After a short stay in Kyoto, we headed off to Tokyo. We had to take the opportunity to ride the famous Shinkansen bullet train, which travels up to an astonishing 320 km/ hour. At this rate, our travel time was about 2.5 hours for 450 km. As advertised, the train schedule was precise to the second. We tried to catch a glimpse of Mount Fuji from the window along the way but I missed it, possibly due to my propensity for napping while on moving vehicles.
Exploring the districts of Tokyo
The city of Tokyo is divided into 23 special wards, which are then subdivided into a number of districts. We made our way around a few different wards and districts throughout our one week stay.
We stayed at Monterey La Soeur hotel, located in the heart of Ginza district, which is within the Chuo ward. The hotel was clean and conveniently located, but not quite the cool experience that we had at our Airbnbs earlier in this trip. Our room was small, as expected for Tokyo, but adequate for the two of us.
Ginza is effectively the rich neighbourhood of Tokyo and is the place to be if you’re into high end shopping. Think Fifth Avenue in New York City. We weren’t here for this, but still enjoyed exploring the area. The thing to do here as a foodie is to visit the department store eateries. I didn’t capture any photos of this, but the lower levels of large stores like Mitsukoshi are set up with dozens of food counters which we perused at length. Eater published an article outlining this experience.
Ginza is also a short distance from the renowned Tsukiji Fish Market where we of course made a stop for some snacks. Very crowded at all hours. Keeners can opt to visit the wholesale area to observe the early morning tuna auction, but we passed on this.
Yurakucho and Shinbashi
To round out our foodie explorations, we went on an actual food tour with Arigato Japan which took us around Ginza and to nearby Yurakucho and Shinbashi. This tour was pretty cool. Our guide was a young university student who was a walking encyclopedia of random facts about Tokyo. It was a bit on the pricy side, about $150 USD each, but we did eat a lot of food over the course of 3 hours and went to some places that I doubt we would’ve been able to find on our own. Yurakucho features an interesting area of restaurants built up underneath elevated train tracks of the Japan Rail Yamanote Line. Shinbashi is more of a business and commercial centre, where you’ll find eateries catering to the ‘salaryman’ or ‘office lady’ looking for a quick bite after a long day’s work.
Shibuya and Harajuku
We spent a half day wandering around the Shibuya ward and Harajuku district within it. Our first stop was Shibuya crossing, the famous intersection featured in many films and rumoured to be the busiest intersection in the world.
Then we headed to Harajuku and decided to visit an owl cafe to pass some time. Animal cafes seem to be a big thing in Japan; we came across signs for owl cafes, cat cafes, dog cafes, and even hedgehog cafes. To be honest, the set up was a bit depressing. There were about six owls sitting in a room all tethered to their perches, in a completely unnatural environment. Not sure that I would recommend this. I guess this was my questionable, possibly unethical, experience for the year.
The anime district located in Chiyoda ward, as pictured. We checked out some manga stores, played a few arcade games, and had fun times all around.
We also visited a cat cafe here, because why not? The conditions looked much more appropriate for the cats, in contrast to our experience at the owl cafe.
We spent one of our final Tokyo evenings in the special ward of Shinjuku. This is home to the red light district and also the famous Robot Restaurant. We did not partake in either.
We did stop at Omoide Yokocho, which is a maze of narrow alleys filled with tiny izakaya restaurants. Grab a seat wherever you find an empty spot and fill your stomach with skewers, skewers, and more skewers. This area has a lot of history, and in fact started out as a market of street vendors and black market traders in the days following World War II. It was actually destroyed by a fire in 1999 and eventually reconstructed with some improvements, including public restrooms.
I ❤️ Tokyo
We actually did a lot more in Tokyo that I haven’t been able to cover in this recap, without droning on forever. The main travel tip I have about Tokyo and Japan in general is to go! To conclude, here are a few more photos to summarize some other memories from this trip: Kit Kat bars, 7-Eleven treats, gardens and palaces, and more cats.