On our last day we slept late. Mostly because it’d been so hard to get to sleep on Friday night but also the bed was comfy and we needed it. We packed up and got out of the room, took our bags (all four suitcases!) to leave at the desk and went to Doutor for a final hot cocoa and cheese toast.
From there it was onto the old reliable, yamanote line, to get to Harajuku. But instead of hitting Takeshita St we went up the road and into Meiji Jingu shrine, a huge forest park with a big shrine complex inside it.
Meiji Jingu is a tribute shrine to the Emperor and Empress who died in 1912. Under their reign, Japan opened its borders to the rest of the world and consolidated their government structure. Lots of change, especially from learning about the Western World.
Last year, on Anna’s first visit to Japan, we came here first thing on our first day. Starting at Yoyogi Park to look at the cherry blossoms and then up to the shrine. It seemed quite fitting to visit it again at the end of this trip.
It turned out they were having an Autumn festival, so there were masses of chrysanthemums on display, which had been donated as tributes. Also bonsai and little bonsai scenes, which I particularly loved. There were lots of little kids in ceremonial kimonos, some of them taking it very seriously, some less so. One memorable little kid, maybe a four year old, was walking along in her kimono with a huge smile on her face and flapping the sleeves of it like wings.
Inside the main shrine was lined with tables of food and drink offerings to the shrine, and there were monks doing a ceremony in full ceremonial regalia. It was very festive, lots of people there to visit the shrine and see the sights. Although I say festive, it’s also very respectful. People were talking quietly, and the main sounds were the clapping and bell ringing of people praying.
It was a lovely way to spend an hour or so.
After this we went back to Shinjuku and visited another place we’d liked last visit: Alice in a Magical Land, a fantasy cafe styled after Alice in Wonderland.
Everyone who works there is dressed in a fancy outfit – there are some Alices, and some Hatters, but we were served by a girl in cat eyes and a striped dress like Cheshire Cat. She even made our bill adorable. The food’s pretty good, but it’s all about the decor. This little place is close to the Shinjuku train station West entrance, in the third basement level. The elevator doesn’t even go that low so you have to take stairs and go past some bar food places to get there.
We went to the hotel to pick up bags and both had an anxiety spiral. Here’s what happened. We had 15 minutes to pick up our bags from the front desk and go out the front of the hotel to catch the Friendly Airport Limousine bus. We had 3.15 tickets and as you know if you’ve been reading, you cannot be even a minute late.
We got into the line for the desk, and I was instantly anxious because there were about five people in front of us, and everyone at the desk was already busy with other people. There was no one at the bag check side of the desk…
And for whatever reason, the people being checked in all had extra questions and time passed quickly and 3.15 got closer and closer. Anna went to lurk by the bag check and I stayed in line, and finally someone was free for us with two minutes to spare. We showed the staff member our tickets for the bus and she hurried to bring our bags out. I was sure we were going to miss the bus and be horribly messed up, have wasted the money we spent on the tickets and everything would be terrible. I don’t know exactly what this fear came from, we had a lot of time before the flight and there was also a train we could catch and in the worst case, a taxi, but I was freaked out.
When the first two cases came out I rushed them out to the bus, which was already there. Thinking I could delay things, I acted like I didn’t know what to do with the bus tags for the suitcases and the guys running the bus helped me out with them. In this time Anna came out with two more suitcases and a backpack, and the woman from the bus alongside her – she’d come looking for us. As we fussed with the bag tags another woman from the hotel came out with our other backpack and a large bag with our pokemon in it. So, even though we were panicked, running late and generally holding up the bus it went fine. They took our bags and put them on the bus, we got on the bus and sat up the front and the bus actually left right on time.
I did some breathing exercises but my heart still got a good work out.
The bus took some time to go through a couple of stops at the train station, which was like a nice little tour of our favourite area in Tokyo and then we were on the Expressway to Narita. We went right by the Disney Restort which hit me in the feels…
We were at the airport around five, and our flight wasn’t until nine-thirty, so we tracked down the “repack station” which had a scales and a large low bench so you could sort out luggage.
Our first spare suitcase was just underweight, the new one was vastly underweight, mine and Anna’s were over, so we had some time to shift things around and get all bags under 23kg. It was quite fun, in a weird way.
We were too early to check in, so we took some time to sit and have some drinks, and I caught up a little on my physical travel journal. Once we’d checked our cases in we went around the Narita airport mall, which is a very, very good mall. They have a Uniqlo ❤ and we got some dinner as well. Sushi to say goodbye, I also got fried shrimps and fries. It was good. I also got emotional because leaving Japan sucks, but I also very much wanted to be home.
The flight home was similarly fancy to the flight over, but damn it’s hard to sleep on a plane, even in the fancy chairs. I got three hours of sleep and many episodes of Sharp Objects watched (more emotions, holy crap it’s a great show, just have one ep and ten minutes of the second to last episode to watch. Anna didn’t manage to sleep as much as me, and she watched all the Maze Runner movies.