Winter Vacation Part 2 – Tokyo, Japan

Nicole and I spent the last few days in Osaka winning Pachinko games and seeing temples in Osaka. However, now it was on to Tokyo.

The train into Tokyo
The train into Tokyo

For both Nicole and I, we’d always dreamed of visiting Tokyo. It’s considered one of the largest cities in the world, but outside of Shibuya it never really felt like it. The city is so clean and everything is so well organized you never really feel lost in the crowd. All of the subways have marked lanes for which direction people should walk. If you are going up the stairs walk here. If you are going downstairs walk here. It was amazing that everything just worked. The trains come every 3 minutes if not sooner. They shuttle 10 million people around the city everyday and if the train is more than a few minutes late they hand out apology letters you can give to your employer as an excuse for why you were late to work. Here’s a great article on the subject. It’s remarkable. Enough about that. Let’s start at the beginning of our time in Tokyo. But first, here’s a GoPro video of Tokyo.

Arriving in Tokyo

Nicole and I arrived at Narita airport, nearly 1.5 hours from Tokyo and our AirBnB. Tokyo is a massive city, and while it doesn’t feel large walking around inside the city, it feels enormous trying to take a train from one side to the other. We took a train from the airport into the city then transferred subways twice before arriving in our neighborhood. It was in a small neighborhood just Southeast of the city, and one of the cleanest places I’ve ever been.

The neighborhood we stayed in was immaculate. I felt like I was walking around on a film set. It didn’t feel real. The streets were spotless. There were almost no cars and only the occasional bicyclist. I was surprised to find a sleepy little neighborhood inside of Tokyo. I thought for sure the most populous city on the planet would be bustling at all times in all areas.

The walk to our guesthouse was short. We checked in and met out AirBnb host. He was very friendly and spoke excellent English. He’d gone through a great deal of trouble to be a great host. He handed us a binder filled with everything we could possibly want to know about the neighborhood. He had directions to the local laundromat, bars, restaurants, a list of medicine in the bathroom, instructions for working the washing machine, everything. If you’re visiting Tokyo, I recommend staying here.

Our first Day in Tokyo

Espresso from a shipping container
Espresso from a shipping container

Our first day in Tokyo we visited Harajuku. Harajuku is a popular neighborhood for the fashion forward and trendy youths of Tokyo. We saw brightly colored outfits and wild clothes everywhere we looked. I got a few pictures of the denizens of Harajuku about town while Nicole shopped. When we’d had our fill of fashion, we stopped for some espresso at a coffeeshop made of shipping containers then made our way to what we thought was Meiji Shrine. However, what we did not know was there’s a fence separating Meiji Shrine from Yoyogi Park.

Yoyogi Park and Tandem Bikes

Riding Tandem Bikes
Riding Tandem Bikes

We walked around beautiful Yoyogi Park trying, in vain, to locate the shrine to no avail. We discovered instead a tandem bike rental place and I got to ride a tandem bike for the first time ever. I rode in the front and steered while Nicole yelled “WHEEE” behind me. It was great. Everyone should go tandem bike riding. I can’t imagine ever returning to a single bicycle. I would feel so lonely.

Shibuya

Shibuya
Shibuya

After our bike ride we walked a few minutes up the road from Harajuku to Shibuya. It’s one subway stop down and a very manageable walk for anyone interested. Shibuya is a lot like Time Square in New York. It’s mostly tourists, there are tons of bright lights and if you’re visiting the city, it’s something you have to do. Nicole and I walked through the congested streets stopping into stores, getting bumped into (watch the video), and playing arcade games. Last time Nicole and I were in Japan, we played a ton of arcade games because, one, they’re awesome, and, two, they’re everywhere. Our favorite game is this drumming game similar to DDR where you drum along to the song and math the targets on the screen. Good fun.

Dinner

After some arcading we met up with two of our teacher friends from Korea, Connie and David. They’d been in Tokyo for a week already exploring the city. We all got sushi together at a little place in Harajuku. It was a conveyor belt sushi restaurant with a twist. Instead of serving a continuous stream of sushi plates to choose from, you ordered your food from a touchpad at the end of the table. Once your food was ready, a little cart on a conveyor belt would zip right to your table. It was fast and efficient. Like tandem bikes it made the normal alternative feel bland. I was hooked.

To cap off the night we got crepes down the road. I don’t know how long Japan’s crepe craze has been going on, but it’s in full swing. There were delicious crepe places everywhere. I don’t get it, but I’m fully supportive of it.

Our Second Day in Tokyo – Disney Sea

DisneySea MapNicole and I love Disney. Back when we lived in Florida we got a 4 park Florida resident pass and visited all the parks in February when they were empty. Seeing as Tokyo also has a Disney, several in fact, Nicole and I had to go. We booked tickets for Disney Sea and made our way out to the park. Disney Sea is perhaps the most unique, and one of the newest Disney parks. If you can only visit one Disney park in Japan, make sure you see Disney Sea over Disneyland. The whole park is laid out around a giant lagoon and has many different areas. There’s a Mediterranean Harbor, Port Discovery, Mysterious Island, and Mermaid Lagoon, and several other really cool spots.

We met up with my grandpa’s friend Robin. He works for Disney in Japan. We had lunch together and he showed us around the park a little bit before returning to work. Disney was a lot of fun, especially visiting a new park I’d never been to. One of the things I was most excited about was riding the “20,000 Leagues under the Sea” ride. It used to be at Magic Kingdom in Florida. However, it was shut down and replaced with some sort of Little Mermaid photo-op. The ride definitely lived up to my childhood memories of it.

More Tokyo Awaits!

I’d hoped to write just one post for all of Tokyo but this post is running absurdly long so I’m splitting it into two posts. To read about the Ghibli museum, the Gundam Cafe, and Sensoji shrine read More Tokyo.

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