After a sad farewell to all of our friends at Tadom Hill Resorts in Malaysia we were ready to begin our new adventure in Japan. We caught the 2:30pm flight from KLIA2 to Tokyo Haneda. The flight itself was horrific. Little did I know AirAsia offer no TV screens to watch movies on so the 8 hour journey was tedious to say the least, especially with the constant turbulence. But, eventually by 11pm local time we had arrived at Haneda with each of our faces glistening with the excitement of a child on Christmas morning. Seeing as we arrived at midnight we stayed at a chain hotel in Ota, about 10km South of Tokyo city for some much needed R&R. It is only the 3rd night out or nearly 200 that we have spent in a hotel so it is definitely a special occasion for us. Having hot showers, a kettle and our own matching pyjamas was a highlight for us both;
After a much needed rest we headed out to make our way to Taito, the district we are staying in for the following 6 nights. We walked a couple hundred of metres from our hotel to Anamoriinari Station and got the Keikyu-Kuto Line to Keikyu Kamata station. As we got off I struggled to find the correct platform to make our way to Sengakuji station to get onto the metro. Within 6 seconds of me looking confused gazing cluelessly at the electronic board a man approached me and literally said ‘Hello Sir, do you need my help?’. He wasn’t an employee at the station just a man on his way to work who saw a tourist looking abit stuck. I have heard many stories of how helpful and polite Japanese people are and it sure was the case on this occasion as he pointed me in the right direction and we were on our way. 12 stops on the metro line later we arrived at Asakusa (pronounced azak-ah-za) our home for the next week or so. Within 10 minutes of walking we had arrived at our AirBnb. Our host Kiyo is a 32 year old bloke who’s in the process of opening up a bar in the city. He is a cool guy and made our first Air Bnb introduction very welcoming!
After checking in with Kiyo we were back out the door by 10am ready for our day out. Asakusa is known for encompassing an old town atmosphere, being one of the most traditional neighbourhoods in Tokyo. Our first point of interest that we visited was the centuries old Senso-Ji temple. This is Japan’s oldest Buddhist Temple for ordinary people. The temple is dedicated to the worship of the merciful goddess ‘Kannon’. Inside the temple myself and Georgia paid 100¥ to have our fortune told by shaking a tube full of sticks until one came out. You then had to match the symbol on the stick with the symbol on about 150 draws where your fortune paper resided. Both of us were told we would be prosperous with a healthy bank balance and a good marriage.
Ducking our heads at every round of the glass shattering thunder we decided to take refuse at a restaurant full of locals. Mistakenly Georgia ordered ‘cabbage with Miso’ which she interpreted as ‘cabbage miso soup’. Unfortunately, that was not the case as she literally received raw cabbage and miso paste. I went for something a bit more exotic and went for roasted eel liver.
This lunch out was our first indication that Japan was going to cripple us budget wise for food. For Georgia’s raw cabbage, my 2 small skewers and got a glass of iced Chinese tea each cost us ¥2000 which because of my fellow countrymen/women voting us to leave the EU and causing a worldwide panic means that the bill converts to a smidge under £15. Which I am sure sounds cheap to the average reader but when you’re used to paying £2 it can be hard to swallow – especially if you have raw cabbage in your mouth.
As we finished lunch the sky began to break and we walked a kilometre through Taito towards Kappabashi Kitchenware town. This area of Taito was established over 90 years ago and is comprised of 170 kitchen, restaurant, food shops on a 800 metre stretch of road. I can imagine this would be heaven for a chef or a cooking lover with cash to splash but I didn’t quite ‘get’ this street.
As the sun broke out from clouds we walked 20 minutes to Ueno (pronounced ooh-en-oh) the cultural capital of the Taito Ward. As we approached the world famous Ueno Park we spotted the ‘National Museum of Nature and Science’. Anyone who knows me knows that I am a massive nerd for stuff like this so we decided to go in and have a look around. The entry cost us ¥620 (£5) each and was well worth it.
We spent the rest of the afternoon enjoying the many attractions in Ueno Park. This included seeing statues of celebrated Japanese citizens like Dr Hideyo Noguchi;
We also saw Tokugawa Ieyasus shrine which is dedicated to him for finding the Tokugawa Shogunate which ruled Japan from 1600 to 1868.
Casually strolling through the park we also encountered a new type of Human species. Pokemon hunters. Being in Tokyo during the Pokemon Go craze is quite something.
You could literally spend a whole day at Ueno Park as there is a seemingly endless amount of activities to see; to name a few:
- Yanaka Cemetery
- Tokyo Metropolitan Museum
- Tokyo Musicology Department
- Tokyo Fine Arts Department
- Ueno Zoo
- Tokyo National Museum
- The Ueno Royal Museum
- The National Museum of Western Art
On our 3km walk back to our AirBnb we stopped of at Ameyoko shopping street. Residing under, in and around Ueno metro station it really makes for a unique shopping experience, shame I couldn’t afford much.
In the early evening we sat back and chilled on the rooftop of our appartment drinking a couple of bottles of Asahi beer, Japan’s best. We then decided it was time to break our Japanese Ramen virginity. Before we knew it we were sat down at a cosy family run ramen place called Yoroiya which served a delicous Ramen dish.
For 2 main meals each, a starter of Gyozas (see me picking up in abov picture) and a Asahi beer each cost us ¥2650 (£20) which is £10 each. Who said Japan was expensive? For me I would happily pay a tenner for that meal anywhere in the world.
As the night grew late we decided to find the most obscure, dingy little bar we could find. Georgia’s hawk eyes spotted the perfect place where we sat with just the barman and us listening to George Benson on the stereo.
Well that’s is! Our first night in Tokyo, watch out for another blog post tomorrow detailing our exploration of SHIBUYA.