Hi friends! It has taken me awhile but I am finally letting you in on some things I did, and learned while in Japan!
After I graduated from nursing school, I decided this would be the best time, if any, to travel! Japan is a country I have long awaited to explore; especially Tokyo being a chaotic city, full of culture, scenery, and amazing food! I went for a week, but my one regret is that I didn’t take more time to explore this one of a kind country. There was so much to see in such little time. It was beyond overwhelming, BUT makes a perfect excuse to come back in the future! Honestly, I loved it so much that I could truly see myself packing my life up and moving there for good. I don’t even think this blog post can put into words how much I fell in love with this place, but I can try to convince you!
Things to Do
- Akihabara – This district in central Tokyo is vibrant and bright even in the daytime. It’s well-known as the electronic town that definitely lives up to it’s name, with hundreds of shops selling computers, cameras, phones, etc. This place is also well-known for its absurd amount of anime and manga shops! One of the places to definitely visit in Akihabara is Mandarake, an 8 story store that sells pre-owned goods and rare collectibles of manga, anime, CDs/DVDs, dolls, toys, figurines, etc. One of the most amazing things about this place is the fact that on Sundays, the main street through the district is closed to cars. You are able to walk freely through the street, which makes for a great photo-op!
- Tokyo Station – This railway station is a capital landmark you must visit! It’s the busiest station in Japan! Tim and I spent hours here getting lost in the many underground tunnels. The tunnels are filled with clothing stores, souvenir shops, and THOUSANDS of restaurants and food vendors! I definitely suggest trying pancake cookies, frozen grapes, the famous Tokyo Banana (Twinkie’s long lost cousin), and the glass candy!
- Meiji Shrine/Yoyogi Park – In 1920, the shrine was completed and dedicated to Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken. Yoyogi park is located next to the shrine that makes up a beautiful forest within the city. Within the shrine, you can stroll through tranquility! It truly is beautiful. You are able to buy souvenirs, charms, or a wooden ornament that allows you to write a wish on it. I actually enjoyed reading people’s wishes! You may even get to see a couple getting married!
- Eat Ramen – Tim and I waited in line for an hour and a half just to eat at this popular Ramen restaurant called Ichiran. It definitely lived up to the hype in my eyes. As you enter the restaurant, you order/pay for your food through a vending machine. You then wait to be seated and given a piece of paper that gives you options on what you want in your ramen, and how you like it cooked. Long story short, this is a place you have to experience. You are seated in your own cubicle and you never see the waiter/waitress’ face! So bizarre but so cool. For those who hate interacting with society/want to be left alone, this is a great place to eat!
- Don Quijote/ 100 yen stores – Don Quijote was one of my favorite stores to explore. Why you ask? Probably because it was a 7 story discount store that carried everything from groceries, toys, clothes, electronics, makeup, skincare, and high fashion goods!
- Karaoke – There are thousands of karaoke places where you rent your own room, and are able to dress up in costumes that are provided!
- Robot Restaurant Show – I don’t even know what to say about this. Other than it is the definition of Japan. It’s weird, quirky, and you have no idea what is going on but it is awesome. It’s a mixture of a musical, play, and light show with robots and ninjas! You can either purchase tickets that include a dinner, or opt-out of the meal. I heard the dinner is sub-par so I would suggest getting some food before or after the show!
- Mario Kart – This is REAL LIFE MARIO KART. Ok this is not a drill! You are able to dress up as a Mario Kart character and drive a go-kart around the streets of Japan. Yes this legal! Just remember to get an international driver’s license before you head to Japan.
- Mount Fuji– Take a guided tour and be impressed. Just do it. Fun fact: Mt. Fuji is an active volcano!
- Kubota Itchiku Art Museum – If you’re in the Mt. Fuji area, I highly recommend visiting this museum. It was the home of Kubota Itchiku, who revived kimono silk-dyeing.
- Shibuya Crossing – If you are a Fast and Furious fan, then you will remember this as an iconic setting in Tokyo Drift. Even if you’re not a fan, you should definitely experience this chaos! It is the Guinness Book of World Records busiest street crossing in the world! An average of 3,000 people can cross at a single time! If you go to the Starbucks on the corner of this crossing, you will get the best view of this crossing! Just google Shibuya Crossing Starbucks to find it.
