Started my first full day in Japan doing something I would have never done two years ago. And that’s finding a good cup of coffee. For some reason about a year ago, (right around when I moved to Korea!) I’ve became a huge coffee drinker.
So I spent the morning at Coffee Nova, a cute little coffee shop by my hostel. Honestly it was the best coffee I’d drank in awhile. I also took this time to kind of plan out my day, have an idea of what I was going to do so I could hit everything I wanted to hit.
From Coffee Nova I walked about 15 minutes to the Asakusa Culture Tourist Center. On the way I got a great view of the Tokyo Skytree and the golden beer/flame/poop/sperm building. Just click the link for some pictures, you’ll understand.
The Tourist Center is situated on the corner directly outside, the famous Kaminarimon Gate. In this tourist center I picked up a 72 hour Tokyo Subway ticket for 1,500 yen. This gave me unlimited access to the Tokyo subways (NOT including the JR line) for three days. It is only sold to tourists in Japan, so be prepared to show your passport.
Finishing quickly, I was then able to go outside and take in the madness. I had read Sensoji Temple gets crowded, but I never realized just *how* crowded. It’s a tourist trap in the worst kind of way. Overpriced souvenir shops, sellers heckling you, people trying to get you to take rickshaw tours, complete with people, people, people and more people.
Once pushing my way through the crowd, I made my way with the steady stream of people up the street to the main portion of the shrine. The oldest temple in Tokyo, its flanked by two shrines and a five story pagoda. If you want to see it without lots of crowds, try to go in the off-OFF hours. Like late at night. While all the shops are closed, the temple is lit up and makes for some amazing views.
I always like to center with trips by learning about the history of my destination. It helps me understand what I am seeing and gives me a broader cultural lens. Because of this my next stop was Ueno Park. A park filled with 8 museums plus the Tokyo Zoo, you could easily spend the whole day here. Upon exiting the station though, I found myself drawn to walk through Ameyoko Market. I would come to find out later that the name translates to “Candy Alley” Market. No wonder I was drawn to it. It is a busy market with lots of international goods for sale. It used to be the site of the black market during WWII and it was where you could find American goods.
From Ameyoko Market, Ueno Park is a short walk away (if you haven’t figured it out by now, I walked a lot this trip.) In Ueno Park I made my way through the center of the park to the Tokyo National Museum. Organized really well, the museum displays art and objects from the beginning of Japanese history to the modern period. If you like Japanese swords, calligraphy, screen paintings, pottery or samurai outfits, this is your museum. I’m not much for the swords, but I was amazed by the full authentic examples of the samurai armor they have on display.
By the time I was finished, it was about 3 and I was getting hungry (notice lunch was not mentioned anywhere above). I decided to head to the man-made entertainment island of Obaida. To get to Obaida, make your way to Shimbashi Station via Shingawa Station. There’s a Blue Bottle in Shingawa Station for die-hard fans btw. (Don’t know what Blue Bottle is? Head over to my best friend’s blog, The Lists of Charlie, for more info!)
From Shimbashi Station take the elevated Yurikamome line (72 hour pass doesn’t cover this line, you have to buy a ticket) to Daiba station and that’ll drop you in the center of the entertainment island. The train ride over is actually quite fun, you cross the Rainbow Bridge and get good views of the city.
Straight out of Daiba Station I walked by the fake Statue of Liberty and into the mall AquaCity. On the 5th floor of AquaCity there is a food court, and a tiny “Ramen Theme Park.” It is an area dedicated to selling different types of ramen inspired by all areas of Japan. There are about 8 different stations. At each station you look at a screen, buy a ticket for which ramen you want, then enter the stand and hand your ticket over. Everything was really reasonably priced and it was all super filling. This is a good substitute if you WANTED to go to the famed Ramen Amusement Park but then realized that it’s really far outside of Tokyo. Like really far.
After a filling early dinner, I walked over the the adjoining mall, Decks. On the fourth floor of Decks there is the Takoyaki Museum. Unlike any “museum” I have ever been to, the whole floor is stylized as a pre-war Japanese village, with crowded shops filled with all sorts of weird trinkets. Of course, there is a whole food court dedicated to takoyaki, fried octopus. The food court has many seats with huge windows that look out over the river. I got there just around sunset and had some takoyaki while watching the sun go down.
Leaving Decks it was dark, I took a quick walk down to the man-made beach in front of Decks, to get a better view of the Rainbow Bridge. After snapping my fill of photos I walked back to Daiba Station. Instead of heading straight back to the hostel, I realized that the Tokyo Skytree was on my way home, a perfect last stop!
Once I navigated the maze that is Oshiage Station up to the Skytree, I waited in a long-looking but quick-moving line for my ticket. Up at the top, you get a true look at how expansive Tokyo really is. And I know everyone calls Paris, “The City of Lights” but they got that nickname back in 1830. And now that I’ve been to both Paris and Tokyo and I personally think that nickname needs to be re-assigned to Tokyo. The lights of Tokyo seemed to go on forever up in the Skytree.
I made a stop at the Skytree Cafe because I was thirsty. I ordered a lemonade. I was unaware that what I ordered was actually some sort of lemon-flavored vinegar and soda water. 0/10 recommend.
Getting my fill of the Skytree, it was just a short subway ride away back to my hostel. On my way back I stopped in a Japanese convenience store for a snack. Upon entry to the store I legitimately almost started crying.
In a 20 oz bottle.
For anyone that knows me, you know Dr. Pepper is my lifeblood. I mainlined the stuff in college.
I know its bad for me. I know it probably was a big contributor to my insane junior/senior year weight-gain.
But in that moment…elation.
So that’s how I ended my full day in Tokyo. Chugging 20 oz Dr. Peppers in the common area of my hostel. And in all honesty, it was perfect.
*Side note: You can get Dr. Pepper in Korea, BUT it only comes in a 12 oz can, it is SUPER rare, and it does not taste the same in my opinion.*