travel

Taking on Tokyo

I do my best to aim for at least 2 posts a month, but July was insane! The whole month completely ran away with me. Now, however, I am (still!!) a little jetlagged, and suddenly it’s a been 9 days since I returned from one of the best adventures of my life (so far)!

One of my very good friends at Keele, Caitlin, moved to Japan last year to teach English. Cue me promising to go and visit her! Initially, it was going to be mine and Alex’s trip this year after the fabulousness of California last year, but unfortunately it didn’t work out like that. He had too much occurring and what not which meant that half of this trip was a solo adventure! It was actually really refreshing to go and do something like this for myself, and by myself. As much as I’ve struggled with this year being so focused on doing things for me, myself and I, but this trip really was the icing on top of the cake that has been the most difficult but worthwhile 12 months I’ve had in a long time.

Caitlin lives in Kumamoto, a smaller city in Japan, and as a teacher she works solidly Monday to Friday. Therefore, we both agreed I’d be best off seeing some other places as well. My plan then became Tokyo -> Kyoto -> Kumamoto -> Hiroshima, and I’m going to do multiple blog posts to fully detail the fantasticness that was all of these places. To get everywhere, I used the JR Pass, which was ridiculously cheap for the amount that I used it, and compared to what those trips would have cost individually.

After 24 hours of travel, a highlight of which was the old Japanese man next to me watched Godzilla as we approached Japan, and my first experience of Japanese toilets that thankfully play music so no one hears you wee, I picked up my JR Pass from Tokyo’s airport. It allowed me to use the monorail that took me right into Tokyo’s main train station. From there, my Pass also worked on the local train so I could get to my hotel.

I stayed at the APA Shintomicho-Ekikita which was only 10 minutes walk from the local train station, and 25 minutes walk from Tokyo station itself. The hotel was lovely, and the staff couldn’t do more to help me, even though English wasn’t a strong point for them, and my Japanese extends to hi and thank you.

Across the two days I spent in Tokyo, I walked 25,000 steps, sweated in 30 odd degree heat with about 40% humidity, got lost repeatedly (seriously, Tokyo Tower can be seen, but not approached easily), embarrassed myself with the Englishness of my food choices because I was so scared of ordering fish by accident, and said ‘God help me’ more times in 48 hours than ever before. BUT, at no point did I feel scared, or unsafe, or completely out of my depth.

I got to see stunning sights from the top of Tokyo Tower at night,

And even more during the day from the top of Mount Takao,

I would encourage everyone visiting to Tokyo spending time out of the city, as well as in it. If you have the time, absolutely go to Mount Fuji, which is what I would have done if I had had the time. As I didn’t, I chose Mount Takao, and got to ride the steepest cable car in Japan a quarter of the way up! It was a really peaceful place, even though I constantly ran in to other people – they all said ‘konichiwa’ in the way English walkers say ‘good morning/afternoon’, I loved it. On my way back from Mount Takao, I ended up in Shinjuku station, which Caitlin later informed me is one of the busiest in the world. It certainly was hectic and a bit confusing, I ended up on a bus that literally just did a circle around the station…but I got back eventually! And headed to the Hard Rock Cafe via Harajuku. Harajuku absolutely was quirky, but not as vast in its quirkiness as I was expecting.

I also think everyone should visit the Imperial Palace, the gardens are absolutely stunning. Unfortunately, there isn’t a set timetable for being able to enter the palace, tours can only take place on sporadic days as it is all at the discretion of the Emperor and the royal family, but hey ho, you don’t feel like your missing out. I went there my first evening, and it seems that is where all Tokyo residents go running! I was a bit worried as it was getting dark, and I was alone, but I found myself in amongst tens of runners the whole way around the site!

After Tokyo, it was up, at it and onto Kyoto! Which will bring you on to my next post…

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