Tokyo – where should I start?
Maybe with our arrival. From the very romantic and scenic city of Kyoto we made our way to Tokyo with the famous Shinkansen train – quite expensive, but very convenient.
I felt somewhat prepared for Tokyo because before we traveled to Japan, we watched the movie “Lost in Translation” – but I still ended up being overwhelmed by all the intensity.
Our accommodation was very nice – a traditional Japanese guesthouse in the lively area of Ikebukuro. We planned to spend a few days in Tokyo before leaving this weird and beautiful country towards… towards where? This was the main question we needed an answer for. It was our main topic, we discussed every option, discarded them and started from the beginning… over and over. I wanted to see the big wall of China, but didn’t want to do all the bureaucratic stuff and spend so much money to just visit the wall. It felt wrong. Anyway, we found a solution for the “next country problem”, more about it later.
Solving this problem was not the only thing we did, because we also were in Tokyo to discover that weird city.
It was Mo’s second time here and my first time. Tokyo offers enough to stay busy for a long time.
To be honest, on the first day, I was a bit disappointed. After Kyoto with all the beautiful and scenic shrines, I was expecting too much traditional culture in Tokyo. The shrine we visited on our first day, was very crowded and not impressive at all. Maybe I already saw too many shrines, so that I can’t cherish it enough anymore. But it was getting better over the following days.
Tokyo is a big city, so it’s important that you do some cherrypicking among all the options to not get lost. Here are some examples of what we did:
We mostly spend our time strolling around through different districts, searching for good coffee, food, and artsy stuff.
We were quite successful with that mission.
If you are a bit into food, then you probably know that Japan has many good food options and some of them with a star (or two, or three). But what we didn’t expect was the concentration of fine dining options in Tokyo. It is possible to have the cheapest star-food ever, without even reserving a table months ahead. We just managed to make our way to two of the most famous ramen places with a star and had delicious food there. Pro tip: Go there early enough (before the place opens) and line up, because they have only a few seats and you don’t want to wait for hours in front of a restaurant for your food.
I love the sound of the name and the district is also quite nice. The chance is high that you’ve heard of this district without knowing it. Shibuya is famous for its nightlife and for a big intersection – maybe the biggest intersection I’ll ever have been at. We had a lot of fun (like all the other tourists) to capture some nice picture of it.
But if you want to not go to Shibuya only for the big crossing, you can come here during the day. It will be a little less crowded and there are some nice food and coffee places do discover. But one more time: be aware, the coffee places are mostly hidden somewhere in the basement or backyard – there is not really a street coffee culture.
If you are overwhelmed by all the intensity of Tokyo, go and check out the nearest park. The parks in Japan are so beautiful and peaceful. Usually, you need to pay a small entrance fee to enter, but its worth it. After a few minutes in the park, you will forget that you are in the middle of one of the biggest, busiest cities in the world. You can just enjoy the silence, the green, the flowers and some very good matcha tea.
To break the silence go to Akihabara. This district is famous for its… mmh for what exactly? Let me try to explain. There are many shops and coffee places but in a very weird way.
The shops are mostly electronics or manga fan article shops, where you can find everything – when I say everything, I mean everything.
Among the tech shops are also a few vintage computer games stores. For most of the computer geeks its a real paradise “It’s like the computer game museum in Berlin, but you can just buy everything – isn’t it fantastic!” (Quote: Mo, with weirdly shining eyes).
Among all the shops, we also discovered a huge, multi-level sex shop selling every possible toy – certainly more than you or I could imagine. I was not allowed to enter every floor, but what I saw was… interesting (the higher floors were male-only).
In addition to the crazy shops, you will find all styles of cafes, like owl cafes, cat cafes, shooting cafes, hedgehog cafes, maid cafes… If you can think of it, chances are high, Akihabara has it.
You should at least try one of them, just for the experience…
Not a hidden Gem anymore
Guess what… Tokyo has very tall buildings. Not a surprise, I think. But did you know that you have a very scenic view from the top of them?
Mo told me that there is one building where you can go up without paying any entrance fee, and it is not very well known among tourists. I was totally into that idea and we both were very excited and motivated to go there. Once we arrived we found out that it isn’t a hidden gem anymore. There was a long line in front of the elevator and around the corner – bummer. Anyway, we were not there for fun; we had a mission so we just lined up and after around 40 minutes we were standing on the umptieth floor and were able to enjoy the stunning view over Tokyo. It was surprisingly uncrowded at the top, so we just stayed there for a while, drinking coffee and writing postcards.
Finally some street life culture?
On one of our last days in Tokyo, we found some street life culture. It was such a surprise, I wasn’t looking for something like that anymore. While aimlessly strolling through the streets, we just found a place where you can drink sake on the street! I was totally overwhelmed by this, such that I needed sake to calm me down again 🙂
I’m not really sure, but maybe this was the evening where we made the decision to book flights to our next destination. We somehow ended up with tickets to Sydney (and even a rough plan for after that). It was a very spontaneous gut decision and I was super excited to go there (Mo was still a bit anxious because he is convinced that everything in Australia will try to kill him).
Last but not least
Mo told me there is one more thing to do before leaving Tokyo and I must agree its a very special place. Its the Senso Temple with possibly the biggest lantern on the planet.
It sounds weird, but it is impressive and well worth a visit. We’ve been there on our last day before our departure and its the perfect todo for your last day in Tokyo. You have a great photogenic shrine and plenty of souvenir shops to buy some last minute gifts.
We spend nearly a month in Japan and it was such a wonderful, inspiring time. I know that we are coming back to this slightly weird, but lovely country. Yet again, its time to move on – this time we were off to another continent. A place I wanted to visit since I’m a child. Down-Under!