The trip to Japan in November 2016 was meant to be a weekend getaway to enjoy the autumn foliage while the husband was in Toyama for business. Unfortunately, about 2 weeks before the trip, I fell down the stairs and broke my leg. The first option that we immediately considered when that happened was to cancel the trip. This was especially since flying to Tokyo on my own (The husband was already in Japan at that time) with two young children (The son was 2 while the daughter was 8 years old) and a broken foot was not exactly the best way to start a vacation.
However, choosing this option would mean forfeiting the air tickets and the advance payment that we had already made for the lodgings. It would also mean disappointing the children who were already all geared up for the trip. As such, I decided to soldier on with the trip and pray that everything will work out fine. For the first part, I quickly realized that moving around with the leg in a cast, and on clutches is not possible for a holiday. Not considering the fact that the son still required me to carry him and that I needed to transport some hand-carry luggage onto the flight, I simply could not balance on clutches. I discussed this huge concern with my doctor and the proposed solution was to get myself out of the cast with clutches and into a walking cast. The walking cast was my savior and with it, I walked (mostly) like a normal person and since my hands were free, I could still carry the toddler while pushing the hand-carry. With that big problem resolved, I bravely set off to enjoy Kanto with my 2 and 8 year old.
With my limited mobility, we decided to rent a car for this getaway. This gave us a chance to explore the mainland of Japan via a self-drive. My verdict? For all the conveniences offered by a car, I still feel that Japan is best experienced using public transport. With an extremely efficient and advanced transport system, there are hardly any corners in Japan that cannot be reached by train or bus. I personally enjoy exploring the train stations in Japan for its unique bento sets, sold at stations to busy travelers. On top of that, public travel is an economical choice because there is a vast selection of discounted transport passes for tourists to purchase for travel across Japan. The JR Pass and the Kansai All Thru Pass are some of my favorites.
Since it was a short weekend getaway, we only had 3 nights and our objective had to be well-defined and simple in order to get the most out of this trip. We agreed that the main aim was to capture the lustrous autumn hues in all its glory. With this objective in mind, we short-listed three specific locations to visit -Kawaguchiko, Tachikawa and Hakone.
Lake Kawaguchiko has always held a special place in my heart because of the fantastic views of Mount Fuji that you could get here on a clear day. It was also a very popular place to enjoy the bronzed maple leaves during autumn. Photographers could enjoy the “Momiji Tunnel”, a maple tree covered road section along the lake’s northern shore, for autumn colours. We made time for a monkey show at the Kawaguchiko Sarumawashi Theater and both the children loved it. Although the performance was staged in Japanese, one could enjoy the show even with no understanding of the language, since the show focused predominantly on monkey acrobatics.
The Showa Kinen Park is a 165 hectare National Government Park, located in the city of Tachikawa, a western portion of the Tokyo Metropolis. As one of the best places to view autumn foliage in and around Tokyo, the crowds descend on the Showa Kinen Park in autumn. However, due to its large size, it is always possible to find an isolated area to enjoy the sights.
Our last destination, Hakone, was a terror to access during the weekends by car. We were caught in a huge jam going into the area (on a Saturday morning) and an even bigger jam coming out on a Sunday afternoon. Bad traffic, together with my personal view that the toll fees incurred while driving in Japan, are high, made me inclined to the public transport option in Japan. In Hakone, the Sengokuhara Japanese Pampas Grass Field was our most significant find. With the beautiful pampas grass spread over vast grounds and autumn colors in the mountains, it was a sight to behold.
Japan is blessed with a beautifully distinct four seasons. Having seen the beauty of Kanto in autumn, I am looking forward to coming back to experience the remaining three seasons as well.