Yeah ok, I got a little too excited with the title. Here are some pictures from my holiday in Japan. Taiwan will be up coming (and will pretty much be about food)
First things first, the sole representative of Tokyo
The Tokyo Tower. I was excited when I saw it, though I didn’t bother going haha.
Officially I didn’t do anything on day one, it was my first day in town, everything was a bit overwhelming, and plus I was tired from waking up at 3 in the morning to get ready and catch my plane. Though I ended up going to the airport too early…LOL
Day two in Japan: Shinjuku, Tokyo City Hall, and Harajuku
Day two involved A LOT of walking, I walked for 6 hours straight, no breaks and no rest. I didn’t even go to the washroom because it was too hot and I sweated off my liquids.
My first stop was the Tokyo City Hall, as it had a free view of the city of Tokyo, and also the tourist info booth located there apparently had a booklet with coupons. Though I ended up not using the coupon, the booklet was pretty useful in giving me suggestions on where to go, and it had a full map of the Tokyo subway system including the JR lines (which most of the metro maps don’t include) and also parts of the area surrounding metro Tokyo (such as Kichijoji, which I was going to). The map on the booklet proved to be very useful though out my travels so I would highly suggest getting one.
The City Hall is located walking distance to the Shinjiku subway station, head out the west exit. There are 2 towers you can go up to see the bird’s eye view of the city, North tower and South tower. I went up the South one, but didn’t have enough time to go up to the North one. The North one opens later (I think till 10PM) they stop letting people in 30mins into closing, so just be aware of that. As well, if you don’t go early enough you may be stuck in a line up. I go there just a bit before 10 and didn’t need to wait in line, but when I went back down (around 10:30) there was a long line of people waiting to go up. They will check your bags before letting you on the elevator, I am not sure what they check for, probably weapons and such, just let them look in your bag and don’t question it LOL.
Harajuku was busting with uniquely dressed individuals and interesting stores. I took a walk down the famous stree of Hrarjuku, and had a crepe to eat (Harajuku is famous for that too), it was only ok though. Probably should have waited till I got to a store where there were people lining up, but I was too hungry when I got there.
It took me forever to try to find Snoopy town in Harajuku. I thought it would be a store front, but turns out it was inside a store call Kiddyland, with the store front on the main street, I passed by it like 3 times while trying to find Snoopy Town. Good thing I decided to go in there to check it out the very last min, after giving up and wanting to go home.
Day three in Japan: Asakusa, Sensoji, Skytree (kinda), and Ameyayokocho
Also A LOT of walking. I subwayed to Asakusa, where Sensoji, the oldest temple in Tokyo was located, and also very close to the Skytree. I thought about going into the Skytree, but it was too rich for my blood. 2000 yen just to get in, and another 3000 yen to get up, that’s nearly 50 dollars to go in, it’s insane, so I just took some pictures from far away LOL. I already saw the view of Tokyo for free from the City Hall anyways.
Sensoji is one of the oldest temples in Toyko, I didn’t go inside, you couldn’t take pictures inside anyways. surrounding the temple were a lot of street shopping full of souvenir stores, food and such. Around the area there were also a lot of people dressed up to give you a ride on their pull carts.
I, of course, being cheap didn’t go on one. But the people were so eccentric, it was almost funny, I suppose doing what they do they have to be. You can also rent yukatas to wear while sitting on the pull carts, to have the full on Japan in olden days experience.
After Sensoji, and some far away pictures I took with the skytree
and the beer building
I decided, instead of taking the subway, to walk to Ameyayokocho, which is next to Ueno station. The walk took about 40 mins, I was pretty tired by the time I got there. I walked through Ameyayokocho, got some things, and was ready to head home. I had originally planned to go to the Ueno Zoo, but I was just beat. I fell asleep on my way home.
Day four: Kichijoji, Inokashira-Onshi Park, and Ikebukuro
Kichijoji, although had a “ji” (which means temple in Japanese) in its name, was not really a temple. It was a collection of streets of shopping. I bought some things in there, I was actually expecting it to have a temple, but turn out there wasn’t really one.
