The Essence of Japan
Holiday Images
This holiday with Titan Tours was called 'The Essence of Japan' and it ran from April 27th to May 11th 2018. Our outbound flight takes us to Tokyo one day ahead of the rest of the Titan group.
We fly with KLM from Birmingham to Tokyo via Amsterdam. The second flight takes 10 hours, 11 minutes and lands at Narita Airport at 8:22am.
Our hotel (the Keio Plaza) is located near Shinjuku railway station - the busiest in the world. We begin our visit to Tokyo by exploring the station and the nearby Metropolitan Government Offices
The Metropolitan Government building is a huge complex that incorporates two towers with observatories on the 45th floor. These provide views across Tokyo, including our hotel (right)
Our first meal in Tokyo is taken at a restaurant called 'Mr Farmer'
Afterwards, we admire some of Tokyo's illuminated signs 
The next morning (Sunday) we take the local JR (Japan Rail) train from Shinjuku station to Harajuku station.
We then explore Takeshita-dori, a narrow street crowded mostly with youngsters indulging their sweet tooth.
We walk the full length of the street with its fascinating sights, and then attempt to find the location of the Togo Shrine. We find a set of steps that appear to lead to the garden where the shrine is located but these are barred with signs that we take to mean the park is temporarily closed. A family group is nearby and we try to ask what the signs mean; we are referred to a young girl who immediately scans her smart phone and then indicates that we should follow her. The girl has limited English, but we understand her to say that she has plenty of time to show us the way to the Togo Shrine. At the end of Takeshita-dori we turn left and are soon at the main entrance, which we would not have found without the kind assistance of our guide. 
The Togo Shrine (left) was founded for Admiral Togo the commander who defeated the Russian fleet during the Russo-Japanese War - a huge naval victory, and the first by an Asian country over a Western one. The shrine has a beautiful garden featuring a pond, and there are some historic photographs relating to the Admiral’s career. An elaborate wedding ceremony is taking place that includes a procession by the bride and groom, plus their guests, through the garden. 
It is a short walk to the entrance to Yoyogi Park, the location of the most important Shinto shrine in Tokyo. The Meiji Jingu (Imperial Shrine) dates from 1920 and the Emperor Meiji and his Empress are enshrined here (below). In the park we find a display of barrels of sake wrapped in straw that are offered each year for the souls of the Emperor Meiji and the Empress Shoken. The main feature of the Nai-en garden is a display of over 150 species if iris, but only a few are in bloom today