I thought I was clever prepping the past few posts for the time I knew I would be away on holiday. I just failed to take note that I would be too exhausted after I return to get back into the swing of things that quickly hence the gap yesterday! I guess we live and learn eh?
So yes I’m back from my holiday and it was a blast! I was in Japan for the past 5 days with 2 days in Tokyo and a 2 day side trip to Hakone where I strived (but failed) to see Mount Fuji, and where I made many a bargain with the weather Gods to please please stop the rain because it was coming down in sheets and keeping me restrained in the hotel.
What to do in Tokyo
Here’s what I did in Tokyo in my 2 days there. It might not be what everyone tells you to do, or what most people do, but I enjoyed myself to the utmost just walking through the city in my own time.
- Visit Tsukiji Fish Market – I was there at 5.30am and caught the tuna fish auction. Amazing! Also had fish water poured over my legs by some random worker which pissed me off no end! Lucky for me, my boots kept my feet dry even if the bottom half of my jeans were soaked.
- Eat Sushi at Tsukiji - You have to do this! Fresh fish and seafood off the boat and into your tummy at 6.30am – yummy! I had sea urchin, squid, tuna, prawns all raw and not quite wriggly. Surprisingly delicious
- Go to Shibuya - and see the huge pedestrian intersection at the Hachiko Gate. The crossing is almost balletic as traffic in all directions stop for the sea of people to cross! Hachiko if you are wondering is the name of that famous loyal dog that stayed rooted to his spot by the Shibuya train station waiting for his master to return even though the master never returned from work. I believe its now made into a movie.
- Visit Meiji-jingu or the Meiji Shrine in Yoyogi park. The park is beautiful – a calm oasis in the centre of the busy Tokyo metropolis. I absolutely loved walking through the quiet park with the autumn chill in the air. I was there on a Sunday and there were many worshipers visiting the Shrine. My favourite scene was to see the adorable Japanese children togged out in their Kimono. I also caught a traditional Japanese wedding procession which was awesome!
- Go to Asakusa - Walk down the traditional Nakamise souvenir street towards the Sensoji Temple and see how beautiful the place is. This part of Tokyo is the older part of town and a throwback to the Edo period. It was a lovely sunny day when I was there and there was a Kabuki performance going on which was a bonus.
- Walk down Omotesando and Ginza - 2 high end shopping streets in Tokyo. Both are very classy areas and have higher end shopping for those who prefer luxury products. I was just there to say I’d been there not that I could afford anything in the stores!
- Visit Harajuku - You’ve probably heard of this and I was there on Sunday when the costumed people come out to play. It was amazing to see all the Gothic Lolitas, Cosplay fanatics, cross dressers, punks and any number of strangely dressed people strolling the streets. I saw someone who looked mortifyingly like Morticia Addams and a cross dressing blonde doll complete with curls, pink frilly dress. Disturbing!
- Shinjuku for more shopping - Shinjuku station is where many rail lines intersect so its a super busy place. Lots of shopping centres all around – not all are affordable
- Try an Onsen (Hot Spring Bath) – Ok I did not do this in Tokyo but in Hakone so I can’t tell you where in Tokyo you can go. This is the public bath where you shower and bath in your birthday suit and certainly not for you if you are shy. If you are willing to give it a go, you’d find the hot spring bath relaxing and its not as awkward as you initially think as the baths are segregated by gender.
What to eat in Tokyo
Food is expensive in Tokyo so I have a new found respect for eating at Japanese restaurants here in Kuala Lumpur. Suddenly, Japanese food seems so cheap here by comparison! Here’s just an overview of what I ate. More details will be updated on my food blog in time to come
- Eat Sushi at Tsukiji - I cannot recommend this experience enough! Yes, you are bleary eyed at 6.30am and yes the thought of digesting raw fish at that time is daunting but do it anyway. Its surprisingly delicious and an experience to savour.
- Eat udon and ramen - I ate at random shops I passed along the way. I had communication fail me more than once but most of the people in the shops were helpful and I did get what I wanted quite easily.
- Buy bento box meals from convenience stores - You will pass any number of convenience stores like Lawson or 7-11 along the way. Bento box meals in there are substantially more affordable and they can even heat it up for you. I found it useful to buy a meal before taking the train ride to Hakone – its cheaper and nicer than buying the food from the train.
- Careful when eating at street stalls - I was fleeced at a yakitori stall due mainly to lack of communication. The yakitori (grilled meat skewers) were delicious but it did leave a bit of a nasty taste in my mouth. So, I prefer to eat at places where prices are more fixed.
