Another season, another reason to visit Japan

IT WAS nice to be back. After chasing the blooms of the cherry blossoms from Odawara to Yokohama to Tokyo, enjoying hanami under the powdery pink and white clouds sipping sake a year before, I was back in the Land of the Rising Sun to witness different hues this time, that of red, orange and gold of autumn.

Was I too early? Maybe. But temperature was dropping somewhere and foliage was donning its new colors. If I chased flowers before, let me chase the leaves this time.

With the seven-day JR Pass, pursuing the goal won’t be a problem. I can hop on and off the shinkansen at any time to get to my desired destinations in no time. The more you ride, the better the deal you get off the pass. So I listed never-been-to places: Kyoto, Nara, Osaka and wherever the bullet train can take me in the seven days the pass allowed. Exciting.

In the Kansai region, Kyoto was the home base and hotel arrangements were made in advance—two nights at New Ginkaku Inn, conveniently located by the Kyoto Station (thanks to Takakazu Machinda and Hello World Tours* for arrangement) and another two nights in a capsule hotel (finally, this Japanese experience), First Kyoto Cabin Hotel Kurasama, booked via Agoda.

But first, a couple of days in Tokyo for a “refresher” and see new spots were in order before embarking on a new Japanese adventure.

Haneda Airport makes for a very convenient entry to Tokyo. It was a first for me and I loved the convenience it offered, its close proximity to the city center compared to Narita Airport, connection to a railway system and availability of other public transportations.

A couple of stops away by express train is the Shinagawa station, a major railway station operated by the JR East. This was my take off point to wherever the Tokaido Shinkansen will take me. Very convenient the station is nearby my home base for the trip. Adopting me were John and Mitos Soria, whom I met on the previous trip and celebrated hanami with.

Not wasting time, I took on Mitos’ offer a quick tour around their neighborhood.

Shinagawa’s history is quite interesting, so it’s present. It’s a post town, a role it took during the Edo period and retaining the role today. The ward is also home to ten embassies and the greatest concentration of hotel accommodations in Tokyo.

First stop was the Shinagawa Shrine, a Shinto Shrine established in 1187 by Minamoto Yoritomo. Enshrined here is Daikokuten (god of food).

Across the shrine is the lane leading to the famed Tokaido Road.

The place was a surprise. I like how the old architecture blends with the new. Age-old shops still run by families, quaint restaurants, and residences occupy the low-rise structures.

It took about a couple of hours to complete the neighborhood tour and when we got home, it was time for some Japanese hot soup loaded with fresh veggies.

*Hello World Tour Inc. is at PNJK Compound, Angliongto Ave., Lanang. 305-6355. Good Japanese contact for your Japan tours.

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