Tokyo is the one place I’ve wanted to go more than anywhere for my whole life, so there was a lot of pressure on this visit. My expectations were extremely high, meaning there was definite potential for disappointment. I’m happy to say though that Tokyo was exactly how I’ve been imagining it since I was a little kid. The only problem was, it was over so quickly! Here’s how we spent our all too brief time there…
We actually had six nights in Tokyo, but because the first day was partly taken up by travelling from Korea and finding our hostel etc, I’ll leave that part out. By our first full day in Tokyo I was like an excited puppy wanting to explore every part of the city at once. I couldn’t decide on where I wanted to go so we ended up exploring three major districts in one day: Asakusa, Shibuya and Shinjuku. We spent the morning exploring Asakusa, the area surrounding our hostel. It’s a historic district with several temples and shrines, including the Senso-ji Buddhist Temple which was really beautiful. We spent a few hours looking around here and the nearby markets before getting the train to Shibuya, which I couldn’t wait to see. Shibuya is the most recognisable part of Tokyo, with towering buildings covered in neon and flashing billboards, as well as the famous crossing that’s filled with a constant, flowing mass of people at all hours of the day. It’s like a bigger, busier, crazier Times Square. After tasting our first real ramen here (from a restaurant that has you order and pay on a vending machine outside, how Tokyo?) we got the train to nearby Shinjuku. It’s a similarly lit-up mania to Shibuya, but with more nightlife options. We had a few drinks here but it was so expensive, plus 75% of the bars seemed to be strip clubs. One place worth mentioning though is the Mother rock bar, the first place we’ve found since coming to Asia that actually play decent music. I was in shock when we walked in to them playing The Libertines! However at 700 Yen (just under £6) for a small drink, we could hardly afford to stay!
On our second day we visited the part of the city that I’d been obsessed with since I was little – Harajuku! It’s the hub of all things kawaii in Tokyo; the kind of bug eyed cuteness that’s become synonymous with Japanese culture. The best area for kawaii shopping and spotting the famous Harajuku Girls is down Takeshita Street. The shops here were beyond my ten-year-old self’s wildest dreams; an overload of pink and fluff, walls laden with Barbies and Furbies, with the tackiest most outlandish rainbow-coloured garb on sale. Anyone who knows me knows that this is right up my street! If you can’t picture what I mean then take a look at this:
Just around the corner from Takeshita Street is the Harajuku Kawaii Monster Cafe, definitely a must if you’re visiting Tokyo! It’s one of many wacky Japanese things you know you’d never experience anywhere else. You can eat lunch in a series of rooms I can only describe as Alice in Wonderland on acid – unicorns on birthday cakes whizz round roundabouts, giant purple mushrooms twirl around tables, and every so often the ‘monsters’ put on a crazy music and lights show. If you want kawaii, this is the place to go!
On Wednesday we ventured outside of Tokyo for a day trip to the iconic Mount Fuji, which you can read about here.
We were back in Tokyo on Thursday, so we decided to go and see the Imperial Palace, which is the home of the Emperor of Japan and one of the biggest tourist attractions in the city. You can’t actually go into the palace, but it’s recommended to go and take a stroll around the huge gardens of the Royal grounds. I usually love to drag Jordan around these kinds of things, but to be honest this was pretty boring. You can’t see much, and all that you can see is samey. Luckily though it’s free, so we didn’t feel too bad when we ditched halfway round to go and get sushi, something we could both agree on! We made a beeline for a place in Shibuya we had our eye on called Sushi-Go-Round. So much better than any sushi I’ve had at home!
In the evening we went back to Shinjuku to an area called Golden Gai, which was one of my highlights of Tokyo. It’s seven streets together that are packed with the tiniest bars, some that only fit around five people in. It’s really cool as each one is so different to the next, and you end up making friends with everybody else in there as you’re squeezed so tightly together! Some of the bars charge an entry fee of around 500-1000 Yen (£4-£8) which is annoying, but if you walk round a bit it’s easy to find ones that don’t. We got carried away here and ended up missing the last train home, meaning we had to get a taxi which took over an hour and cost way too much – Tokyo is huge!
I’m ashamed to say that our last day in Tokyo was a complete write off. After not getting back from Golden Gai until the early hours I couldn’t drag myself out of bed all day, which I massively regret now! When we finally got up we went for one last look around Shibuya and said our emotional goodbyes to the city, before going to see the Tokyo Sky Tree and the Tokyo Tower, the two most famous towers in the city. I liked the Tokyo Tower best, it looks similar to the Eiffel Tower but lights up bright orange at night, so fab! Due to maintenance though visitors weren’t allowed to go up on the day we went.
Going to Tokyo was literally a dream come true for me, and I was so sad to leave after only 6 nights. Our short trip was just a teaser for all that Japan has to offer, and left us both feeling all the more intrigued about the country outside of Tokyo. However, Japan marked the end of our month’s travels around oriental Asia, and it’s now time to move on to the South East! Watch this space…