Having a long layover in Tokyo was a dream come true for me. Tokyo holds the number 1 spot on my bucket list. I say this in the present tense as I didn’t get to spend enough time and want to go back again. Maybe for the 2020 Olympics..
Tokyo’s be yourself style, exquisite cuisine and respectful people are some of the things I love the most. I also enjoy reasoning and logic and boy does Tokyo have that. There is a reason behind everything from the crazy streets and insane train systems to the no eating or drinking and walking policies. Also, did you know that they slurp their soup and it’s not considered rude? They are just eating quickly out of respect for the person waiting for the table behind them.
As I step off the plane to hail a cab the driver tells me it will be $250 USD. Clearly, I didn’t do my research here. As someone who packs in all of the things, I am typically one to jump in an uber or cab so I don’t personally have to think about where I am going. That wasn’t going to happen in Tokyo. Luckily there are information desks at every train station. When I say the trains were packed I mean I felt like a sardine. It didn’t even matter if you held on or not because you were not going to fall. (By the end of the 2 days I was a pro) They say that the Japanese are the most respectful people unless you are talking about on the train. They will kick and push you, you just have to fight back for your spot. The good thing is there is a train about every few minutes.
I wanted to experience all of the popular neighborhoods, do a little shopping, try all the amazing food and see the most important temples. I decided to book a tour that included the popular temples and Ginza shopping district as well as a food tour to experience all of the cuisine and hotspots for the locals. Tours aren’t always the most unique but they are the best way to get around quickly, skip the lines, learn about what you are seeing and fit in more to your day.
Since I was doing the tours on day two I thought I would check out a few neighborhoods I had always dreamed of going to. I stayed in the Shinjuku area because it has the busiest train station so I figured it would be easy to get around. I walked around there and had a coffee before getting on the train. Side Note: It is rude in Tokyo to walk around with coffee. You should enjoy it where you purchase it. This cut into my time..but I am all about respecting the culture and traditions.
My first stop was the Harajuku area. You can take the JR line and it takes about 15 minutes. This is the catwalk of Tokyo with many cafes and boutiques. I am obsessed with this neighborhood and the Harajuku style. I spent about 2 hours there enamored by all the street style. You can tell teen trends all over the world start on this street.
I didn’t know much about my next stop but figured it would showcase a lot about Tokyo’s tech craze. The Akihabara area is geek central and includes a ton of computer shops and gaming stores. It is also the area for anime. Wasn’t my favorite not going to lie so I made it worth the trip and stopped by one of the traditional rotator sushi spots in the area. I had to ask the table next to me what the heck to do. You make your own tea and take whatever sushi you want to eat. The color of the plate tells you how much it costs.
I had booked an early evening food Tour. I decided to do a food tour so I could experience some of the other traditional cuisine as well as see a few neighborhoods. We were able to immerse ourselves in the electric atmosphere of Yakitori Alley, an atmospheric enclave replete with informal restaurants serving delectable yakitori (grilled chicken skewers). Next we went to Ginza district to a confectionery shop for Mochi. If you like Mochi, you will love the freshness of it from the local shops. Then we went to Mona Street to sample the local delicacy of monjayaki, a pan-fried pancake favored by locals. This was really fun! The tour was a bit more expensive than a normal food tour for what you get. I loved it however because I got to try 3 things I had wanted to as well as see a few different neighborhoods and learn more about them from the guide. I loved how hard the Japanese people work then after work they are out socializing before they hit the train either with Yakitori or Monjayaki and of course beer or sake.
After the tour I took the train to Roppongi which is the center of nightlife in Japan. I wanted to check it out so I stopped by Geronimos for a drink. It was pretty crazy!
I took a small nap and woke up again at 2:00am to attend the live tuna auction at the Tsukiji Fish Market. This, as random as it was, was the highlight of my trip. Check out my post on that here.
I started out the day early with a half day tour. I thought this would be the easiest way to get to the temples and learn more about them.
Imperial Palace East Garden
Meiji Jingu Shrine
The tour ended in Ginza shopping district with a Geisha show.
Rumored to be the busiest crossing in the world, I had to stop by Shibuya crossing just to see what this scramble was all about. Shibuya is a short distance from Ginza on the JR.
After fitting it ALL in I decided to lose my inhibitions and go to an Onsen. Check out my experience here. I decided to go to a touristy one because it was near rainbow road and I wanted to check that out too. This took about an hour to get to and I spent about 3 hours in the onsen.
There you have it. You can do a lot in 2 days if you don’t count sleep. I would recommend more than a week however to get the true Tokyo experience. I will be back!