Tokyo, Japan - a jungle of electric lights
Updated: Feb 26, 2020
My stay in Tokyo was part of a two and a half week trip in Japan over Easter. To say this was the trip of a lifetime is probably doing it a big disservice. The people, the temples, the food and the smells, they all bring back the memory of a land long lost in time - the land of the rising sun. And then there were the lights...
Tokyo followed on from a three-day break to Seoul, South Korea (read my other post here). As we landed in the evening, we just about managed to stay awake long enough to go out for a ramen at Karashibi Ramen, which proved to be the best food (it was like ambrosia now that I come to think about it) we had in Japan and faced the experience of a lifetime by having to press a number of buttons and make random selections before getting allocated a seat and given a ramen. It looked like this...
Like I said, absolutely worth the wait and we ended up going back a few times. But anyway, I get carried away when remembering the ramen...somebody stop me.😊
We also managed a quick stop at the tiniest whisky bar under a random archway that had precisely three spaces. We had a great conversation with the lovely bartender and a young Japanese professional in a combination of sign language, Japanenglish and some bad Google translations. By the end of the night, I wasn’t entirely sure what had happened and what planet I was on, but I knew it was electric and I knew I wanted more. I have no idea what the place was called, but I know you are bound to come across one if you're brave enough to try interesting, random establishments half-hidden behind short curtains.
We stayed overnight at Mitsui Garden Hotel and enjoyed the quirkiness and proximity to the station, whilst admiring the mesmerising lights of Tokyo from our windowsill.
We woke up the next day only to head out and meet our guide, Thomas, after having a cute matcha latte. We travelled to the East side of Tokyo, in Asakusa, a charming neighbourhood, home of the Senso-Ji temple. The incense smells next guided us to a Shinto Temple nearby where we learned how to purify ourselves with water before saying a prayer. A truly spiritual experience.
After wandering for another hour or so, we left the old Tokyo behind us and swapped it for the trendy, movie inspiring neighbourhood of Akihabara. To the untrained eye, such a place is simply mind-blowing; think colours, lights, sky-scrappers, gaming rooms and hologram Sailor Moons. A craziness of sound and light, all unfolding in front of us. And of course, I didn’t even mention the random cat, meerkat or owl cafes located on different stories of the buildings. More on this later. Here are a few photos we took of the streets...
After a brief stroll through Ueno park, we went to see the Hiroshima flame next to one of the oldest temples in Tokyo (the silence made it even more powerful and atmospheric than the simple sight), before jumping on the metro on our way to Shibuya, to see the loyal Hachiko statue.
Top tip - there is a Starbucks in the intersection and if you go up to the second floor, you get an unrivalled view of the famous Shibuya crossing, the busiest crossing in the world.
We started walking towards Harajuku and stopped on the way at Yoyogi Park to see the Meiji shrine - unbelievably beautiful and calm. You can try your fortune or leave a wish on a wooden panel - we did both!
Next, we walked back towards Shinjuku and got a train to Minato where we went for our evening cocktails to Andaz rooftop - what a view! If you like cocktails, I recommend the Cherry cherry monkey.
Our final stop for the evening was a cute (or as Japanese people call it, kawaii) izikaya (Japanese pub) with a half man half fish symbol as a logo. Nobody spoke a word of English which gave me the chance to show off my Duolingo Japanese skills by asking the nice waiter to order the food for us - he was extremely sweet and the food was delicious - sashimi, edamame, eel, fish and tofu soup, all served with freshly brewed green tea.
The following day we visited the Nikka distillery (read my other blog post here) and returned to Tokyo in the evening when we ventured to the centre of town to try the world-famous Teppanyaki at an abode in Shinjuku. For those of you who have not experienced it, teppan means iron plate and yaki means grilled or griddled so you end up with a chef grilling delicious fish and other goodies in front of you on a teppan. Worth a try! We finished our evening with a walk and some drinks in Golden Gai, a district famous for the nightlife made up of a network of six narrow alleys, connected by even narrower ones where only one person can fit a time.
Next on the agenda was a day trip to the famous samurai village called Kakunodate (you can read about it here). This was quite a long journey and so in the evening, we ended up going out for ramen (again) and some more drinks with the locals near our hotel.
The last day in Tokyo started with a late wake-up and a paper shop (manually painted paper by Japanese artists). Having stocked our backpacks with stationary, the only natural move was stopping off for lunchtime ramen (don't judge, at least we went to a different place). ures up close, whilst sipping your morning coffee. Said and done!
We continued our day with a trip to Tokyo’s oldest washi paper shop (manually painted paper by Japanese artists). Having stocked our backpacks with stationary, the only natural move was stopping off for a lunchtime ramen (don't judge, at least we went to a different place).
We walked it off with a stroll through Ebisu and found a charming little local shop that specialises in tiny towels, called tengui. I know how it sounds but apparently, Japanese people find these very useful and make it a priority to have their tengui to hand at all times.
We cooled off with the biggest matcha latte, where we got to by boarding a river cruise from Akihabara. Odaiba is an artificial island that has a Lady Liberty replica and a beach. It’s definitely worth going at sunset as few urban views that I have seen in the past can beat that one. We spent our time there by visiting the digital art exhibition, which was another one of those mind-expanding experiences, walking around and obviously, trying some local delicacies. Photographic evidence below...
The next day we left Tokyo to continue our adventures further afield, knowing that we would return for one more day before hopping on a plane back to sunny England.
The last day we decided to spend in Odaiba, where we got to by boarding a river cruise from Akihabara. Odaiba is an artifical island that has a Lady Liberty replica and a beach. It’s definitely worth going at sunset as few urban views that I have seen in the past can beat that one. We spent our time there by visiting the digital art exhibition, which was another one of those mind-expanding experiences, walking around and obviously, trying some local delicacies. Photographic evidence below...
Next, it was time for a trip to some of the oldest villages in Japan - read about it here.