March 5, 2018

First Stop: Tokyo

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First Stop: Tokyo

Tokyo was our first stop in Asia, and I had no idea what to expect! For starters, Tokyo (and Japan in general) is hands down the CLEANEST place I have ever traveled to. It also felt really safe – we would explore around the city until after dark but I never felt uneasy. And the people were so sweet and polite! Everyone bows “hello” and “thank you” to each other and after two weeks in Japan, it took a few days for me to stop bowing to everyone haha. Now I know how the Nara deer have such good manners! 

We started out in an Airbnb right outside of the Tokyo Skytree, which has such an amazing view of both the city and Mount Fuji! The tickets were a little expensive because we bought them the day of, but you can get half price tickets if you buy them online in advance. I could have spent all day there. SO worth it!

So there’s a looong story behind this, but basically we had some problems getting our visas in time and had to cancel our first round of flights and leave a few days later instead. It was a huge bummer, but thankfully it all worked out alright in the end! Tokyo was the first part of our trip so we had to skip some of our plans, BUT we crammed a lot into the few days we did have and I have a list at the bottom of this post of some of the other cool things we had planned that we will have to do next time we come. I will say this though: if you are planning on visiting a country (like China) that requires a visa, do it ASAP!!

Tokyo Disneyland

Knowing us, you could probably guess that one of our first stops was Disneyland. Tokyo Disney has two parks: Disney Land and Disney Sea, and a new park called Disney Sky was just announced to be added a few weeks ago! The perfect excuse for us to come back to Japan in a few years. The park was so different than either of the parks in the States, especially the food and the souvenirs. We counted at least 8 different popcorn flavors, including milk chocolate (which was amazing and I totally recommend), tomato herb, curry, barbecue, caramel, butter, and the most stereotypical of them all, SOY SAUCE POPCORN. Yes, there were lines of people waiting to buy some. The meals there were also fantastic, and the shrimp curry in Disney Sea remains in our top 3 best curry places in Asia thus far. Disneyland was obviously different, but similar in lots of ways to our Disney parks at home. Disney Sea was an entirely different world though! It is probably the most incredible looking amusement park of all time. I wasn’t all too impressed with very many of the rides to be honest (although some of their best rides were closed), but I loved just walking around and taking it all in. There is a miniature Venice with gondola rides included, a huge ship and a pier that overlook the ocean, a volcano, an entire cave filled with rides from Little Mermaid and all things under the sea, and ancient Mayan ruins that literally had fire burning around the temples. It was amazing! If I had only had one day to go to Disney I would definitely go for Disneyland – and sadly no hopper passes :/ – but Disney Sea is definitely well worth your time. 

I was also really surprised at how not busy it was on Saturday, but on Sunday it was packed! So if you can at least avoid Sundays, you should be good to go.

The City & Takeshita Street

Let me start by saying COME HUNGRY. The food in Tokyo was amazing!! There were tons of little stands and shops and bakeries and I wanted to try it all. I think I almost did  try it all haha.

Takeshita Street in Harajuku is the iconic “Tokyo” that you would picture: crazy street fashion, anime everything, huge cotton candy, cosplay shops, “cat cafes” where you literally cuddle with kittens while you eat, and tons of shopping! It’s a great place for cool souvenirs and a haven for shopoholics. Just look at the sign at the entrance and you know exactly what you’re in for. We literally spent around 8 hours in this part of the city and we loved every second of it. Get ready for rolled ice cream, crepes, cotton candy, cookie bars, wacky drinks, and lots of ramen!

While wandering around Harajuku, we also found a mall with the most INSANE artwork created with mirrors at the entrance.

The same day we went to Takeshita Street we hit the Shibuya intersection both on the way there and on the way back to see it at night. I didn’t understand why an intersection could be so cool, even if it was the biggest in the world, until I literally saw it. There were at least 6 crosswalks going through this intersection, but people hardly used them. Imagine Times Square in NYC and how many people there are walking around right in the middle in every direction. We stayed through 4 or 5 traffic light stops just to watch it all over and over! Shibuya is also a huge shopping district (let’s be honest though, most all of Tokyo is) and there were tons of unique places to shop right along the intersection, as well as some stores that look a little more familiar like H&M and Lush.

Our Traditional Japanese Style Airbnb

 He somehow manages to say something goofy to make me laugh right before the self timer goes off and STILL looks like he's keeping his cool.

He somehow manages to say something goofy to make me laugh right before the self timer goes off and STILL looks like he’s keeping his cool.

We usually plan one or two nights to splurge on an especially cool place to stay on our trips, and this traditional Japanese home was our pick of the week. There were beautiful paintings on the doors and walls and even just spending a short amount of time there made me feel just a little more immersed in the culture. There was also an amazing view of Mount Fuji on the balcony which was a huge bonus! 

Vending Machines

Now you guys. I wouldn’t bring this up if it wasn’t important. There will come a time in your life when you get inspired (potentially by this post of tons of cool stuff) and venture off to visit Japan yourself. And you will realize within minutes of your arrival into this beautiful city that there are vending machines. Every. Twenty. Feet. They are in train stations, at bus stops, between stores, and on the corner of every street.

You have to try the strawberry milk from the machines! It comes out ice cold and it is hands down the best milk I have ever had and is arguably my new favorite drink of all time. Not to be dramatic, but this is a do-or-die sort of situation. Try it and have your life changed forever!!

Some Quick Notes About Japan

These are just a few things that I was worried about/have gotten lots of questions about.  First off, I was surprised at how much English I saw! Every restaurant had an English menu on hand and every worker I flagged down for help at train stations were able to answer my questions. I’ll be honest, we came across very few people who spoke more than a few basic words and sentences in English. That’s something I was really nervous about! Plus how do you even to begin to understand a language that uses little pictures instead of letters?? It is still beyond me. But in 16 days of travelling Japan, there wasn’t a single time where someone lost patience with me or when I felt frustrated because I couldn’t get my point across. We did use a few words though that made things a little easier:

Konichiwa: Hello

Arigato: Thank you

Ichi, Ni, San: One, Two, Three

It’s really basic and simple, but it did help us out! 

Things To Do on our Next Japan Trip

As you read at the top of the post, our trip was cut short and we didn’t make it to everything we had planned. But here are some things to look forward to for next time!

  • Ueno Park and Ueno Zoo
  • Meiji Shrine
  • Shinjuku Park
  • Mori Tower/Mori Art Museum
  • Koishikawa Korakuen Garden during cherry blossom season!
  • Asakusa and Sensoji Temple
  • Go to a themed cafe/maidreamin restaurant

Thanks for reading! Do you have any tips to add? Try anything from the blog? Have any questions? You know where the comment box is.

xx

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