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For us The Big Trip had to include a visit to Japan; a country that has been top of the list for a while now. Two weeks is by no means long enough to see a whole country but of course it is time to take in some of the main sites, and for that alone I was ecstatic. With three days exploring Tokyo first up on the agenda I was buzzing and could not wait to touch down in Japan’s capital.
Flying in from the UK I took a Turkish Airlines flight via Istanbul, landing at Narita International Airport in the late afternoon. This was my first time flying with this airline and I really rate them, lovely service, good food and even an amenity kit which you don’t often see in economy these days. We’d travelled to Japan separately after my quick excursion back to the UK so CLB flew in to Tokyo from Singapore with Air Asia.
There are several options to get from the airports into central Tokyo, all at differing lengths and costs. I took the Keisei Limited Express from the airport to Nippori Station which took 75 minutes and cost 1030 yen (~£7.70). Then to get to Shinjuku I transferred to the JR Yamanote Line for a further 20 minute journey at the cost of 200 yen ~(£1.50). There are three connections per hour, and luckily I made it in time for one of these, phew!
We picked UNPLAN Shinjunku for our four night stay, which unfortunately due to the typhoon (more on that later!) turned into five nights. This modern hostel was recently opened when we stayed meaning everything was shiny and new, and the staff were also super helpful and enthusiastic.
We booked a private room which had shared facilities with other rooms on our floor, and were provided with pyjamas, towels and a few products so it felt like a hotel rather than a hostel, apart from the bit where you leave the room to have a shower! Buffet breakfast was also included in our rate which really helped the daily budget.
Thanks to jet lag getting up this morning wasn’t too difficult and with the excitement building I just couldn’t wait to get out a start exploring Tokyo. I couldn’t think of anywhere I’d rather start our Japanese adventure than the famous Shibuya crossing! Crossing the crossing was pretty exciting but also watching it from the Starbucks across the road was rather entertaining too!
Opposite the crossing is the Tokyu Department Store which houses the most amazing food hall in the basement, we looked around in amazement at all the goods on offer before settling on sushi and gyoza for lunch. On our way out we stopped at the Hachiko Statue before walking towards Harajuku.
Harajuku is famed for bright lights and colourful street art alongside quirky fashion and cosplay, and I for one couldn’t wait to see this area. Before we embarked the streets we stopped at Meiji Jingu, a Shinto Shrine surrounded by a beautiful forest.
Takeshita Street is Harajuki all over; this bustling shopping street is bright has such a bubbly atmosphere, from here we mooched around the various backstreets taking in sights, sounds and smells.
Tiredness was creeping in so time to stop for an energy inducing bubble tea (yum) before heading back toward Shinjuku and popping to the very tiny Beer Bistro for a lite bite then hitting the hay to rest out weary bodies from the thousands of steps we’d walked today!
This morning we stayed local to Shinjuku to get our bearings a little and check out the area in daylight including Golden Gai, Hanazono shrine (unfortuntely covered in scaffolding), and Kabukicha. Just before lunch we made our way to Asakusa to visit the stunning Sensō-ji Buddhist Temple.
For a late lunch we headed to Tsukiji Outer Market and settled on Tsukiji Sushi Sen for a delicious sushi platter. This was CLB’s first experience of real (and good!) sushi and thankfully he liked it, phew!
Up until this point we weren’t 100% sure how hard Typhoon Hagibis was going to hit Tokyo but as we left the museum and the heavens opened we just knew tomorrow was going to very much be a write off. Once we’d made it back to Shinjuku and wandered through Kabukicha (red light district) and as we knew the rain wasn’t going to stop so we dived into a bar at the Golden Gai (one that didn’t have a cover charge, frustratingly most do) for a few beers and a bite to eat.
As expected today was a write-off; Typhoon Hagibis kept us inside our hotel for the day so not much to note here!
Day Three (take two!)
Today we were meant to travelling to Kumamoto for Wales vs Uruguay in the Rugby World Cup however the typhoon meant our flight was cancelled and we couldn’t leave Tokyo for another day so we extended one more night and instead made up for what we missed yesterday.
On our final day of three days exploring Tokyo the skies has cleared and the winds were over which made for a very pleasant time walking around Akihabara, which is known as the electronics area of Tokyo surrounded by tall buildings and more bright lights, my favourite as it’s just Tokyo all over!
For lunch we decided to try an Izakaya restaurant, Uotami where we were seated on tatami floors at low tables inside a private booth. This felt to me very much like a traditional dining experience and I loved it!
CLB and I love 360 views from above and Tokyo wasn’t going to be an exception so we’d booked tickets for sunset at Tokyo Skytree and it was incredible!
Despite it being the Rugby World Cup it was somewhat difficult to find somewhere playing the games, Japan isn’t like England in that there is a pub on every street corner so we were lucky to come across Sports TV Bar Ace in Asakusa where we were welcomed with open arms to watch Wales vs Uruguay followed Japan vs Scotland, the latter being joined by local fans which just gave the place the most amazing atmosphere, especially when Japan won!
From Tokyo we ventured on to Hiroshima via the Shinkansen (bullet train), this alone was awesome as it had been years that I’d be dreaming of travelling on these famous high speed trains! We’d pre-ordered a Japan Rail Pass which gave us unlimited travel for 14 days on the Shinkansen system and all we had to do we pre-book seats to ensure a smooth journey. All so simple and easy, like most things in Japan actually!
Three days exploring Tokyo isn’t much but if it isn’t already obvious Tokyo, and in fact Japan, very much had me at hello. Tokyo has this buzz which is hard to describe but I love it, and for sure it’ll be on the revisit list!
If you’ve been, what did you love about Tokyo? Tell me in the comments…