Well, what a mad couple of days we’ve had! The flights were fine, though there was some pretty severe turbulence on the first flight (London to Istanbul)…much like sitting on a tumble dryer on full spin, with lots of other people…
We arrived in Tokyo’s Narita airport at about 7.40pm local time and after going through security and briefly playing the What if our bags don’t make it?! game…we went to pick up our JR passes (or rather exchange our exchange orders). This was a very straightforward process but we had to queue for quite a while and we weren’t expecting it to be so warm! Fortunately, the first vending machine wasn’t far away! We then bought Pasmo passes (like Oyster cards) and negotiated our way on the trains and the metro to our hostel in Iriya.
It was about a one minute walk from the tube station, which was welcome news for our weary bodies and it was an old style Japanese building with paper walls, sliding glass doors and a tranquil rock garden with rocks from Mount Fuji.
We made it just in time to check in and after a quick tour, decided to dump our bags and head out to find some food. What we hadn’t bargained for is that the people in our dorm would have turned all of the lights out by the time we got back. As you can imagine, being unable to freshen up after a long flight was pretty grim but we were so exhausted that we summoned our final bit of energy to climb the ladder to our bunk beds and basically collapsed! Also, as the walls were so thin, you weren’t allowed to shower after 12am, which was just our bad luck!
We woke up quite early with either jet lag or the thin hostel walls to blame…showered (finally!) and sat down in the kitchen for our first traditional Japanese breakfast. It was lovely, we were given miso soup and two different flavoured onigiri and I had some green tea. We sat around the table with some of the people who worked in the hostel and some guests. Everyone was so friendly and welcoming!
We were up and out by 9.30am, ready to start our adventures! We decided to go for a walk in Ueno Park first of all, as it was just a short walk from our hostel. It was huge! There were dozens of shrines, temples and museums inside.
Plus, when we were walking through, we discovered that there was a Ninja festival on, so there were food and drink stalls being set up and I think there was going to be a show later on!
Check out this bus!
Then we decided to jump on the train and head to Tokyo station, where we were thrilled to find seemingly endless Tokyo Banana vendors! We bought some to try and now completely understand why they’re so popular!
I love getting lost in a new city and fortunately, Alex is the same so we went for a wander all over the place! We found an amazing market in Asakusa where we ate rice cakes (I had one with green tea icing on and Alex opted for plum and dried sugar) and had our first taiyaki which is a bream-shaped waffle/pancake type of cake with a choice of fillings inside, yet again I plumped for matcha and Alex had a chestnut and sweet bean paste one. We were too hasty to take a photo this time but are planning to go back when we return to Tokyo at the end of our trip, needs must! Fuelled up from the market, we went to see the famous red temple in Asakusa.
There were hundreds of people around and a strong smell of incense billowing from a large incense burner in front of the temple. The main shrine, Senso-Ji was very beautiful with a lot of detailing both inside and out.
Yet again, map-less we wandered through the streets until we reached the river. We had our first proper glimpse of the Tokyo Sky Tree across the river and unknowingly walked into a traditional dance festival, there was a stage and various groups took it in turns to show off a mixture of traditional and more modern dance. We watched it for quite a while before heading towards Ginza, which is one of the (many) popular shopping areas in Tokyo. They were closing off part of the street when we walked around, which we think was for a human rights march that we watched go past a bit later when we were in Shinjuku. We were starting to falter by this point, so we decided to head back to the hostel for a quick nap before heading out again for dinner. We were amazed how cheap the Metro was, we were hopping on and off the tube all day and it was much cheaper than London Underground!
After we’d caught up on some sleep, we decided to go to Shibuya and see the busiest junction in the world (it is insane!) before trying out a sushi restaurant we were recommended, called Uobei. Unfortunately, free wifi is a little hard to come by in Tokyo so we basically walked for a really long way in the wrong direction before we found it. Anyway, we found it and it was awesome!
You order your food and drink using a small screen in front of you and soon after you order something, it is delivered to you on a little tray train! Once you’ve taken your food off, you press a button and the tray whooshes back! It was so cheap and the sushi was amazing! Approximately ¥108 a dish, which works out at around 60p! We both tried lots of different maki, nigiri and types of fish, washed down with a beer and it came to the grand total of about £6.50 each.
So that was our first day in Tokyo! Street food? Check. sushi? Check. Tokyo Banana? Check. Temples and shrines? Check. Check! Our next stop is Nikko, one of the most historical areas in the country!
Sayonara for now!
Laura and Alex