A Travellerspoint blog

Tokyo, Japan

We love Tokyo!


Sorry its taken so long for this next blog. Japan has been hectic and a lot of our time has been trying to catch up on planning and booking accommodation more in advance than we're used to (its proven more difficult than we'd thought it would be). Plus, Tokyo was so busy that I've struggled to know where to start with this blog.

Tokyo is not the place to be with jet lag; for some reason we both really struggled here and found the first 3 days extremely tiring. We were staying in Nippori, a quiet area of Tokyo with easy access to all major sites and on the handy Yamanote train line. When we first arrived at Nippori station it felt really weird; quiet, efficient, really clean, we likened it to being in a computer game like Sim City. Everybody was smiley and helpful. The area has plenty going on with nice restaurants, shops, convenience stores and bars. We made this our base for the next 5 nights.

Day 1: We caught the train to Shinjuku and wandered around soaking up the Japanese way of life (which mostly includes being very polite, bowing a lot and eating delicious food on the go). We spent a fair bit of time trying to navigate around Shinjuku station which was huge and is its very own underground village. Desperate to try some Japanese food we got a bento box of rice goodies and ate it on the street next to all the other local people who must eat their lunch there everyday. From here we went to the government building and went up to the observatory area for free and got a real birds eye view of the city. On a clear day you can see Mount Fuji, but unfortunately we couldn't on this day. You could easily spend a few days alone in this area of Tokyo, we merely scraped the surface, walked miles around busy commercial areas; including huge electronic shops (where jason is still weighing up whether to have a GoPro or not) and Japanese department stores (where we tried as many free samples of food and wine as we could). Our next stop was Shibuya, which is known for its massive illuminated crossroads filled with tonnes of people (one of the opening scenes in the film Lost in Translation). This place was so overwhelming; noisy, busy, bright, futuristic. There were fashion forward teenagers on every corner, anime icons everywhere, loud Japanese computer arcades, pet hotels, people in fancy dress, bars and restaurants galore, film crews, love hotels...everything I expected Tokyo to be. We walked around, grabbed a bite to eat and went back to the hotel for a well deserved sleep. I was still feeling so tired at this point, so don't feel like we made the most of Shibuya and all of its weird and wonderful Japanese entertainment. We have since spoken to other backpackers who really did experience Tokyo night life here; including maid cafes (when girls dress as dolls to serve you drinks), sake & yakatori (meat BBQ and drunk salary men) and entertainment arcades (which can include men dressing up as girls for a photo booth photo shoot or slot machines with prizes of women's underwear in them)...very strange!

We tried to have a bit of a lie in so as to avoid being so tired again and had a late brunch. Mine was a pretty standard stir fry dish where as Jason went for a huge selection of seafood sashimi (raw). We went to Ueno park, specifically to the Tokyo National Museum. The museum is huge,and like most other national museums has lots of art, sculptures, pottery, fashion through different eras, sword collections, and much more. We also took part in a Mongolian fortune telling game; Jason is going to have amazing luck in his life, whereas mine is all bad (I even tried the game repeated times, but still just bad fortune). Luckily it was a rainy day so didn't mind that it took us hours to get around the different exhibitions, but ordinarily think we would have preferred to be outside exploring a bit more on foot. Ueno park is a day activity too; with lots of other museums, sculptures, temples, ponds and people watching opportunities. Next to Ueno station there's a busy outdoor market area with lots of souvenir shops and street food stalls (we couldn't resist the chicken pesto sandwiches...not very Japanese I know). The day went so quickly...after the museum, park and market there was just enough time to grab a tasty tempura treat before bed. Near our hotel there was a fab (and cheap) tempura restaurant; we loved the squid, prawn and mushroom tempura the best.

