Hello Beautiful Friends! I really just can’t believe it’s been over a month since we got back from our trip to Asia! We took 16 days to travel to Japan + China + Thailand! It was an absolute whirlwind + getting back to “reality” was quite the feat! This is the first to a four part series all about our experiences, with (hopefully) some useful tips + tricks that you can utilize if you find yourself traveling to any of these fantastic places!
Our trip started EARLY as we headed to the airport at 5:00 am on Friday morning. Between flight time and layovers our travel day was almost a full 24 hours before landing in Tokyo at 9:00 pm on Saturday evening! We were exhausted but so excited to finally be starting this adventure. With lots of pointing, smiling, and hand gestures, we managed to get bus tickets to a location just a few blocks from our hotel. We made the short walk to our hotel got ourselves checked in and hit our pillows to make sure we were rested for a big day of exploring on Sunday.
We got started bright and early around 7 am as we just couldn’t wait to start exploring the city. Not a whole lot was open that early, but we did manage to find a coffee shop (YES, PLEASE!) with sandwiches and pastries. We only had 41 hours in Tokyo and wanted to make the absolute best of it, so we walked A LOT, and I mean really walked and walked, and then walked some more! It was a really nice day for the end of February and the sun was shining so it kept us warm.
We started with the Imperial Palace and then headed to the Hama-rikyu Gardens where we were able to see a few of the early Cherry Blossoms and enjoyed a tea ceremony at Nakajima-no-ochaya with traditional Japanese sweets. I couldn’t resist trying a more traditional Japanese meal so we stopped in a quiet little restaurant for our (second) breakfast! This was our first experience with a Japanese vending machine to order our meal. The Japanese are super efficient and in order to speed up the ordering process use vending machines for patrons to select, order, and pay for food. You then just hand your ticket to the staff and head to your table! We ordered based on the pictures from the menu and the super gracious staff (again, with smiles and gestures due to the language barrier) made sure we were all set! I ended up with soba noodles and Tonkatsu Donburi- a Japanese style crispy fried pork bowl. It was SO delicious, I definitely recommend trying this when visiting Japan! The rest of the day was spent adventuring through the city including Asakusa Senso-Ji Temple (where we actually had to wait to cross as the Tokyo Marathon was going on that day!), the Ginza and Shinbashi, the Tokyo Tower, a walk through Roppongi, and Shibuya to see the busiest crosswalk in the world. We also visited the Meiji Shrine and took a walk through Omote Sando and Harajuku for a stroll on Takeshita Avenue. DISCLAIMER: You guys, I have to be completely honest here, we tried the Tokyo Subway system and we REALLY wanted to love it, but we struggled! We attempted multiple times throughout the day thinking we totally had it down and would then end up blocks from where we wanted to be! Most everyone we talked to raves about the ease of use, so we’ll blame it on the jetlag! 😉 We did manage to use it to get from Shibuya back to Tokyo station at the end of the day.
After our big day of walking, we of course had to refuel with some traditional Japanese fare! Inside Tokyo Station which is full of all kinds of shopping and dining, there is a RAMEN STREET!!! If you read my earlier post on Vancouver here, you know about my passion for ramen, and it definitely didn’t disappoint!
Our alarm went off at 2:30 am so we could be downstairs in the lobby for our taxi to head to the famous Tsukiji Fish Market. The market was already bustling when we arrived shortly after 3:00 am and were ushered into the tourist waiting area. Only two groups of 60 tourists are allowed access into the market during the wee hours of the morning to witness the tuna auction. The rest of the market opens at 9:00 am to the public. We waited for two and a half hours with about 100 other people from all over the world to get a chance to see how the fish are inspected and sold at the market. The wait was definitely worth the 20 minutes we were able to feel apart of this amazing tradition! Afterwards we explored the market and surrounding area where locals were eating at restaurants that lined the streets with some of the freshest fish! The tuna was absolutely melt-in-your-mouth amazing! The tuna was so fresh we were sitting about 3 feet away from it. If you have the chance, the Tsukiji Fish Market is a must see on your next trip to Tokyo!
Where We Stayed: APA Hotel Ginza-Kyobashi
How Long We Were There: 41 hours
Top Picks: Tsukiji Fish Market, Shibuya Crossing, Imperial Palace
Currency: Japanese Yen
- Tokyo is a VERY clean city and there are essentially no garbage cans on the street! Bring a small plastic bag or place trash in your purse until you get back to your accommodation where you can toss it.
- Ladies be prepared! Public restrooms often only consist of what I endearingly termed “squatty potties.” Essentially it’s a toilet hole in the ground (that flushes), so make sure to where an outfit you can really move in! High end stores and hotels are typically equipped with western style toilets.
- If you plan to check out the markets or eat at restaurants that use the vending machine service (which I totally recommend!) make sure to bring cash! However most major shops and convenience stores do take credit cards.
- A smile and friendly greeting go a long way if you’re not fluent in Japanese. The city was surprisingly not touristy, however locals were typically eager to help!