Travelblog – Tokyo
I’ve always been fascinated by Asia. It wasn’t until I started working in a travel agency that I got to visit an Asian country for the first time. It was such an adventure that I couldn’t wait for the next time.
A couple of years ago I sat at work on a more quiet day searching for great flight deals. I found a great deal to Tokyo and my boyfriend and I decided to go for it. We booked flights and accommodation and waited for that special day in November 2015 to arrive. We were so excited! I had searched for things to do and had a preliminary itinerary ready. I often hear that I should be more spontaneous and just go with the flow. That might be easy in a smaller city. We actually found out that we should have planned a more detailed itinerary. I guess we underestimated the distances a bit. And yes, it can be fun to just walk and see where the road takes you. We like to do both. To have a itinerary and have time to go with the flow as well.
I’ll write a more detailed travel guide later. In the meantime, this is how our Tokyo trip turned out:
We arrived quite late in the afternoon, but wanted to go out and explore! We stayed in the Ueno area, which was great. The Airport Express train took us directly to Ueno, and we only had a 5 min walk to the hotel (I had already “walked” the way from the train station to the hotel on Google Maps, and I knew exactly where to go – prepared much?).
I have a couple of regrets on things that we didn’t have time to explore or didn’t dare to try. We traveled to Akihabara when we were tired from the flight, and we didn’t have much energy. Akihabara is noisy! Neon signs everywhere, traffic and loads of people everywhere. We walked through a couple of arcades, but were not prepared for the noise levels! The electronic shops were everywhere, and I’m sure we would have found great deals if we had the energy to stick around. Maid Cafe’s and Cat Cafe’s can also be found in Akihabara. We decided to go back to the hotel quite early and hoped we had the time to explore Akihabara some more before we went home.
What we learned:
- Sometimes it’s useful to plan what to do, instead of just going with the flow and walking around. We didn’t know where to go, and didn’t have a plan.
- The city is huge – sometimes you need to walk quite far to find what you’ve planned to see. Don’t underestimate the distances.
We walked across Rainbow Bridge to Odaiba, and loved it. I just love the view from bridges, and can take hundreds of photos of the same view. It’s not until I get home that I realize that a couple of photos would have been enough.
If you’re expecting a bridge like Brooklyn Bridge NY, you’re in for a surprise. This bridge is noisy and the traffic is intense. But it’s possible to use a walkway next to the cars (with a fence – you’re perfectly safe, and the walkway closes at night when it gets dark). The walkway wasn’t easy to find, but it was such a great experience!
And the view is amazing!
I guess we looked a bit lost towards the end of the walkway. A nice lady (who also was kind enough to take a picture of us with my camera) ran after us when we went the wrong way. And she guided us to where we were supposed to go. What a service!
After our walk across Rainbow Bridge, we sat down in the park next to Odaiba Beach and enjoyed the sun and the view.
Odaiba is a man made island and is a popular shopping and entertainment district.
We walked to Decks – a shopping mall with restaurants and indoor theme parks. You’ll find a Madame Tussauds as well. I guess kids would be entertained for hours in the theme parks, but we didn’t do much. We just walked around and found a nice restaurant. Afterwards we sat down on a bench and enjoyed the view of Tokyo Harbour and Rainbow Bridge. You’ll also find a Statue of Liberty in Odaiba!
Are we in New York? No, we’re still in Tokyo. She’s been standing there since 2000.
We decided to visit Madame Tussauds. We had a great time. It was a small display of famous characters – quite expensive for 15 minutes of fun.
Beautiful view in the evening!
What we learned:
- We loved waiting for the sun to set, even though it took a while. It might have been a good idea to bring a cardigan though.
A cold and rainy day. We didn’t quite know what to do and decided to go for a walk in Ueno Park. And since I love Pandas, we decided to visit Ueno Zoo as well. Unfortunately it looked like several animals were stressed from their environment, which sucked. I’ve therefore decided not to add any animal photos.
What we learned:
- Always have a backup plan for rainy days.
The weirdest and funniest experience of our Tokyo trip was definitely the show at the Robot Restaurant. Colors, noise and robot characters everywhere. It wasn’t a normal restaurant. Together with your ticket you could also order a sushi plate. And they sold beer and popcorn. But we decided to eat at a different restaurant before the show.
We tried Okonomiyaki! We didn’t exactly know what we were ordering, but it was fun! And tasted good as well. It looked like an advanced omelette but had loads of flavors. We only tried it once and needed help to cook it. The other guests cooked their own. It was a really cool place!
I decided not to add photos from the show itself. It’s so unique. It’s just something you need to experience. The photos and video below are from the waiting area before we were guided down to the basement for the show.
What we learned:
- We should have googled to find more theme restaurants. It was so fun!
We spent our fourth day shopping and walking around in Harajuku/Shibuya. We weren’t too interested in shopping though. And we really wanted to visit an owl cafe, but we ended up feeling sad for the poor owl that the cafe staff brought out in the streets to advertise for the cafe.. So we decided to skip it..
What we learned:
- We should have spent more time in Harajuku and Takeshita Street. That was a fun district! Next time we’ll try some street food as well!
We were amazed by the crowds at the Shibuya crossing. It was a cool experience to join the locals trying to cross the road without stumbling or bumping into someone.
I’ve enjoyed city views from several tall buildings in my life, and I don’t seem to get tired of it. Skytree was therefore a sure thing when we made our itinerary. When we decided to visit Skytree, we didn’t expect that everyone else wanted to do that too. We bought our tickets in the ticket counter (almost no waiting time at all) and were told to go next door to queue up for the elevators. If we knew that it would take one hour of waiting time (with a queue system that almost looked like a “Snake”-screen on my old Nokia), we might have skipped it. Or delayed it until later in the day. We spent about 15-20 minutes walking around and taking photos before we decided that it was enough. Was it worth it? Yes, for me it was.
What we learned:
- Expect to stand in line for a while when visiting tourist attractions (quite obvious..)
- It might be a good idea to visit the busiest attractions either early in the morning or late in the afternoon.
We took a walk down Nakamise Dori, a long market street that leads to Sensoji Temple.
We had planned to enjoy a boat trip from Asakusa to Odaiba, but it got cancelled due to wind. We decided to still go to Odaiba to enjoy the sunset over Tokyo Harbor.
We decided to pay Tokyo Tower a visit. I guess we judged the tower by its color and didn’t stick around for longer than it took to take a few photos. The tower is actually taller than the Eiffel Tower. I kind of regret it now that I’ve read more about it.
We also wanted to see the Imperial Palace and the park that surrounds it. It was such a huge park area and not much to do. I guess we could have skipped it, but I managed to take some nice shots of the buildings and the park area.
The action can sometimes find you when you visit a big city like Tokyo. During our lunch, several police cars and fire brigades appeared, and crowds gathered around to see what had happened. The street filled up with people within a couple of minutes. We didn’t see what exactly had happened, but a fire truck pulled up and raised its ladder, and the firefighters ran around.
We spent the evening in the Ueno area, shopping our last souvenirs and eating a not so nice dinner at TGI Fridays.
I’ll write a more detailed travel guide later, with a lot more information about what to see and do.
Have you been to Tokyo? What did you see and do? Please leave a comment. I’d love to read about your Tokyo experiences.