**This is part of wackybecky’s travel chronicles in Japan 2012. Blogposts under this series will be short and sweet as I update daily as I travel.
At the end of the trip I may edit and elaborate further if I have the time. For queries, do drop me an email! 😀
I’m slowly but surely getting to post about my Japan trip. I’m still in Japan, though the Tokyo part is over. I’m now in Osaka; where everything is CHEAPER and I’ll be exploring the Kansai area over the next few days. But here goes, a day by day chronicle of my Japan adventure. Enjoy! 🙂
On the 1st day in Japan, I spent the night at the airport. More of that will be in another blogpost. Spending a night at the airport is an adventure itself! 🙂
The first train to leave the airport is at 5am. The first thing I had to do was to catch that early train to my hostel in Asakusa. Don’t ask me why I booked it there. I have no clue of where I’m going or what I was going to do so I happened to book the cheapest hostel I can find online; not to mention one that’s close to the train station.
What you need to do is look for the information counter on each floor and ask them which train to take to the area you’re heading to. Officers here speaks good English and are very helpful!
BELOW: IMPORTANT – grab a Tokyo Subway map!
For me I had to take the Keikyu Line to Asakusa (the area where my hostel is).
BELOW: The ticket machines.
The entrance to the train station.
Buying your ticket. First thing to do is to press the “English” button.
Since I’m blur the kind officer helped me to decide. He asked me to buy a ONE day pass to both of the 2 popular train networks in Tokyo (both Toei line and Tokyo Metro) which will cost me 1300 Yen (RM50).
BELOW: Touch the buttons on the left to choose the type of train tickets; ie Single Trip, Connecting, etc
Pay, get your receipt and grab your ticket and head to the train platform!
It was rather confusing to be handed so many pieces of paper. The officer told me to keep the big one, insert both of the smaller ones into the machine later for entrance to the platform. Being blur and unfamiliar with the system, I nodded and went on my way. You’ll know later why that was a wrong move!
BELOW: Enroute to the train platform. A long walk when you have a very heavy luggage!
Better still, there were escalators that goes deep down.
Finally on the platform!
This shows which trains are coming next. Be sure to check as you do not want to be boarding the wrong train even if you on the correct platform! That happened to me pretty often in Europe as many of the trains shares the same platform.
The tracks are new and clean here. In downtown Tokyo, you will see “dirtier” and older tracks.
For safety, the entrance to the train here are closed by a barrier which only opens up when the train arrives. Stations which such barriers are a minority and mostly at newer stations. Throughout my trip I have taken many trains and most of them do not have this.
The journey to Asakusa took about 45 minutes. I was thankful that I didn’t have to change trains and stayed put comfortably all the way. Getting out was another matter. The subways are all underground, and getting to the top floor means lugging a 13kg luggage up a long flight of stairs. Trust me, most of the stairs from the platforms to the ground level are more than 20 stairs. This applies to everywhere in Tokyo. There are escalators of course, but some stations doesn’t seem to have them.
This was my first sight of Tokyo, Japan! Well, other than the airport.
I stood still for a while; breathing in the cold crisp air and staring wide-eyed at everything around me. Wow, I’m in Japan! :DD
This was only about 6am and it’s so bright already!
Anyhow, the search for my hostel starts now. I walked to the main street………
….and it was deserted! Hey, this is Japan right, one of the busiest city in the world?
I decided to take a taxi, since my luggage is heavy and I have absolutely no clue where my hostel is. Unfortunately, there weren’t many taxis around and after one told me he has no idea where my hostel is either, I decided I’ll just walk and find it.
I asked a few Japanese men and women and though helpful, they don’t know either. Fortunately one of them told me to ask a police officer which turned out to be the right thing to do. While he can’t speak much English he was very helpful and referred to his map and pointed me to the general direction of where I should be heading.
I had to walk past this shopping district and a temple, of which I only found out later that it is a VERY FAMOUS temple in Japan.
Asakusa Nakamise Shopping Street. So serene in the morning.
It took me a long while to find it as it was quite off the main road. I almost gave up but since I didn’t have much of an option I just walked on and on. I asked more people & finally I found it! I think I nearly collapsed in relief!
As of today, I have stayed in 4 different hostels and I can tell you this hostel was one of the best ones. I didn’t realized it back then. Clean linens are provided upon check-in and this is my female dormitory.
More on the hostel in a separate post.
They allowed me to check in earlier (it was only 7.30am then and official check in time is 3pm – this is standard for all hostels in Japan) since there were beds available.
Oh thank god! After dumping my luggage I went to the common area downstairs to use the free WIFI and to rest while waiting to meet Thomas, a friend in KL who happens to be in Tokyo! Lucky me as he was the one who took me around and got me familiarized with the subway and trains on my first day!
First up we went past the famous Sensoji temple as my hostel is so nearby and it’s located between my hostel and the trains on the main street. By now it was bustling with locals and tourists, very different from the serene walk I had this morning!
