• Tickets Travel

Japan 2019 - Rugby World Cup

Day 1

We flew SAS with a connection in Copenhagen– not the most comfortable seat but legroom great (extra legroom seats £50). Snacks & drinks chargeable outside of meal service.

Arrived Tokyo Narita airport and got the Narita Express to Shibuya – we hadn’t pre-purchased tickets. It was £25 one way about £35 return. We bought these tickets at a desk in the arrivals hall – avoid JR office here if not using your JR pass straight away as it can get quite busy. Narita Express is the best way to city, fast & comfortable, took about an hour.

Arrived at our hotel, literally above the station at around 12. Nice hotel, good position, breakfast in restaurant next door - different but not bad (spaghetti for breakfast!). In general rooms in Japan are very small, sometimes what we might consider a single bed is sold for 2 people! Japan is very rule orientated, if it says check in at 3, it means that! We paid £7 per hour to check in two hours early.

We found a small Japanese restaurant that looked popular near the hotel for lunch where we had to put the money into a machine and choose what we wanted, which then gives a token to give to the chef. This turned out to be one of the best meals – Katsu curry and udon noodle soup!

After a nap until early evening, we walked around Shibuya covering the famous Shibuya crossing, green train, Hachiko statue (famous dog). Going upstairs in Starbucks is a great place for a full view of the crossing. We explored the Don Quixote stores selling anything and everything, including a huge array of flavoured Kit Kats shopping & VR Park – full of all sorts of arcade games. We played Mario Kart! Shibuya is lovely to wander around.

For dinner we ate a teppanyaki restaurant Teppanyaki Ten where they cook in front of you. The okonomiyaki was delicious, but I wasn’t a fan of watching the live lobster. We found the prices are similar to London, light meal with one drink was £25 per person. On the way back to hotel we tried charcoal ice cream – couldn’t say I’d recommend it!

Day 2

This morning we sorted our bullet train reservations at JR office in Shibuya station – the stations are enormous; I would guess 5-10 times bigger than Waterloo! When the JR offices are busy they only make one or 2 reservations for your pass – best to have looked at times and know what you want. The Hyperdia website is good for this. We also picked up visitor Suica cards (like Oyster except you can also use it in shops). Advantage of visitor one is that it’s only valid 30 days meaning you don't have to put a deposit on it.

England v Argentina day! We headed to one of the fan parks first, before travelling to the stadium where we randomly bumped into our old neighbours and had a drink with them!

Our seats, although behind the goalposts, were far better than expected which was great. A Japanese man gave us Japanese headbands and said he was supporting England (I think all the Japanese around us were!). He was on TV with us at the end of the game – we realised we’d got our 15 minutes of fame as we had Wi-Fi in the stadium and all our phones were buzzing!

Day 3

Today was due to rain so packed rain macs and umbrellas. Forecast we saw before we travelled was rain most days, yet we had lovely days, shorts & t shirts in October.

Using our Suica card (like an Oyster card) and Google maps we got the tube to Harajuku and visited the shrine in the forest then walked around this quirky area! We had rainbow cheese toasties and met England rugby player Mark Wilson with his family, we also spotted Henry Slade and some of the Australian rugby team!

Got the train to Shinjuku – this is another popular area, much busier than Shibuya, lively and full of bars, restaurants & shopping. We found an English pub called ‘The Hub’ to watch the France v Tonga rugby match and caught the ‘Godzilla show’ on our way which I couldn’t say is worth going out of your way for - less entertaining than the gif below...! After this we enjoyed our first sushi of the trip.

Day 4

After another interesting but satisfying breakfast, we headed to Street Kart Shibuya for a 1hr go-karting session around tourist areas including over the Shibuya Crossing dressed as Mr Potato Head, Piglet and Minnie Mouse, reaching up to 60km/h. It was great fun and even though it’s on real roads, you quickly become accustomed. It helps that Japanese drivers are very conscientious!

We then got our first bullet train to Kyoto which was very spacious, clean and comfortable. This took two and a half hours and was the first day of our 7-day JR rail pass.Arrived in Kyoto and our hotel was right outside the station – good position for travelling in this area. Kyoto station is so big, without Google maps I'm not sure you would find the right exit – it didn't get any easier after 5 days!

In the evening we visited the Fushimi Inari Shrine. You can use the JR rail pass on some train routes including this one from Kyoto station down to the Shrine. It wasn’t busy and we walked up some of it and took some photos but had read to come back in the daytime for better views – around 7:30am to avoid crowds.

We then headed to Pontocho Alley for dinner – lots of restaurants here. The easiest way to get around Kyoto is bus – one bus took us straight to our hotel, and we could use our Suica cards.

Day 5

Early start at 6.45 this morning as we had to catch an 8.20 train to Hiroshima. Breakfast was interesting, on one hand, there were scrambled eggs and toast which was a positive, on the other it was served in a prison-like tray which loses some points!

In Hiroshima we visited the A Bomb Dome and the peace memorial park / museum - a very moving experience, you could’ve heard a pin drop in the museum.

