Tokyo here I come!!! Cheap budget flight with Vanilla Air was painless and with arriving at Narita airport at 9pm I had booked to stay at a hotel at the airport. And of course, being the first time in Japan I had to book a capsule! As soon as I got there, I fell in love with the country. I checked in at Nine Hours Capsule Hotel and was given a lovely grey smock to wear as a dressing gown and the changing room felt so space agey. The capsule itself was pretty spacious and the room a bit like a glammed up morge with all the ‘holes’ in the wall for each capsule. Being in Japan, it was amazing to see how many buttons and options there are at the toilet, you can play music, have a bum drier…everything is there. And in the capsule, there’s buttons to control the lights, wave music, alarms, I loved it! And it was a surprisingly great night’s sleep.
The following morning was time to go and explore Tokyo, but a bit gutted as I woke up full of cold. However, I went add collected my JR Rail Pass (which you can only apply for before entering the country) which allows for unlimited train travel on bullet trains (sadly not the fastest ones though) and all the JR lines. I hopped on the train into the city and using the hostels directions, which were simple to follow despite having to get to the Khaosan World Asakusa Ryokan Hostel using three different trains. I was too early to check in, so I went off to explore feeling a bit apprehensive about the language barrier. I went for a walk to and around Uneo Park and I timed my visit to Japan perfectly as it was the cherry blossom season. I was amazed at just how beautiful walking around the park was, every tree was blooming and all the locals, let alone the tourists, were making the most of this sunny day to picnic under the trees. It was amazing. I walked around the lake and taking far too many pictures of trees! I sat down to watch the world go by for a bit and got joined by a homeless Japanese man named Asano who proceeded to tell me his life story and about how much he hated Japan and wishes he could go back to being homeless in Denmark or selling the Big Issue in London. He was a friendly chap to talk to for a bit, but I decided to continue my walk around the park. It was great to see how many people using it from the painters, to the old guys trying to take a selfie! Yes really! And an old couple sat down enjoying a large glass of sake each. Totally already sucked in by this country. From there, using my pass I jumped on the train to Shibuya, famous for the multi pedestrian crossing, which was more busy and manic than the crossing between Oxford Street and Regent Street in London. Conscious that I didn’t have long in Japan or Tokyo I tried to cram as much in on my first day, so after taking a picture of the crossing at its busiest whilst I was there, I meandered over to the Metropolitan Government Building. Here, there are two free observation decks that overlook Tokyo and from the top the vastness of Tokyo can really be seen. There are buildings as far as the eye can see. On a clear day you can make out Mount Fuji, but it was too hazy this time to see.
From there I made my way make to the hostel to check in and plan my stay in Japan, I asked where was good and cheap for food and they recommend Matsuya, a place across the road. I got there and literally had no idea what was going on, they indicated to me that I needed to order my food at the vending machine (luckily there were pictures and some English words). Eventually, someone came over and explained, with hand gestures, how you order your meal and then pass the token to the ‘chef’ and wait for your food to be brought to you. Obviously! So I opted for a cheese filled burger and rice and it was so cheap. However said Japan was completely unaffordable. Full of cold I headed back to the hostel, met a random in my dorm and we went and had free plum wine and Japanese snacks in the hostel bar before going to have a walk along the river. It was nice to see so many people celebrate the cherry blossom season, even in the evening, by having picnics and a lot of alcohol underneath the trees along the river. ON the way back to the hostel, we swung by the Asakusa Shrine which was all lit up and illuminated the large Japanese lanterns. One of the things I spotted with Japan already were the number of street vending machines selling hot and cold drinks (in cans) and that these vending machines had wifi! To try and shake the cold it was an early night.
It was already my last day in Tokyo and again I wanted to cram in everything to try and not miss anything amazing, but this is Tokyo I was still going to miss a lot of great things. I started the day visiting the nearby Asakusa Shrine – the Shrine of the Three Gods. Unfortunately, it was a wet and overcast day but was pleasant ambling around the temples grounds and browsing the numerous tourist stalls that line the pathway to the entrance of the shrine. From here I hoped on the train to Akihabara, the shopping area of the city known for its Manga / anime and maid cafes, which being on my own decided against going to despite my curiosity. It was cool to see the front of buildings plastered with huge manga characters; it was fascinating to wander about some of these shops. Next stop – Harajuku which always makes me think of the Gwen Stefani song. It’s in this shopping area that contains Japanese youth and fashion culture with the narrows streets heaving with teens getting their makeup and clothes especially the doll and alternative styles you associate with the Japanese. Again, this is another neighbourhood that demands you to amble around. From here, I headed to the Shinjuku Gyoen National Park, however on my there the heavens opened, so I decided to head to a shop to get an umbrella. This sums up how lovely the Japanese are, whilst I was stood at a crossing, getting drenched, a lady with an umbrella came and stood next to me, put the umbrella over the two of us and walked me over the road with shelter from the rain. I was genuinely touched by this. With an umbrella in hand, I strolled around the beautiful Gardens with a host of different tones of pink and white blossom. Even in the rain the beauty of it could be appreciated, walking around here and the large greenhouse easily ate into a few hours of my afternoon, only a shame it wasn’t sunny like the previous day. As this was close to Shinjuku’s range of shopping streets I had a quick look about the area before getting completely lost on how to use the subway, which is different to the JR lines of the city. Yet, somehow I found my way back to Asakusa and went for another stroll amongst the stalls at the shrine and treated myself to some Japanese sweets flavoured with either green tea or cherry blossom and filled with red bean pasta…so good!!! The evening, was another quiet one spent at the vending machine dinner spot and then a Starbucks at Shibuya which overlooks that infamous road crossing web, cute watching a wedding couple trying to run into the middle and take their professional photos before the lights changed.
Already can’t believe my time in Tokyo is complete. Already loving Japan and its culture, people, food and mannerisms. I mean, queuing to get on to the subway / train, like you’d ever see that in England!