There are a lot of shoplots here that sells anything and everything Japanese. This is Thomas’s fav Japanese delicacy – the red bean manju.
It was too sweet! -_-
Next, Thomas explained a bit about the temple, the culture and some general info about Tokyo, Asakusa, the temples, the areas of interest and etc. It was fun to catch him again,and as usual we laughed about how people from the same city don’t see each other often, ended up bumping into each other in another country and actually spent more together then!
BELOW: The beautiful Tokyo SkyTree – the tallest building in the world currently.
My laughter was cut short when we reached the train station. Here’s the story.
I told him I have a 2 days pass and he asked me to show him. I showed him the big one and he said that was the receipt. The officer gave me 3 pieces of paper, how I know which one to keep? I insert into the machine when i exit & I thought the BIG one was the pass so I only kept this one. Turn out it is the receipt. I was upset but since there’s nothing I can do about it, I bought another One day pass for the x line for JP Yen 710 (RM27 ).
BELOW: Remember my tickets from the airport this morning? 🙁
Wasted. Hate making mistakes as Japan is very expensive! An error can cost a lot. What a waste of money. 🙁
I guess this is what happens when you are in unfamiliar territory and there’s a language barrier.
Continuing on a more cheerful note, we took the Ginza line to Tsukiji market for his favourite sushi place which is the famous Sushi Dai.
Here are some sights I saw as we walked.
The BIG fish signboard – You’re here in Tsukiji! 🙂
Tsukiji outer area of the market has a lot of food shops. The wonderful smells.. ahh!
This tiny shop (actually, all of them are tiny!) sells ramen and has a long queue throughout lunch time. People were seen standing while eating in their coats, heels and suits.
It must be good! I’m definitely heading back for this 🙂
Other than these food shops, on another section of Tsukiji market is the shops that sells sundry and dried goods.
This little motor device carts good around this market.
A typical market scenario. Large plastic buckets, messy, lanes and lanes. But it is very clean for sure!
Since we were in search of lunch, we moved to the outer part of Tsukiji. Besides Japanese staple of sushi and raw fish, there was an Italian trattoria as well! 🙂
A temple that we passed.
You can tell its good from the lines. A long queue in front of a food establishment tells the most truthful tale.
BELOW: The famous Sushi Dai at Tsukiji Market.
Since Sushi Dai (Thomas’s favourite and the best in Tokyo) has a horribly long queue, we opted for the next one. As expected, it is not roomy at all. There were barely any space for maneuvering or bags. Just hug it to you as you eat or leave it on the floor.
Order from the simple menu which has no more than 5-6 set options. Prices ranges from Yen 2,000 – Yen 4,000, depending on the number of sushi and the type of seafood on the top in each set.
Ours was the 12 pieces set which comes with a bowl of soup and complimentary green tea. Yen 3000 – RM110. 40.
Our sushi was served on a leaf and served periodically as we eat, meaning 2 pieces, then 1 piece, then maybe another 3 pieces. It was harder to take pictures for sure as I couldn’t get all in one shot. 🙂
But everything was so fabulously fresh and even the best I ever had in KL doesn’t come close. I guess there’s no better sushi than in Japan itself, especially so in Tsukiji market.
Thomas and I had different sets so we could share and sample different seafood. The eel was buttery, flaky and frankly, orgasmic!
There’s a little guide on the wall to give you an indication of what you had. You don’t get to specify the type of sushi that comes with your set and you will only know when the chef serves it to you. He will tell you “Salmon/Hamaji/etc” as he sets it down on your leaf.
Sated, we walked back where we came from.
The Japanese takes their tomago seriously. They come in sticks, blocks and all kind of flavours!
It reminded me of quiche (just from the looks of it) but this is soft, cold, sweet and all eggs!
This is 100 Yen – RM4.00. Thomas’s, not mine though I stole a bite! 😛
So much variety. I was so stuffed else I’ll buy a block for sure!
Oh, they have siew mai here too!
Not just here, but in some shopping malls/ supermarkets as well.
Horseradish – some of you may be more familiar with the final product – wasabi.
Mushrooms are another big thing in Japan.
Huge scallop. Bigger than my face.
Then it’s the rail again. Heading out of Tsukiji and to Harajuku area.
We took the rail from Tsukiji station (Hibiya – grey line) to Ginza station (change to Ginza line – orange colour) to Omote- Sando. Cost – NA as I took the whole day pass – 710 Yen remember?
The area around Omote-Sando is actually near the glitzy Ginza area. Here we saw the upscale fashion brands housed in huge buildings. One building one fashion house.
Harajuku Champ -Elysees. Get the drift yet? 🙂
The parisian life in Tokyo.
Continued from this morning…
Then we walked into some lanes where there were quaint and quirky shops. Here it reminded me of Bangsar.
Just like Bangsar; with Starbucks and edgy cafes with westernised menus.
