Thanks to the spring equinox we had another 2 day holiday this month, which meant another mini vacation! This time the we decided to check out the biggest city in the world; TOKYO! With only about 48 hours to spend in the massive concrete jungle and a budget of $500 (60,000 yen) we were excited to see what kind of adventure we could have.
10:30pm – We started by boarding a Willer Express night bus that cost us a 22,000 yen ($186) round trip for 2 people. Granted it is not as luxurious as the quadruple the price super fast shinkensan but sometimes you have to take the slow way in life. Plus on the upside we didnt have to pay for another night of accommodation in Tokyo either! So we boarded our bus at 10:30pm and 7.5 hours later…6am we were in Tokyo!!! Honestly, the bus wasn’t that bad, we’ve experienced way worse in Laos and Vietnam.
6:00 am- So what do you do at 6am in Tokyo when the rest of the world is either still snoozing or just waking up?! You go to the nearest Shinto Shrine and have a little peaceful walk with mother nature. Luckily for us Meiji Jingu Shrine was only a 25 minute walk from where our bus dropped us off so we put on our walking shoes and my trusty navigator (aka Mike!) lead us in the right direction.
Fun facts about Meiji Jingu:
- It’s the most important shrine in Tokyo
- There are 120,000 donated trees on the 700,00 square meter shrine
- The Torii gates that you enter through are made out of 1700 year old Cypress trees.
8:00 am- After a peaceful stroll and our morning prayer it was time to make our way to our hostel to check in. Most hostels don’t open until 9-10 am but I found us one that opened at 8am…which worked out well for us. We stayed at a place called Kaisu , which in Japanese means “come together”. The house used to be be a ryotei , which is a traditional restaurant where geisha’s performed. Nowadays, its a super hip hostel that has an awesome vibe to it, located in the Akasaka neighborhood of Tokyo. For $48 per person per night, which included free breakfast we were totally thrilled with our choice. There was even a free cultural performance at the hostel in the evening where we got to see a professional Calligraphy show from a famous artist (we were told she has received honors from the Prime Minister of Japan).
9:00 am- After we freshened up and drank some much needed coffee, we were ready to embrace the day. First stop; Odaiba park . With it being early morning still, it was the perfect time to take a peaceful and breezy jaunt along a seaside park and take in the famed rainbow bridge (only rainbow at nighttime I guess). Seeing the skyline and the enormity of the skyscrapers truly made us feel like a tiny little spec in this city! Odaiba park houses a smaller version of the Statue of Liberty from France and a HUGE Gundam Statue, that is from a widely famous anime show I guess. We will definitely be back in the summer to take a boat ride along the bay at night.
11:00 am- Next up we headed to Fukuro No Mise the infamous Owl Cafe! We knew this was a popular spot that only lets 14 people in per hour by reservation. **reservations must be made in person day of** By the time we got to the cafe at 11:20 am the first 3 hours were already full! But we were able to manage a reservation at 3pm, so we had 4 hours to fill before we could play with the feathery little fellows!
11:45 am- Leading up to our trip I asked a lot of my Japanese students what I should do in Tokyo, and ever single one of them suggested the Tokyo Skytree . So it was a must see I guess! The Skytree is a 634 meter tower and the tallest broadcasting tower in the world. It’s also extremely crowded! As you can imagine the line to go up the tower was ridiculously long. However, a little birdie told us that there is an international line specifically for foreigners that cost about 800 yen more and only a 30 minute wait as opposed to a potential 2 hour long wait…SCORE! So for 2800 yen each we boarded the jam packed elevator and zoomed up to the 350 meter view point to see the biggest city in the world. The city literally extends as far as the eye can see….
1:30pm- Lunch time! The Skytree has tons of shops and overpriced restaurants so we checked out the Beer Museum for our much needed lunch. We were able to sit in a sunny outdoor spot that had a view of the skytree. For 4800 yen we were able to get 3 beers and some fish n chips. One of the beers we tried was Wasabi flavored and was surprisingly good!
3:00pm- Owl Time!!! For 2,000 yen each we were able to hang out with, hold, and pet numerous big eyed, feathery owls for 40 minutes! The Cafe is super cute containing owl themed everything including Harry Potter robes with “The Sorcerer’s Stone” playing in the background. In total there are about 20 owls residing in the Cafe. As an animal lover I am usually very hesitant to go to places like this in fear of contributing to a negative animal welfare lifestyle. But, I am happy to say that these owls do seem to be happy, and properly cared for. The cafe attendant went, over the rules with us, explained how much they eat everyday, and how the owls rotate and have “days off” where they get to just chill and not be picked up. Owls are notoriously sedentary animals only being active when they hunt in the mornings and evenings. So, they were pretty content to hang out on your shoulder, head, or hands. As you can imagine both Mike and I enjoyed this experience a lot!
4:00pm- We weren’t quite sure what to do next so we just wandered around the neighborhood we were in for a bit, and literally right around the corner from the owl cafe we found Tsukishima Monja Street! This was an awesome unplanned surprise for us! It’s a street that has over 100 different type of Okonomiyaki and Monjayaki restruants. We chose one at random and ordered Monjayaki since we had never heard of it before.Usually, the customer makes the dish themselves on the griddle that is built into the table, but since we were clueless, the owner of the restaurant was nice enough to show us how to make it! We ordered curry flavor, and it ended up being a curry, cabbage pancake followed by a cold refreshing beer and we were happy campers.
5:00pm- I was on a mission to find every flavor of KitKats that Japan has to offer, so we headed to Tokyo Station to search for them. Tokyo station is stressful and crowded. We found a Tamagotchi store, which if you were a kid in the 1990’s you would know how COOL this was!
Mike and I parted ways for a bit so he could grab a bowl of ramen at Ramen Alley, while I searched for my KitKats…which paid off! 7500 yen later I had myself 10 boxes of kit kats!! My selection included: purple sweet potato, wasabi, sake, black tea, rum raisin, cheesecake, apple, orange, strawberry, raspberry. DON’T worry these are mostly to give to people back at home…not to consume myself.
7:00pm- We headed back to to the hostel to relax for a bit, watch the calligraphy showing, and freshen up for our night out!
8:00pm- We decided to explore Shibuya night life. But first we had to eat a proper meal of Sushi. We found a place called Genki Sushi where you could order from a screen and its delivered to you by a train! For 108 yen per plate we successfully ate 14 plates and our bill was around 2500 yen! After dinner we kind of just wandered around looking at the lights and noises and just people watched. As we were wandering around we came across a little alley of bars and the one that called out to us was a place called Tight ..and boy it was TIGHT. I almost couldn’t get my wide hipped ass through the narrow staircase that lead up to the bar! We chatted with the only other couple there who were from Berlin, working in the fashion biz. It was a great way to spend the remaining hour of the evening!
12:00am- At this point we had been up for 18 hours, so we caught the last subway home and snoozed the rest of the night away!