Tokyo Trip

2 01 2011

Preparation

The 26th to the 27th of December were three very exciting and exhausting days. I had lived in Japan for about four months before, but I never went to Tokyo. This was my first time to Japan’s capital, and I wasn’t sure what to expect.

The idea for the trip came to me a month prior. I wanted something to do during my winter break. I had recently read about the Seishun Juhachi Kippu in an online newsletter. For about 11,500 yen (140 dollars), I would receive a ticket that can be stamped five times. Each stamp represents one day (12:00am to 11:59pm.) I could travel anywhere in that period of time as long as it was by local train. The best feature of the ticket was that it could be shared. Instead of 5 days for one person, you could have two days for two people and one left over.

It was the Seishun Juhachi Kippu that made my idea into reality. I probably would not have gone if I didn’t buy this ticket. I saved over 100 dollars using this option and I still have one more day left.

In mid November I made a reservation at the Sakura Hostel. The second of December I bought the ticket. I knew the trip would absorb a large amount of my funds. The trip’s expense worried me a lot. I knew it would be worth it though.

First day

I woke up at 6 am and finish the last preparations for the trip. I had packed all my clothes and necessities the night before but I wanted to wash dishes, eat breakfast and run an errand before I left. I got on the first train at 7:40. It would be the first of 3 trains on a 5 hour train trip. From Toyohashi to Hamamatsu, Hamamatsu to Atami, and Atami to Tokyo, I played on my PSP, listened to music, looked out of the window, took videos of towns and mountains, slept, and talked.

Midway through the trip, I saw Mount Fuji. It was beautiful, majestic, impossible to describe in mere words. It’s very small compared to other grand mountains, but still breathtaking. When I finally entered Tokyo, I was drifting in and out sleep.

The last train arrived in Tokyo station around 1 o’ clock. Tokyo station wasn’t very memorable. There were slightly expensive restaurant and a bathroom you had to pay for. Less than a half an hour later I was trying to figure Tokyo’s metro and train stations. Nothing made sense and I had to pay for a new ticket at each transfer. I eventually bought the all day pass for the metro.

Asukusa, the location of my hostel, is outside the central tourist area of Tokyo. It’s famous for its temples, shrines, and historical shopping arcades. From this area, you can see the newest and most famous addition to this part of Tokyo: the Tokyo sky tree. Around 635 meters tall (2080 feet), it will be Tokyo’s new broadcasting tower possibly replacing some of the original Tokyo tower’s function. It is scheduled to be completed in December 2011.

If only the hostel was as easy to find as the Tokyo sky tree! I looked all over Asakusa for it until I finally pulled out my cell phone to search for directions. However, it was not my day. I walked around to try to get signal from the useless phone. I would get a signal, and then it would disappear just as quickly. This continued for a couple of minutes till I looked up and noticed I reached my destination.

The building to the hostel was pink, hence the name, and it had a nice friendly atmosphere. Sakura hostel had all the essentials for a pleasant trip as long as you were not expecting too much. My only complaint was the separation of the rooms and the bathrooms. I had to walk on an outdoor walkway to reach the other part of the building for the communal bathrooms. Only a metal fence prevented me from a 6 story drop. I am afraid of heights.

I was at that hostel for about 30 minutes before I set out for Ikebukuro with a friend. Together we somewhat survive the Tokyo metro system again, and made it to Ikebukuro safe and sound.

Ikebukuro is such a wonderful place! This part of Tokyo is lively, loud and crowded. Tons of people fill the streets to go shopping, eat or visit the countless karaoke bars and games centers in the area. I am a little ashamed to admit that I spent my first night in Tokyo at a game center, but I enjoyed it. The other people there were very nice. Some even complimented me. I promised myself that that night would be the only time I spend in a game center in Tokyo. I kept most of my promise.

Maybe the most memorable part of the first day wasn’t the game center, the train rides, or getting lost, it was going to TGI Fridays. When I was in the US, I always went to this restaurant. It was my favorite one. To go to this restaurant while I was in Japan made me feel as if I was home again. The food tasting exactly the same as its American counterpart, maybe even better, was an additional plus. It was a little expensive, but well worth it. This TGI Friday was in Ikebukuro, but I know they have at least one more in another part of Tokyo.

Second Day

The second day would be the best and busiest day. I visited many different areas within Tokyo. Roppongi, Akihabara, Ikebukuro, and Omotesando have features that easily differentiate them from each other. They also attract different types of people because of these features.