We continued on to some back streets and again; this whole area reminiscence of Bangsar with its elegant houses and even flashier automobiles.
Thomas showed me to see this shop – Maisen. Knowing my penchant for food, he said Maisen specialized in pork katsu (deep fried breaded pork). I wasn’t able to have a meal here so I grabbed one of their mini burgers instead.
Out of 3 types, I chose the Kurobuta pork burger – Yen 180.
It was tiny but superbly tasty!
Next, Beverly Hills –> Omotesando Hills. Get it? 🙂
We didn’t head down as neither of us are willing to fork out our hard earned dough for some overpriced items.
Instead Thomas showed me a shocking sight – a long queue of 50 people at 2:18 pm (Tokyo time, Msia time 1:18 pm) for this Hawaiian food chain. There were 50 -60 people in that queue at the side of the road leading up to this shop………
…that serves pancakes, eggs and breakfast-y stuffs. Actually, looking at the menu, I was tempted to queue myself!
Then we walked over to Harujuku area. This whole area is sort of adjacent to each other so it’s possible to explore both areas in one day.
Here we saw the hip, funkier fashion houses. Men are not left out either. This is Harujuku after all. There’s something in fashion for everyone.
One brand one building. This is a crazy place.
We decided to move on after about an hour or so. It was a long, long walk over many, many streets and for those of us (or me at least) who earn Malaysian ringgit, there was nothing much to buy/affordable.
Back to the train.
This is Station Meiji – Jingumae (BROWN Line – Fukutoshin line). This is the actual station to stop if you want to go directly to Harujuku but earlier we stopped at Omote-Sando cos we wanted to walk around. From here we have to change at Shinjuku-sanchome to the RED line (Marunouchi Line) and finally we alight at Shinjuku station.
The exit we took was a direct entrance to Lumine Est.
It reminded of the underground shopping mall in Singapore. The one that you came out into the mall as soon as you exit?
Apparently, Lumine is one of the favourite shopping malls adjacent to JR stations in Tokyo which is very popular among the young generation.
Being one of the main stations, Shinjuku station provides lockers service. I noticed that the major stations does. The price depending on the size of the locker you select and it ranges from 200 – 400 Yen for 24 hours rental.
Ahh, we walked out to more malls and shopping lots.
Softbank and Lotteria. I walked in to check on the mobile device I have just to verify if it is available in the city versus just the airport. And nope, it is not. ONLY AT THE AIRPORT.
Other than MOS Burger and Carls Junior, for fast food burgers I think Lotteria is pretty good. I had it before in Korea and enjoyed a few of their selections. Here in Japan I was tempted try this! Unfortunately it’s a shrimp burger. Ermm, I’m not a fan of shrimps.
I think the one on the left is beef? 500 Yen is RM20 btw. I think it’s pretty value for money considering that a simple bowl of ramen cost 800 Yen (RMM32) here!
They have pork rib sandwich and Teriyaki burger with SOFT boiled egg! 🙂
More arcades. This is very popular in Japan.
Cafes, swanky restaurants and more shops lined the streets.
Chic area. Chic hangout places. Chic coffee joints.
Somehow, nothing interest me. I guess for shopping nothing beats Bangkok for the price and if you know where to seek, quality as well. I grabbed myself a fruit juice at Lawsons and moved on.
These vending machines are EVERYWHERE in Tokyo. At the sides of the roads (nope, no vandalism issues here), near hostels, at the train stations, etc.
We walked into Uniqlo Big Camera. Weird name and even weirder; this Uniqlo sells EVERYTHING.
Cameras, electronics, luggage bags, food, toiletries, optical stuffs like spectacles; yes really, you can get your eyes checked, buy contacts lens and prescriptive lenses and well, CLOTHES.
Unfortunately by now (it was 4.30pm Japan time), I was running a bit of fever and nursing a major headache. I guess the non-stop traveling and running around plus the lack of sleep got to me.
I bid Thomas farewell (he’s flying back Malaysia that very night) and headed back to the hostel via the train.
On the way, I stopped at a 7-11 and grabbed some food; a salad and a potato croquet. Both were good; the salad crisp and fresh while the croquet was crispy, hot and tasty. Food in convenient stores in Japan are at the very least affordable and of good enough quality to survive on if you’re really poor!
Took some shots of the temple at night as I walked past; which I do every time I go to the train station or back to the hostel.
It was only about 5-6pm and it’s already dark!
It’s very safe so there’s really nothing to worry even if it’s dark and quiet. The weather is a lovely 13 – 15 C at night.
Well that’s it for Day 1!
I saw a lot and went to quite a number of places. Not bad for the first day. Most importantly I learnt my lesson on taking the trains here in Japan (after losing some money!). I know howto get to Tsukiji market and what to eat when I come back in a few days to see the tuna auction. It was a day of purely seeing and getting a feel of Japan! 🙂
Pictures in this post: