Have you seen my posts from the rest of my Japan trip? You can read them here.
Day 12 started later than we had first planned. I think all the travelling and fun-packed days had taken their toll and we ended up having a bit of a lie in.
We had planned to go to Tsukiji market, which is a large fish market in central Tokyo and is famous for its tuna auction, which happens every morning. In order to see this auction, you need to be there at 5 am. We were slightly late to see this…and got there at about 10 am. It’s still a great market to visit though, with lots of stalls and food to try. There were a lot of stalls selling sushi, sashimi, grilled fish on sticks and snacks like tamagoyaki (Japanese omelette).
We had eaten breakfast just before leaving the apartment, so we didn’t get any food there, but did buy some of the raw scallops and grilled squid on sticks and had a couple of the small tasters. At lunchtime, we stopped and had a drink at one of the stalls. There were stalls and shops selling food to take home and cook and also souvenirs, but we didn’t buy anything whilst here.
After walking around the market for a while, we walked back towards the station. On our way we found a really cute shop selling cooking utensils, cutlery and plates and bowls, which were all really cheap and unique. I bought a really pretty decorated bento box and also some chopstick rests in the style of cherry blossom flowers.
At the station, we decided to take a train to Asakusa, the traditional part of Tokyo. Here you can see Sensoji, a popular Buddhist temple, as well as buy traditional gifts and sweets. It was a short train ride from Tsukiji station to Asakusa station and we had a day pass for the Tokyo metro, so it didn’t cost us any extra.
Once at Asakusa, you are greeted by a big red gate, which is called Kaminarimon. In the centre of the gate, was a huge red lantern. It was incredibly busy in this area, so was really difficult to get a photo without hundreds of people in. Here, Matt was asked to do an interview on Japanese TV, which was slightly random!
Once you’re through the gate, you are at Nakamise Shopping Street – a street lined with shops and stalls that stretch about 250 metres. Here you can buy local specialities and souvenirs. As it was autumn, the street was decorated with red and orange leaves, which looked really pretty. We didn’t hang around here long and made our way straight to Sensoji temple.
Sensoji temple is a Buddhist temple and the oldest one in Tokyo, as it was completed in 645. Before getting to the temple, there is another gate, called Hozomon. This one was just as impressive as the first and once through, you can see the temple’s main hall and also a pagoda and a shrine.
Inside the main hall is a huge golden shrine, which was really impressive, as well as statues and lanterns. Like most temples and shrines, there are places you can buy fortunes and places you can pray. Outside was a place you could light incense, so it was quite smokey.
Outside of the main hall and towards the pagoda was a really beautiful area with bridges and small ponds with koi carp and Buddha statues. There were lots of shopping arcades and restaurants. We walked back round to the station and took a train to Ueno park.
Ueno park is a public park in central Tokyo. It was home to Kaneiji temple, which was then destroyed during the Boshin Civil War. Now all that remains is a statue of Saigo Takamori, one of the generals in the battle of Ueno. In this park is many museums, a pond and Ueno zoo, as well as a couple of small temples and shrines. It’s a famous spot for viewing the cherry blossoms in the spring.
After walking around the park, we wanted to get some food. Most of the restaurants and cafes in the park were busy, with queues, so we ended up at Cafe Hibiki, a cafe near the outskirts of the park. It’s actually located inside one of the museums, which I didn’t realise. There weren’t many food options and a lot of what they did have was sold out, so we ended up with Japanese curry, which was served in a foam cup. For drinks, we each had a beer. It was pretty cheap and not exceptional food, but was good enough for a snack to keep us going until dinner time.
My parents had yet to visit Harajuku and I really wanted to buy some clothes from Spinns, so we took a train there. It was late afternoon/early evening by the time we got here, but it was still really busy and there were hordes of people down Takeshita street, the most popular street in Harajuku.
We ended up getting crepes, a popular snack in that area. Mine was custard, chocolate brownie, and strawberries and it was so good but so sweet and so filling. I could hardly finish it. Matt and I took more Purikura (I wish they had Purikura in the UK!) and looked around the shops. I bought some boots in Spinns and also a couple of accessories. We went to Daiso, the 100¥ shop and stocked up on all kinds of stuff we didn’t need, including snacks and stuff for the kitchen. At this point, I was wondering how I was going to get all the stuff I had bought home on the plane with me!
Once back at our apartment, we got changed and headed around the corner for dinner. There was a restaurant on the corner of the street near Meguro river and it was always packed full of people, so we thought it must have been good!
The restaurant was called Otaru and it was really busy at the time we visited, but they managed to find us a table in the far corner of the restaurant. There wasn’t an English menu, but there were photos of the food and I could read some of the basic Japanese characters to work out what each item was. We ordered a range of small dishes between us to share and a bottle of Sake. The menu consisted of mainly Izakaya foods, things like grilled prawns, natto and. The food arrived in parts, whenever each dish was ready, but the service was really quick and the staff really friendly.
After dinner, we decided to make our way to Shibuya and try karaoke – a must whilst in Tokyo. Shibuya was just a twenty-minute walk away and our plan was to visit one of the large chain Karaoke places (Utahiroba), but once there, we were approached by someone offering Karaoke at a much cheaper price. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend following a random guy on the street, especially in a large city like Tokyo, but for some reason, we went anyway.
