Japan Diary: Day 003

Day 003

Tokyo Tower & Marunouchi
Today thankfully marked the end of the jet lag. Everyone in our hostel dorm was woken up at half 10 by a strange alarm which went on for at least 10 minutes. We all assumed this was indicating check out time or that they were going to come clean the room. But it turns out it was just a business man too lazy to turn his phone alarm off. The same man who kept most of us awake during the night and was the subject of a thrown pillow (not by me I must add) due to his loud and rather odd snoring, I can only liken it to a crackling radio attempting to tune into a channel, any channel.

I then braved the hostel shower, something that reminded me of my shower back home in my student house. Only difference was you had to put free tokens in for 10 minutes worth of water. But the logistical problem is that when you put the tokens in a box,  this box is outside the shower cubicle so you have to get out wet and cold.

But for all its faults the hostel is very friendly and thoughtfully decorated, all by hand. This includes a poster in the washroom showing you how to do traditional, intricate Japanese hairstyles. But as most of my friends know my dexterity leads to either a pony tail or bun.

We first ventured to Tokyo Skytree Tower. The tallest tower in the world giving a 360 degree view of Tokyo. The bottom of the tower is made up of hundreds of bright, eccentric shops. Including one which sold a tennis racket made out of spaghetti and mouldy banana magnets. Of all the areas we’ve been to so far probably  non-surprisingly this was where I’ve seen the most tourists but we were still outnumbered considerably by Japanese visitors.

Mouldy Banana Fridge Magnets

Completely by accident we were there for the grand opening of a Pokemon centre. It was packed with kids and adults and extremely enthusiastic staff. The customer service everywhere we’ve been has been absolutely incredible.

The tower itself is 364m high. It costs ¥2060 to go up which, for one of the biggest tourist attractions is very affordable for most visitors. To get to the top you go in a lift, a lift that goes at 600m a second and makes your ears pop. Taking you all the way from the 4th floor all the way up to the 350th floor.

After almost an hour of taking photos of the brilliant panoramic view across the Tokyo skyline we sat down at the cafe. And here, at 600 metres above Tokyo eating chocolate cake one of my favourite songs came on, The Winner Is by Devotchka, probably my favourite moment of this trip so far.

The last stop of our day was Marunouchi. Home of the imperial palace, national museum of art and beautiful gardens. We spent a couple of hours chilling and taking photos. Tomorrow we have a full day planned; the famous fish market, Roppongi art museum and then the famous Shibuya crossing to end our time in Tokyo.

The Moat of the Imperial Palace 

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Japan Diary: Day 002

Day 002

Asakusa & Shinjuku 

Day 2 started at 5am when due to jet lag I woke up and couldn’t get back to sleep. Thinking Juna would be asleep I just chilled for a few hours till we had to check out, turns out she did the same. It took us just a couple of minutes to get to the station but 40 minutes to buy the right ticket and find the correct train, we went through 3 tickets and one wrong station but we finally made it to Shinjuku. Once again the locals went out of their way to help us find our way.

After leaving our bags at our hostel we were starving so jumped into the first food place we saw. It was a small, friendly ramen place with just a couple of people working. All the menu was in Japanese and the waitress couldn’t speak English so we ended up pointing at random dishes. It all worked out well in the end though as I ended up with a delicious Yaki-Soba type dish. The only problem was I was given chopsticks, despite trying my best, the chef still ran from the kitchen to give me a fork to save on further embarrassment.

After exploring the area we were able to check in, although a previous customer had left with the key to our room so we just have the one. The room isn’t quite a capsule hotel and I think a bit of creative license has been used to advertise the place. Still at least I have a bed, and we’ll spend most of our time exploring rather than in the hostel.

Shinjuku is famous for its nightlife in Japan and it didn’t let us down. To get there we went a couple of stops on the subway during rush-hour which was an experience I’ll never forget, but not one I’m in a hurry to do again.

When we got out of the station the sheer size and enormity of Tokyo fully hit home. We could barely see a patch of sky through all the high rise buildings. One of those buildings was a 6 storey high arcade. The minute we stepped in it was a surreal experience. Business men letting their hair down on the dance mats, teenagers cheering each other on and many in a trance with complete focus. We chose our first game to be Mario Kart which came with a full steering wheel and pedals, luckily we both won so there were no tantrums.

We grabbed some food at a petite restaurant where it was great to sit inches away from the kitchen and watch the food being prepared.

Juna’s dinner which she described as ‘tastes like the sea’, still not sure if that’s a good thing

We decided to end the night with a drink and try Sake for the first time (and my last). We selected an empty bar in Golden Gai. A region made up of 6 alleys and 200 bars with each bar having an average capacity of 5 people. By the end of the night we had been talking to a couple of Tokyo locals for over two hours exchanging what little Japanese we know with their English. One of the men lives at a temple and conducts tea ceremonies and the other an ex pro-boxer. They were extremely friendly and even wanted to know our view on Brexit!

Golden Gai, Shinjuku. 

Knowing what we’re like with directions we left with plenty of time to find the station to get the last train home. Unfortunately for us we bumped into 2 American guys also heading to the station. Despite declaring they knew the way, we got extremely lost and missed our last trains and headed off our separate ways to walk home. Overall a brilliant and knackering day, hopefully more of the same tomorrow!

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Japan Diary: Day 001 

Day 001:

London to Tokyo (Via Dubai)

I am writing this after having 3 hours sleep in the last 2 days and am currently on the top bunk in a capsule hostel. Hopefully I’ll be able to get my words together.

My bed for the night, complete with squashed croissant which I stole from the plane

The adventure started at Gatwick where after a 40 minute delay we got going. I knew it was going to be a fun flight when the people in front reclined their seats within 30 seconds of take off allowing me next to nothing on the leg room front. Severe turbulence then kicked in, but luckily I had the first series of the Night Manager to re-watch and Juna had Tangled to take our minds off it. We then finally flew into Dubai just minutes after the sun set allowing us a night time view of the man-made landscape. It was beautiful and something I look forward to seeing in daylight when we fly home.

The view of Dubai

After a 2 hour stopover at Dubai we boarded our 3am flight. I was already so tired I fell asleep on the shuttle bus to the plane. As we boarded the plane irony kicked in, playing over the tannoy was Flying Without Wings but it was then swiftly followed by I believe I Can Fly just to reassure any nervous passengers I assume. We both managed to get a couple of hours sleep before we were woken for ‘dinner’ at 5am. Although I can think of worse ways to eat your dinner then watching the sun rise over the earth.
Before we got to Gatwick I had done my fair share of research including how to get to the first hostel and what train to get. Turns out my map was faulty and our train was cancelled. But although it took us quadruple the time it should have to find the hostel we were helped by hundreds of Japanese locals and more knowledgeable tourists than us (not too hard to find), they were all extremely friendly and went out of their way to help. Often spotting our confused faces from afar and running up with google maps already loaded on their phones to help.
We are staying for just one night in this hostel in Asakusa before we head further into the centre of Tokyo for a few days. So we decided although we were jet lagged we didn’t want the evening to go to waste and went on a quick walk around the area with our cameras and newly purchased Japanese drinks of which we have no idea of the ingredients. Am now looking forward to sleep and more traveling tomorrow!

Asakusa Temple