Thursday, March 5, 2015

Race Report : Part 3 - Running the 6th World Major, Tokyo Marathon, Feb 22, 2015, Three Days in Tokyo/Hakone

This is the third and final part of the 'Running Tokyo' series which will cover post race time activities. 
  • Part1 : How to get to the race and reflections on the race itself
  • Part2 : The two weeks we spent in Taiwan prior to the race
  • (This Post) : The three days we spent after the race in Tokyo/Hakone (Hot Springs Area) 
We only had the rest of race Sunday through Tuesday and were scheduled to leave that Wed night back to the States - so not a lot of time. If we had more time we would have stayed longer in Hakone and toured more of the Lake, Mt Fuji, taken the tram ride, etc.

Those three days can be broker down this way:
  • [Saturday] : Tokyo Afternoon Tour
  • Sunday : Recovery walk and shopping in Ginza shopping district
  • Monday : Train ride to Hokone, tour of Venetian glass museum, hot springs
  • Tuesday : Tour of park, stay at local business hotel


Tokyo Afternoon Tour

Day before the race, we booked an Afternoon tour via Sunrise Tours because the tour was about what I could handle before a Marathon, relatively inexpensive (¥5,500) looked interesting and had pickup at our Hotel (Keio Plaza). The stops were:
  1. Seaside Observation Deck
  2. Imperial Palace Gardens
  3. Senso-ji Temple (Asakusa) and Nakamise Shopping Street
  4. Sumida River Cruise
Front gate seen from marathon

By far our favorite stop was the Senso-ji temple not only because of the street foot you can sample near there but because we were able to pray for good fortune at the temple. [Note : I'm born year of the Sheep - this year - and it is said that this will be challenging year for us.  So, it was recommended we go to temple often and pray for a good year.  [This is not a Japanese custom as Japanese don't follow the Zodiac but we do and took every opportunity we could to influence luck this year.]

The story goes that two fisherman around 628 AD were cast fishing and accidentally found a statue of Kannon Bodhisattva (Bosatsu) - goddess of mercy.  They brought the statue to the village elder who converted his house into a small temple for everyone to worship.

Inner Pagoda
A favorite story of tour guides is that the sanscrit translation of 'bodhisattva' to Japanese is Kannon (or Guan-Yin in chinese - 観音) and is the character/name taken by founder of 'Canon' maker of fine cameras.

You can first wash insense smoke over your head for clarity or other parts of your body that need curing or cleansing.  Then, make your way to the well to wash and purity your hands.  All the while the area in front of the temple is absolutely packed with tourists and followers.  We eventually made it to the temple to offer former prayer and toss in some coins.

Inside actual temple
We also had our fortunes 'read' by putting a (¥100) coin into a box, shook it and extracted one labeled stick then looked up that number from the 100 drawers.  The rules are that if you get a bad fortune you can tie the fortune to a lattice wall and 'walk away from the bad fortune since it is tied to the fence'.  My wife did that and received a 'good fortune'.  I received an acceptable fortune the first time around.  Fortunes read, we proceeded into the tourist fray to battle to get the best street foods.  Ohh boy was it worth it.

Sweet potato in Honey!
There are too many shops and food stalls to mention.  However, there was one we found by accident that sold sweet potatoes in caramelized sugar, then drowned in honey.  You get six or so for (¥600). Pricey but simply delicious.

[Reminder : Japanese consider eating food whilst walking very rude so try not to do it.  Yes, the temptation is great and there is rarely a convenient place like a picnic table to be found anywhere in Tokyo but try to blend in.  Yes, we ate ours directly in front of the shop cuz we just couldn't help ourselves and no way were we going to carry these all the way back to the hotel or to a public park to eat!]

The trip finished with a cruise down the Sumida river which was pleasant.

Recovery Race-Sunday

My wife battled all the crowds and made it all the way to the finish line at Tokyo Big Sight so after the race and a shower at the hotel we got back onto the subway for a few hours at Ginza and diner.  We shopped at several of the well known Japanese department stores and my wife found some gems.  Pricey place to be sure, but there is no designer on Earth that you cannot find in Tokyo.  We also learned that all non-consumable (clothes) purchases above (¥10,500) are subject to a VAT (Value Added Tax) but you can get the tax back as refund by presenting your foreign passport at Foreigner Refund Desk.  We spent quite a bit of time at that desk.

Had a great diner at a restaurant right across from Mitsukoshi Department store.  It was on the fourth floor with a nice view of Ginza street and steak was good.  There is also of course Sanrio world on Ginza - home of the most expensive Hello Kitty clothes you can possibly find.

Hakone / Hot Springs

Our 'big' trip was the hour and half train ride from Tokyo to the hot springs area of Hakone.  This is a favorite escape destination for people from Tokyo because it is easy to get to by train or bus from Tokyo and beautiful.  The food is also cheaper here and there is alot to do.  We only had one night so there was no way we could tour all of the lake or Mt Fuji area so we enjoyed what we could.

We toured the Venetian Glass Museum, visited the local Gora park and ate!  At the hotel we did enjoy the hot springs bath probably four times.

Enjoy the Picasa embedded slideshow below.

Last night in Tokyo 

We couldn't book the last night at the Keio Plaza because it was full!  So, we decided to be a bit adventurous (plus save some money) and booked at a local hotel.  The room size was obviously smaller but was also less than half price (¥15,000).  We also learned that we didn't need to take the subway to get between Shinjuku Station and most of the nearby hotels because Keio runs a shuttle for (¥100) that hits all the major hotels - very cool.

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