On the 22nd of December 2014, T and I arrived in Japan to begin our 2 week adventure across the land of the rising sun.
We would explore the hustle and bustle of Tokyo, take in the scenic landscapes of Takayama, stay at a hot spring resort and stroll along the ancient city of Kyoto. Our Qantas flight from Sydney departed on the 21st at 10:20pm and would arrive early the next day at 6:30am. This flight was my first time travelling with Qantas and I was quite pleased overall. However, the flight coming back to Sydney was very bad.
The in flight meals were standard and typical of most airlines. The touch screen inflight entertainment system had a good selection of current movies, a few games and tv shows. Unfortunately the entire system went offline towards the end of the journey after the crew attempted to reset it.
Once, T and I landed at Narita Airport, we quickly headed to a convenience store to grab some food and drinks. Then we started our search for the ticket counter to purchase our Skyliner + Metro ticket, after 20 minutes we found the counter. But it was still closed! So we waited until a middle aged Japanese lady opened the counter and sold us our combined ticket for ¥3,500. We opted for the single Skyliner + 3 day Tokyo Metro pass, which allowed us to get into Tokyo via the Skyliner high speed train in 41 minutes. The Tokyo Metro pass meant we had unlimited use of the metro system for 3 days! Check out the official site for more info here.
|My mentaiko onigiri!|
As the Skyliner zipped towards Ueno station, I caught my first glimpse of Japan’s landscape through my window. It still hadn’t sunk it that I was in Japan. When we arrived at Ueno station, we unfortunately got lost as we hadn’t realise that the Tokyo Metro line and JR Railways were not connected at Ueno station. This meant we had backtrack and find the nearest subway station, which without data was not an easy task. Fortunately, after some broken Japanese and plenty of hand gestures we had arrived at Iriya station.
After a 10 minute walk we finally found our accommodation: Oak Hostel Zen. Since it was only 9am, we couldn’t check into our room but were able to leave our luggage behind. After a short break in the lobby to get our bearings, we quickly set off the Tsukiji fish markets. We had to visit the famous markets today because it would be closed for the next two days (23rd/24th) and we would be leaving Tokyo on the 25th.
Chow Tips: Make sure you check the opening days of Tsukiji Fish Markets if you plan on visiting. Click here for the official calendar in Japanese. The red dot means closed.
Tsukiji Fish Market
When we arrived at Tsukiji, we quickly made a beeline for Sushi Zanmai. Sushi Zanmai serves quality sushi at a good value without having to wait for hours. Head to my full review of Sushi Zanmai here!
After a delicious and incredibly satisfying meal we wandered around the vast market. Each store offered unique and distinct products.
This store even sold whale. The top white layer is the whale’s blubber while the bottom dark bit is the meat. And if you were wondering, I didn’t eat or purchase any.
After we walked around the outer market, we decided to venture into the inner market. The inner market is where the real action is. It’s where you find large suppliers and wholesalers.
Chow Tips: Watch where you are going in the fish market! Tourists often forget that this is the largest commercial fish market in the world, so don’t get in the way of Japanese fishmongers.
After a great start to our Japan trip, we decided to walk to nearby Ginza. Ginza is an upmarket district with many luxury brands, department stores and restaurants. On our way there, we found a small park with a very interesting fixture.
A foot massage path! T and I watched a pair of Japanese ladies walking along the studded path. They started off giggling but by the middle of the path, they were wincing and shouting “itai!” We thought we could handle it. We were wrong. We took off our shoes and started to walk along the path, at first it was relaxing and soothed our feet. But we when got to the sharp studs the pain began. Surprisingly, after we completed the massage path our feet were very relaxed!
|Kabuki Theatre in Ginza|
The first shop we ventured into was GU. The store carried a decent range of inexpensive clothes, in particularly socks! I managed to buy 5 pairs of colorful socks for ¥420, that’s around $4.50 in Australian dollars. Later that day, T had looked up GU and found out that it was actually a subsidary of Uniqlo.
Chow Tips: A lot of retail stores in Japan will display prices without tax. Make sure you add 8% to prices!
Our next stop was Uniqlo. As a huge Uniqlo fan, I was excited to be shopping at the largest flagship store.
The store was massive with levels and levels of Uniqlo clothes and apparel, ranging from thermals to bags. However, the prices are not as cheap compared to other parts of Asia such as Korea, Taiwan and China.
The T-shirt gallery was a cool, clever way to display unique T-shirts that could only be bought in Japan. I ended up buying a grey shirt with a cute image of a cartoon Mount Fuji cuddling a cartoon sun. The caption on the shirt read “Mountain Boy Loves Sunrise Girl. Japan Forever.”
After we browsed a few more stores, T and I set off for Asakusa district to visit the famous Sensō-ji Temple.
We exited the Asakusa metro station and found ourselves at a busy intersection. From there, we followed the crowds heading to the temple.
You know you’re in the right place when you see the huge red Kaminarimon (Thunder Gate). After we took our obligatory photos, we squeezed our way through the crowds. When you walk under the lantern you realise just how massive it is. According to wikipedia it’s 4 metres tall!
Guess what you’ll see after you enter past the gate? More crowds. In order to get to the temple, you have to walk along the shopping street which is packed with tourists and Japanese locals. There’s a variety of shops selling foods, gifts and souvenirs of all kinds.
|Taro Ice Cream!|
Chow Tips: In the temple shopping area you can not eat and walk! Store owners will make sure customers eat either inside or in front of the store.
The temple itself consists of several buildings, where devotees can pray and purchase offerings and charms. As the sun began to set, T & I headed off to Shibuya to have some Ichiran Ramen.
After meandering through the vast crowds of people in Shibuya, we finally found Ichiran Ramen! And unsurprisingly there was a line. Every restaurant in Japan that is well known or famous almost always has a line. So be prepared to wait. Luckily, our wait was short and after around 20 minutes we were allocated our seats. Ichiran Ramen certainly lives up to its reputation. Check out my full review Ichiran Ramen here!
After we filled our stomachs with delicious ramen, we set off for the shops and stores in Shibuya. Below are some photos of some interesting things I saw:
|Rock Melon for ¥8,640. That’s around $86 AUD.|
For some reason, there are some super expensive fruit in Japan.
|4 Apples & 4 Pears for ¥4,860|
The day finally ended with a meal at MOS Burger, the 2nd largest fast food franchise in Japan. Their known for their rice patty burgers, which I did order. The salmon rice burger meal (¥720) came with a side of fries/onion rings as well a juice. If you’re looking for a cheap, fast food meal that is Japanese then head into a MOS Burger.