Let’s get this thing started. I’m a little nervous that I’ll forget something or potentially go too detailed and make all these posts really long but bear with me. I’ve decided to do a day by day so you can either follow along and get ideas for your own itinerary or just to be nosy and see haha. A little backstory – I went to Japan with my Australian friend Adam. We went for twelve days and had decided to try and see as much as we could. We hit up six or seven places (don’t remember exactly) and moved around by JR Pass (the ultimate train ticket similar to a interrail one so definitely look into it as it saves a bomb load of money). Right away we knew we wanted to try and experience the culture and therefore opted to stay at different kinds of accommodations, do cooking classes, go clubbing, eat unusual cuisines and try and become Pokemon. You can read more about how I planned for this trip here but enough chat, let’s go day one!
We both got in late at night (I flew from LA to Tokyo) so went straight to bed and woke up fresh and ready to see Tokyo. We were staying at Khaosan Laboratory (a hostel with brightly coloured rooms) in Asakusa. It’s not the typical tourist area but a great base for easy metro access and seeing a more ‘residential’ Tokyo. Our first stop was breakfast and we went to Mister Donut down the street. Honestly we were just starving and this place seemed as good as any to start the day. I have no idea what we ordered as no-one spoke English to translate but you can’t really go wrong with a doughtnut right? They were cheap and cheerful and frankly better than Dunkin or Krispy so kudos to Japan.
From there we went to Sensoji which is Tokyo’s oldest temple and a highlight in the area. This was my first temple experience and I’ll go into it more in later posts (as Kyoto had a bunch) but it was definitely very moving. You can tell who the tourists are as they stand idle with their jaws against the floor as everything is so beautiful and extravagant. Locals and believers know the routine (that we attempted to follow) of bowing upon entry, washing your hands, cleansing with the smoke, shaking the box to get your fortune, making donation after donation to pray and spread out your wishes. I ended up with the ‘highest, excellent fortune’ so I can hardly complain even though my stick flew out of the box (I took a video which maybe I’ll upload later). Although there are hundreds of people around you, it is a very zen and peaceful place. Everyone is very respectful of one another and it was a great first impression (especially after doughtnuts) to our trip.
Vending machines are huge in Japan, so damn huge. Every corner you pass there’ll be a vending machine I promise you. The majority we saw were drink ones but cigarettes, ice-cream and food also caught our eye. It just amazed me the frequency of them and how sometimes you’d get two or three next to each other. They are very cheap and super fast at dispensing (before you lift your finger off the button it has popped out). The other thing that amazed me is they also offer hot drinks and they truly come out scorching. Vending machines of the future I say. (We walked from Sensoji to our next destination through some backstreets thus this little section and the photo of the Tokyo Skytree that looks like it’s from World War Z).
We then headed to Ueno Park (pronounced Wen-o) which is their equivalent of say Hyde or Central. Inside is the Tokyo National Museum which of course we hit up. Lots of classic Japanese techniques on display here which was lovely to see and it is the largest art museum in Japan. There are treasures, Buddhist art and a variance of paintings, fabrics, ceramics etc.
Elsewhere in the park is a giant fountain, a zoo, shrines, people dancing and fairgrounds. It’s a real jumble of stuff and you can easily spend hours inside. Make sure you check out the pond as it has the cutest swan boats and also a great row of food stalls to get your hunger fix sorted.
From there we kept on walking (I think walking round Tokyo is awesome as you get to see the most weird and wonderful things) to Akihabara aka the tech area. It’s essentially full of electronics stores for whatever gizmo or gadget you crave. I’m not sure why but they closed off the main street to cars so people were just walking down the street and gazing up at the lit buildings. There are several of these all over Japan but here we hit up Club Sega. Arcades are very popular and the floors are split for different things – one is claw machines, ones for girls, ones music related games, ones more action/adventure and the other is fantasy. There was some kind of tournament happening when we first walked in and everyone was watching on a big screen with a commentator – not entirely sure what it was but I felt very cool being there haha. There’ll be a round two of arcades in Kyoto where I attempt some of the games so look out for that!
It was getting late so we grabbed the metro home (we bought PASMO cards at the airport, they’re kind of like Oyster cards that you top-up but can then return at the end of your trip and get your money back), and walked around Asakusa for dinner. The waitress saw us looking at this place and ushered us inside and it felt like a mafia den haha. Guys were playing cards and smoking in the back and we were sitting in the front by the bar (I think it seated like ten people). The food was yakitori which was delicious and we went for a variety of meat, fish and vegetables. Definitely try to avoid the tourist trap/chains and try and go a little authentic otherwise I think you’re doing yourself an injustice. This was one of my favourite places we ate as it felt authentic and was utterly scrumptious.
Down the street was Don Quijote which is kind of like a dollar store meets Primark? They have a few of these dotted around and you can buy any knick knack, groceries, toiletries, houseware etc. I was more intrigued by the party floor to see what Japanese surprises I could find. The weirdest thing was probably this party game that involves all the players putting a stocking over their head and trying to wiggle out before suffocating. Sadly I didn’t buy it but now looking back on it I kind of regret my decision, any Japanese people reading this – am I missing out on the new Cranium?
To end the day we went back to Sensoji to see it all lit up. There were practically no people around so it was perfect to take some photos and get some quiet. We changed hostels here and moved to Khaosan Origami which was just as lovely and just as cheap and cheerful. The staff there were super friendly and if you’re on a budget I can’t recommend any of the Khaosan locations enough.
It was a lot of walking, I think my fitbit went to like 30,000 steps. The metro is super easy to use and I would definitely recommend it but we just like wandering around haha. Next post will be up in two days and it’s all about Disney Sea! Feel free to follow the Adam Inflight instagram or join my mail list to be kept up to date and I’ll see you guys then, arigato!