During our trip to Japan this summer, after we left Osaka, we stayed in Tokyo as our base city for the next week. From Tokyo, we took day trips to Kyoto, Nikko, Yokohama, and Fuji.
Our first Tokyo hotel was in the Asakasa neighborhood. I loved the small streets and little restaurants. Yes, the evenings could get a little unruly, but even that was interesting to see. I never felt unsafe or uncomfortable walking around at night. The hotel was Centurion Residential Tower Cabins. As there were 4 of us, I got the family room that had 4 beds and a bathroom within the room. If I had to do it again, I would probably get the pods and the communal bathroom and showers which were much nicer. Our shower was a little moldy, but even that wasn’t an issue. The issue was that you couldn’t move at all, there was no room without knocking into anything! The whole bathroom would be soaked after a shower. And I am a 5’2 small female! I ended up using the communal sinks every night which were much more spacious and convenient. My cousin was brave enough to ask to use the communal showers and he said that they were really nice too. In addition to the bathroom space issue in our room, not one of us was able to open our suitcases on the floor. Only one suitcase could be on the floor at a time while the rest had to remain standing.
We had to jump over suitcases on our way in and out of the room which was very frustrating. Not sure how other people deal with this. Other than that, the hotel was really nice. There was a cash exchange in the lobby and they held our luggage for us before and after our check-in/out. The daily breakfast was also really good! They had rice, miso soup, Japanese curry, raw eggs (amazing with rice!) and a varying selection of eggs, sausages, spring rolls, french fries, and so forth. There was also bread, butter, jams, iced coffee, hot coffee, iced tea, hot tea, juices, water, and soda. I personally really loved the iced oolong tea.
Our second hotel was in the shinjuku neighborhood, the Tokyo House Inn. We also had bunk beds here, but not ones you can slide open and closed like at our first hotel. There were communal showers, coin laundry, and hot and col drinking water available on our floor. Breakfast was bare with make your own eggs or peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. They had coffee, but no milk or cream. Besides that, I actually enjoyed the hotel and the communal space. Oddly enough, while we were there, three businessmen were conducting a very important business meeting in the middle of the communal area – surrounded by lounging people, board games, and couches,
The subways are extremely clean, organized, and a great way to get around the city. They were always on time and they even had air conditioning! Yes, they did get crowded when work let out and in the morning getting to work, but it was ok. Everyone was quiet and there were designated areas for getting on the trains vs getting off the trains and everyone waited in line.
Keep in mind that multiple companies run different subway/ train lines around the city. This means that the ticket you bought might not be good at just any transfer and you might need to buy another ticket, even if the ticket you bought is an unlimited ticket. The Japan Rail pass only worked on some of the lines so we ended up supplementing with an unlimited Tokyo metro pass. However, even with those two unlimited passes, we ended up having to pay again for a third line to go to Odaiba island. That, with the fact that the train stations only took cash, made me feel constantly nickel and dimed with the transportation. However, Uber and taxi prices were so high, in my opinion, that I preferred to pay 4 fairs on the subway instead of one uber price.
Things to do
Probably the coolest train station I have ever been to. It is a multi-floor complex with more novelty shops and restaurants than you can visit in a day.
The famous Ramen Street where you order and pay for your meals via vending machines is in this station. When you order your meal at the vending machine, and pay in cash, it dispenses tickets with your order. If you can’t read Japanese, try to keep track of the tickets that come out by the order in which you press the buttons. You will surrender the tickets to the hostess before you are seated. If you ordered extra noodles or something else that doesn’t go in the initial dish, you will keep that ticket on you and give it to a waiter later when you are ready for that part of your order.
The name “Kit Kat” is very close to the Japanese word for certain victory, Kitto Katsu and so Kit Kats have become a symbol of luck and are given as amulets to students preparing for exams or really anyone who might need a little luck. Because the Japanese are much more into Kit Kats than Americans, they have expanded the flavors to just about anything you can think of. A few blocks from Tokyo Station, in the fancy Giza neighborhood, there is a really fancy Kit Kat store that we went into. With our purchase, we received a Kit Kat towel and tea-bag style Kit Kat coffee.
If you ask me, I found the store to be a little pricey. After we left there, we went to a Don Quixote (huge and really fun convenience and souvenir store) to buy more Kit Kats for a lower price. A visit to a Don Quixote is a must while you are in Japan 😉
A neighborhood with all kinds of video game, electronic, manga, anime, and related shops and collectables. If you have a teenage boy or anyone into that scene with you, this is a must-go. If I were alone, I would have probably skipped it as I didn’t understand the draw.
In the photo above and on the right side, the building on the corner is a 7 floor arcade!
It was highly recommended for us to visit a maid cafe and maidreamin was listed as one of the best… but it was just not my cup of tea. We may look real happy and excited in these photos, but we are filled with tension. It was just us and a bunch of single guys at their own tables. I definitely felt like I was in the wrong place.
Shibuya street crossing
Go up to the Starbucks to watch the famous Shibuya street crossing. The Starbucks there had an awesome peach summer drink we liked and a coldbrew soda that I was really into as well. I bought a souvenir Japan Series Tokyo cup and it came with a free drink coupon only valid in Japan 🙂
A must while you are in Japan!
Samsung Galaxy store
I don’t think it’s even right to call this place a store. It was like a store / interactive exhibit / olympics and phone museum / fun and games hybrid. It was several floors of fun!
They had an exhibit of all the olympic torches and the paths they took, old phones, and new phone concepts. They also showcased technology using games – I played a game using 9 phones at once! It was just so cool.
I definitely recommend a stop at the Galaxy store 🙂
A fun street with plent of unique stores and food. Not my favorite place in the world, but could be worth a visit if you are into some shopping 🙂
Asakusa (old Tokyo)
Kappabashi / Restaurant street
I don’t have any photos of this place, but it was really cool to walk around. There are no actual restaurants here, instead it is all the dry supplies that restaurants may need – napkins, plates, chopsticks, sushi plates, tables, signs, chairs, utensils, 3D models of food for display cases…
Sensoji / Asakusa Kannon Temple
Completed in 645, this is Tokyo’s oldest temple. It is surrounded by a market with souvenir shops and food vendors. It was a really beautiful temple and offered some much desired shade and a cool breeze on a hot July afternoon.
World’s tallest self-supporting tower. My brother and cousin went up to try to see Mt. Fuji before our hike up it, but no luck. It was covered in clouds every day we were in Japan.
Odaiba / Daiba island
This island is mainly a shopping and attraction center, but not a bad one! There is a toyota center that has free virtual reality simulations and a giant mall that reminded everyone of Vegas. There was a unicorn gundam statue and a replica of the United States’ statue of liberty. I didn’t originally plan on going to this island, but a transportation mishap gave us an extra free day in Tokyo so we took the opportunity to go. It is definitely fun if you have free time, but it is not on my list of must-do’s.
Things I didn’t get to see but might want to next time:
ONLY LIGHTS UP IN DECEMBER
To watch one of these, you need hotel to call to ask when they are in practice. You can only go watch early in the mornings, I believe 8am is already too late. Most of them you need to purchase tickets to go in the hall and watch practices, but there is one where you can watch from the outside for free.
I have tattoos, but there are many onsen that do accept people with tattoos. You can look this up online before you visit. I only didn’t go because of time constraints and because it was really hot already and no one but me was interested.