all this – and more – into our two week adventure of a lifetime. Whilst the social dynamic of seven adults living in close proximity invariably took its toll and tensions at times ran high, we put this to one side to embrace all this beautiful country and its people had to offer.

We flew from Heathrow on the 8.40pm night flight from Seoul on 21 October, then caught the connecting flight to Tokyo’s Narita airport where we landed shortly before 10pm on the 22nd.

We met Reece at the airport and then travelled on to our airBnb.

I won’t run through each day here as all 12 days of the trip were action packed and there was a lot to cram in. I’ll pick out the highlights and discuss what I enjoyed the most.

Our first day in Japan saw me tick off one of my bucket list items for the trip as Hannah, Liam and I went to visit the National Stadium, where the pandemic-delayed Olympics were held in 2021. I had my photo taken with the torch, went into the dressing room, up the tunnel and on to the track, dropping Mo Farah’s iconic celebration for a pose.

In the afternoon, we went to TeamLabs Planets which is an immersive 3D Art experience where you become the exhibits. This featured a room with musical beams of light, falling flowers and a room where you’re in darkness and knee deep in water whilst the colours reflect off the glass. Very unique and an experience not to be missed1

On Day Two I had salmon sushi at the robot cafe and Day Four was Mt.Fuji, the highest summit in Japan and active volcano (although it hasn’t erupted since 1707). We got the cable car up to the observation platform but the summit was shrouded in clag so we didn’t get as good a view as we’d have liked. Having gazed in wonderment at close quarters, I’m definitely planning to go back at some point in the near future and climb to the summit. We wandered round the gift shop and went on a boat trip on Lake Kawaguchi.

Day Six saw us in Kyoto for another must-see for the visit to the Fushimi Inari shrine. Architecturally stunning, the history and tradition of these ancient sacred sites sit side by side alongside Japan’s modern infrastructure and technology – just one reason to hold locals and tourists alike completely in thrall.

I had packed for all eventualities but Tokyo in October was like the Costa del Sol in July with the unpredictable conditions of Blighty conspicuous in absentia. I had to put sun cream on as the hottest day we had was 28 degrees.

I tried to be as adventurous as possible with the food. There was the aforementioned sushi which was served by a robot and we also went to Kura, which is a sushi chain, during our stay in Osaka. I was hangry as I hadn’t eaten all day so demolished six or seven of the dishes although they were small and not very filling.

I’d never had ramen before, so it was a no brainer to give it a go. It’s a Japanese noodle dish served in a broth with spices and various accompaniments such as pork, nori (dried seaweed), eggs, and cheese. This was another dish I was eager to try and the second time, which was down in Shinjuku, had more flavour and a better kick than the first one I’d had at Ichiran.

Day Nine saw us visit Tokyo Disney where I met Captain Jack Sparrow (it wasn’t actually him of course) and we managed to get on all the rides of which the log flume and Space Mountain were the best. The shops weren’t up to much but I enjoyed the day more than I thought I would. The next day Joe, Matt and Chelsea continued their odyssey when they went to DisneySea whilst the rest of us went to Shibuya Sky where we ascended up to the 45th floor to look down on Tokyo from a height of 230m. This would have been better at sundown but to see the Tokyo metropolis sprawling beneath us from above was quite a sight to behold.

The aviation museum at Tokorozawa, Japan’s first and oldest airfield, was an nice tribute to humanity’s ability to fly and I tried my hand in a simulator. I managed to take off, circle round and land again but unfortunately the larger scale one was closed by the time we got there as it was only open for two hours.

What you read here is merely a whistlestop tour of a trip I loved every minute of. I’m already planning a return to climb Fuji and maybe go down to Hiroshima to visit the Peace Garden in the near future – once I’ve visited Norway, Swede, New Zealand and Jamaica.

Japan, it was a blast. Arigato!