We had summer break this last week and I was so excited to go to Tokyo. I´ve been wanting to go to Tokyo since I was a freshman in high school. Sushi is my number one favorite food, with Mexican and Thai in close second, and nothing sounded more radtastic than to eat sashimi for 5 days….so we did just that, among other noteworthy adventures.
We arrived Saturday after a long subway ride and a 40 minute detour struggling to find the hostel at night.
We booked a room at the Sakura Hostel in Asakusa. It ended up being a really nice place, with air-conditioned rooms and nice bathrooms. It was pricey for a hostel, at 30 bucks a night, but Tokyo is expensive and the place was clean and comfortable.
After we threw our backpacks down, we went out to grab some food and decided to hit up a ramen joint. The ramen had a miso-type broth and aged, soft boiled eggs. It had a really interesting flavor. I can´t say I loved it, but it tasted really different and comforting after a long day of traveling.
Sunday, we woke up refreshed and decided to check out the neighborhood. Asakusa is one of the oldest neighborhoods in Tokyo and at the center is a gorgeous shrine. The buildings are small and quaint and the aesthetic feels like a 1940s detective movie. I absolutely adored this area and loved wandering the streets. For lunch, we hit up a sushi joint and had our brains blown by some melt in your mouth nigiri and sashimi. I was especially impressed by the salmon, which isn´t usually my go-to sashimi choice.
After lunch, we took the subway to Shinjuku to check out the Gyeon National Garden. This was one of my favorite parts of the trip. The garden was like a Central park–sprawling green trees in all directions in the midst of metropolitan chaos. In the park were multiple gardens. My favorite was, not surprisingly, the traditional Japanese garden.
That night, we met up with some of our friends from LCI, Nate and Elliot, and their friends to grab some dinners and drinks in Shibuya. We had a lively, sake-filled dinner in a tatami room and then wandered Shibuya crossing, sipping on Sapporo. The night fizzled out a bit by the end, and Rachel and I took a pricey, 60 dollar cab home. Tokyo ain´t cheap.
Monday we were feeling a bit lethargic/hung over but we got up and went out to explore Harajuku after a killer sashimi and tempura lunch made by a cute, older Japanese lady who didn´t speak a lick of English.
I LOVED Harajuku. It met my expectations and more. Cute alleys filled with fun, punk/pop Japanese fashion and tons of Japanese teenagers dressed to the nines in 6-inch platforms and killer hairdos. I felt like a dumpy Westerner the whole day, but had a blast nonetheless.
After Harajuku, we jetted to meet the boys to go see a….robot sex show? That is what they called it. I was hesitant at first—it sounded potentially gross and awkward, but it was probably one of the coolest thing I´ve ever seen. It was a bit pricey, around 50 dollars, but basically, you sit in these seats and watch life-size robots fight girls in bikinis with a killer light show. In fact, there was a myriad of themes….robots versus dinosaurs, ninja girls versus robots, robots versus other robots. I think the robots won in the end, but the plot faded as we stared at the cute Japanese girls in light up outfits.
Post show, we downed some sake and did a little booty shaking in Shinjuku.
Next day was brutal. Sake doesn´t not mix well with most anything but sake, and we were in bad shape in the morning. We barely managed to get it together to grab some lunch (okonomiyaki). We didn´t love it, but I could see its potential. Sort of a make–ityourself savory pancake filled with seafood or meat, topped with mayo and yummy sauce.
Then, we slowly trudged around the Imperial Palace in blazin´ humid heat. I thought the palace was pretty, but not my fav.
Tuesday night we went to the SkyTree tower in Asakusa which is apparently one of the tallest towers in the world. It was a little expensive to go up but the view was crazy. Tokyo is a mega-metropolis; city as far as the eye can see. Dinner after was a bit rushed cause Asakusa restaurants close up around 9:30. We had some more sashimi and some beer at an izakaya.
Wednesday morning we tried to get up a bit earlier to go to the fish market. We arrived round 11am and realized we had messed up. Our first big mistake. They were basically packing everything up by the time we arrived. We knew we had sacrificed the early morning, 4am tuna show, but we were hoping for slightly more action. Sad and disheartened, we decided to remedy the foul mood with sushi. We waited over an hour at this one joint cause everyone said it was some of the best sushi around. And…it was. After waiting and waiting and waiting, we finally sat down to one of the most incredible meals I´ve had. The toro fatty tuna and spanish mackerel made me want to cry. It was so fresh, and so beautifully served. We both were in shock for the next few hours.
I also learned that a whole bluefin tuna costs around 50,000 dollars. Holy mackerel! (pun intended)
Sushi restaurants around the Tsukiji fish market get some of the highest grade tuna around but the majority gets sent to Ginza, the fancy high end district of Tokyo. Therefore, if you want to try some of the highest grade, freshest tuna around for an affordable price you gotta stand in line for an hour or so, like we did. Winning!
Post sushi-gasm, we went to Akihabara, the gaming and manga district. It was definitely weird. We went to a 5 level sex shop and saw some scary looking things. I tried to play DDR but failed. We stopped for coffee and ice cream at a ¨maid coffee shop¨where the girls all dress up in these crazy maid outfits and make you say ¨delicious, delicious, cute, meow meow¨with hand gestures. No pictures were allowed of the girls, but we got a photo of the ice cream. It was definitely an experience I won´t forget.
For out last night in Tokyo we got a bit dolled up and went to Roppongi, the ¨going out¨area. There were so many restaurants to choose from, but it was hard to find English menus for some reason. We needed up settling on a place with good atmosphere, but mediocre food, just to relax in the air con with some sake. A few beers later, we lost track of time a bit and missed the subway. Dumb. But, it gave us the chance to explore a few more bars before heading back.
Thursday morning was a sad morning. Packed up, we headed for the airport, after going back for a tasty bbq pork bun. We thought we had plenty of time, but after some subway confusion we realized we were very much behind schedule. Worry turned to panic and we straight up almost missed check in. Stressful to say the least.
Tokyo subway system, you suck. There are some many lines that are owned by different companies and it is very expensive to transfer lines….anyway. Seoul definitely wins in that category.
Now I´m back in Suji, chilling in my air con with some coffee. It was such a whirlwind few days I´m happy to relax before work again.
I think Tokyo might be one of my favorite places I´ve been. The only two competitors would be Valparaiso, Amsterdam, and Sevilla. But, those places are sexier and more relaxing. Tokyo is a powerhouse city, with non stop action and killer food. Everyone should go if they have the chance!