The Karaoke place was on the second or third floor of a building. We paid our 1000¥ (this was the price for an hour with unlimited drinks) and we were shown into the booth.
The main karaoke places in Japan are ones in a booth, and rather than sing in front of everyone in a bar, you just sing with your friends. There is usually food and drink menus in the booths and a phone on the wall to call and make your order. The place we were at didn’t have a food menu, which was fine, as we’d just eaten a large meal, but it did have a small selection of drinks.
One big disadvantage of going to this smaller karaoke place instead of a chain, was the lack of English songs. There were a few, but they were really hard to locate in the song book, but we did manage to find a couple after a lot of searching.
As I mentioned before, all drinks were included in the 1000¥ price. After the first hour was up, we decided to do another. By this time it was pretty late, about two in the morning, but it’s common for these karaoke places to be open really late into the night.
After two hours of all-you-can-drink karaoke, we were ready to go home. Taxis are everywhere in Japan, so it was easy to find one and for the fifteen-minute journey, it cost next to nothing.
Day 13 – Our last full day in Tokyo
Matt was feeling
slightly very worse for wear the next day, so stayed at the apartment for the whole day. I didn’t want to waste my last day in Japan, so I ventured out on my own. I had to buy a new suitcase to carry my hand luggage in, so walked to Shibuya. The sun was out, as it had been for our whole trip, so it was a very pleasant walk through Tokyo. Don Quijote was where I wanted to go first, so I headed there straight away.
Don Quijote is a discount store with shops all over Japan. They sell so much stuff, from groceries to make up and clothes and the Shibuya store was over three levels and packed full of strange and interesting stuff! Weirdly enough, the store is actually open until 5 am!
I wasn’t planning on buying much in Don Quijote, as we were leaving Japan the next day and I had already bought so much stuff, but I ended up buying a fair bit. Not only did I buy the suitcase that I went there for, but also KitKats to take home for friends and family, Kewpie mayonnaise (it’s so expensive in the UK!), strange animal face sheet masks, make up, matcha (green tea powder), furikake (rice seasoning) and a few other little bits. I wish I had discovered this store earlier on in the trip so I could have bought even more!
After Don Quijote, I walked to the Shibuya crossing and into the Starbucks there. I ordered a soy matcha latte and sat overlooking the crossing, watching all the people scuttle over the road each time the lights changed.
Shibuya station was nearby, so I took a train back to Meguro. I was slightly apprehensive about navigating the train station alone and with limited Japanese, especially as Shibuya station is so big, but it was surprisingly easy and when I did look confused, someone came over to help me.
I walked back to the apartment from the station, first stopping at the konbini to pick up my last tonkatsu sandwich and salmon onigiri of the trip (?).
The rest of the day consisted of packing, which proved stressful with the amount of stuff I had bought. A lot of it had to be spread around all of our cases and I prayed that my case would be under the weight limit once at the airport!
For dinner, we wanted something quick and easy, so we made our way back to Uobei in Shibuya, where we had visited a couple of days previous. Luckily, on our last visit we had been given a 10% off voucher, so our meal was even cheaper! I had a selection of sushi dishes, salmon, tuna, tuna belly, eel and also some more mentaiko topped chips, which I loved!
After dinner, we headed back to the apartment to finish packing and get an early night ready for the early start the next day.
Day 14 – Leaving Japan 🙁
Due to our plane from Japan being at 10:30 am, we had to be up at 4am to catch the train to Ueno Station where we could catch the Keisei Skyliner train to Narita airport. Even though it was so early, there were already Japanese businessmen and women on the train going to work, some still fast asleep or looking knackered.
The station was a lot quieter at this time, which made getting around with our cases a lot easier. We walked straight through Ueno to the platform to get to Narita. It was a 40 minute journey but seemed to go by pretty quickly.
Once at Narita, we easily found our way around and sat near the gate ready for boarding. The airport was full of shops and restaurants, so I spent most of my time looking around. I bought some Miu Miu perfume in a duty-free shop, more gifts and souvenirs and people and also a Rilakkuma plush to cuddle on the plane.
We were flying with KLM and our journey over to Japan had been incredibly comfortable, with good quality food and lots of leg room. The same couldn’t be said for the journey back. There was no legroom and they seemed to forget to feed us for hours, I was starving! I ended up watching 5 films over the duration of the flight because I was so uncomfortable that I didn’t sleep for even a minute.
I was so glad to be off the plane but not so glad to be back in the gloomy UK and the journey back to Cardiff seemed to take forever!
The next day when unpacking, I spread out some of the stuff I had bought and took a photo. As you can see, there was a lot! And this isn’t even all of it.
If you ever get a chance to visit Japan, I definitely recommend it. I loved visiting the less touristy parts and places that you don’t generally see on TV and YouTube. I can’t wait to go back, I’m already planning my next trip!
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Osaka – Trying new foods and going to a traditional tea ceremony
Mount Koya – Staying in a Buddhist temple
Kyoto Part 1 – Bamboo forest, Golden Pavillion and Gion, the Geisha district
Nara – Feeding the deer and visiting the worlds largest wooden building
Kyoto Part 2 – Temples, torii gates and lots of tradition
Tokyo Part 1 – Bullet train, shopping and a gig
Tokyo Part 2 – Shinjuku, Sunshine City and the Pokemon Centre