Beginners Guide to Tokyo

The perks of work? A week-long trip to Tokyo! A city I have LONG wanted to visit, but was never really en route to anywhere we were going. Not only was I going to Tokyo, but during the ONLY week that the cherry blossom was in full bloom! HURRAH! A very lucky coincidence, and GREAT planning by my colleague.

I’ve never fallen head over heels with big cities, and I have been in many. I normally get overwhelmed and quickly start to crave the stillness and non-judgemental beauty that is nature. But Tokyo.. I did fall in love with you.

I’m not sure quite what I was expecting Tokyo to be. But I came away with an immense and surprising impression. Here’s a few things you should know (if you didn’t already) and suggestions on places to visit:

– There are automatic toilets EVERYWHERE! These include a deodorising button, a button which produces the noise of running water and helps you disguise whatever business you are doing from the person in the cubicle next to you (!), a seat warmer button, a warm water spray to clean yourself afterwards, and with some, a lid that automatically lifts up and a toilet that flushes! INCREDIBLE! I need to get me one of these!

– Being a part of Tokyo rush-hour was a lot of fun. I found it amazing that many of the women walk in astonishingly high heels for long distances and up and down hills! I kept thinking how many bones I would have broken by the time I arrived at work, if it had been me… People were also incredibly respectful towards each other during these busy rush-hours. No pushing and shoving. No shouting. No hard words. Just people going to work. Simple.

– Many shops open at 11 or 12pm and stay open until 8pm.

– Smoking is EVERYWHERE! YUK!! Very unexpected and surprising. Restaurants, bars, cafes. You name it.

– Taxi drivers wear white gloves! SO fancy!

– Tokyo is a very clean city. People take pride in keeping it clean. And you rarely find trash cans in public. Instead of people just throwing their litter down anyway, they often took it home and recycled it (so we were told)

– The Japanese people celebrate the cherry blossom every year by having festivals over many areas of the town. They set up areas under the trees from early in the morning until late at night to eat, drink and ‘hygge’. Just to be under the beautiful trees! How wonderful and romantic!

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Stunning cherry blossom in Ueno Park

– There are MANY gorgeous and huge parks in Tokyo. Ueno Park (picture above) is beautiful for seeing the cherry blossom! There is also a range of different temples, a zoo, a street food market (only during the cherry blossom festival), a fountain, and some cafes. Based on this, it won’t surprise you to hear that there are A LOT of people.

I also visited the Imperial Palace. Set in beautiful grounds, it is a great place to walk around and to lie under the trees and just be.

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A peaceful sanctuary in the middle of the city – the Imperial Palace grounds
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Walking around the outside of the Imperial Palace grounds

– If you are early to rise, visit the fish market. I wasn’t… but went to the area in the afternoon and moseyed around the small streets next to it. There are loads of stands and restaurants selling deliciously fresh fish.

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– It’s not only about the cherry blossom! The rape blossoms in Hamarikyu Park (15 min walk from the fish market) are BEAUTIFUL!

20170402_160749– From this park, you can take a boat ride up the river to Asakusa – a very funky area full of shops and restaurants. We found some great shops for buying Japanese knives here, if that is what you are after. Also, some amazing little restaurants that make the traditional Japanese pancake, okonomiyaki. HOLY FRIGGING YUM! A DIY MUST TRY!

 

 

 

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Okonomiyaki

– Green tea is everywhere! In ice cream, strange blubbery jelly tasting things I bought from the market, cocktails, lattes…  But it tastes different to the stuff we get at home – It is more of an ‘acquired’ taste in Japan.. Try at your own risk!

– English is generally not widely spoken. But many do try to communicate if they can. I had a HILARIOUS taxi driver one evening who was desperate to extract every possible word of English he knew and try to compile lots of different sentences. We spent most of the 10 min ride giggling at each other as I had NO idea what he was trying to say. And he didn’t either. HAHA!

Tokyo has left a significant imprint in my heart that I don’t think will ever fade away. So many smiles everywhere, gentle nods of the head, so much undiscovered beauty.

Japan, I will be back.

 

 

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