Lesson 16 – How to experience Tokyo (warning… lots of selfies) 

Dear readers,

So after an exhausting 12 flight I arrived at Narita Airport (Approx 1.5 hours away from the city. Ready to start my solo adventure in Japan. (Pretty proud of myself I must say) 

My hotel “Remm Roppongi” (Great hotel – can recommend. Very central and reasonably cheap) was located near Roppongi Hills so I took the limousine bus to the Grand Hyatt Hotel. It was only about 8 CHF / 6 Euros difference in price from taking a series of trains and a lot more comfortable.

First impressions was how clean everything is. Look around and chances are that you will see someone cleaning something – the floor or the subway stairs. Graffiti is also pretty non-existent.

I was also surprised at the lack of traffic jams while coming into the city. Traffic tends to run smoothly and I hardly heard a car horn (Although I did hear a lot of sirens and helicopters in lieu of the Trump’s visit)

Day one – A Cat Cafe is a real and wonderful thing. 

After arriving at the hotel I was so tempted to sleep – but I knew that would lead me down a very jet lagged path. So I showered, put on some make-up, got dressed and left. My goal was to find a cat Cafe and drink some coffee… With cats.

I decided to walk to Shinjuku – an area famous for the scramble crossing as well as boasting a huge range of shops.  Crossing the scramble is something you have to do – if only to observe people standing in the middle of the crossing, wearing a go-pro and/or posing. But unless you like crowds then once is enough.

The cat Cafe was situated on the 7th floor of a building hidden down a side street (many shops or services are not found on the ground floor but you need to look up to see what shops are around).

After entering I was told to take off my shoes and don some flip-flops. I then received a time slip with my entrance time which I would hand over at the end. Drinks were included in the price and were obtained from a machine near the entrance. After sanitising my hands I was permitted to go upstairs.

The room was beautifully decorated and had a relaxed ambience. Soft jazz music was playing in the background. There were about 10 beautiful cats lounging about. The cats are obviously well looked after and seemed content. They did not always have to interact with customers but could choose to chill at the top of a make-shift tree.

Children under 13 are not permitted to visit and customers are not allowed to pick up the cats. All in all it was a very pleasant experience – although I nearly left the Café still wearing my fluffy cat ears…

After the cafe I decided to brave one of the small restaurants.  I chose a curry restaurant and it was so delicious. It cost 500 yen which is approx 4.50chf/3.50 euro and water was included.

I took the subway back to Roppongi and allowed myself to succumb to sleep.

Day 2: Meet Up in Tokyo.

I decided to head towards Asakusa and Akihabara. As the weather was beautiful I decided to walk it – Approx 2 hours. On the way I managed to pass Tokyo Tower which was pretty impressive.

Asakusa was pretty crowded as there is a lot of markets selling traditional sweets and gifts. Here you can see many girls dressed up in Kimono (which I later learnt have probably been rented).

I then decided to to Akihabara – electric town. This is a haven for Otakus (nerds) boasting many shops selling anime merchandise. Here you will also find a great selection of maid or butler cafes.

I went into a gaming place and spent some time trying to win a huge eevee toy.. Alas I was not successful. 

I then went to the Purikura machine. Before smart phones these machines were very popular as you could take fun photos and decorate them. These would then be printed as a sticker. The machines were empty and I suspect will quite soon become a thing of the past. 

I also achieved my childhood dream and visited a Pokemon centre in Tokyo. 10 year old Laura was very happy (29 year old Laura too…) 

In the evening I again decided to brave a small eatery – although I did cheat little and chose one which said “English Menu available”. I ordered fried rice,  ham cutlet and a kirin beer. It was so delicious and cheap –  800 yen for everything! 

Afterwards I headed off to an Irish bar – Mulligans. I saw that a meet-up for international people had been organised and it was free for non-japanese people. Everyone was so friendly and very eager to speak to me.

Japanese people don’t seem to have much opportunity to speak English (unless needed at work) and they work long hours. So such events are fantastic for those wishing to improve.

I met some cool people there including Taiko (who invited me to his all you can eat/drink party in Ginza) and Yuki (who took me to an amazing modern Sushi restaurant and then to a German festival).

I’m really grateful for meeting these people as they really made my time in Tokyo a lot more memorable.

Day 3 – All you can eat and drink in Ginza.

I woke up at about 10 AM. My body was obviously tired from fighting jet lag…

Since I would be travelling a lot in Japan I decided to buy a big clothes bag. I didn’t feel like struggling through the trains with a large suitcase so I took advantage of the luggage forwarding services (Takyubin)  offered by the hotels. I packed what I needed for the following 3 days and had my suitcase sent to the hotel in Kanazawa(where I would arrive on Wednesday). It only cost about 20CHF / 17 Euro and will definitely save me a lot of hassle. Keeping my fingers crossed that it arrives.

I also visited a Japanese bookshop filled with study books. These books cost a fortune outside of Japan so I made a bargain. 

In the evening I headed off to the all-you-can-eat/drink party in Ginza. All you can drink includes spirits such as Gin Tonic or Rum Coke. The food was a mixture of pasta, buttered popcorn, salad and bacon. It was so delicious.

I was even able to practice my Japanese (as limited as it is).

Day 4 –  Ghibli and Germany. 

My day again started groggily but I think my jet lag will soon be over. 

Today I headed to the Studio Ghibli museum. If you wish to visit this museum you need to book well in advance. I bought my ticket on August 1st :).

The museum is a bit out of Tokyo but easily accessible by subway and bus. I arrived early to avoid the crowds. The museum is a bit small but extremely interesting – my favourite part was learning how Miyazaki draws and colours food. Also I discovered that drawing chopsticks is extremely challenging as there are thousands of variations of how to hold them. (I get a few stares as I’m left handed) 

The gift shop was crowded and didn’t seem to offer much variety but I did have to buy a Tonari no Totoro book. 

After the museum I walked through the park towards the station. I loved seeing many families enjoying home made picnics. Children were playing and there were some street entertainers.

At 3PM I met Yuki for lunch and we had the most exquisite sushi I have ever had. The restaurant was called Kinka Izakaya in Shibuya.  It came with a crab miso soup, green beans in a peanut sauce and a mixed salad. The sushi differed from traditional sushi as it was lightly grilled (or blow torched). And only cost approx. 40 CHF for the both of us.

We then headed towards a German festival which was organised by the German embassy of Tokyo. 

It was here where I bought the most expensive drink so far – a radler (Approx 8 CHF).

I had such a great time in Tokyo but am looking forward to escaping the city and heading off to the countryside. I will be visiting Hakone tomorrow and staying in a traditional inn. 

Top tips:

If planning to stay in Tokyo then buy yourself a Suica travel card – Tokyo equivalent of an Oyster card. This card can also be used to purchase things in convenience stores.

Take advantage of the luggage forwarding services offered by the hotel. Not too expensive and saves a lot of hassle. 

Buy yourself a large clothes bag – costs around 10 CHF and can be used later to stuff your clothes in – freeing up much needed souvenir space in your suitcase.

100 yen shops are awesome.

100 yen vending machine hot coffee is a must for a jet lagged girl on the go.

So that’s me. 

Thanks for reading. 

Laura xoxoxo

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