Short on time? Guided tours are a great way to see as much as humanly possible, as quickly as humanly possible, and Gate 1 Travel is a pro at it. I can’t compare them to other tour companies, as they are the only ones we have ever used. One thing I LOVE is that all of their tour guides are local. Seeing Italy? Your Roman tour guide will be accommodating but slightly aloof. England? A tweed jacket every day, seat assignments on the bus, meal stops are quick and comprised of recommendations for pre-made sandwiches. Scotland? Northface jacket and hiking boots, a lot of trust that since the tour group is comprised of adults, people can take care of themselves. Ireland? So much cynicism and distrust of the government.
And in Japan: our Japanese tour guide was very possibly the politest person we have ever met. But also, passive-aggressive and a little rude if you actually knew what she meant. It was hilariously awesome.
But I digress! Our first day with the tour group was a full day of seeing all the things in Tokyo. ALL THE THINGS.
First stop was right next door to the hotel, Zojoji temple. One of the beautiful things on the grounds were the Jizo statues: each statue represents a child who has died. These statues are often adorned with red hats and bibs, and they are protectors of the children who have passed.
Next stop was the imperial palace! Which you can’t get close to at all … so it makes for an odd choice for a tourist stop. Beautiful park and grounds, though. Complete with an ice cream shop! Very reminiscent of the DC mall, now that I think about it. (But no eating while walking in Japan! Also, no ice cream on the bus.)
Then it was back to the bus to head to Asakusa, with the Sensoji temple and Nakamise street. This stop was way worth it! So much so, we made sure the in-laws checked it out later in our trip. The temple was beautiful, and there was a lot of great tourist-shopping on Nakamise street. We only had an hour, so we went with a Conbini lunch.
Next stop, Meiji Shrine!! This one is a serious shrine, massive and beautiful grounds. It was a little bit of a walk from the parking lot to the actual shrine. This one is also well worth it, and a great example of a Shinto shrine (vs. the Buddhist temples we had seen previously.)
In Japan, people follow Buddhist AND Shinto traditions. Our tour guide, Katy, explained that the traditions are so blended, in fact, that the average Japanese person often doesn’t know where one begins and the other ends. She only really learned about the differences in her tour guide training. But quick summary: you get married in a Shinto shrine. Funerals are at Buddhist temples.
Our last stop of the day’s touring took us to another one of Japan’s sacred traditions: shopping! In stark contrast to Nakamise street, Ginza district is very up-scale shopping. We ducked into the Nissan concept store, and also the Sony concept store. Where we saw a $3000 robot dog. A seriously awesome $3000 robot dog. And people were coming in, with their $3000 robot dogs, for $3000 robot dog play dates. Japan, man. Something for everyone.
For dinner, we stopped at a very. fancy. Lawson. And bought pretty much the same stuff we had been buying. Plus, an Olympics 2020 pin! Which … I guess now isn’t going to be a thing … does that make it worth more?
And then it was back to the hotel! Where the husband promptly crashed from exhaustion. Into his twin bed. At 7 pm.
Oh. you. guys. Our twin beds! So our first room at the hotel, I booked through hotels.com. It had a queen or king-sized bed, appropriate for two people. But while we were out and about in Akihabara, they moved our bags to our new room. With two twin beds. Because in Japan: it is more normal for traveling couples to have separate beds. So most hotels are set up that way! We had requested a double bed for all of our accommodations on our tour, but … they are only able to do that when there are rooms available. Which there were not at the Prince Tokyo Hotel.
And so … twin beds. (We had this happen to us before on a guided tour on our 10th anniversary and … it was the best sleep we got that trip. So … separate beds? Not the worst thing …)
So I probably wandered around the hotel, stocked up on snacks at Lawson, and played emoji blitz till I was ready to call it a day.