It was our last day in Tohoku before heading back to Tokyo and we needed to return the hire car back to Fukushima station by 2pm and watch the Shinkansen we had booked while in Mito station. We spent the morning exploring central Aizuwakamatsu by foot, going into tourist stores and getting some gifts for family and friends. Akabeko are very famous in Aizuwakamatsu, and we saw a giant one outside the station. Akabeko are bright red cows, during a smallpox epidemic a red cow is said to have come, and warded off the disease. Nodding head akabeko figures are popular souvenirs for the area, and super adorable! The area around the station was quite nice, with historic looking entrances to the underground.
We left Aizuwakamatsu at around 10:30 to make the 50 mile journey back to Fukushima station, giving ourselves 3 and a half hours to do what should have been a short journey. As with any car journey in Japan it became much longer than was advertised, but we still made a couple of stops at Michi no eki along the way, and to take a few last snaps of the farming area we were in. It was so interesting to see the farmers in the area still using the traditional methods of drying wheat and rice (pictures 1 and 2 respectively).
We made it to Fukushima station in time to return the car, and then were driven to the station by one of the staff members, so we didn’t have to walk with our bags. In the days since we picked the car up, we managed to do exactly 999.9 kilometres! I was sad to be leaving Tohoku, and to be leaving Fukushima, even though we explored the area for 13 days I think months could be spend and you’d still have more to explore. I’d love to go back to Tohoku in the future and to be a part of their recovery.
We were staying in Ueno in Tokyo for two nights, before getting another car and heading into Yamanashi prefecture. I love the Ueno/Asakusa area of Tokyo most of all, and have staying here in 4/5 trips to Japan. We were staying in a newish hotel called Tokyo Ueno New Izu Hotel which had good reviews and was reasonable for Tokyo prices. It turns out that the price wasn’t so reasonable, as the hotel wasn’t that great! The rooms were small, which is standard for a business hotel, but had almost no amenities and they had very strange rules about going out. You had to leave your room key at reception every time you left the hotel! Also the room wasn’t the safest, we were on the third floor and the window opened wide, straight onto a electricity pole complete with multiple junction boxes!
One of the things I was most excited about in Tokyo was visiting Asia’s first (and currently only) entirely gluten free restaurant. One of the things that I miss out on most when travelling is being able to sample all the local cuisine due to multiple food allergies. This has meant that before our 2019 trip I had never eaten ramen in Japan! We were going to Gluten Free T’s Kitchen, who are the only certified gluten free restaurant in Asia. They also cater for a number of other food allergies, so I was very excited. The restaurant had recently moved to a new building in the Roppongi area of Tokyo, near to Tokyo tower. It was a bit of a challenge to find though. It was such a cozy little restaurant, with only a couple of tables. All the staff spoke both English and Japanese, and provided us with an allergy questionnaire before we ordered. We really pigged out, having gyoza, ramen, curry, pancakes and cake! I could eat everything we ordered, excluding the sakura cake. All of it was absolutely delicious, so much so that we booked a reservation for the following week when we would be back in Tokyo. My husband, who has no allergies, thought the food was exceptional.
We were absolutely stuffed, the pancakes were enormous but I managed to finish them both, even after my gyoza and bowl of ramen. We headed into Roppongi proper, and walked to see Tokyo tower, which was decorated for Christmas already, it was November the 6th. We headed back to our hotel, retrieved our key from reception and headed for bed, ready to explore Tokyo tomorrow!