Jump into Japan – Tokyo

Hello, hello! Welcome to the world of Japan, whether you’re into anime, the culture or just curious I’m sure something will catch your eye in this post! I spent 10 days in Japan exploring Tokyo, Kyoto, Nara and Osaka, each city had it’s own vibrancy and personality. For me, Tokyo was definitely my favourite but the whole experience was a winter break well spent!

Tokyo – since I spent 5 out of the 10 days of the trip here, I found a couple of things to keep me amused. We stayed at a couple of different hostels whilst in Tokyo but Asakusa is the first one and is famous for the Sensō-ji: a Buddhist temple dedicated to the bodhisattva Kannon. Not only does it have the Buddhist temple but has a traditional market that is bustling at night full of sparkling Japanese trinkets, anime figurines and kawaii (cute) titbits that you didn’t know you needed. Since the temple attracts a lot of attention from locals and tourists alike, there is a chance to see Geishas walking the grounds as well as many people trying to get you into their bicycle rickshaws that are not so cheap! So the best way to go about it is to dive in head first and walk through the streams of stalls and gaze at the grand architecture of the temple!  Since this was our first stop, it can be easy to fall for the glamour of the night and drop a lot of cash picking up everything your heart desires but if you can hold back your inner child you’ll soon discover that all of Japan has something you must take with you!

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Wait! How do you get around Tokyo? – Good question!

Tokyo has a huuuuuge subway system that works with single, return tickets and travel cards. Since we were going to be there for 10 days we opted for the travel card known as Pasmo, for this you talk to one of the ticket attendants, hand over 500 yen and now you have a top travel card that works for most of Japan. However, because you pay 500 yen to get the card you can also retrieve it if you return the card before you leave Japan, so make sure to get your money’s worth! I’ll leave the link to more info about travelling around Japan here. Also warning transportation is costly in Japan and was the main drain on our funds but because of the high standard of living in Japan, unfortunately it is an expensive place to visit but worth it just to see what crazy, wonderful things this country holds. One thing to note however, is that open, free wifi is rare in Tokyo. The most we ever got was 5 minutes from the subway station which did make it difficult whenever we got lost. However, there is a way to register online, like using your hostel’s wifi, for Starbucks wifi. You won’t be able to just go into the cafe, buy something then have access. Don’t ask me why but if you think you’ll need wifi when exploring then I would recommend doing this beforehand!

If you’re looking for nature, museums, temples and street food Ueno park should be on your list. Just head to Ueno Station  and follow the signs or the stream of people walking through the large park. There are several museums dotted around the park including Tokyo National Museum which was grea to learn about the beginnings of Japan and its culture so that we could start off our trip well informed! The park is also home to many cherry blossom trees but they normally show off their flowers in March so having visited in December there was no chance of that but it was still great to see. There are also bodies of water within the park that you can take swan pedal boats out on if you’re into that!

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If you’ve been to other major capital cities, you’ll notice a theme: they all have very tall buildings in the centre and Tokyo is no different. So if you’re one for panoramic views then scaling the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building will not disappoint. Offering views from 242 metres high, the building itself is a site to behold! However we went early evening so only the North observation point was open but during the day the whole building is open and is full of information about various landmarks and points of interest in Tokyo. From the top we were able to see Mt Fuji!

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After seeing the culture and an aerial view of Tokyo it was time to get stuck into what makes Tokyo such a lively place to be, especially at night! Jumping off at Shibuya Station in particular the Hachiko exit which is home to a statue of Hachiko, a loyal dog who waited for his owner for many years, even after his passing. So after taking a selfie with the dog, you’ll find at this particular exit the famous Scramble Crosswalk of Shibuya. This district of Tokyo is known for it’s fashion, entertainment and nightlife so combine that with tall buildings lined with huge tv screens and neon signs about the latest street fashion, it’s no wonder that this is a hub for youth fashion and culture. What made this such an interesting place to visit was that each building literally had a plethora of shopping, from the ground level to the top, but filled with all the unique street styles of Japan. So if you’re not into any of the styles it’s still fun to peruse the floors just to see how different everything is in comparison to Western fashion.

