Better late than never!
After a pretty hectic July, I was fortunate in that I received 5 days off. So there was no time to waste before heading off to Japan via Shanghai.
We (my colleague Cat and I) took the overnight train to Shanghai straight after finishing work as it allowed us a little extra time just incase of any delays or unforeseen problems. My one and only experience of a night train came in Thailand where I couldn’t fault it – and the same can be said for the journey in China.
The flight departed in the early afternoon and arrived at Tokyo Narita Airport in the early evening local time. I don’t think we realised how far away the actual city centre was from the airport but the overground train was convenient and cheap, albeit taking about an hour and a half to get to the area in which our hostel was located, Asukusa.
The first evening resulted in finding our hostel which we did more by luck than judgement. Then getting a quick bite to eat before taking a brief stroll around the area to get our bearings. Asukusa is home to the Sensoji temple, so during the day we’d heard the place would be swarming with tourists but during the evening it significantly dies down and it was good to see the temple first without the crowds.
Waking up the following day in the hostel was strange, due to the significant silence. Of which we later discovered to be usual in Japan. People were almost too courteous of others! Coming from China this seemed surreal. Our first destination was to check out Uneo Park. Where we wandered the grounds before finding the zoo. It was cheap and looked good so we went in. Despite being a small city zoo it was very well maintained and I didn’t feel uncomfortable at all; seeing the animals in good, clean and spacious enclosures. We also got hit by a huge rainstorm for about 30 minutes ~ and unfortunately got stuck inside the bird house of all places! This however was the only rain of the trip despite forecasts stating that rain would be prominent all week!
After a busy morning we jumped back on the subway and crossed the city towards Shinjuku, the busiest district of the city. This is also home to the famous crossing upon which Tokyo is recognised for. We took a few photos and managed to soak up some atmosphere from the Starbucks which is perched perfectly atop of the crossing. Each time the traffic lights changed hundreds of people swarmed across the intersection. We spent the evening in Shibuya, finding a few quirky (and cheaper) bar before heading to Cat’s choice – the Kawaii Monster Cafe. I wouldn’t have picked it but it was a crazy place best summed up by the photos.
A nice lay in came the following day but then we were up and out ready to make the most of our trip. Apparently no trip to Japan is complete without something Pokemon related so we made our way to ‘The Official World Pokemon Centre’. It’s basically just a big store with all things Pokemon but it definitely did bring back some memories. There were a few games, and interactive things and we even won some Pokemon cards!
That evening we took a trip up to Tokyo tower. Not the tallest building in the city, but maybe the most recognisable. It was like an orange Eiffel Tower and gave a good view across the city as the sun set, despite a few clouds. No trip to a metropolis city is complete without going up a tall building!
Cat and I split up on final full day. We headed back to Shibuya together and visited a famous temple a short walk from the subway station. Which was quite nice to walk away from the city for a few hours. I decided it was my priority to locate a small area called the ‘Golden Gai’. About the size of a football pitch this area squeezes hundreds of closet sized bars in, creating a fantastic atmosphere and great place to meet people. I took a quick subway to Shinjuku and set about my task. I soon found the area but I was too early! Fortunately Shinjuku had a lot to keep me busy with. Loads of flashing lights and bars lined the streets giving it a South East Asia type of feel. More by chance I came across the Samurai museum and decided to check it out. I spent a couple of hours there, learning the way of the warrior and becoming a fully fledged master… Well maybe I just saw a performance and got to hold a fake sword. By the time I’d finished my training it was early evening and so went back to the Golden Gai. I found a tiny bar which with my inclusion was at the full capacity of 6 people. It was a great atmosphere and I was joined by a few other travellers where we chatted and shared stories for several hours.
And then after a quick Japanese curry for dinner that night and a few croissant-y things for breakfast from a 7/11 it was time to leave! Was such a good trip and I’d not only love to go back to Japan but I’d say there’s still so much more to see and do in Tokyo!