OK, so on our third day in Tokyo we started to feel a bit more like ourselves and actually got up relatively early and walked to Asakusa for brunch. Our first stop was the Senso-ji temple, still very impressive despite it being a new construction after the original was bombed during World War Two. I gather they reconstructed it to replicate the original anyway. It's bright red with beautiful bold colourful motifs, there's a smell of incense in the air and local people come here to pray in traditional Japanese dress (kimonos). It's worth wandering around but it does get busy with tourists. Two young girls approached us and asked us some questions in English; " Where are you from? What is your name?"; and in return we got some free Japanese tea from them...winner. There's plenty of food stalls around the temple and Jason tried mochi, a rice flour chewy ball usually served with red bean paste. Not my cup of tea but Jason quite liked them and has since had them again. I was ready for a proper sit down and loved our Japanese brunch in a ramen shop. Ramen shops are everywhere and are a perfect fast food fix for us; cheap, filling & tasty. I had spicy leek and miso noodles and J had roast pork noodles with dumplings on the side (we've had plenty of ramen since this first visit). Despite the rain we went on a river cruise from Asakusa to Hamarikyu-teien gardens; twas quite pleasant, not loads to see, but made a change from getting around the city on the trains. There was an unusual Superdry building with a gold coloured sperm-shaped object attached to it along the river... very odd. We also couldn't understand a word the Japanese guide was describing on the cruise, but her enthusiasm was entertainment enough. The Hamarikyu-teien gardens are lovely, very serene and Japanese in style, but with huge modern skyrise buildings surrounding it... it's just a shame we dashed around it because we were getting soaked by the rain. By this point it was getting dark and more rainy, so we wandered around Tokyo centre area where there's lots of nice department stores, illuminated skyscrapers and businessmen dashing around in the rush hour commute. After all that walking around it was time to retire for the evening as we'd got an early morning for the fish market the next day.

All the guide books say you should make the effort and go to the Tsujiki fish market in the morning. Fellow backpackers had said that we should get up at 3.30am and try to get one of the limited entry tickets to the tuna auction..."did we do that?" you ask...no! We deliberated for hours the night before, set our alarm for 3am, then 7am, then 3am...before finally deciding that we'd be gutted if we got there and didn't manage to get a ticket and that we would be quite happy with just experiencing the normal wholesale market instead. I had a really good morning; it was bustling with activity, people buying and selling all kinds of seafood, dodging out the way of fork lift trucks, watching the huge pieces of tuna being sawn into pieces...it's definitely a working port market than a tourist attraction, if you get in the way it's your own fault. After all the mayhem of the market it was time to grab a fish brunch. There are loads of sushi and sashimi cafes surrounding the market and the ones in the guidebooks have huge queues for them, so instead of waiting for hours we went to one with a medium-sized queue instead and had a bowl of sashimi each. The main fish in my bowl was yellow fin tuna, along with prawn, caviar, lobster, minced tuna, fish omelette. Jason's was quite similar but he had sea urchins... I thought they were horrible but J liked them.

After the fish market we caught a train to central Tokyo and strolled around the outskirts of the Imperial Palace. You can't go in the palace, but there are nice gardens to walk around (alongside the many joggers that use the palace as a jogging circuit). The palace is home to the Imperial family and Japan's Emperor, but only open to the public on two days a year. Luckily the weather was really sunny and warm and we enjoyed walking around, seeing the manicured lawns with gardeners cutting the grass with scissors, and stopped to have a drink outside in the sun. Before going back to the hotel for an afternoon nap we had time to browse around the nearby Pokemon shop for some Christmas present ideas...I wonder who for?!

We'd read on a blog that Ebisu was a good alternative area to go out in Tokyo, hopefully a bit cheaper than Shibuya or Shinjuku. We actually found it pretty quiet, but none the less had a great night out together. We found a pizza place (Japanese love Italian food) that made wood fired pizzas right in front of you for about £3 each. They were delicious and we managed to eat our way through four of them... oh dear. I also discovered that I like tequila tonic as a drink...lovely! We propped ourselves up at the pizza bar all night, it was a great last night in Tokyo.


The weirdest thing happened the next morning. We thought we'd grab a quick curry lunch in a little cafe at Ueno station in Tokyo before catching our train to Sendai. As I was ordering the food Jason started talking to a man that was sitting at one of the 10 tables in the cafe. It was one of Jason's colleagues from work, Ian...such a small world. Of all the places we've been, we certainly didn't expect to see someone we knew in one of the busiest cities in the world. A lovely lunch and catch up was had, it was nice seeing a friendly face.

Posted by bloorsontour 03:52 Archived in Japan

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Amazing country! We're looking forward to more from Japan! Xxx

by Ma and Pa

Wonderful! We feel tired reading about it,but would love to go there all the same.Take care,keep the blogs coming xx

by the wrinklies

It sounds really interesting. Love the photos xxx

by mutsi

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