I went as planned to Tokyo. Discovered most of the city on foot, using subway and Japan Railways (JR) to get around otherwise. If you have problems using the MRT in Taipei stay away from Tokyo - it’s a maze of different lines, some of which are not directly linked together.
I stayed in Shinjuku, near Times Square and the seat of the Tokyo Metropolitan government (aka skyscraper district). Went to Harajuku (see the Goth girls on Sunday) and Meiji shrine where I was able to witness a traditional wedding ceremony, Shibuya (Love hotel hill), Roppongi (expat hang-out), Asakusa (Kannon temple), Akihabara (electric town) and areas around the Imperial Palace like Ginza with a short visit at the Sony building where you can see current and future products or play the latest PS2 games. As well I accidently ended up at the Nissan show room where the premiere of the new Teana car was about to happen though due to lack of time I didn’t stay; had a free tea and cookies before though.
A visit at night to the Tokyo Tower obeservation platform was also worth the expense though note there are two levels, access to the upper one more expensive but probably giving you an even better view over Tokyo and surrounding areas.
Best part however was a two day trip to the Hakone National Park. Using the Hakone Free Pass it includes all transportation from Shinjuku to and around Hakone, including train, bus, cables car, ropeway, boat and donkey. Just kidding (about the donkey) …
As well access to some facilities is discounted using the pass. It’s convenient and easy to use and well worth the money as you have unlimited use on the transports.
Find more details about Hakone and the Free Pass here: jnto.go.jp/eng/RTG/PTG/307.pdf
Accomodation is not included however and it’s recommended to book in advance. Just head down to the Tourist information and they will help you with that (see also the above document, I stayed at the Hotel Elegance in Moto-Hakone which has it’s own onsen (hot spring) - a bit on the expensive side but a very nice and comfortable place).
Hakone is a beautiful area surrounded by mountains and with lake Ashi lying in front of you and again with clear sky you can see Mt. Fuji though we weren’t lucky and he remained hidden in the clouds.
Needless to say up on the mountain it was colder than in Tokyo and did snow occassionally. Nice!
Instead of using the free return trip included in the pass we went back via Yugawara and took the Shinkansen high speed train from Atami to Tokyo main station. Not cheap though at around NT$1200 for a 1 hour ride.
TIP: visit the Tokyo Metropolitan office building in Shinjuku and go up to the observation deck at level 45 - it’s free. Opens from 9:30 to 20:00 o’clock.
After returning from Hakone I noticed it was quite clear the next morning and I went up once more - and now I could see Mt. Fuji which at this time of the year is fully covered in snow.
The people were very helpfull, let it be the employees of the subway/JR system or just the common people and though not all did speak English we had no trouble to get help.
As well in Hakone a gas station attendent was so kind to drive us up the hill to the hotel with his car when we asked for the way while it was snowing. Thank you!