Our final destination in Japan was Tokyo, and we felt that we barely scratched the surface. This place is huge, and I mean a giant city on a whole other scale. Every area seems to have its own claim to fame and reasons to visit, so I think you could spend a lifetime here and still find new places. I think we added just as many things to our ‘next time’ list as we crossed off on this visit, but that is okay with us!
Since we spent more time checking out Kyoto on the day we left, we didn’t end up getting to our Airbnb until after 7 in the evening. Our host here came and met us at the train station and walked us the few minutes to the apartment, then when we asked what was good to eat in the neighborhood and where the supermarket was, he took us for a walk around a few blocks. Then he took us into a small neighborhood joint where we got to try a bunch of different Kushikatsu, which is deep fried stuff on a stick. The batter here is much lighter than most things in the States and doesn’t seem as greasy or leave you feeling as gross. Or maybe we have just been eating too much junk for the last 9 months… but let’s not talk about that. Overall the stay here was our favorite apartment, and reinforced why we like staying in Airbnb’s.
The next day we were planning on checking out a few areas of Tokyo on our own and then we heard back from Kristen, who is someone we knew through friends in Virginia Beach. She has been working in Japan for just over 3 years and was coming into town for the day and graciously volunteered to play tour guide for us. She showed us Harajuku shopping street, the Meiji Jungu shrine (which is in a huge park in downtown Tokyo), Yoyogi National Stadium, Shibuya crossing (the busiest pedestrian crossing in the world), the Yebisu beer museum, and we had appetizers and a drink in one restaurant and then some Okinawan food at another place she knew and liked. It was a great day checking out the city and seeing lots of places we would not have found on our own, especially the restaurants and the brewery museum. The restaurant was a tiny hole in the wall that didn’t even have a sign out front unless you knew exactly what you were looking for, and we definitely didn’t! It’s always better to have someone show you around that knows where they are going, and we are very grateful that Kristen showed us all over.
One of interesting sites is a statue of a dog outside Shibuya station that is a memorial to a dog that kept coming back to the station every day waiting for its owner to come back from work, long after the owner had passed away. It is a symbol of loyalty and fidelity to the Japanese people. My other favorite part of the day was the brewery museum, which is for Yebisu, one of Japan’s oldest breweries. For 500 yen (less than $5), you got a tour of their gallery which tells the story of the company (this isn’t a brewery tour, it’s more of a tasting room and true museum for the brand, plus the tour was in Japanese, but the pictures had English captions too and you could get the basic understanding) and 2 beers. We had to wait for the tour upon arrival, so we also tried a beer before the tour. The really interesting part was when they showed you how to pour a Japanese beer, which is basically maximizing the head on the beer. For some reason they enjoy their beer with a very large frothy head on every glass, and have special taps to add the foam after filling most of the glass. I guess all my college practice on the perfect pour with zero head was wasted here…
The next day, we got up and went to check out the Tsukiji market, which is where they auction off fresh tuna and other fish everyday and is the major market for most of the sushi restaurants. They limit the number of people that get to watch the tuna auctions and apparently even if you line up at 3:30 in the morning there is no guarantee you’ll get to see it, so we didn’t try. Unfortunately, we were misled by some of the articles we read, and we thought the market kept going for most of the morning but when we got down there around noon, the actual market was closing up and cleaning the stalls for the day. There were some surrounding vendors that were still selling goods, but the big wholesale area was all done. We were a little frustrated and both needed a little time to ourselves, and luckily we were in a safe city/country so we didn’t feel bad about going our own ways for a few hours. I headed back to the apartment and did some travel planning and relaxing and Cara went for some retail therapy and just to check out some more shopping districts.
Once she came back we made some fresh spring rolls for dinner with some tuna and salmon we picked up at the store and some greens. It was a fun experiment blending what we had learned in our cooking classes with the food that was readily available in Japan!
The next day was the big one, and by big one I mean the day Cara had been dreaming about since we had first mentioned coming to Japan a long time ago… We went to Tokyo Disney Sea (next door to Tokyo Disneyland). It was quite the… experience…Read about it here.
We ended up spending over 12 hours at Disney, plus a long train ride each way, so we slept in the next day and then spent some time making sure we had everything ready for the next leg of our journey. We got to Skype with both our parents and relax, which was great since we knew we would be going non-stop for a while after, as we have a lot planned in the beginning of our Australian trip, not to mention the long journey there and the road trip in New Zealand after.
On our last day in Tokyo we headed back to the Tsujiki Fish Market much earlier in an effort to see some more fish. Unfortunately, they don’t open up to the public until 10 am, which leaves a pretty small window to really see the fish for sale before everything is cleaned up for the day. We killed time wandering through the nearby markets and grabbed some really fresh sushi (probably the best of our stay in Japan) before strolling through the market. The variety of fish and the size of the tuna was impressive! After the fish market, we went to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building, which has free observation rooms on one of the top floors. It was an awesome view of the city and they have volunteers that want to practice English there to tell you about the building and some of the things you can see. Of course our guide asked us about Trump, seems like everyone in the world is watching his antics.
After the observation towers, we made our final stop in Japan, and I think it was one of Cara’s favorites. We went by the Toto showroom! If you don’t know Toto, they make toilets (and all other kinds of bathroom and home stuff) and they have two floors in a building downtown set up as a sales and showroom showing the latest and greatest in toilet tech. I think everyone else there was actually shopping for bathroom goods, but we just played tourists. The things you do for your wife…
We caught an afternoon train out to the airport and had one last bowl of noodles before getting on our redeye flight to Australia. Overall, Japan was awesome and we definitely want to go back and explore some more.
Total Amount Spent (including flight into Osaka): $2,579.07
Average Per Day (14 Days): $184.22
Modes of Transportation: Train, Ferry, Street Car, and Bus
Japan was an expensive stop, but not quite as bad as we had thought it might be. Food is not cheap, but lodging wasn’t as bad as we thought it might be. Staying in Airbnb’s was much cheaper than the hotels we could find, and we could buy at least a few groceries and make breakfast for ourselves. Overall Japan was about the same price as Europe, but the trains were more expensive than some of the budget airline flights we got to bounce around Europe.