Travel Diary: Tokyo
I love Japan. Like really LOVE Japan. I knew that this trip to Tokyo would be amazing but it excelled every one of my expectations. Even with the bad weather. Japan, you stole my heart.
This trip to Japan was during our Easter holidays, a total of 12 days in Japan split between Tokyo and Kyoto - will update you in this very soon. We had planned this trip mostly to see the cherry blossom (as did thousands of others) but also because neither of us had spent any time in Tokyo and what better time to go.
We arrived in Tokyo very early Friday morning, but even then I could tell it was amazing. Even the taxi driver was excited - think he thought he was in a race his driving was so speedy. As it was high season we opted for an airbnb which was located in the Roppongi district. Known for its restaurants and bars we were lucky to discover that our place was still within walking distance to the main area but far enough away not to feel like we lived there. Although our apartment was small it was adequate and had everything we needed. I'd heard that accommodation in Tokyo was small for the price so it came as no real surprise.
We spent the next day wandering, we had picked up a free copy of TimeOut which was useful in someways but the free maps they have for each district are quite good and can be helpful when the GPS isn't behaving. Getting around Tokyo is fairly easy by the trains with most journeys costing between 150-180yen. We spent the morning walking around the Imperial Palace, (secretly hoping to see Murakami) the cherry blossom here was super pretty. When the wind blew it was like being inside a snow globe. My favourite spot we went to the first day was the 300 Bar, where everything on the menu was 300yen and you stood at high tables. It was a super hip and relaxed vibe with cool patrons and staff mixed with salary men.
On the Saturday were to join some of the boy's friends for Hanami - tradition of gathering at the park under the cherry blossom for a picnic, party, fiesta. We were to meet at Yoyogi Park near Harajuku. It is one of Tokyo's largest parks and yet it was filled with people all out to celebrate the season. Fast food vendors lined the entranceways selling everything from chocolate covered bananas on sticks to grilled octopus balls. Fast food is better in Japan. Once we located our party we settled down on the tarp and enjoyed the music from the surrounding groups. Some on guitar, some through speakers. Such a great way to spend spring afternoons. Saturday night saw us at Baseball. 'Let's Go Giants!' It was pretty hard not to get into the spirit of the game, especially when both the home and away crowd were so passionate. There was also beers, burgers and brass bands. What's not to love!
The rest of the weekend was spent eating our way round the various districts, soufflé pancakes, ramen, Katsudon (so very delicious), DIY okonomiyaki, sushi we pretty much ate it all. The highlight of our Monday came from the fabulous and shiny Robot Restaurant. More just a show that a restaurant but it was so amazing I ain't going to argue. Seated in rows facing one another crowd is in awe of the spectacle of robot wonder before them. The story lines are a little strange but visually its worth it. You even get a lightstick to participate in for the final number. Sadly you had to hand it back. (reluctantly) If ever in Tokyo head to the Robot Restaurant in Shibuya it won't let you down. Check out TimeOut magazine and maps for discount on your tickets and recommend to book in advance - it really is that popular.
With an afternoon flight to Kyoto the next day we thought we'd get an early night so we could head to the Tsukiji fish market early in the morning. And it was totally worth it. The fish was being brought in and displayed for sale in the many vendors within the market. Every kind you could imagine. And at the very back the prized tuna auction was taking place - which it seems we were not allowed to see. Ushered out by an official looking gentleman with a clipboard and a not before 9am sign. With our sneaking through fish moments over we headed to the area of restaurants to get some breakfast. And I am not joking when I say it was THE best sashimi i've ever had. Teamed with hot green tea ( it was chilly and rainy), perfect way to start the day.
We were able to spend the last couple of days of our Japan trip back in Tokyo. When I told friends that I was planning on going to Disneyland, they were like 'REALLY?!'. They didn't understand the love I have for Disney. And I am not ashamed to say it, especially now that I have been to them all. (well almost, I wasn't allowed to spend another day at Tokyo DisneySea). Everything about Tokyo Disneyland was I had expected - Good Times were had. And how to finish the night after an epic Disney day? A 3hr Karaoke session ofcourse, first song was ofcourse 'Let it go'. For this final leg of our stay we stayed at another airBnB in Shinjuku. This one was great, the space was a cute apartment with everything you could need and the host was super helpful and even had someone drive us to the station as it was pouring with rain. I would highly recommend his place. I only wish we had stayed there longer (didn't actually want to leave). After reading something about this bar in a magazine the boy suggested we visit Kodoji in the Golden Gai. Similar to the hutongs in Beijing, the Golden Gai is a maze of mini bars (I believe I said it was AWESOME out loud about 10 times) with many up steep stairs. The Photographer's Bar as its known hosts exhibitions of local and international photographers. Once located (it took a couple of circuits) we headed up the stairs and pushed opened the door. We were immediately inside the bar. With only 2 spare seats (there was a total of around 8) we squeezed our way in and told the cutest little old lady our order. The walls and the ceiling were covered in images, with stacks of books on photography it obvious to see how it got its name. It's the perfect haven from the crazy streets of Shinjuku and if you have a love for photography you will most likely find someone in there to discuss it with.
I can't stress enough how amazing Japan is, the people, the food, everything! Possibly one the best trips I have taken in a long time. I can't wait to go back. Stay tuned for the Kyoto instalment of this trip.
All photos taken by me.
Black & White : Pentax K1000, All others with iPhone 5.