Tokyo was the most eastern destination for us and easily one of the most contrasting places for cultures and experiences. Heading in we knew that it would be less accommodating from an English language perspective but also their social norms and day to day life would be something completely different to what we were used to. In short, Tokyo was a journey into oriental culture and tradition.

Read about our previous adventure to Hong Kong here and vlog here

We flew into Tokyo at ridiculous o’clock in the morning, which meant that we were both exhausted and just wanted to get to our hotel – a half hour drive. However, little did we know that no buses or metro’s were operating at that time and the only way we could travel was via taxi.

£80 later, we hesitantly handed over the money and went to check in. We were staying at a APA HOTEL OJIMA which is a good quality brand of hotels in Tokyo – think Holiday Inn. But, to me and Luke it was just enough to have a shower and a comfy bed, we didn’t care about the many luxurious resorts in which you can indulge in Japan.

We woke early and headed out to purchase our metro tickets – roughly a 5 minute walk. It came to no shock to us, that when we arrived we didn’t have the slightest clue of what to do. But, shortly we understood (somehow). Tokyo has 2 subways – Tokyo subway & Toei subway. To buy a ticket for all subway lines for 24 hours was 900YEN (£6.11). Travelling the metro was relatively easy, just like any other major cities. As long, and we come back to this time and time again, that you don’t ride during rush hour. Something me and Luke always manage to regrettably do!

The beginning of our adventure into Tokyo was to check out Ueno Park. Stepping out of the metro, in what is a relatively built up area in Tokyo, there was an immediate influx of pedestrians. Despite the large crowds, they were very strict by abiding of the city etiquette – for example, even with clear traffic, they wouldn’t cross the road until the green man displayed. Making our way cautiously to the park, it was easy to see the Japanese work ethic and clinical persision of the park upkeep and it showed – it was stunningly beautiful.

Next, we headed to what is known by the ‘electric city’ situated in Akihabara. We managed to see from the surean to the high tech anime culture. One store (Yodobashi) was 9 floors of multimedia and camera equipment, it has everything from home appliances to computer peripherals and parts. Whilst, the prices are pretty comparable to back home, it was still an interesting experience – to Luke’s excitement we went in and ogled over stuff we couldn’t afford to buy.

After this, we felt it was time to indulge in to some traditional Buddhist way of life by visiting the Sensō-ji temple. It is the oldest temple in Tokyo and is by far, the most admirable. Wondering towards this significant masterpiece, you passed through a market, it was everything you would expect it to be from the traditional eastern stalls, whilst inhaling the hazy mist coming from the incense burner to the entrance of the temple at the ‘thunder gate’. Upon walking through, there were stalls filled with souvenirs, every-flavoured ice-cream you can think of (yes, me and Luke couldn’t miss such an opportunity – I opted for chocolate cookie and Luke had melon).

 

Taking it all in, you began to see how important this place was. With the ladies and gentlemen dressed impeccably in their Kimonos, people worshipping to the statue inside and having the option to learn your future via Omikuji paper fortunes.

Between the ever-crowded temple, Luke decided to take part and find out his future. It cost 100YEN (67p), in which you have to put the coin into the money box yourself. You then pick up, to what can only be described as a shaker, once shaken a couple of times, a Omikuji rod would pop out. Engraved on these rods will be Japanese numbers to what you match up to what’s on the boxes in front of you. When chosen, you take a slip out of the box – this is your fortune. Luke’s read that basically everything will be okay in regards to money, marriage and career. Traditionally, if it’s a bad fortune you can tie it to a metal rod for it to die.

Just at the side of this main temple was other little temples, pagodas, monasteries, etc. Dating back to before WW2 where unfortunately, many of the masterpieces got destroyed.

Shortly after this, we took another metro trip down to Shibuya station. This was to see the famous ‘scramble crossing’. This famous intersection was so surreal to see, the lights turn red in every direction so all pedestrians begin to walk at the same time creating an influx of people who from a distance seem like small insects navigating their way through a busy crossing. Many pictures and videos later, we walked across and took in the illuminating city with the options of many shops, bars and restaurants. We opted for our first Japanese restaurant which was situated beneath – like a basement. We loved it, especially because we got the hang of chopsticks (finally!). In all restaurants, they make you very welcome by all saying ‘hello’ when you first arrive.

Eating out in Tokyo can be expensive but if you’re smart with where you go it can be quite affordable, we paid around £12 for dinner and that was for the both of us.

To go one step further with being thrifty travellers we headed to the north of the city where you can find the Tokyo Government Building which has an observation deck. Similar to that of the Tokyo Skytree but totally free! Heading up here was a nice way to end our hectic day as we saw the lights of the city glisten off to the horizon which seemed a fitting way to head back home.

The following morning we had a lot planned, getting breakfast at the hotel and then straight out to see the Imperial Palace, which is where the Emperor lives. I wouldn’t say it was on the same magnitude of awe as, say Buckingham palace but it still has some breathtaking greenery around the area and soldiers in uniform to add to Tokyo’s historic charm. If you go on Sundays only bicycles are allowed round that area as well so it makes for a much more scenic experience.

From here we headed to the Meiji shrine which was of all the shrines we saw one of the best, although under construction at the time there was still plenty of Japanese citizens in traditional dress and paying their respects. In fact some people even choose to marry here and we saw a bride and groom being shipped off in their taxi away after the ceremony. Although the Meiji shrine has little to offer tourists it’s still an experience to see how after centuries of worship the shrine and surrounding buildings are still in amazing condition and look just as awe inspiring as the photos.

There was one major thing left on our list for Tokyo from here and that was the Dog café called Dog Heart. Which is quite literally as it sounds, a café but instead of food and drink, you get to pet dogs. For 900 yen (£7) for 30 minutes it was actually quite affordable and they were adorable. It’s amazing this sort of thing isn’t more popular back home. You can even take the dogs on walks – the Beagle doggo’s were my personal favourite.

There was a food festival nearby the dog café at the time luckily and we were able to have a look around here and sample the local culture, there weren’t many tourists in this area and it was quite confusing what foods were on offer but taking it in our stride we made the most of it.

For our final evening in Tokyo we headed to Roppingi which is famous for its busy yet not too chaotic nighttime atmosphere, it was lovely here and we had standard set dishes from a restaurant in the centre which once again was a pretty cheap eat. If there’s one thing I loved the most about Tokyo it was their attitude and speed when it came to service, unparalleled in any other country we have been to.

From here it was time to head back and wake early in the morning for the airport. A word of warning, using the metro in Tokyo at rush hour is so easy feat. We had to split up and hope we arrived at the same place on the metro as it was one in one out on most carriages and our hotel was the other side of the city. A one way ticket cost is 600 yen (£4.50).

Then it was onwards to Thailand.

Tips

  • Tokyo’s Skytree although looks amazing – if you’re on a budget visit the Government Building, it’s the same views but just for free!
  • When handing over something to the Japanese, ensure you give it to them with both hands as it’s a sign of respect.
  • Same if you read our Hong Kong blog – upon finishing your meal, ensure you place your chopsticks diagonally to show that you are satisfied with the meal.
  • Don’t tip in Tokyo as it is considered very offensive.

About The Author

Wanderlust Lab is a collaboration between Abbie and Luke for the sharing of travelling knowledge to help backpackers and travellers all across the globe. Live Wanderlust.

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