Since I was on a MAJOR budget as I had just moved to London and had spent the previous four months dossing around Asia, I booked an economy class ticket to Japan (saving money by NOT going obviously wasn’t an option)!
The two other thirds of the travelling threesome had purchased economy plus, which actually does made a huge difference. When boarding the flight, I tried to swing an upgrade using my Avios points – of which I have thousands – but the BA staff could not have been less helpful (and some rude). Apparently, if you want something done, you just have to do it yourself – so that’s exactly what I did. I upgraded myself, and no one noticed! Free mini bottles of champagne to kick the journey off – yes please. WE WERE ON OUR WAY!
Our first stop was Tokyo for four days. We were super wrecked getting off that flight but we were too early to check in so we decided to stroll around the neighbourhood. We were staying in Shinjuku, Tokyo’s largest neighbourhood which includes Asia’s largest red light district.
We strolled to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building which is the headquarters of the governor and assembly of Tokyo. The large complex actually occupies 3 city blocks and is split into 3 sections. The Tokyo Metropolitan Main Building 1 is the most prominent of the three, and it’s also the 2nd tallest building within the city. Building 1 has two observatories (one for each tower) which are open free of charge to the public. It offers a viewing of the city from the 45th floors.
After checking out the Tokyo skyline, we visited Shinjuku Gyoen, one of Tokyo’s largest and most popular parks. Located just a short walk from Shinjuku Station, the paid park’s spacious lawns, meandering walking paths and tranquil scenery provide a relaxing escape from the busy urban center around it. In spring Shinjuku Gyoen is one of the best places in the city to see cherry blossoms. We fell asleep for an hour under the sun then headed back to the hotel to check in.
Our hotel was really nice but like a lot of hotels in Japan, a little pokey! One of the beds was basically a shelf! It was in the hotel I had my first experience with the Japanese toilets. I sat down and felt the warm seat which completely grossed me out as it felt like someone had just been sitting on it for a while. After 10 days in Japan however, I was wondering how I would ever get used to the awful cold seats we use here!
We had a quick nap – checked out the tinder situation in Japan for the lols 😉 and then made our way to the Tokyo night food tour we had booked.
During the tour we strolled through the city and visited several popular eateries, starting in Yakitori Alley near Yurakucho. This area is full of casual bar-style restaurants that serve up appetizers such as yakitori (grilled chicken skewers). We tried chicken hearts and liver among other things! Next, we headed to Tsukishima to visit Monja Street for monjayaki, a pan-fried treat that’s similar to an Osaka-style okonomiyaki pancake. The food sizzles on the grill, then a small metal spatula is used to cut it into pieces and you pluck it right from the grates with chopsticks. We finish our food tastings with a sweet treat of taiyaki, a popular crispy cake stuffed with sweetened red beans. We all loved the tour and would totally recommend it to anyone who is visiting the city!
We stayed in that night as we were all fit for bed and had an 8 hour tour to Mount Fuji the following day. For such a big fucking mountain it did an AMAZING job of hiding itself. If it wasn’t for our hilarious tour guide the day would have been a total dud…
“BUS TWO BUS TWO”
We also got to see some lovely Japanese countryside so I suppose it wasn’t all bad!
That night we went for dinner in a famous tempura restaurant where they cook live eels at the tempura bar and then drinks on our lovely rooftop bar. Then it was time for our big first big night out…only apparently NOTHING is open in Japan on a Monday night…ugh! We decided to chance Vowz bar, which was also closed but were hosting a private party for the Japanese army…who kindly let us join! Although while in Vietnam I would never have dared drink that homemade snake wine from a jar of dead snakes, a few hours of boozing with the Japs and I was downing shots of the stuff!
The snake wine was actually delish compared to our next drink which was made from “something of wolf, deer and fur seal”… It tasted how I always imaged the snake wine too – horrific! There was only one English menu, which I really wanted to keep since there was prob no way I would ever see that on a cocktail list again. Linds was worried we would go to hell for stealing from Buddhist monks – but I figured we were probs going there anyway so what harm! At least we would have the ingredients for some exotic drinks when we joined the party!
We woke up the next day with a massive hangover but we only had a short time left in Tokyo so we made our way to the famous fish market –Tsukiji Market . Here was ate EVERYTHING – most of which can be found here – http://www.timeout.jp/en/tokyo/feature/7946/Top-15-Tsukiji-street-snacks . The Daisada was our fav! We then strolled to the palace and around the garden, and made our way to Tokyo’s iconic 1960s Hotel Okura Tokyo for a beef curry.
We ended the day on a mini pub crawl around the Golden Gai for sake and peach wine. The Golden Gai consists of six tiny alleys – much too narrow to get even a small car down – lined by almost two hundred tiny bars. The buildings are rundown, and the alleys dimly lit. Each building is only a few feet wide, and built almost touching the one next door. The bars advertise themselves with a mix of artwork and logos – ranging from cats and acoustic guitars to painted lips and nudes. Each bar caters to a slightly different clientele. Some bars are so small that only five or six customers can fit in at one time.
The following day when the others took the train to Nikko for the night, I decided to stay in Tokyo on my own and do some more exploring. I moved to a hostel in Asakusa, a district in Tokyo famous for the Senso-JI, a Buddhist temple dedicated to the bodhisattva Kannon. I checked in to Khaosan hostel where I was sharing a room with a Canadian girl and an Irish guy living in Dalston! We spent the day exploring the temple and markets and then went for a big sushi feed.