Arrival into Tokyo
As the light begins to fade in Tokyo I’m sitting on the Subway from Narita airport ready for my next adventure in a country I’ve been longing to go to for a very long time. China has been at the forefront of my mind for the past 5 years, which has led to me neglecting most other Asian countries and now was finally the time to spread my wings and experience a new culture.
After a long 1 hour 30 min subway ride I arrive in Asakusabashi, the location of my hostel. It had been a rather nerve racking train ride as I’d not done the research I should have and had hoped I’d be able to work out the subway system on arrival. At first glance Tokyo subway system would terrify even the most seasoned of travellers. It a system which just clarifies how huge the city really is and if you’re not careful, one can become goaded into a sense of dismay and panic. I had been half asleep when I got on the train and had nearly lost my bag and my phone at that point. The 20 hour flight had done my concentration no favours at all. Funnily enough after unsuccessfully pleading with anyone on the train to let me know if I was I going the right way or not I managed to find a Chinese local who confirmed it for me.
As I step out the station and into the open, it’s 9pm and an unusual eerie silence seems to cloak the city. It was as if a penny drop would displace the tranquility of the place, slightly ironic when Tokyo is one of the largest cities in the world.
Tsukiji Fish Market
I highly recommend anyone thats even slightly interested in sushi to make an effort to come here. Regardless of what the guides say, its not necessary to arrive here at 4am to witness the Tuna auction, theres still a vibrant atmosphere until the late afternoon.
If you’d told me 4 years ago that I was going to a Japanese fish market to eat sushi I would have thought you were having a laugh. Even though my taste buds are not that adventurous, I still tried the Salmon fish eggs sushi amongst other assortments of fish, pictured in the top right below. I’m happy I made the effort, but definitely won’t be eating it again. It reminded me of those Omega 3 tablets I use to take when I was younger, which I despised.
Thankfully, from experience I knew what I’d like and what I didn’t. The majority of Sushi I ordered was Salmon and prawn based and 16 pieces came to approximately £18, which was great value. The taste was phenomenal.
I’m still on the fence about the night life here. For me clubbing is not just about having good time with friends, but is about appreciating good music by allowing oneself to fully disconnect from the modern world and letting the drops and flow of music seep deep into your mind.
It was a rather spur of the moment decision and after visiting a few bars, 3 of us decided to try out the club scene which had definitely been on my list.
The first disappointment was the £25 entry fee, which I felt was rather outrageous, however it seems that Japan wants to keep clubbing an exclusive form of entertainment.
Secondly, and probably obvious from the cover charge was the drink prices inside. Approx £7 for a beer or £10 for a spirit mixer. Prices similar to London in that respect.
Thirdly, I felt rather unwanted inside, from the staff. The bouncers watched myself and my 2 new friends like hawks and at any opportunity told us what we could and could not do, whether this be bringing my drink to the dance floor or jumping to high when a good drop came on.
I must admit, I’ve done 1 club night out so far in Tokyo, and so I would need another few nights out to write a fair review, however initial feeling was that all the rules they have takes the whole fun out of clubbing, especially when everything becomes so glamorised and exclusive.
One more thing to mention is that if you do want to come to Tokyo for clubbing, stay in the Roppongi district otherwise you will have to take a very expensive taxi (Can cost upto £100 depending where you are going too), or you’ll have to wait till the first subway train, approx 5am, which we did.
Having said all this, I did have a great night and would do it again.
This was the first day I activated my 14 day JR rail pass, costing approx. £300. Yes its a steep price but its gives you unlimited access to JR trains all over Japan and its super easy to use. You don’t need to book anything, you just turn up at the station, show your pass and get on the train. Most destinations have a train going to it every hour and so little planning is necessary.
Once I arrived in Nikko I opted to walk to the main attraction however there is a bus. This allowed me to stop for a tasty lunch which consisted of Yakitori Chicken, Noodles and Rice.
The first attraction was the famous Futarasan jinja which is a Shinto shrine. It is believed that if you pass over it, you will receive good fortune.
Secondly, I visited Tōshō-gū shrine, part of the UNESCO World Heritage. For those of you who don’t know, this is the origins of the three wise monkeys. If you look carefully at the picture below you can see the first monkey covering his ears, the second covering his mouth and the third covering his eyes.
Entry into the shrine is fairly expensive compared to most other places, approx £10 but well worth it. The architecture and detail of the shrines is incredible and its a huge complex.
The famous three monkeys symbolizing “see no evil, hear no evil, and speak no evil. The meaning behind this picture is to prevent the infant monkey from seeing, hearing or talking about the wickedness of the secular society. In the west people translate this to “turning a blind eye” to evil and happens too much in this given world.
Originally I was planning to stay a night here however after speaking to various people and checking out the available hostels on hostelworld, I decided against it. However don’t get me wrong. I had an absolutely wonderful time here, but I believe the main attractions could be done in a day. I arrived at 11:30am and left at 4pm. So I suggest making Nikko just a day trip from Tokyo and taking the bullet train there.
Initial thoughts of Japan and Goodbye Tokyo
For me keeping busy is extremely important and in turn I’m usually on a continuous adrenaline high, however as the days passed in Japan I could feel my adrenaline levels significantly decreasing. Travelling in its own right comes with a level of stress so to be more relaxed than at home was some what unusual. Japan was exactly what I hoped it would be and more. Its peaceful and harmonious. Everything is on time with minute accuracy and the Japanese will go out of their way to help you with anything possible, even if there is a language barrier. Its a great destination for anyone wanting to take 2 weeks of work and unwind.
One more note I’d like to make as its been a question I’ve had for a while. Over the years I’ve met people from different walks of life, obsessed with everything about Japan. Japan attracts a certain type of westerner. The westerner who is shy and awkward and as the days went by, it became very apparent why this country is a fairytale for the anti-social of the west. It’s a place where they are able to shine and flourish their delicate inner beings without having the judgement of an outward western narcissistic society. Politeness and respect for everyone is the forte of the Japanese. Its a place where you can go to a restaurant, sit in your own private booth, order from a vending machine and not have to have any social contact what so ever but its also a place where you can gradually let your shell open and socialise. Personally being a very outgoing sociable person, I had to continuously remind myself to speak with a lower volume and to lower my levels of outwardness which the west has ensued upon me.