If there’s an award for being the latest in posting an entry, I’ll probably get it. This was our New Year’s trip to Japan to welcome 2016. Yep, two years ago. But for posterity’s sake and just to make sure I’m not breaking any promises that I will write about it (better late than never!), here it is.

I’ve always wanted to go to Tokyo. No, I wasn’t the Paris type of girl. I fell in love with Japan’s culture and history pretty early on. I had books on Shogunates and would even bug our librarian in grade school to get more books on the topic. It also didn’t help that I became obsessed with Rurouni Kenshin and Sailor Moon.

Japan is also a special place for my husband and I. It started our tradition of welcoming the new year in a different country.

New Year in Japan

Shōgatsu (New Year) is generally a quiet holiday in Japan. The Japanese take time to see their families and visit temples to start the year right. So, if you want the ‘live like a local’ experience, this would be the perfect time to go. There won’t be any fireworks but Japan makes up for it with the cultural experience you can’t get anywhere else.

I’ll elaborate on some of the things we did during our week-long trip that you saw on the video. I won’t be mentioning everything anymore as this will end up being kilometric. And I did say I will be writing shorter entries this year, right? 🙂

Visit Edo Wonderland in Nikko

We traded Disneyland for a bit of time travelling in Edo Wonderland. We hopped on a train from Tokyo to Nikko which took about two hours. The Tokugawa period is one of the most interesting parts in Japanese history. All that time and effort to get hundreds of daimyōs under one ruler. I still remember staying up all night reading about the end of this regime (Bakumatsu). So I don’t think anyone can even comprehend how excited I was. Even Alvin.

Throwback Travel: Tokyo & Nikko for the New Year

It felt very authentic – like being sucked in a book Fushigi Yuugi style and arriving in a world set hundreds of years ago.

Throwback Travel: Tokyo & Nikko for the New Year

But the best part has got to be the free katana lessons. It’s in Japanese but they will try to accommodate non-Japanese speakers by using signals and a little bit of English. The sword’s heavy and the lessons require a certain height for those who want to try.

You’re taught how to bow to the master, sit properly, pull the sword from the sheath and even put it back in – cool samurai style. Getting to hold a real Japanese sword and being taught how to cut a human torso diagonally, gave me such a thrill. Like I’m a curly Hitokiri Battōsai, you know.

Alvin says I should stop wondering why I tend to scare people off.

Old houses were also recreated containing diorama depicting Japan’s history. Traditional Japanese street food is also sold on the streets, making it the perfect way to immerse yourself in ‘historical Japan’. Oh, and look around because you might bump into members of the Shinsengumi! I promise, I held myself together and just took photos.

Welcome the New Year Like a True Local!

I wrote an article on The Binge about this which you can read about by clicking this link.

My favourite bit about it has got to be our visit to the Imperial Palace in Tokyo on the 2nd of January to hear the Emperor’s New Year message. Granted, it was in Japanese and I could only catch a few words and phrases, it was truly a unique experience. Also, you don’t get to go inside on any other day of the year. We were only able to confirm that it would be open to the public the day we arrived in Tokyo!

Get ready for some cheese: That day, I got another proposal from my husband. How cute, right? He said he always wanted to propose to the girl he will marry there, inside the Imperial Palace. But the last time he was in Japan, he was with the wrong girl – and the Palace grounds were closed. A sign? Destiny? Whatever you want to call it I guess.

Visit a Dog Café

I love dogs and apparently, they feel the same way.

All our dogs have been staying with Alvin’s parents since we got posted (a lot of condos in Kuala Lumpur don’t allow dogs).

We miss them a lot so dog cafés have become a bit of a tradition for us when travelling to a country that has them.

I highly recommend Dog Heart from Aquamarine near Shibuya if you’re planning on going to one while in Tokyo.

The dogs are super sweet and so are the staff. They even offered to take our ‘family photo’ which made us so surprised at how well trained their pooches are.

You can find Dog Heart from Aquamarine at: 1 Chome-45-2 Tomigaya, 渋谷区 Tokyo 151-0063, Japan

They’re open everyday from 11am to 7pm, except on major holidays like the 1st of January. Call them at +81 3-3469-4115 just to make sure.

Photo Dump

And with that said, let me leave you with a slideshow of some of the things I was able to capture with my camera. I wasn’t able to take enough photos as most of the time, I was too busy having fun. It really was one of our best trips! For more information on visiting Japan during the New Year, do check my article on The Binge clicking this link. There’s more information in there. 🙂

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And before I go, do share this on Pinterest if you enjoyed this post and knowing that I have samurai killer tendencies.

More later.