After walking around the streets of Kichijoji I went to Inokashira-Onshi Park, which is a park near the station. I had originally planned to go to the Ghibili Museum, which is better known as the Totoro museum, although it does not contain only Totoro stuff. It’s a museum of art work done by Miyazaki (creator of Totoro), but apparently it’s a very popluar museum and the tickets were all sold out. For those interested, you will have to buy tickets from a machine in Lawson store (a local convenient store you can find anywhere in Japan). The process is fairly easy (the museum website has more information that) you can also pre purchase your tickets in your home country, but as I am now in Korea, the information was in Korean so I just thought I would buy it in Japan, unfortunately the tickets were sold out (sad face). The information I got online was that they only allowed about 1000 guests into the museum per day, as the museum is fairly small. You are not allow to take pictures inside the museum, but outside the surrounding area is ok. A blogger suggested to walk through Inokashira-Onshi Park to get to the museum from Kichijoji as the park is very beautiful and it’s not a long walk (about 20 mins). Or you can also opt for the subway in which you would get off at Mitaka station. There’s a “Totoro bus” that takes you to the museum from Mitaka station, which of course is not free. I didn’t make it to the museum as it started pouring on my walk there, I made it half way into the park and a sudden down pour forced me to head back. I had planned to go back home to change, but by the time I hit Shinjuku station (my transfer station) I was pretty much dry, so I decided to head towards Ikebukuro station instead.
Ikebukuro is another big shopping area in Tokyo, with lots to see and do. The more famous tourist spot is a mall call Sunshine City
What’s special about Sunshine City? Well it had an amusement park and an aquarium in it. I didn’t go to the aquarium because I believe the entrance fee was pretty steep, plus back in Vancouver we have one of the biggest aquariums in North America, I don’t think Japan can do better. The amusement park, Namko Namja Town, I did go into. The entrance fee was 300 yen if I remember correctly for just entrance, if you want to do the rides it’s another price (can’t recall how much it was). I just wanted to see the ice cream museum so I forked over the 300 yen. The ice cream museum wasn’t really a museum, more like a collection of shops that sells different types of ice cream. There was also a dumplings museum, and on the top floor, desserts. It’s really just heaven for people with a sweet tooth (aka me). But as per usual anything in Japan is ridiculously expensive (the food is not included in the entrance fee), so I only got a pudding ice cream crepe for 600 yen (about 6 dollars)
possibly the best dessert I have ever had, and probably the most fattening LOL.
in Ikebukuro I was also looking for a famous ramen restaurant that bloggers had been raving about, but failed in finding it. I thought it would be close to the main shopping area, turned out it was a long walk away from the shopping area (should have done more research). so that ended my fourth day in Japan.
Day five: Palace, Meiji Shinto, and Shibuya
My fifth day was a busy one. In the morning I went out with the family I was staying with, we went to the palace, where we could not get in. I was told that the palace only opens up to public on Jan 1st and the emperor’s birthday. We had really good sushi for lunch.
YUM! and then we headed over to Meiji Shinto (shrine)
This is the shrine of a previous emperor. The Japanese people believe once the emperor passes on he becomes a god in the heavens. At the entrance of the shrine there’s an area where you must cleanse yourself before you go in.
The process is to ladle some water with your right hand to wash your left, then use the left hand to ladle water to wash your right. Some people also rinse out their mouths, but make sure you cover your mouth while spiting out the water
You are not allow to take pictures of the statues, and actually you can’t really go into the temple were the statue is. On the out skirt there are a row of money boxes where you can throw money in and make a wish. The typical amount is 500 yen because 5 sounds like “round” in Japanese, and it can also mean to “complete” your wishes. You will find a piece of paper on the money box that tells you how to make a wish. If I remember correctly you throw in the money, clap once, bow, make your wish then clap twice. You can also make a wish by buying a wooden plaque writing your wish on top and hanging it in the provided area. They also provide free paper for you if you don’t want to pay. I just did the money throwing thing.
