After getting off a 10 hour flight from Vancouver to Tokyo, tired and ready for a place to stretch out, it was just lovely to find out that my backpack—a.k.a. the bag that was holding nearly all of my personal belongings for a year or more—had stayed in Vancouver while I continued on to Tokyo. Yep, day one of backpacking and I was sans backpack.
Honestly it wasn’t that bad. I bought a toothbrush and toothpaste at the airport, and Braydon, being the kind soul he is, had shampoo and soap to use when we got to the hotel we were staying at. Two key bits of advice from this experience:
- Booking a hotel with a free shuttle to/from the airport saved us a ton of hassle and money upon arrival, meaning we could easily get to our hotel, and easily get back to the airport to pick up my bag the next day.
- Icebreaker (or any merino wool brand) is freaking amazing! I spent 16 hours traveling from Saskatoon to Tokyo in my Icebreaker T-shirt, Icebreaker socks, and Lululemon pants—and they didn’t smell terrible when I got off the plane. Bonus: I wore the exact same outfit the entire next day until my bag arrived, and still felt quite fresh. It was a miracle.
So that was my introduction into Tokyo. Our first two days we spent most of our time either at our hotel or at the airport. During those first days, we explored the world of noodle cups for dinner (since they were easily available at the hotel shops). Of the two cups I tried, one had dried pieces of shrimp amongst other mystery items in it—I do not recommend eating rehydrated shrimp. It was not delicious.
My second noodle cup contained what I could only determine were simulated sushi pieces. They tasted kind of salmon-y. I give it a ranking of Better Than Rehydrated Shrimp for sure.
One of the benefits of being stuck on the outskirts of Tokyo for an extra day was that we went for a 6km walk from our hotel in the morning waiting for my backpack to arrive. Even though I knew that the Narita airport was on the edge of Tokyo, I was taken aback by how much greenery there was everywhere. Trees along all the roads, grass patches whenever the landscape allowed, even concrete walls were tiered so grasses could be planted up the side to conceal the harshness of the concrete. It wasn’t quite what I had expected for sure.
After exploring the outskirts of Tokyo, and after obtaining my backpack—Yay!—we headed into the Asakusa area of Tokyo to find our hostel. Now, to get from the airport into Asakusa we would take the train. And looking at a Tokyo train map for the first time is, let’s say, overwhelming at first. Thankfully the stops and stations are labelled with the name both in Kanji and English, so we had some bit of understanding to hold onto. Within a few minutes we figured we had it sorted out and jumped on.
We successfully made it to our hostel, with only one minor detour involving us exiting the station from a different side tahn we thought, and walking an extra… many, many blocks to loop back to our hostel. Navigating Tokyo—it gets easier with time.
Exploring the Asakusa and Taito areas was the introduction to Tokyo crowds—though I discovered they get much, much worse—as well as food, temples, gardens, and walking. Yep, walking. It’s taken a while, but it seems that people more-or-less walk on the left-hand side, as opposed to the right at home. That took a bit to adjust to, I would find myself walking and naturally drifting to the right, only to look up and see a group of eight people walking straight for me. That’s going to take some getting used to.
In one of my and Braydon’s exploratory walks, we stumbled upon a beautiful garden that was full of greenery and walking paths, as well as a pond and a temple. We spent some time taking in the relaxing atmosphere, as well as watch a couple of ducks chill out together and play tag.
After a day of walking around and exploring what was near us, we decided that it would be an excellent night for our first sushi dinner in Japan. It also happened to be our 8 year anniversary, and what a way to celebrate indeed. We found a sushi bar (with some help from the tourist centre) that sounded excellent and headed in. If you don’t know, a sushi bar is where you sit in front of a bar with a conveyor belt on it, and the chef’s make plates with a few pieces of sushi on them and load them onto the conveyor belt. Each plate is colour-coded with it’s price (for example, a dish on a white plate was 180yen, where as a black plate would run you 580yen), and you just grab off whichever plates you want. The servers don’t clear the plates until you’re done your meal, so you end up with a stack of plates. It was a very cool, busy, high-energy place to be.
The sushi was very tasty, though I quickly discovered that they use much larger pieces of fish on their sushi than we do in Canada (obvious, right?) which makes eating a piece in one bite a tad tricky for me. I did it though! And ended the meal with some delicious green tea ice cream.
The next day we decided to go on a little tour of Tokyo, following a path so nicely laid out on the map of the metro we picked up on the first day. We bought 1 day passes for the metro, and toured around to a shopping area, Tokyo’s famous Electric Town (including the Yodobashi-Akiba electronics mall, 8 floors of everything you could possibly want), Tokyo Tower, as well as a few other areas to wander around. It was a heavy day of walking, but a neat way to get around to several major areas in one day. The Yodobashi-Akiba mall was astounding–everything from cell phones, cameras, memory cards and watches to Coach purses, golf clubs, toys and stationary.
As tourist-y as it is, the Tokyo Tower was a fantastic spot. The first majorly tall building I had ever been in, it offered an absolutely stunning view of the city, showing off the sea of buildings that I had expected when coming to Tokyo.
After our big tour of Tokyo, we were pretty drained. We both know that we’ll get into incredible walking shape by the end of this trip, and walking all day will be easy. However, we realized that we’ve been pushing our bodies way too hard the last few days. We need to ease into the hours and hours of walking that no doubt are ahead of us, so today is a R&R type of day. Watch for my next post about …. Tokyo Disney!
Special addition …
So instead of a full post about Tokyo Disneyland, here are some photos to browse through of the experience!