Hi all! This is a super delayed travel post but I thought I would use the time I now have under my belt from not having to sit in traffic to resume writing on my blog (have you gone iso crazy yet?).
In December 2018 I sat my last engineering exam with no plans between that and graduation. I thought the night of my last exam would be wild with a fine dining experience and drinks however, I was home by 8pm :(.
The boutique had also quieted down as formal season was over and it was a matter of looking at the world map and deciding where I wanted to go next. The people who know me were not surprised when I messaged everyone that night advising that I’d be leaving Australia in 5 days to go to Japan… talk about spontaneous planning.
I actually really didn’t know about what I wanted to do in Japan so I decided I would just dedicate an entire week in Tokyo. I honestly had no idea what to expect, how to get around and what my itinerary would be so I just winged it. The only things I planned from Australia was my accomodation, flights, train card (click link to buy suica card) and my international driving license (I’ll get to this soon). The best way to get around Tokyo was using Japan’s amazing train network and the easiest platform to understand the network was google maps. Do not rely on trains for nights out as they stop at 10pm and taxi’s were also quite rare – bottom line, be home by 10pm.
Oshiage – Tokyo Skytree
I stayed in Oshiage, right next to Asakusa and a little train ride away from the more popular city centres. If there is one thing Australia could learn from Japan, it would be how to optimise space usage. When visiting Japan you will notice how small the rooms and hotels are but they somehow work perfectly. My hotel room had the luxury feel in what felt like a 4x4m space with a wonderful view of Tokyo Skytree.
Asakusa was a comfortable 25min walk from my hotel so I commited to something lowkey like this after flying for hours on my first day in Tokyo. Of course, one of the main things I was excited about was being able to pull out all my funky winter coats and channel my inner stylist without being judged so the sight would have been spectacular – picture an indian girl jetlagged, rocking a fluffy black coat with a polka dot dress, hoops and boots that were not made for walking.
Asakusa retains the vibe of an older Tokyo, with traditional craft shops and street-food stalls along Nakamise Street in front of the ancient Sensō-ji temple.
I don’t think pictures do justice for how beautiful this temple was.
Sky Restaurant 634 (Musashi)
The next day I got the email from university giving me the green light to graduate (woohoo!) so I spent the morning organising my graduation – paying for the gown hire, registering etc. I also decided this was a perfect opportunity to spoil myself – ignoring the fact that this time a week ago I had no idea I’d be in Japan but anyway… I went to Sky Restaurant 634 (Musashi) for a fine late lunch and wow I just felt like I was on top of the world (literally). I would highly recommend this restaurant for the food but lets not pay attention to the hefty bill afterwards.
Mario Kart-ing through Tokyo
This day was probably the highlight of my Tokyo trip and the title explains it all. I dressed up as Luigi and go karted. through. Tokyo. for. 4. hours. yep. HOW AWESOME. I saw this on instagram during my quick squiz for things to do in Tokyo and did my research on how to go from driving a normal car on Aussie streets to operating a go-kart on tokyo streets – the answer was international driving license. The process was super easy, all I had to do was take a passport photo at a post office and pay for a license through RACQ. If you want to do this, you HAVE to get your international driving license in Australia – the company operating the tours were very strict about this. The tour itself lasted 3 hours and cost approximately $130 AUD. I chose the Tokyo BBQ meeting point however there are many tour durations, routes and times that you can choose from. The only way to book in through their facebook page. I chose the 3 hour one (more to see) and started at 5pm so I could see all the beautiful city lights at night. We went past Tokyo Tower, through Shibuya crossing, and the buzzing night life of Roppongi. The tour group did a quick stop on Odaiba after crossing rainbow bridge, found an empty multi-story car park and went nuts!
Harajuku is probably the most quirkiest place I have ever been and rightly so as its the centre of Japan’s most extreme teenage cultures and fashion styles.
Buzzing Harajuku is renowned for colorful street art and youth fashion, with quirky vintage clothing stores and cosplay shops along Takeshita Street, and traditional, upmarket boutiques on leafy Omotesando Avenue. Small, trendy bars fill the surrounding lanes, while dessert shops and carts specialize in sweet crêpes, donuts, and bubble tea
On one end of the street you see every colour of the rainbow and on the other, a beautiful forest that leads you to Meiji Temple. I made my way down Takeshita street first, had some tea in a cat cafe and then visited the temple. The walk through the forest was so calming, the complete opposite vibe to Tokyo as a whole. I was able to write a wish on a piece of parchment, put a donation in the envelope and sat in the courtyard of the temple to soak it all in.
Okay food really did need it’s own section. As I said above, I didn’t go to Japan with any expectations and even though I love food, I didn’t do my research. One little mishap occurred when I arrived – I thought breakfast was included with my accomodation but surprise! it was not. That was fine with me though as I knew I’d discover more of Tokyo looking for food anyway (lol). First morning I went to 7/11 down the street and oh my god, 7/11 should open up their own restaurant there. You could literally get anything from there, sushi, teriyaki chicken bowls, pastries etc. I also got a lot of snacks from underground food markets, namely the one off Shibuya Station… ‘creme brulee in egg shells’ and ‘octopus balls’ type of snacks.
I love finding a good sit down restaurant to eat at but unfortunately these were hard to come by. I did however find some AMAZING standing sushi bars (my favourite was near the Shibuya crossing) and I also had a lovely dinner at Gonpachi – from the movie “Kill Bill”. When looking for restaurants, I found looking ‘up’ was the way to go… the restaurants would be on various levels of sky rises so there was no in your face food signs that you are normally used to looking at. Street food was a big yes from me, I would go past waffle stations, vending machines and pastry shops, walking away with my hands full.
People who know me personally would already know that I always pick one activity from every country I’ve been to and do not take pictures – think of it as an unplugged experience. Well… I chose Mt Fuji but I still have a lot to say about it. I took the train early morning to Lake Kawaguchiko, hired a bicycle from a little corner shop not far from the train station and went on to ride all around the lake (picture below), through a little town and ended at Oishi Park – a beautiful lavender field laying under Mt Fuji. The train ride there was serene too, overlooking villages, the culture and then half way through, the massive Mt Fuji appeared in the background and not long after, we passed Fuji-Q Highland. It was great to get away from concrete jungle and take in the crisp air.