Roppongi is famous for its clubs. It has many foreign visitors because the embassies are in Roppongi or nearby. The purpose of my visit to this area was for something a little different: a store. It’s the only store in the world that has the merchandise I have been desperately searching for. I planned way in advance to visit the shop and buy as much as I can. It is called Konamistyle and it is located in Tokyo Midtown. It sells merchandise from different Konami franchises. The only other way to buy these items is through the site, but you must have to have a Japanese credit card to do so. I honestly wanted to buy the whole store. I settled for some key chains, two pins, and two pens.

The Tokyo Midtown area is only three years old. The architecture, sculpture and lighting gives a serene atmosphere. I believe Konami’s headquarters is there as well. As much as I wanted to take a tour around their building, I don’t think the security guard would approve, so I continued to Akihabara.

A place that is not sure what it wants to be, Akihabara can be the nicest or creepiest place in the world, depending on your taste and where in Akiba you are. When we left the station, we were greeted to quiet surroundings. Everyone was wearing business suits and walking to and from work. It seemed similar to the outskirts of Georgetown. I thought to myself, I wouldn’t mind living here. It’s really nice. This part was closer to Asakusa and east of the Showa Dori Bridge.

The west side of the Showa Dori is the livelier and crazier side of Akihabara. At the JR station there are huge signs feature different anime style characters. Many stores cater to anime fans. This area seems more of an amusement park than the city. I explored the area with my friend as we walked in and out of different shops. I went inside Don Quixote. The currently famous jpop group AKB48, was plaster over most of the walls, pillars and stairs. They have a concert every day on the top most floor of the building.

Maybe years ago, I would have loved this side of Akihabara. Most of my interest in anime has shifted to gaming and even that is just a hobby. The technology shops in this area are attractive for hard to find items. I found switches for a game controller that I needed. One of the stores had really nice cameras. It will be interesting to see how Akihabara evolves in the next ten or so years.

I returned to Ikebukuro the second day for a different purpose. This time I would be going to Sunshine city, a complex that included a planetarium, aquarium, a mall, a burger king and a few other notable things. We went to the planetarium. The show was beautiful and relaxing, too relaxing. I fell asleep. Before I left Ikebukuro, I ate at Sukiya and had a wonderful beef bowl for about 400 yen.

The last stop for the day was Omotesando. Exiting the subway and feeling the cold air tickle my face, I was greeted to a row of trees decorated with Christmas lights. Both of our wallets were shuddering as we glanced at Louis Vuitton, Fendi, Prada, Armani and an oddly placed Subway. Maybe Omotesando is the last place for a boyfriend to bring a girl with high taste to. It is lovely. As a treat to myself, I bought one souvenir from the area, an edible souvenir. It was a delicious slice of cake for about 4 dollars for one slice.

Four places in one day and it was barely 9pm. We were exhausted. A lot of people at the hostel were on their computers or talking to one another when we returned. I was awake for a little while longer. I played the game Earthbound for a little while then finally went to bed.

Third Day

The final day was not as hectic as the two before it. My friend and I packed our luggage, left the hostel, and went to Daimon and the Tokyo Tower. I am terrified of heights, always been. However, I have wanted to see Tokyo Tower since I was a teenager. I gathered all my courage and entered the tower.

Compared to the new Tokyo Sky tree, it is not very tall. It is 333 meters tall and about 10 feet taller than the Eiffel Tower. The tower has two observatories. The first one is included in regular admission and the other is a little more expensive but higher. My biggest complaint with my Tokyo trip the first two days was that I was missing so much of Tokyo traveling under the city in the subway. Tokyo Tower finally gave me the opportunity to see the whole city. I have lived between Baltimore and Washington D.C. all of my life but neither city is as gigantic as this metropolis. It was a sea of skyscrapers as far as the eye can see. I was in awe. I am happy to have experienced such a wonderful end to my Tokyo trip.

The rest of the day was spent at Mos Burger (Japanese restaurant chain), a 5 hour train ride with my PSP, dinner at McDonalds and watching Top Gear. I am still running on the high of the trip. Tokyo is a nice place. I don’t want to live there, but I wouldn’t mind going there again. Someday…maybe.

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2 responses

2 01 2011
Brittany

wow! your trip sounded awesome! i’m so happy you finally got to visit tokyo. it always sounded like such a quirky, exciting city, and from your descriptions that seems about accurate. i loved that you got to experience as much as you did in three days–and that $140 ticket is such a deal. now that tokyo’s off your list, where do you wanna visit next??

3 01 2011
altchronicler

Kyoto, Nara and maybe a Japanese beach or two. I am glad you like the post.

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