After a quick okonomiyaki stop in the station (which was delicious) we took a train and then a ferry to get to Miyajima Island where unfortunately the Great Torii Shrine was being refurbished and so was covered. However, we were still able to walk around the temple, have photos with the deer that were roaming around and have a coffee and look around a few shops. It’s a very peaceful island. If we had more time there are hikes/walks to follow. When the tide comes in the temple and shrine look like they are floating on the water.

Day 6

This morning we headed to the lovely old historic district called Gion, wandering around for a few hours, visited a traditional old Starbucks and looked around the shops too, we saw Geishas going about their day plus lots of tourists dressed up in traditional dress wandering around.

We spent the afternoon at the Ninja & Samurai Museum where we had a brief history lesson of the Samurai, followed by ninja star throwing, dart blowing and dressing up as a samurai which was great fun for all ages!

After this we headed to Nishiki Market where we tried Wagyu beef which was delicious before heading a Hub pub to catch the end of the Scotland v Russia game, before heading to a very nice restaurant in Pontocho Alley. One course & a cocktail each was approx. £135.

Day 7

After breakfast it was straight to Nara Park, most famous for its deer, who have learnt to bow to get food from tourists. We all had fun feeding them crackers although once they knew you had food they did tend to follow you for a while!

Local Japanese school children were waiting in groups to approach Westerners to practice their English - they asked us some questions and then gave us cute little origami presents.

From Nara we headed to Osaka. The canal is the best area here and it comes alive at night – there’s amazing food to try in this area! Also, Osaka Castle is worth a visit if there is time – it's a train ride out of the main area.

Today was a long day so we were very tired and disappointed about the rugby being cancelled due to the incoming typhoon!

Day 8

Got up before sunrise to see the Inari Shrine – lovely peaceful time to visit and get photos, you also see monks at this time. I only walked halfway up for about an hour or so. By 8:30am when we left there were lots more people arriving. Travelled back to Kyoto station from Inari in rush hour – people were queuing for trains and there is no pushing, plus the carriages are quiet as no one talks on their phones. A bit different to London!

After breakfast we got a train to Arashiyama to see the bamboo forest. We then got the last four seats on an earlier train back to Tokyo than planned (the trains were busy this Friday as they had been cancelled in advance on Saturday) and stocked up on supplies for the incoming Typhoon Hagibis. This time we stayed in Shinagawa, on the East of Tokyo which is more a business district but has good connections to Yokohama and the airport. It's still easy to get to Shibuya/Shinjuku etc. on the JR loop train which is included in the JR pass.

Day 9

We were supposed to be going to watch England v France, but the typhoon was due to hit today so it was cancelled, with transport closing at 1pm and the storm expected to really hit around 6pm

After breakfast we decided to at least leave the hotel for a short walk. It was lucky we did as we ended up in the Prince Hotel and found out it had a bowling alley (and Mario Kart!) so ended up staying there for a couple of hours before heading back to the hotel.

We were then hotel-bound for the rest of the day! Luckily, we had Wi-Fi and the hotel didn’t change their evening policy of free wine and nibbles from 5pm onwards so that kept us entertained while we watched the Ireland game and played cards!

Day 10

Our last full day in Tokyo - we enjoyed another interesting breakfast where everyone was forced to choose a (very nice) home-made sandwich before being allowed into the breakfast area! We then headed to the Tokyo Met Building for views over the city, however it was closed due to strong winds following the typhoon. Luckily as we were walking away we spotted a tall hotel, so we snuck to the 45th floor for some pictures there!

We the headed to the Kawaii Monster Cafe where we had a reservation at 1pm – we’d heard the food wasn’t great so we just ordered some side dishes and desserts, all of which were quite tasty! The ‘show’ was a bit mad but quite entertaining and only lasted around 10 minutes.

After the show, we headed to the Robot Restaurant where we had a reservation at 3.30pm – this time was cheaper than the evening shows. It was not what we expected at all. It was a mixture of real people, ‘robot’ scenery which moved in between the people and lots of cheesy songs / stories – and definitely wasn’t a restaurant!

Then it was back to the Hub again for the Wales game and then the all-important Japan v Scotland match. The match was amazing - one of the most entertaining, tense games I’ve ever watched. The pub went wild whenever Japan had the ball and especially when they scored – it was absolutely packed!

I got talking to a really nice young Japanese guy who had just come from a wedding, he couldn’t believe I was with my children & found that really funny as he thought we were a group of friends! He then asked me why he hasn’t met a girl; having seen Sue Perkin’s programme about how shy Japanese are that this is resulting in them not marrying, I decided to introduce him to two girls in the bar and left them chatting and texting each other! I gave them a card and am hoping for a wedding invite!

Everyone in Japan is really friendly, both in the bar and on the way home, with Japanese people thanking us for supporting their team! In general, they are polite, respectful and just want to help, even during rush hour, people would stop if you are looking at a map or look lost. And everywhere is so clean, people take their rubbish home with them and toilets are spotless wherever you go!

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