- Takeshita Dori – It’s where the cool kids reside. This is where fashion trends are born and teenagers hangout! It’s a narrow street lined with boutiques, food, and different shops. One of the best tourist attractions to give into is the rainbow cotton candy the size of your face!
- Owl Cafe – You get to hangout with owls, what more could you as for? Make a reservation ahead of time!
- Kyoto – Kyoto. That’s all I have to say. And Geishas. Real Geishas!
- Onsens – Relax and enjoy the hot springs.
- Golden Gai – If you’re looking for bars to go to then Golden Gai is the place for you. This is one of those rare places that has not been redeveloped and filled with hundreds of tiny bars! Some bars only allow locals, so your best bet is to search for those that have English menus placed outside.
- Piss Alley – These alleyways date back to post-war times! If you are looking for a place to eat, you can definitely wander around here for some delicious food!
- Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building – If you want a full view of Tokyo and don’t want to pay to visit Tokyo’s Skytree, then this is the place for you. You can see a 360 view of Tokyo for free.
- Taito Station – This is a paradise for gamers and you can spend plenty of time here! A mix of arcade games, and the future of gaming are put into one multi-story building.
- Sushi – If you don’t try sushi in Japan then who are you? My favorite place to get Sushi was at a Sushi place with a conveyor belt! You are able to pick up whatever slides by and if you don’t see something you want, you can order through an iPad and the Chef makes it fresh! It is then sent to your table on the conveyor belt!
- Imperial Palace – A must see, but it’s a lot of walking so be prepared!
What to Expect
- Most people spoke limited English, but it was easy to figure out what one another were saying. If you are having a lot of trouble there are apps like Converse that translates what you say into a different language.
- Japan is predominately a cash country, meaning the majority of places you go to only accept cash. I noticed credit cards were accepted at nice restaurants, hotels, taxis, or shops in the large cities but you will still want cash on hand just in case you eat at a cash only restaurant, or want to buy things at smaller shops. My advice, don’t rely on your credit card.
- Overall, Japan is safe. It blew my mind when I saw that there were thousands of bikes left on the sidewalk and not chained/locked up!
- If you plan on adventuring out of Tokyo, I suggest buying a Japan Rail Pass ahead of time. A one-way bullet train to Kyoto costed about $200! A 7 day rail pass costs about $260, so taking a one-way out of Tokyo basically pays for the pass! Although this pass is great, I need to remind you that you can only travel on JR specific transportation. Also, this is one of the things you need to purchase ahead of time before you arrive in Japan. You buy it through their website and it is sent in the mail to you.
- If you plan on doing a lot of exploration around Tokyo, I recommend purchasing a Suica card. It is basically a reloadable card that is used to ride the subway/bus systems all around Tokyo. You can purchase these at the airport or train stations! A ride on the subway was about 200 yen-less than $2, very affordable.
- There are not many places in Japan where free wifi is available. Plus you probably don’t want to risk the security issues of using free wifi. Renting a portable wifi is the cheapest way to have data/internet instead of paying an outrageous amount through your cell phone service! I paid $34 for a whole week of unlimited data! I placed an order online and picked it up at the airport.
- The majority of Japan was dressed very conservatively. I noticed most people were wearing long sleeves or covered up even though it was 90 degrees and humid! My one suggestion is to not wear anything that revealing when entering shrines and temples.
- You don’t tip in Japan, EVER. It is actually perceived as rude if you do so. At every restaurant we went to, we were given the check, then before you leave you head up to the cash register up front and pay there.
- EVERYONE AND EVERYTHING IS SO CLEAN. All the bathrooms are clean, and before you eat a meal you are handed a hot towel or a hand wipe to clean your hands!
- You have to experience a bidet. You just have to.
- If you are 6 foot or taller then good luck…the ceilings in a lot of the stores are short!
- EVERYONE IS SO NICE AND POLITE. So be nice back!
This was such a long post, so thank you so much for reading! Where should I go next?