And I saw this WTF wish at the shrine…
I personally am not Christian, but have nothing against people who are (my brother is one), but it’s people like this that makes the Christians look bad.
At Meiji Shinto we were also lucky enough to run into a wedding in process
This is apparently very expensive, but you actually get to go into where the god statues are. When we were walking out we saw the cars parked were all expensive cars LOL.
After Meiji Shinto, I met up with a girl the family friend introduced to me at Shibuya and did some shopping.
And of course the obligatory picture of Hachi san
Shibuya is a very very busy shopping area of Tokyo, it was probably the first time since I was in Tokyo to feel the crowdedness of Tokyo.
The most intense intersection in Tokyo. When the lights turn green, it’s all 4 lights together, so the people can walk diagonally.
Day six: Tokyo Station and Roppongi
This was my last day in Tokyo, as my flight the next day is an early one.
I started off the day by subwaying to Tokyo station. This was actually not on my list of things I wanted to do originally, but I had time, and heard that they renovated the area, and it’s very nice. So I took the long way there, because I didn’t know the central JR line would take me there in less than 20mins. My way took one transfer and about 40 mins (yeh). I didn’t find this out until I came back to the station close to where I was staying.
The Tokyo subway station was a HUGE station, it I walked around WITHIN the station for about 10mins before I found where to exit. The underground shopping area was a new area of Tokyo station and it proved to be very worth visiting, especially if you are a anime/Japanese character fan. In the shopping area it had a “Street of Japanese Character” where stores upon stores sell only things that are in animes or are Japanese characters. Such as Rilakkuma
among others, I will not post all the pictures because there’s just too many, you can click into see my facebook album up top (no need to sign into facebook). I spent a good 2~3 hours shopping in this area. I was a little confused, but I believe there are two underground shopping areas in Tokyo Station. I had to head back home, because the family I am staying with was going to take me to Roppongi, otherwise I could have spent more time there.
I had udon for lunch, it was yum. I believe this was about 240yen, and I had a veggie tempura for 100yen as well.
Then it came time for Roppongi. There are 2 major buildings in Roppongi. One is call the Roppongi Hills and the other is Tokyo Midtown. We were originally going to go to Roppongi Hills, but took the wrong road and ended up in Tokyp Midtown instead
Tokyo Midtown is the older of the 2, with lots of luxury brand name stores inside, nothing I could afford of course. But the building itself was a site to see. I walked into a store where they sold fruits and I was shocked by the price of the peaches..It was a box of 6 peaches for 52,000 yen, no that’s not won, yen (about $525 for a dozen peaches). The food area was affordable and I got some yummy bread for my plane ride. I would imagine Roppongi Hills to be the similar feel. From my research I found out that at the top of Roppongi Hills there is a store that sells tofu pudding dessert, and it’s apparently the best thing in the world and only sold there. But later found out that it costs money to get up there in the first place to see the store. We ran out of time so we didn’t end up going to Roppongi Hills, only got pictures of the building, which is really enough for me. Roppongi area is really for the rich people, and I am not one.
Overall thoughts of my Tokyo trip:
This is not the first time I have been to Tokyo, but probably will be the most memorable, because I was too little to remember the other times. Tokyo is a lovely city, I love it’s business and the fact that even though there are soooooo many people handing out stuff and walking around, there are absolutely no garbage on the ground (unlike Taiwan and Korea, though Taiwan has gotten better recently). For whatever reason the heat seems to be more bearable in Japan than Korea, perhaps due to the amount of stores that have their AC turned on to feel like Dec. If you get too hot, just walk into a store to cool off. It’s wonderful. the people are super polite, they will greet you when you walk in, and say good bye when you leave even if you didn’t buy anything. Unlike Korea the sales don’t follow you around and give you pressure, and I love that fact. The big cosmetic stores is like heaven for me, I can probably spend a whole day in those type of stores and they are every where in Japan.
