After a few months researching good introductory trips to Japan, I selected the Spirit of Honshu small group tour with Inside Japan Tours (info at the bottom). Added a day prior to the trip so we could get to Tokyo and relax, and then three days in Hiroshima as an extension. Was great dealing with IJT and a painless process. Better yet, our flights were paid for through a combination of Chase Sapphire promotional points (100k for signing up) and financing a mortgage with them (another 100k :)).
We landed at Tokyo Narita airport following a comfortable 10 hour flight from Seattle on an ANA Boeing 787 to find the city rather rainy. Right outside immigration/customs, a driver met us to whisk us to our hotel, a 90 minute drive. For reference, Haneda is the closer airport for Tokyo but might have limited flight choices.
The Tokyo Skytree (http://www.tokyo-skytree.jp/en/), part of which is visible here, is now the 2nd tallest structure in the world (634.0 metres or 2,080 ft), its top lost in the clouds.
Since we had Saturday to wander around, we used our Tokyo transit pass to good use and went in search of some of the shopping things we wanted to get (amongst which, a Seiko watch). Right outside the underground/subway station, a Japanese charity that specialized in taking dogs to hospitals, hospices, schools etc had brought a few woofers onto the street to spread the word. We got to rub the belly of a very receptive St Bernard – and a couple of hours later, got to rub it again…
The following day (our first official tour day), we visited the local Asakusa shrine and temple complex with our IJT group and enjoyed a wonderful meal at a local restaurant.
Monday saw a nice river cruise to a local park, Hamarikyu Gardens. On the way down the river we passed the Asahi HQ, home to the “golden turd”.
Hamarikyu Gardens was a favoured Samurai destination for duck hunting and the bunker images are of his hunting hide – more of a place to mow down the ducks. The tree in the collage is 500 years old.
Lunch was in a local business district – ironically we had soba noodles… with duck!