TOKYO (10/26 & 10/27)
It’s been a great two days in Japan. Outside of getting a rail pass and booking our Airbnbs (which we did a few days ago), we honestly did not do a ton of research or planning for Japan, which meant we were going with the flow even more. Before we left on this trip, a friend who had done a RTW (round the world) trip told me that one of her favorite things was that you could get up in the morning with an open agenda. It was really neat to experience – the world was our oyster and we could do whatever we wanted to.
Getting to Tokyo
Getting to Tokyo from the airport was a great experience- our entire customs/immigration process was really fast and the railway was super efficient and easy to understand. We’ve noticed a huge difference from our experience in China. Everything is really organized, everyone is so warm and welcoming and the cities are really clean (it’s hard to even find a trash can on the streets). After we settled into our Airbnb, we decided to go explore Tokyo by grabbing dinner and seeing some sights.
Traveling to the Shinjuku district in Tokyo, which is known for the sea of neon lights we made our first stop at a ramen restaurant (this might become a trend). It was both a fun and delicious experience. We went to this place where you ordered at a machine that spits out a ticket and then basically sit in these stalls to have your ramen delivered. After you sit, you put your ticket through a slit in front of your stall to order. At no point did I actually see my server, simply a pair of hands that handed me my ramen through a hole. (See photos below). These stalls are perfect if you are dining alone but you can also collapse the sidewalls if you brought an eating partner.
I wasn’t exactly sure what I had ordered but I ended up with ramen with pork, a hard-boiled egg, an extra serving of noodles (YESSSS) and some kind of green-tea flavored tofu dessert. It was quite yummy and I was pleased with my random choice. Matt got pork ramen with a dish of veggie sides to put into his ramen (mushrooms, sprouts, etc.) He was a little shocked when I had managed to slurp down my ramen, order my second noodle helping, finish it and then top off with my dessert…all before he was done with his one bowl. I was just trying to hang with the locals, you know?
Matt found an observation deck in a government building on the Tokyo skyline atop the Tokyo Metropolitan Government. So after dinner we walked and saw the Tokyo skyline…for FREE!! We then took the train to Shiboya, to see the famous Shiboya Crossing (which boasts to be one of the busiest crosswalks in the world). We made the crossing a few times, because why not?
10/27: Our first and (only) full day in Tokyo
We walked to Suntory Hall, home to one of the largest organs in the world, to catch a FREE organ concert (seeing a theme, here?). On our way there, we came across a temple (which evidently happens very easily in Japan), named Zojo-ji.
After visiting the temple, we finished the walk to Suntory Hall and there was a huge line of people waiting to get inside. These lunchtime performances only happen once a month, so we were lucky to be in Tokyo for this performance. (Tokyo note: Even the long lines were super organized and easy). Following the beautiful concert, we grabbed lunch at some food trucks outside Suntory Hall. Matt had rotisserie chicken with potatoes and rice and I had some kind of chicken and rice special. Both were tasty and quick.
Afterwards, Matt and I headed to go to ADMT (Advertising Museum Tokyo), described as “the only museum in Japan dedicated to the promotion and studies in, and popular understanding of, advertising and marketing. As a marketer, I was super excited to see it and ready to get my marketing geek on. (And admission is FREE!) Unfortunately, we found out when we got there that it’s currently closed for about a month. Here is me super bummed:
With my marketing geek tank empty, we headed over to the Ginza Graphic Gallery (ggg), which showcases work of prominent designers from Japan and around the world. The current exhibit is called, NOSIGNER- RESASON BEYOND FORMS, taking a look at natural and artificial lenses of design. It was an incredibly thought-provoking and neat exhibit. One of my favorite quotes I saw at the exhibit was: “Excellent designs are those with few elements and many reasons. Nature is a far more proficient designer than us; and we have many things indeed to learn from nature.”
Here’s just a few photos of what we saw (that doesn’t really do it justice) and let’s just say that my tank was feeling super full leaving the gallery!
Afterwards, we went to the Sumo Museum, which was only so-so. However, miraculously we found a nearby used bookstore to pick up some reading material. We were both out of books. Here was the random selection we picked up all for a total of about $1.50 USD: Matt picked up a biography on Mao and David Copperfield (interesting mix) and I picked up the Monkey King. (Between the books and the gallery, I thought today was heavenly…all that was missing was some more ramen!)
We had dinner at a local spot that included yakitori, noodles, sashimi and sake that night. As we were looking for a restaurant, we strolled into a sushi restaurant to check it out. The restaurant seemed awesome; however the host told us it would be about~20,000 JPY ($200 USD), EACH. So…we left.
After dinner, we went to the supermarket and picked up some groceries. I would be lying to you if I told you we have been eating ramen for every meal every day in Japan, but we’ve found that going the supermarket is both healthy for our bodies and wallets. Since we’ll be on the road for 6 months, we’ve been trying to eat out once a day.
Do you usually eat out or eat in when traveling?