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Ok, so if you’re anything like me, the reason why I was looking forward to visiting Tokyo was to hit all of its main anime spots. Anime is basically Japanese style cartoons, so big names such as Naruto, Pokemon, Bleach and Sailor Moon would all be in this category. As well as the cartoons, there is the comic books known as Manga that people like to read either in physical form or they can be found online. Akihabara is a central district of Tokyo that houses every die hard fan’s need in terms of being able to find particular anime/manga and for those into technology it also has huuuge electronics stores too! Anime and manga isn’t only celebrated in their original forms but can also be found in the shapes of arcade games, theme cafes and merchandise stores too. Here, my friend and I played in Gunam Wing style pods where we were able to pilot our own virtual giant robot suits to battle each other! For more details on the wonders of Akihabara click here!

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After Akihabara we took the subway all the way over to Ikebukuro to continue our anime adventures! Here in an area called Sunshine City you will find restaurants, maid/butler cafes, anime/manga shops and huge electronic stores…it’s Tokyo you can never see too much of the same theme! Maid/Butler cafes are cafes that cater to a particular audience – though that didn’t stop my friends and I checking out a maid cafe, full of adorable Japanese women dressed as maids who are there to serve you drinks, cakes and entertainment in the cutest way possible. Unfortunately photographs aren’t allowed in the cafe itself as that’s a part of the services you can pay for while you’re there. If you’re really lucky there will be well known patrons who already buy performances so you can see the staff sing and dance to the latest J-pop tracks for free!

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However if you can tear yourself away from the cute women/men in the cafes the real reason why this was an amazing day out was because of  J-World Tokyo. An indoor theme park dedicated to some of the major anime series out there:  Dragonball Z, Naruto, Bleach and One Piece are few to name! J-World is split into different areas completely designed to the anime, where you can go on interactive rides, mazes and even eat like your favourite characters! My favourite would be the Dragon Ball hunt in the Dragonball world with fun mini games and your own Dragon Ball detector!  In the midst of all the props for amazing pictures, the rides (that are an extra cost) food and merchandise, staff will dress up and walk around as different characters so make sure to keep an eye out for Naruto or Goku! For even more info on all this check out the link here.

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One last major spot for anime lovers is the man made island of Odaiba, this can still be access by the subway and what a ride it is over the water! This island is home to a massive shopping district, Toyota’s giant showroom with their latest models and all things car related, exhibition centres, the Panasonic Centre and way more things that you can peruse here. However Diver City is what I came for because it’s completely Gundam Wing (anime) themed, completed with a LIFE SIZED Gundam. So you know the arcade where I was piloting a virtual one? Well this one was reaaaallll! During the day the Gundam stands guard, unmoving but when the sun sets…lights flash on and smoke spew from the metal frame and the heads MOVES. It scans left to right with realistic sounds, musics and lights – it makes for an impressive display and worth the wait for the sun to disappear! Though if you get cold waiting in the winter air, the Gundam cafe has themed food and drinks to tide you over!

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This last place is for everyone! So hopefully the non anime lovers made it this far…for Christmas day my friends and I hit up Tokyo Disneyland! Though if you really don’t like seeing couples in public then DO NOT come here on Christmas because other than the magicalness of Disney that’s all you will see as Christmas is seen more as a couple holiday than a family affair. Tokyo Disney is filled with all the classic areas and rides that are found all over the world, so if you’re a once you’ve seen it once, you’ve seen it all kind of person then there isn’t all that to see in this theme park compared to others, except that it’s Tokyo. The only noticeable difference I saw, having been to Paris and Disney World Florida, is that Tokyo had an ‘electrical parade’ where all the floats of the Disney crew were lit up by LED. So that made night at Disney interesting as the scale of the designs were amazing to see. Also at Tokyo Disney they had a massive Christmas tree, that had an equally impressive line of couples waiting to be pictured next to it. So in terms of a day out, if you love Disney come and if you’re not bothered you’ll probably be better saving your money for some shopping instead!

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I hope you enjoyed the first installment of Japan posts, hopefully the next posts shouldn’t be too long, fingers crossed! Thank you again for reading, I’d love to hear your thoughts on anything in the post, in the comments below!

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