With all the awesome things I’d heard about Japan and how close I was to the country, after coming this far east from England, it was a no brainer to come and visit this weird and wonderful country. A flight from Kaohsiung in Taiwan to Tokyo Narita Airport cost £100, our flight was delayed by about 20 minutes but we landed at 21:40. I wouldn’t plan to arrive any later than that as by the time you’ve got through passport control, collected your bags and then had your bags searched you only have the option of one train to get you into Tokyo. A taxi costs something crazy like £230 so make sure you plan your arrival time properly.
On the plane you get given an arrival card and declaration card to fill out, but unless you are carrying something crazy or fresh fruit and vegetables you shouldn’t have to declare anything. You don’t have to declare your diabetes injections or needles. After going through passport control and then collecting your bags you have to queue again to hand in your declaration form. They asked us a few questions, showed us a few pictures and asked if we were carrying any of them, to which we replied no, but they still proceeded to check our hand luggage anyway. As they were doing this I told them I was diabetic and had injections, but this wasn’t a problem at all, they had a quick look and we were through, into the craziness of Tokyo. From terminal 2 its 640m to terminal 1 where the train station is located. There is a shuttle bus but we chose to walk, giving us a chance to stretch our legs after the flight. We arrived at the station at 22:46, with the train leaving at 22:51. The ticket booth was shut so we had to use the self-service machines but there was a lady there who helped us out. The train stops at Ueno station and from here you can transfer to where you need to go. We were staying in Asakusa and managed to just catch the last train, after nearly getting on the wrong one. The signage wasn’t very good so we asked a fellow passenger which train to get and he was a great help. If we had more time we’d of gone downstairs to check but it was late and the trains were stopping shortly.
I planned to spend 3 days in Tokyo, before heading off to climb Mount Fuji, so I drew myself up an itinerary in order to fit in the main things I wanted to see. I don’t normally do this but I felt like it was important to do in Tokyo as the city is so big and there is so much to do, so with no plan you could end up spending a fortune. Tokyo is a very expensive city if you are on a travellers budget but well worth it. You can save money by buying food from supermarkets and cooking in your hostel. It’s the only country so far on this trip where its so much more expensive to eat out then it is to buy food and eat in. The accommodation is expensive, the cheapest being 4 times more than China but don’t let this put you off. Japan and Tokyo in particular has to be on your list of things to do. Currently £1 = ¥131. The itinerary I drew up is as follows.
Day 1: Akihabara, Ueno Park, National Musuem, Shibuya Crossing, Metropolitan Government Building.
Day 2: Asakusa Temple, Hamrikyu Gardens, Imperial Palace, Monster Cafe.
Day 3: Going back to explore the places I enjoyed and visiting places that other travellers I spoke to recommended.
I’m not even going to try and pretend that I understood the Japanese Metro system. There are 13 lines along with some private lines and airport lines all on one map. To understand what I mean Google Tokyo Metro map. You can purchase a one, two or three day ticket but these only work on some of the lines so we chose just to pay each time we used it, and tried to walk between attractions as much as we could. Our first stop was Akihabara, which is 2 stops on a private line from Asakusa. Akihabara is the anime and video game district in Tokyo and is where you can buy electronics such as phones, cameras and laptops tax free if you have your passport. Once in Akihabara just walk around and take everything in, it is the stereotypical Japanese gaming that’s portrayed on TV, just 1000 times more Japanese then you can ever imagine. You can visit retro games shops, arcades where you can play games such as final fantasy, eat and drink in maid cafes, shop in Sony shops, Sega shops, play in more arcades, play pachinko and much much more. We spent a long time just walking around, looking at everything and having fun so before we walked up to Ueno Park we stopped for lunch. I had an omelette, filled with tomato rice, then covered in gravy with chunks of beef. It sounds weird but it was a really nice substantial meal needed after walking around all morning. One thing to note about Japanese restaurants is that everyone smokes inside and very few seem to have non smoking sections. The streets are so clean and tidy they have banned smoking in most areas and for some reason they think it’s better if everyone smokes inside.
