When I found out that I will have some extra time off from work, I had just two days to decide what to do. I always wanted to visit Japan and Tokyo in particular, so when this direction appeared as one of the available options, I decided not to waste such an opportunity. From the beginning everything seemed to work on my favor and it just proved that I made the right choice. With just one day left to get everything ready I started getting the flight and accommodation organized, and I tried to get some tips on what to do when I finally get there. I decided though to skip having any particular plan and just see what happens. It’s been two weeks since I came back, but I still can’t stop smiling when I think of that trip. I had a blast! Get ready for a lot of reading 😉 sorry!
Some people call me crazy when I tell them I stayed at someone’s private house and I didn’t know the person before. Maybe I am 😉 but I’ve been using Couchsurfing platform for a while and never had any bad experience. That’s why I decided to use it this time as well. First of all, because Tokyo is very expensive and it was a better solution for my pocket, but what’s more important, I wanted to know someone local and get some insight information about life in Tokyo, their customs, behaviors, not so popular spots or, at the end, some help with language.
It was a great decision! Person I stayed with proved to be super nice, polite and helpful, just as I expected. I was very lucky with my ‘couch’ as well, as I ended up having my own room (that doesn’t happen often, as Tokyo is overpopulated and flats are tiny). I got to spend some awesome time with my host too. He showed me around town one day, took to some cool places that only locals know about and explained a lot about Japanese culture. I knew a bit about Japanese cuisine and I wanted to try proper Sushi, Ramen or Yakitori (no! not all at once! ;)). He knew where to take me to have the best!
Apartment I stayed in is located just 15min walk from famous Shibuya district, so that was another ‘win’! To be honest from what I saw on TV I expected it to be more… let’s say overwhelming, especially the famous crossing. But still, it had that special vibe you can feel only in Japan. It’s a mix of shopping, food and nightlife, where I spent few cool evenings!
I always saw Tokyo on TV as a crowded cosmopolitan city with lots of crazy and unique ‘things’. I wanted to experience all of that, so I wanted to visit the most popular districts I heard about. I was lucky to arrive to Tokyo on the weekend and start exploring right away, as a lot of cool things happen than. As I made friends on the plane, I ended up having a company on the first day, what allowed me to adjust to this different world much easier (and start my trip with lots of fun!).
I visited Tokyo SkyTree in Sumida district. The tallest free-standing broadcasting tower in the world (Guinness World Record from 2011). The view over city from the observation deck at 450m was spectacular!
Asakusa district is famous for the Sensō-ji, a Buddhist temple and well known as a paradise for souvenirs seekers 😉 Even though I went there on a weekday, it was packed with tourists! I couldn’t stand the crowd for a long time, so I rushed through stalls with souvenirs straight to the temple (sorry guys, no presents ;P), grabbing fantastic Green Tea Ice Cream on the way (it’s a must!!!).
Harajuku district that became a fashion center, with shops ranging from very expensive brands to cheap stalls. You can spot there people wearing the most crazy outfits you can imagine. Specially on the weekends Japanese tend to dress up in outfits inspired by Manga and Anime. I was impressed and loved their courage in expressing themselves! Harajuku is also the name of the whole style movement, need to read about it more, quite fascinating!
Just ‘next door’ there is a beautiful Meiji-jingu temple surrounded by evergreen forest that covers an area of 70 hectares (all 120,000 trees of 365 different species were donated by people from all parts of Japan when the shrine was established). For me it was an energizing experience to walk through it and feel the nature in the middle of such a busy city. From then city rush could again carry me away 😉
A beautiful park of Ueno was another place where I could relax a bit. With a Zoo, lake, temples, sport fields and few museums, this place is nothing like boring. And it’s huge! If you want to explore all of it, your legs need to be rested (not like mine… :/). If you’re up for some more shopping or you feel hungry, there is an Ameya-Yokochō (Ameyoko) Shopping Street where you can find plenty of whatever you need, shoes and sport gear in particular. And that’s a place where you NEED TO bargain! A day is not enough for all of that 😉
Akihabara, known as Akihabara Electric Town, is a district popular for being a cultural center and shopping district for electronics, video games, manga and anime. I was overwhelmed by amount of shops and people buying action figures, or comic books.
In this area I saw also plenty of different game rooms, one of which was Pachinko. I found out it’s the most popular game in Japan, that’s actually a serious gambling device. I heard stories and read articles about Japanese addiction to games and serious health problems they have due to many hours spent in front of computers. Now I know for sure they have an issue 😉 All the places were packed, no matter the time!!!
In this area you can find also a lot of ‘Maid cafés‘, where waitresses dress in maid costumes, act as servants and treat customers as masters/mistresses. I was extremely tired when I finally reached that district on the day, so I didn’t eventually go to check them out, which I regret now. But if I ever go back to Tokyo, that will be on top of my ‘To Do’ list.
A new friend from the first day was not the only encounter during my Japanese trip. Another one made my day, elevated my female confidence and made a good story to tell 😉
While walking through the metro station I got stopped by a ‘charming smile’ and after a bit of a chat I ended up being invited for a diner. That doesn’t happen every day (not to me at least), so I guess being under a spell of that smile I agreed. Little that I knew at this point, that I just met an actor on tour in Tokyo with one of my favorite Broadway Musicals! The next day I got to go and see the show (in Tokyu Theatre Orb in Shibuya), sneaked into the 4th row and received personal greetings from the stage… It was a very innocent and pleasant experience … nothing has made me smile so wide for a very long time! I still shine when I think about it 😀
Last day in Tokyo I spent with a good friend of mine, who came with an unexpected visit for just one day. It was her first time in Tokyo as well, so we continued together with my sightseeing plan and I also took her to some of the places I already visited, where I could act as a private guide. We saw Tokyo Tower, a communications and observation tower (unfortunately weather on that day wasn’t very pleasant so visibility not perfect either), explored Shinjuku district and Roppongi a bit (another area good for shopping, food and night out, but a bit more fancy than for example Shibuya).
Spending time with a friend was a perfect finishing touch to that already absolutely fantastic trip! I didn’t even mind the rain. I believe after four days of sunshine the city was crying that my adventure has come to an end…
I spent five days in Tokyo, pushed myself to the limits with being awake (while suffering serious Jet lag) and there are still plenty of things I would like to see and do there! I really hope I’ll be able to go back one day. I almost feel like a local now ;P and even though I can’t really imagine living in that city, I fell in love with it!
If any of you been in Tokyo and experienced sth different that should get on my list for next time, please share! 🙂