- Eat rice bowls from stores with vending machines – I don’t mean the rice comes from vending machines but you buy a ticket from a vending machine and then hand it to the server inside the shop where you sit at long counters to wait for your food. I had any number of beef rice bowls (gyu don) and pork cutlet rice bowls (katsu-don) at such places and every single one was delicious
- Senbei! I came home with loads of senbei – Japanese rice crackers. They can be easily purchased at the airport (not much more expensive than in the city) and at supermarkets.
Shopping in Tokyo
Here’s where I run into some trouble. It was autumn when I was there, and heading into winter so it was cold. Most clothing stores therefore were stocked with winter and warm clothing making it unsuitable for me to shop for clothes for the tropical climate I live in. I also am no longer that into Japanese cosmetics so I only stopped by the drugstores to check them out. So this might not be the guide you are looking for.
- Uni Qlo - you might have heard of Uni Qlo. Japan’s answer to Gap and Giordano. Clothes are fashionable and above all, affordable. I was so tempted to get any number of jackets and sweaters but it was just too crazy since I don’t travel to cold countries much so I regretfully had to pass. If you live in a country where there are 4 seasons, you could do better than shop for affordable and fashionable winter wear there. I did pick up some pretty camisoles that were on sale Uni Qlo is also in Singapore now but I haven’t been there.
- Matsumoto KiYoshi - Matsumoto Kiyoshi is a popular Japanese cosmetics drugstore which is pretty much like a Sasa in Hong Kong. Its huge and full of any number of cosmetics products with loads of different sub-brands from the main Japanese brands. Shop here for all your Shiseido Maquillage, Majolica Majorca, Integrate, Coffret D’or, Allie, Tiffa, Anessa, Excel, Esprique Precious, Tsubaki and any number of Japanese brands of cosmetics you have ever heard of and some you may not have even heard of! They have lots of discounts but I ended up only getting 2 items. Somehow, I just wasn’t interested! :O
- Sundrug and Ainz - Sundrug and Ainz are 2 more drugstore cosmetic stores that are easily spotted around Tokyo. Discounts vary from store to store and so do products. So if you are into Japanese makeup or cosmetics, here’s the place to be.
- Department Stores - I stopped by a couple of department stores – Keio and Odakyu both at Shinjuku and there I saw the more upmarket department store brands. I was tempted to get a Jill Stuart new eyeshadow palette but decided to think about it, and never went back!
- Daiso at Harajuku - Somehow, I never spotted any 100yen or 1000 yen shops in Tokyo except for the Daiso in Harajuku. I picked up some cute little memo cards and bento picks for my sister but that was about it. I’d already seen most of the products at our local Daiso store so I wasn’t overwhelmed.
- Harajuku for Trendy clothes and dress up clothes – I saw any number of Gothic Lolita stores in Harajuku for those who like that. Otherwise, you get a lot of young trendy fashion there too at the many stores in the area. I popped into the H&M to check out the Jimmy Choo for H&M line but most items were sold out. I thought I could finally afford something by “Jimmy Choo”
- Shibuya for more trendy shopping – Fashion trends in Japan are amazing. Girls are very well dressed and even though it was cold, they were still in short skirts and shorts albeit with tights on. But still! You can get more trendy shopping out of the way at Shibuya.
This is by no means a to-do guide for travelling in Tokyo but I hope it gives you an idea of what you could look out for and where you can go. I was there in November i.e. Autumn and the weather was cool and at times, quite cold so a warm sweater and coat or jacket would be essential. This was the reason I got the thick cardigan from Desigual the other time – I’d melt wearing it in tropical KL!
On one of the days, it was so sunny and warm I was only out and about in tights, a skirt and a light sweater! A scarf is optional unless you are travelling outside of Tokyo into the countryside where its colder. A foldable umbrella too is useful to have in your bag for those days when it decides to rain.
So there you have it – 2 days in Tokyo – too short if you ask me! I’ll be sure to return
Update: I do not recommend you spending only 2 days in Tokyo – if you can spend more time, it would be awesome but it would also be crazy expensive. 2 days was the time I had as I spent time outside of Tokyo which I found I enjoyed more incidentally. It was everything I thought Japan stood for – the zen and serene countryside vs the hustle and bustle of Tokyo which exhausted me after just 2 days. I’ll return to Tokyo at some point in my future but I’ll spend more time in other cities and towns first. Its more interesting
Till then, Sayonara!