My trip to Tokyo started off like any other: I woke up at 5:30am in order to make it to Gimhae airport for my 7:20am boarding time. I had naively thought that I could sleep a bit longer, but after seeing the boarding time I decided to play it safe. Thankfully two of my friends had got on the same flight to Tokyo. One would be traveling with me, Megan, and the other, Gillian, would be going to Ishigaki. Ishigaki is a remote island off of Okinawa, and it’s said to be one of the happiest places on earth. We got settled at the gate and waited to board with our Dunkin Donuts breakfast sandwiches in hand. I was a little less nervous because I had been to Japan before (Osaka in March). We boarded right on time, and I settled into my window seat. Now to be honest, I prefer aisle seats. I like being able to get up when I need too, and being able to organize myself when we can deplane. I chose a window seat both times because I love flying over Japan. You fly over the entire country and you get to see everything! On the way there, I was totally surprised that Japan Airlines had in-flight entertainment and served a full meal. I watched a movie (The Longest Ride) halfway and I enjoyed our selection of sandwiches.
Getting through immigration was shockingly fast and easy! I remember waiting nearly an hour in Osaka, but at Narita I only waited for my companion to fill out her customs card. It was so fast, we got her baggage super quickly and before I knew it we were buying our tickets for the Skyliner! Narita terminal 2 seemed to be a bit smaller than KIX, but we found the Softbank Counter, rented a wifi egg, and then bought a 3-day subway pass and Skyliner ticket for only $35. The Skyliner is a super quick train (Narita – Ueno in 42 minutes) and usually costs about $25 per ticket. We got the one-way ticket and a 3 day Tokyo Metro/Toei subway line pass for only $35. It was really a steal because the subway pass alone is $10 a day. We grabbed some snacks for the train and then hopped aboard.
We were in Ueno and facing the beast that is the Tokyo Subway system before I could even think. Thankfully Ueno is a straight shot down to Akihabara, where we would make our home for the next few days. I love capsule hotels and I had stayed in one in Osaka, and this capsule hotel was something else. I will dedicate a post just to it, that’s how great it was! We dropped our bags at the hotel, because we still had a few hours until check in at 4pm, and used the time to get out of the Tokyo humidity. Note to anyone: Tokyo/Asia in general is HOT AS HECK in the summer. Super humid and makes EVERYONE sweaty. A lot of the Japanese people I saw carried around sweat cloths with them to keep themselves dry, it was that bad. I created basically our entire itinerary for our trip. Megan is pretty passive and didn’t have any specific places she wanted to go. I appreciated the free rein but at times I felt a little worried that she may not enjoy the trip as much as I did. Either way, I hope she enjoyed the places I took us to.
The Tokyo Subway system is divided into a few lines, and some are privately owned. This made it pretty frustrating as we bought the pass, as I said before, and it wasn’t good at every stop. We made the mistake of walking to a JR Line subway stop, and were promptly rejected. We walked to the Hibiya line and got on the train there with no issues. Now, like Korea, they have an IC card that you can load with fares and I believe they are good for every subway line, but I’m not certain. We purchased Suica cards because our first spot was only accessible on the JR line. I figured it would benefit us in the end to have the ability to use both, but I preferred using the Tokyo Metro/Toei subways because they went everywhere and they were pretty cheap. I’ll be writing a post also on using the subway in Tokyo and Korea, it’ll be short and sweet but to the point.
Our first stop, after the hotel, was Tokyo Station. I was hunting for Character Street, a place filled with various famous Japanese based character stores. There is a Hello Kitty store, a Studio Ghibli store, Rilakuma, Gudetama, etc and the one I was looking for was the Pokemon Store! The Pokemon Store on character street near Tokyo Station is the ONLY store where you can get Pikachu in a Tokyo Train uniform. This was goal there, and I grabbed a smaller sized one for 900 yen. I also ended up grabbing an adorable Pikachu in a dress for myself, and some milk tea flavoured cookies. We walked around Character street for a bit, popping into the shops that peaked our interest. We also made a stop in a souvenir shop where I grabbed some spicy pepper flavoured Kitkats. It was after this that we found a resting spot, drank some water (or in my case, tea) and planned our next mode of action. One thing to say is that there is a severe shortage of benches/public seating in the underground area of Tokyo Station. We ended up sitting in a closed off area of stairs, and an elderly couple had to lean against some railings. We had made a joke often of “What’s a girl gotta do for a bench?”. Pretty funny, but kind of annoying. Sometimes you just need a place to sort yourself out or get off your feet for a minute.
Our next destination was the Muji store in Yurakucho. Little did I know, it was the flagship store! This store was a short walk from Tokyo station, and it was my first time in a Muji store. Now Muji is known for their storage drawers and such, but it really is an incredibly cool store. Everything is really minimalist, and it reminded me of an IKEA/H&M hybrid store. If you’re ever in Tokyo, take a look around, it’s a pretty cool place. We had a snack in the Muji meal portion of the store, and even tried a sample of prawn curry (that was so delicious and we both bought some!) and I grabbed some facial cotton that I found on a recommended to buy list. After we finished at Muji, we headed next door to Loft. This store was pretty interesting. It seemed to have anything and everything. I purchased an eyeliner, and then we made our way back to Akihabara.
By the time we got back, we wanted to rest a bit before heading out again. We headed out for dinner at 6:30 and made our way to a fast-food type restaurant called Sukiya. Sukiya is a place that one of my favourite Youtubers, Alli Speed, goes to when she is in Japan. She always has the cheese gyudon bowl and I made sure to try it when I was there. How can you go wrong with meat, cheese, and rice? Needless to say it was delicious, cheap, and filling. It’s also open 24 hours so you can get your fix any time of the day. After we were full, we made our way through parts of Akihabara. I made sure we stopped in my favourite store, Don Quijote. I love Donki so much, and I bought quite a few things. After a slight detour to look for a camera battery, we made our way to our final destination: Tokyo Tower.
Now Tokyo tower was a little but of a journey away from Akihabara, and it was still pretty humid at 9pm, but we made it. I would totally recommend Tokyo Tower because it is beautiful and gives an amazing view of the city. We went at night on a slightly unclear day, but still had a great time. The lower viewing deck is only 900 yen to go up to, and I actually preferred going down one flight to the area with the lookout windows. It was really cool because they had it all lit up with lights, making it look sort of like outer space. We spent some time there, grabbed a few souvenirs, and then were on our way back to Akihabara.
After a snack run to the Family Mart across the street from our hotel, we were in for the night and ready for or second day in Tokyo.
I hope you enjoyed this first day summary!!
Until my next post!
Here are some linked blog posts that I discussed in this post:
(links to come)
Tokyo Metro Tips
GRIDS hostel Akihabara