Tokyo

Tokyo, Japan.

There is nothing special about Narita International Airport – it actually rather much looks like a prison from the outside and a tinny bit drab on the inside, but the service there is top-notch and the toilets are spotlessly clean. If you can’t read or speak Japanese, it will not be a problem as the signs will be in English and the excellent mannered staff can understand basic English as well. There are buses outside the arrival halls in Terminal 1 and Terminal 2 that will take you to places like Ikebukuro, Shinjuku and Shibuya, but you will have to purchase tickets at the ticketing counters within the terminal.

Transport in Tokyo is expensive for my standards – I used US$25 for public transport using the Tokyo Metro in only 3 days. I bought the PASMO, a refundable and chargeable mass transit IC card which can be used on most buses and trains within the city. You can also use it to pay for any goods you may wish to buy in shops – I didn’t try that, but you can wave the PASMO at the cashier and she/he will probably get your drift

Sushi set meal costing 3500 yen. Served with green tea and miso soup.

The sushi in Japan is, obviously, incredible. I went to Tsukiji Fish Market, one of the largest fish markets in the world, and had the most wonderful sushi I had ever tasted at Daiwa Sushi Bar, a famous shop within the market. Waits of up to 2 hours are possible, but fortunately for me I only had to wait half an hour. The room is cramped and it’s hard to walk around – only 15 people can enter at one sitting, and it’s already a tight squeeze for these few.

I ordered the sushi set meal and was served 8 sushi rolls, one of which included sea urchin – an orange, deliciously sweet melt-in-your mouth expensive delicacy, as well as tuna, tamago and anago. Once again, if you can’t speak Japanese do not fear – the staff are extremely friendly and there is a picture menu which will help you along. If you would like to order ala carte, there are other treats you will be able to sample that are not available in the set such as scallops.

Tokyo Tower is another popular attraction – the towering red replica of the Eiffel Tower is certainly a sight to behold across the city skyline.

You can buy tickets to the Main Observation deck for 800 yen, whereas tickets to the higher Special Observation deck costs 1400 yen. There isn’t much difference between the two, but if you’re lucky and you’re blessed with clear skies, you may be able to catch a vague glimpse of Mt Fuji on the far horizon from the Special Observation deck (although it looked more like a cloud to me, but the staff swore it was). The bottom floors have small souvenir shops and restaurants, and there is even an aquarium.

Shibuya crossing is probably one of the most famous destinations of Tokyo. Although it is nothing more than an extremely busy 5 road intersection in the middle of an even busier metropolis, it is the equivalent of Times Square in New York. It has been featured occasionally in some blockbusters, which consist of the surrounding skyscrapers being destroyed by meteors or maybe Godzilla, so it has been recommended by many guidebooks (at least, the ones I read). After snapping some photos of yourself with this famous pedestrian crossing, and if you happen to be a shopaholic, you can head over to the nearby Shibuya109 shopping mall.

Panorama of Shibuya Crossing

Ise Grand Shrine (Isejingu) is probably the most beautiful shrine I would have ever visited – if I could have gone in at least. Unfortunately for me, I happened to visit it during the worst snowstorm to hit Japan in 120 years, and Isejingu was closed for the first time in history. However, I shall attach pictures of it which I found online from Google. Anyway, Isejingu is a long 5 hour bus ride from Tokyo in Mie prefecture, but I assure you it is worth the visit. Admission is free in the Outer and Inner Shrines, but it costs 300 yen to enter Sengukan Museum.

The bridge you will have to cross to reach the shrine itself.

The streets outside Isejingu are wonderfully traditional.

The shrine itself! Isn’t it lovely!

Street leading up to Sensoji Temple.

Sensoji Temple is probably the grandest temple in Tokyo, but I find the boulevard in front of the temple even grander. The streets lined with delectable finger foods leading up to the temple is a haven for adventurous tourists willing to try out new Japanese sweets to munch on. Souvenir shops sell a wide variety of merchandise ranging from small sushi magnets costing 250 yen to life-size katanas worth 23,000yen.

The crowd is overwhelming, but it contributes to the atmosphere of the area, creating the sensation that you’ve been transported back to a bustling street in ancient Japan, albeit quite a modern and multiracial one.

FOOD

shabu shabu!

shabu shabu!

Red bean with fried mochi – scrumptious!

Stall selling what tastes like mochi coated with honey and caramel – delicious!

FLOWERS

Beautiful blossoms in the grounds of Zojoji temple, located at the foot of Tokyo Tower

Beautiful blossoms in the grounds of Zojoji temple, located at the foot of Tokyo Tower

Managed to catch a tree with extremely early cherry blossoms in Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden

Managed to catch a tree with extremely early cherry blossoms in Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden

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