My wife and I have been planning a journey to Japan for a long time. Finally, we had the will and financial support to make this trip worthful. These are the first 3 days we spent in Tokyo, the metropolis that holds the name of Japan's capital. Here is a tip : If you're planning on travelling with bullet trains/trains in general, I recommend buying the JR Pass before arriving in Japan because it costs less ( -10% to -20% discount on the website ), about $37/day. Also, exchange your money to Japanese Yen at the ATM in Tokyo's international airport to avoid paying more than it's actual value. Just for a refference, 10,000 yen is 100USD.
We arrived in Haneda International Airport at 9 o'clock in the morning. Mary, my wife, saw a taxi and we took it immediately ( it is a bit rare to find a taxi in this airport ) to go to the Shibuya Tokyu Rei Hotel, where we booked a room, two guests and 3 nights for the price of $76/night. The flight got us tired, so we decided to sleep for a couple of hours before making a visit to the first attraction point.
We woke up filled with energy and went to eat in the Shibuya region of Tokyo. Shibuya is widely considered the centre of mainstream youth culture and fashion in Tokyo. Shoppers can find almost anything here, from kimono and high-end Western styles to local street and luxury brands, making Shibuya the place to fill your clothes baggages for when you get home or during your trip in Japan. The bronze memorial of Hachiko, the dog whose loyalty to his owner inspired the nation, has become an unofficial meeting place for friends coming together in Shibuya. Be sure to salute ( hello in japanese is "konichiwa" ) this kind soul, as it is said to bring luck and blessing upon you. Here, I met with two of my friends that were also travelling in Japan, Julia and Daniel. They told me that Shibuya’s music scene is underappreciated by visitors, especially in the area of Shibuya Station, so we went there. We saw a lot of DJ bars, tourists and restaurants in the area, so we chilled there for two hours. Daniel recommended us a restaurant that was close by. He said it had a lot of delicious dishes to try. " I'd say we give it a shot ", my wife stated. We ordered two mouth-watering bowls of ramen and a pork Katsu. This one I really, really loved! The ramen's soup was filled with flavours of the mixture of eggs, pork belly and pickled onions. That was our dinner before walking to the hotel to get a good nap before our second day in this beautiful metropolis.
We started the day right off with a delicious meal of scrambled eggs, topped off with cream cheese on a toast. Besides, we drank a delicious natural green tea to get us in the mood for exploring Tokyo! After we ate, my wife ( Mary ) suggested going to the Meiji Shrine in Shibuya Neighbourhood. Also, I recommed not using the JR Pass yet, because you will need it further on in the trip. We used it because we hadn't known it would have expired after a period of time. We went to the station near our hotel to take a train to Shibuya. Having arrived in the district, we walked to Meiji Shrine. It is the Shinto shrine that is dedicated to the deified spirits of Emperor Meiji and his wife, Empress Shōken. We were lucky enough to witness a traditional Japanese wedding taking place at the shrine! The traditional way in which a couple gets married in Japan was the most beautiful wedding I've ever seen! While Mary was scrolling trough her phone, she saw another tourist-sucking attraction point. We took the Yamanote line to Harajuku, best known for its bright colors and trendy shops. It is where Japan's kawaii culture began and continues to thrive. On Sundays, you can see traditional Harajuku Girls dressed in elaborate and anime costumes. We explored this area for a couple of hours by shopping at Takeshita Dori, a big street where you can find a whole mess of fun stores and cafes. There, we tried the traditional Japanese crepes, delicious desert made with skill and love by the street vendors. We also spent our time by commuting with other travellers and people from the area. Time passed by so fast there that it was 5 o'clock in the afternoon and we felt like we had just arrived there! We also ate some local Japanese sweets, such as ikinari dango, coffee jelly, habutae mochi and topped it off with some mango icecream. After we had a great time in Harajuku, we took the bus to Shinjuku, the largest neighborhood in Tokyo, also called the crazy entertainment district. There are a lot of shops, restaurants, entertaining playgrounds and attractions that can easily make you spend all day here, just like we did! My wife mentioned that near Shinjuku, there is a small network of alleyways called Omoide Yokocho, commonly known as Piss Alley. It is filled with dozens of tiny eateries serving ramen, soba, sushi and yakitori ( meal prepared from grilled chicken and mirin sauce ). We dined there, eating flavorful dishes such as pork and beef ramen, salmon and rice sushi and a plate of yakitori.
After our visit, we took the train from Shinjuku Station to a park near the hotel and chilled there until midnight. We left the park because we were tired and wanted to get a good sleep before our final day in Tokyo.
After we woke up, we ate brekfast at the hotel and immediately rushed to the station to take the train to Asakusa, the spiritual heart of Tokyo and a good place to start our day! The first attraction we saw was actually the Kaminarimon Gate ( "Thunder Gate" ), the barrier that connects the rest of the town to an area of pure souls and relaxed spirits. We entered the realm of Asakusa and on our walk to the Sensoji Temple, we passed my Nakamise Dori shopping street, where we picked some souvenirs and a couple of Japanese snacks such as : mint pockys, green tea mochi and strawberry-vanilla Kit-Kats. I highly recommend these snacks for their flavorful taste but also not to be eaten in high amounts because they contain high sugar levels!
We arrived to Sensoji Temple, the main attraction in the area of Asakusa. It is said to be the largest, most popular and most crowded ancient Buddhist temple and it's purpose is to honor the great godess Kannon. The entrance is a magnet for photographers with many Japanese visitors in beautiful kimonos. The temple itself has many buildings consisting of the main hall and many shrines including the Asakusa shrine. We weren't luucky enough to witness a ceremony there, ( but hey, maybe you will be! ). The temple is open from 6:00 AM to 17:00 PM and the admission is free.
After visiting Asakusa in its entirety, we took the train for a 5-minute journey to the tallest building not only in Japan, but the entire world! It is named Tokyo's SkyTree and it has an altitude of 634 meters ( about 2,080 feet ) ! The complex has two observation decks with great views over the city. There’s even a glass floor on which my wife was too scared to go. However, I did not let my fear of heights frighten me, so I took a look from up there and the view over Tokyo was spectacular. The SkyTree really does live up to his name!
The SkyTree was off our bucket list so we moved on to the second to last visit of the day in Tokyo, Ueno Park. We took the bullet train to the park, another large public space located in central Tokyo and another lively cherry blossom spot. There are more than 1000 cherry trees of multiple varieties lining its central pathway and lots of temples and shrines here to check out as well as museums and a zoo. We couldn't visit all of them because we didn't want to meet the deadline for the train to Kyoto, so we took the train once again to see the Akihabara District. We spent the evening perusing the many electronic shops, including Yodobashi Akiba, the world’s largest one with nine stories stuffed with hi tech equipment. We also found Japan’s diehard fan anime culture here, with stores devoted to anime and manga, just be sure to keep kids away from the adult-only sections (I wondered at first why all the anime was butt naked ). You could easily fill up a whole afternoon and night in Akihabara, from its maid and Gundam cafes, gaming centers and just gazing at the bright lights. We took our last look at the District Station before leaving for Kyoto with the bullet train.
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