Some final tips for travelling in Tokyo:
1. I would definitely make city hall the first thing to go to, not only to take in the view of Tokyo but also to get that tourist booklet. You won’t be able to find it on stands, you will have to ask the people at the counter for it (first floor). The subway map inside is very useful for figuring out the subway system, especially if this is your first visit to Tokyo. Also if you have time I would suggest going into the South Tower in the morning for day view, and the North Tower (closes later) at night for the night view. I didn’t have time for the night view, and am regretting not making it there.
2. I hear horrid stories of the subways system in Tokyo, here are a few tips to avoid being lost or squished on to the subway.
During rush hour (7 ot 9am and 5 to 6pm) avoid the subway at all cost. I normally leave the house around 10am to avoid the rush and by accident had been getting home around 4ish, latest 5pm, and I didn’t experience the being pushed into the subway culture of Japan, which I was happy about.
DO YOUR RESEARCH! The best way to not get lost on the subway system is to do research, there are a million and one bloggers out there blogging about visiting Tokyo, learn from their mistakes. When you are exiting the subway station, don’t ever just go out which ever exit, know where you want to go, and find out which exit you should take. The subway stations are HUGE, and it can mean the difference of a 10 min walk versus a 30mins walk if you picked the wrong exit to take. Tokyo subway stations probably has the most direction signs I’ve ever seen. It’s fairly clear where you should go and how you should get there. There’s a sign directing you every two steps, so I don’t see how you can get lost if you pay attention to the sign. I have not need to ask for direction nor did I ever get lost while I was in Tokyo
3. I have a pet peeve about looking like a tourist when travelling, in that I don’t like it. It probably has something to do with my previous job (I tell people how not to look like tourists when they are). I avoid holding maps while walking, and looking lost(this may be why I keep getting asked for directions). I hardly pause to see where I am, because the signs are everywhere it was pretty easy for me to pretend I know where I am going. Before I jetted off to Tokyo I had read up on it, and noted down the places I wanted to go and exits to take, directions and such in a little note book that I carry with me so that I don’t look like a tourist.
4. If you are using the subway system to move around I would suggest getting a subway card. The family I was staying with lent me a Passmo card. There’s also another one call Suica card, both work on all the subway systems (except for the airport train to Narita, that’s a separate ticketing system). The subway system can be confusing, there are JR lines the Tokyo metro lines, and many other small privately operated subway lines, so it can be confusing to figure out which ticket to buy. If I were to go again I would still get a card. The card requires the first deposit to be 2000 yen, and 500 of that will be used as the card deposit. You should be able to get a refund of whatever amount is left in the card along with your 500 yen deposit, but I am not quite sure as I used someone else’s card, and did not need to do this. I spent about 3000 yen on the subway system in the 6 days I stayed there, and I think it’s pretty fair for the amount of travelling I did. Getting the card is the simplest way and the best way to not look like a tourist as well LOL. I didn’t bother calculating how much my trips would have been had I bought individual tickets, but I doubt it would have been much different. You do not get a discount on ticket prices for using the card (Korea gives discounts), but it is just easier.
5. To get from the airport to where ever you are staying, first see if your hotel provides airport rides if they do that’s great, if not, the airport limousine is a good option (it’s not actually a limousine, just a bus company name). I spent 3000 yen to get from Narita to Shinjuku. The subway line that takes you from Narita to Ueno station (about 20 or so mins from Shinjuku) is 2900 yen. So do the math, see which way is better for you. If I had taken the train I would have needed to transfer and find out which station to transfer to and how to get there etc etc. which would be quite overwhelming for first time visitors. If your hotel does not have a shuttle service maybe you can contact them and ask for the best way to get there.
6. The last and most important tip: RESEARCH, RESEARCH AND MORE RESEARCH. Google is a wonderful tool if you use it correctly. I cannot stress how important it is to have done your research, Tokyo is definitely not a city you want to visit blindly. At the very least have a list of places and things you want to visit. Plan each day according to location and ease of access (for example it would be kind of silly to visit Tokyo station and Kochijoji on the same day because they are at the opposite ends of Tokyo city). Don’t waste time, doing that.
Lastly, hope this was informative and if you do go to Tokyo, have fun!