From Akihabara it’s a 20 minute walk to Ueno Park, which was very nice and has a few temples in you can visit. If you carry on through the park you come to the national museum which I thought was quite interesting, but museums aren’t everyone’s cup of tea. I quite like to visit one museum in each capital city to help my understanding of the history and culture of the country. After the museum we caught the metro over to Shibuya to observe ‘one of the busiest crossings in the world.’ I don’t know how true that is but all I can say is its a very busy crossing. All the traffic comes to a stop and people cross from every corner, in a mad rush to squeeze through each other and get to the other side. It’s quite fun to see. There is a Starbucks with a big glass window where you can sit and watch the madness if you so wish. From Shibuya we walked for about 20 minutes up to the Menghi Shrine which is a huge shrine located in a lovely park. The parks in Tokyo are lovely, beautifully landscaped and often very quiet, so it’s a nice change from the busy city streets. From the shrine it’s another 20 minute walk to the Metropolitan Government Building which has an elevator up to the 45th floor and great views over the city. We planned to get up there for sunset, which we did with 7 minutes to spare, so we saw the city in the sun, in the sunset and then at night with all the lights and the city coming to life. It’s free to go up and see and is worth it to see the size of Tokyo. A good thing about Tokyo is that there are vending machines everywhere, which is good if your sugar level is going low, you can easily pick up a small can of coke or orange juice and chill for a bit until your sugar level rises.
On the second day we started in Asakusa, visiting the Senso-ji temple. It is Tokyo’s oldest temple and its here you can get your fortune. You pay ¥100 and shake a little box upside down and grab the numbered stick that comes out, you match the stick to the numbers that are on the drawers and remove the top piece of paper with your fortune on. You can get a small fortune, large fortune, regular fortune or a bad fortune. I managed to avoid the bad fortune but only got a small fortune, it’s a a bit of fun and a good laugh to do with a few people. From here we walked down to the river and caught a 40 minute boat to Hamarikyu Gardens. The boat and entrance ticket combined cost ¥940 and its nice to cruise down the river, with the wind blowing in your hair and seeing a different aspect of the city. The gardens were lovely, and again beautifully landscaped. There is a walkway out onto the lake where you can pay ¥510 for a bowl of Japanese green tea and a small traditional Japanese cake. It’s nice to sit in the shade in a hut on the lake, enjoying the view and experiencing the Japanese culture. Everyone sits on the floor and the waiters and waitresses wear Kimono’s and treat you as a Japanese citizen. From here we headed over to the Imperial Palace Gardens which are nice to walk around, however there is not actually much there. It’s nice to chill and walk in the shade of the trees, but it’s really just another park with some giant walls running through it. From here we headed to Shibuya to try something extremely weird and Japanese, the monster cafe. There was also the choice of a robot cabaret near by but the cover charge to get in was incredibly expensive, too expensive for a travellers budget.
On the third day we didn’t really have much of a plan but really wanted to see some Sumo. They practice in the mornings between 7:30-9:30 and you can go along to watch but they weren’t practicing on the day we went and a tournament wasn’t for a couple of day time. Ask at your hostel or hotel for a schedule and more information on this and they should be able to ring up and check when it’s on. Another option is the Tsukiji fish market but that’s a very early start, its often packed before the sun even rises and its a chance to try some fresh sushi. I however do not eat fish and even the smell can make me feel a bit sick sometimes so I decided not to do this, maybe it was the wrong option but I was happy in my decision. There is so much going on in Shibuyu, Shinjuku and Akihabara we decided to head back to these places for a stroll around, taking it easy before our night hike up Mount Fuji in 2 days time. We also reserved some bus tickets to get us over to Fuji so we picked these up from Shibuya Mark City. Somehow there is a bus station on the 5th floor of this building, and a road on the first floor too, crazy! Tokyo is a great city, maybe the best I’ve been to so far, mainly down to the friendliness of the people, the cleanliness of everything and all the weird and wonderful things you can see. The district’s are all so different its like 6 cities all squashed together. It’s very easy to travel as a diabetic, there’s plenty of food everywhere, vending machines if you need some sugar and all in all this is a city everyone should experience at some point in their life. From here we are off to climb Mount Fuji at night to get views from summit of the sun rising, fingers crossed for a clear morning and that I’ve stayed fit enough to survive the climb!!