The Tokyo Drizzle
Well, it was quite the first day of the trip! We got a relatively early start to the day and, after having spent plenty of time researching the metro and trains last night, I was ready to start the day and take on Tokyo’s transit. Our hotel was just a short walk from the nearest metro station. After finding the correct entrance we ran into a bit of an issue (the machines don’t take foreign cards) but it was actually pretty entertaining because a little peephole opened up and an actual person handed me my card back. It was pretty cool, honestly! We found an ATM, bought a 1-day card that covers all of the trains in the city, and were on our way. Now that we had everything figured out the transit was a breeze for the rest of the day!
Our first stop of the day was the Asuka neighborhood which is home to the Sensō-ji Temple and other historic and significant buildings. It was a great first stop as it was about as traditional of a Japanese sight as we would see all day. It was so interesting to see my first Buddhist temple (of many to come) and to begin to learn about the different practices. I also really enjoyed walking around the Asuka area and looking in the cool little stalls. Our next stop was to grab a quick bite to eat. We headed to Ichiran Asakusa which served ramen and other small dishes. You ordered out of a vending machine (which was super cool) and then received a ticket. The food was then brought to the table! We shared one large bowl with a few sides. I have to say, for my first real ramen, it was pretty tasty!
The next area that we visited was Ueno Onshi Park. Unfortunately, by this time, it had started to rain, and our supposedly beautiful walk through the park was quite wet and dreary. But I could see that it was a very nice park when the weather is nice! After wandering around Uneo Oshi Park, we took the metro to our next destination, Akihabara, where Edward really wanted to make a stop. The area is basically one huge shopping area for all things associated with anime, manga, and video games. He wanted to buy his friends a few small presents, and I also enjoyed taking in the overstimulation of the area. It was crazy but really cool, too! We went to a few different stores and the number of figurines of different characters was truly amazing. They had everything!
After Uneo Oshi Park and Akihabara we realized two things: that we needed to get out of the rain, and that I needed a new rain jacket. I got a new coat for this trip but realized once it started to pour that the hood basically did not work at all. So we hit two birds with one stone and made our way to the Ginza area, which is basically the High Street of Tokyo. We decided to visit Uniqlo in Ginza as it is home to their flagship store, which is actually one of the ten largest flagship stores of any brand in the world. And I could definitely tell! Once inside it was ten floors of clothes. And it was quite a cool store as well! I found an inexpensive, lightweight jacket, and we also bought a few inexpensive t-shirts. They had Shanghai Disney t-shirts which I figured would be much better to buy inexpensively now than to actually buy at Disney. So it was quite the productive little stop! And by the time we left the rain had let up as well. It was a win-win!
Our next stop was just a short walk down the road to the Kabukiza Theater. I’ve heard the story from my grandmother many times of her visit to the Kabukiza Theater over 30 years ago, so it was cool to see it for myself! We bought a ticket to a short 30-minute act of the play that was ongoing. I really appreciated the ticket setup where you can just see a short snippet to get a glimpse of the theater and the shows. It was a traditional Japanese show (completely in Japanese) but we were able to follow along with the English pamphlet. After the show, we visited the Tsukji Market which is famous for its fish market, though it was mostly closed up by mid-day when we visited.
From the market, we headed to the metro to make our way across town to Chidorigafuchi Park to attempt to see the cherry blossoms. We were, unfortunately, quite disappointed as they were not yet in bloom. We must have missed them by just a few days as it is technically the beginning of the season. We then tried to visit the National Garden which unfortunately was closed earlier than it had listed online. After two failed stops our next stop was thankfully just barely still open. The guard was very nice and let us and another few tourists in right before he closed the gate to visit Meiji Jingu Shrine! It was quite an eerie walk up the long pathway to the shrine as the sun was going down and it was starting to rain again, but it was cool all the same. The shrine itself was very interesting to see and was a highlight of the day. I’m very thankful to the guard for allowing us to visit! It was a rushed visit but we were able to see the entirety of the shrine and take pictures as well.
While our walk up to the shrine had been eerie, our walk back out was downright creepy. There were no other people in sight, it was getting quite dark, and, all of the sudden, sirens started to blare in the distance. Given our current location in the world I could think of two things: either there was an earthquake or North Korea had done something. But after searching online for any explanation we still have no idea what that was about. Anyways, creepy sirens aside, we then made our way back to the metro to visit Takeshita Street, a pedestrian street lined with cute stores and unique foods. We were determined to try two different delicacies: the giant rainbow cotton candy and the creme brulee crepe!
The giant cotton candy was our first stop at a store called Totti Candy Factory. It was truly giant! It was so crazy and very fun to attempt to eat. We were both quite the mess afterwards! We then stopped in a few adorable shops (where I bought some cute socks and a little Monsters Inc. outfit for one of my dogs… I am such a sucker for cute things) and then found the crepe shop that serves creme brulee crepes! Unfortunately, we were almost out of cash for the day so we decided to just split one. It was so good I could have eaten many by myself - I definitely recommend them! We had them at a place called Com Crepe Sibuya.
By this point in the day we were both struggling to even walk. My feet were killing me and we still had plans to go to the Samurai Museum. I somehow convinced Edward that our feet (and sanity) were more important to maintain since we still had a whole week ahead of us, so we then made our way to the Shibuya Crossing Intersection instead. It was so cool! I had, of course, seen the crossing before, but I couldn’t believe how crazy it actually was, especially with the unfortunate weather bearing down. There were people, and cars, everywhere, and the district itself was very cool and filled with shopping and tons of light up signage. Edward had picked out a spot for dinner but we unfortunately could not find it anywhere until we finally found a sign saying it had closed. We were now reaching peak exhaustion and just wandered into the restaurant next door. We had been searching for somewhere serving Japanese food but somehow ended up in an Italian restaurant (the signage outside was very deceiving). I offered to leave if Edward wanted to find another spot, but he was so tired he had no desire to try and find somewhere else. So, we had Italian food. It was okay but the best part was definitely just being able to get off of our feet.
After quite the busy day in Tokyo we then took one final metro ride back to our hotel. We are exhausted and have to wake up relatively early to fly to South Korea in the morning. It was definitely a short visit to Japan, and there is so much more that I want to see in the future, but the good news is that we both are seriously planning on being back for the Olympics in 2020. So, despite the lingering rain all day, thanks to Tokyo for a great day: we can’t wait to be back soon!
101 countries down, 94 to go
Read about my second day in Japan here.