Our final destination on our trip was Tokyo which we were both pretty excited about, but also curious to see what Tokyo was all about. That morning, before we set off we watched the sun rise over Mt. Fuji from our room and grabbed some breakfast. We set off on our long journey back to Tokyo and got to our hotel around 3pm. We were staying in a hotel near Ueno station to the north of the city. We decided to walk to Akihabara, which is where all the electronics shops are. We walked through Ueno and straight down to Akihabara, stopping for some ramen and gyoza on the way. Akihabara was so interesting, there were loads of shops selling any kind of electronics, from second hand cameras to retro playstation games and game boys. There was also loads of manga shops selling manga figurines and anime.
The next day we wanted to explore the Shibuya and Harajuku area. When we got there decided to go for a quick walk around the nearby Meiji-ji shrine before heading towards the ‘harajuku’ area. On our way to the shrine 3 girls approached us and explained they were studying English at university and wanted to practice their English, so could they give us a guide? Of course we agreed and had a lovely guided tour of the shrine. They explained everything beautifully and we enjoyed hearing about their studies and exchanging differences between England and Japan! After the shrine they led us to Takeshita street – the main Harajuku area. Rach was pretty excited about this particular area as she’d always wanted to visit it because of the amazing fashion there. It was SO COLOURFUL!! So many colourful clothes and shops full of ‘Harajuku’ fashion. We spent a couple of hours taking in the vibe of the street and going into almost every shop, Rach in awe of all the amazing clothing and people wearing the fashion. After we’d explored this street, Rach had heard of a cool cafe from a friend called the Kawaii Monster Cafe. We found it and knew immediately it was a cool place. We had to pay 500 yen each to get in and then we both had to buy a drink and food once inside. As soon as we went in it was the most colourful places we’d ever seen. There was so much to look at and we were greeted by a girl wearing the craziest harajuku fashion! We were seated at our table and brought our food – fried chicken on a waffle with blue butter and maple syrup, as well as our blue bubblegum ice cream and crazy cocktails. In the middle of our meal there was a show, with lots of dancing by various harajuku girls and singing. We decided the food wasn’t great but worth going for the experience.
In Shibuya, there’s a famous road crossing called ‘The Scramble’. It’s the busiest pedestrian crossing in Tokyo and has about 8 crossings all used at the same time. Once we got there we enjoyed watching the crowds each time the green man was shown and ended up crossing it ourselves twice. We found a cute local gyoza bar nearby and ate our body weight in gyoza and noodles. That evening, I went to a local Onsen round the corner from or hotel, which had been recommended by people at our hotel. As before, it was segregated and we’d already sussed out the price and what to do. I felt that by this point I’d got to grips with the whole onsen etiquette so was looking forward to relaxing as usual. The first thing I noticed was the water was the colour of cola – apparently it was very natural and had lots of purifying properties in it. I did my usual cleaning routine and then went to get in the onsen. I got in and immediately felt as if I’d burnt myself – quickly realising the temperature was about 50 degrees!!! I jumped out and an old man who had just arrived gestured to a cold tap that I was meant to have put on to cool it down (this was a new thing so I wasn’t aware I had to do it!) I tried to get back in but I was worried I’d burnt myself. I rushed back to the hotel thinking maybe Rach could call someone in case I had serious burns, however when I arrived my legs felt a bit better and Rach seemed unconcerned so I had a cold bath and went to bed – unfortunately I didn’t have the nerve to go back!
The next day we wanted to go to Ryogoku, famous for the huge Sumo wrestling stadium there called Ryogoku Kokugikan. We got there around 10am (after getting lost a few times in the train system) but unfortunately there were no tickets left for the sumo match that day – we found out we could only buy them on the day and we had to get there early in the morning. We decided to head to Ginza, towards the South of the city, as there is an amazing fish market called Tsukiji fish market. We wondered around Ginza and eventually found the market. We got there just as the main fish sellers were closing up but managed to see loads of the activity before this. We found a great sushi cafe, with conveyor belts and fresh fish -sushi heaven!! After lunch we walked towards Tokyo Palace, which was in a huge park in the middle of Ginza. Unfortunately it was closed when we got there (4pm) so we went to Ginza station where there is a street full of shops selling anime and famous cartoons – called character street.
The following morning we got up early – we were determined to get sumo tickets!! We headed straight there (we’d sussed the train system by then!) and joined the large queue at 8:15am – I’m pretty sure by 8:45am all the tickets for that day were sold out so you must be there early! The great thing about the tickets is they were ¥2200 each (just under £20) but they are valid all day and you can come and go as you please. We wanted to watch the top ranking wrestlers so we decided to go back at 3pm. Meanwhile we walked around Tokyo getting getting last minute pressies and souvenirs. At 3pm we arrived back at the Sumo stadium in Ryogoku and managed to get a seat right at the back of the stadium. We got the English audio guide (¥300 each) which was great as it helped us understand what was going on and a little bit of background on each wrestler. Once the professional Sumo’s began you could feel the excitement in the room. It was so interesting to watch and we enjoyed the thigh slapping and psyching each other out that went before the bout began! By the time the last Sumo’s came to wrestle we were up in our feet shouting with the rest of the locals! It was a great experience and worth the early morning to get tickets!
For our final meal we headed to Akihabara again as we knew the food was good there. Interestingly, we found that the last two places we went for food on our whole trip were the only places that didn’t have any kind of menu that we could understand but we managed to get by and made the most of our final Japanese meal!
The following morning we had to be up early to get to the airport in good time. We were heading to Narita and wanted to get the metro all the way there. It was slightly stressful but we made it and enjoyed our final matcha green tea latte before catching our flight home.
Japan was an amazing experience and definitely a must visit country for anyone! We will try and write a couple of posts about the train system and some truths and myths about Japan that you can only realise once you visit!