Oh my goodness I have had the best day ever! I have already fallen in love with Japan!
In fact I pretty much fell in love within half an hour of being here. As we walked through customs (or dragged ourselves, we’d just had two 5am starts in a row and we were sleepless zombies) not only did they have to take your fingerprints, but they had this weird laser gun looking object, which measures your temperature when you walk past to see if you’re carrying any illnesses. Sooo futuristic!
And then, whilst waiting for our suitcases, I experienced my first Japanese toilet. My mum had said to me “just wait until you see their toilets” and I was a bit like, well, how interesting can a toilet be? THEY’RE SOOO LUXURIOUS! It’s like a weird game. The seats are heated, sometimes they have speakers which play water noises whilst you go (I’m guessing to make you feel more comfortable) and they have like 10000 different buttons for sprays and stuff. Later I would find myself in situations where the buttons would all be in Japanese and I’d be bracing myself not to get sprayed, trying them all until it flushed.
I’ve come to the conclusion that it kind of feels like I’m on a giant pub crawl, but with countries- a country crawl! Like every time I get on a plane I’m like “ooo we’re moving on, what’s the place going to be like?” Like going to different pubs and being curious as to what beers like sell or whether they have cocktails.
Everybody has heard about how clean it is in Japan, but trust me it’s PRISTINE. I don’t understand how it is so spotless. Even the buildings, which are so perfectly built it looks like somebody has taken a ruler and lined each brick up perfectly with the next, don’t seem to have a single mark on them. There doesn’t seem to be many bins here either, so it makes me wonder even more, how it is this clean.
The Japanese seem so organised and everything here runs so smoothly. Everyone knows exactly what they’re doing and where they’re going. And they are just the cutest people EVER. Any chance to help you, they are there in a flash. As soon as we approached a map when we left the train station in Nishiarai, two people came straight over to help us.
Another thing which differs Tokyo from most cities (especially Hong Kong and Manila) is that although it is a beautiful 25-30 degree heat, it isn’t muggy or humid in the slightest. The air is so clear and you can breath without feeling like you’re going to pass out! The best part about this is that I can finally take my hair down from the messy bun it’s been imprisoned in for the last two and a half weeks.
I have never been anywhere even close to this and I absolutely love it. Tokyo is in its own league. Everything is in Japanese (apart from the train stations and some restaurants which have some English translation), the vehicles seem more square and even the cash machines are fun to use and make a happy little beeping noises when you’re done like YAY YAY HERE’S YOUR CASH HAVE A GOOD DAY!
Speaking of the subway systems, don’t be intimidated. If you’ve ever used London’s tube system, you will get used to it very quickly.
We are staying in the Emblem hostel, Nishiarai and it’s lovely here. Once again, it’s spotless, the staff are very helpful and friendly and organise events which are listed in a notice board at reception, so you can sign up. They offer a simple free breakfast, which definitely makes a difference when you’re on a tight budget, and there’s plenty of supermarkets nearby, as well as sushi restaurants and a subway station.
And they have a laundry room! I have never been so excited to do laundry as I was when we arrived. The first thing I did was get my huge bin bag of dirty washing out to put in the machine. I had gone days without wearing underwear and think I had about one outfit left that wasn’t dirty. Me, being me, was made aware by Jenny that I’d actually put my washing in the tumble drier for an hour. So I had to wait for it to finish and start the whole process again!
Yesterday was our first proper day and it was everything I wanted it to be and more. After our free breakfast we bought a drink and headed to the Harajuku district. Actually, whilst on the subject of buying things, when you come across a 7-Eleven or Lawson’s, you NEED to buy these little sushi triangles, they’re so cheap and so delicious!
Harajuku was, as expected, SOOO KAWAII!! A cute, bustling, pink street occupied by crepe stalls, clothes stores, souvenir stalls, Hello Kitty merchandise and beautifully dressed girls that looked like real Anime characters. We saw my little ponies and a pet shop with kittens and puppies and Pokemon merchandise and playful music played everywhere. I wasn’t going to, but I treated myself to a really Kawaii pink dress with netting over it and it’s my new favourite thing.
They also have this huge room full of photo booths that make you look kawaii or turn you into barbies!
We were gutted to discover that the Powerpuff girl cafe no longer existed, but instead we sat in another adorable cafe and tried the crepes (they were everywhere, we had to). They did not disappoint. The crepe itself was thick and chewy and warm, the strawberries were juicy and fresh and the cream was so creamy (shock). I could have spent days walking up and down the street and would not have got bored.
One stop on the Subway and we were at Shibuya, where we came out right in front of the busiest pedestrian crossing in the world. It was amazing seeing it in the day, especially being amongst hundreds of people all crossing in different directions at the same time like a messy stampede, but we were buzzing to go back at night and see it lit up. So many different colourful signs and advertisements lit up Tokyo.
Whilst admiring the buildings and colours, a Japanese lady with a video camera approached me and asked to video me(she liked my bright blue lipstick and outfit). I went along with it waving, blowing kisses and growling, taking the mick a bit, thinking it was just for her. She was then approached by two Japanese girls (one of them shaking in excitement) who were ecstatic to meet her and asked for a photo with her. One can only assume she must be some sort of blogger or YouTube make up tutorial artist? But she must be pretty well known in Japan, which now means that somewhere, online, there is going to be a really embarrassing video of me for the public to see. CRINGE CRINGE CRINGE.
We met up with our new friends- Heidi from Denver and Geeta from Sydney and went to a cheap and highly recommended underground ramen restaurant called Ichiran. The queue was fairly large, but it was so worth the wait. There’s a machine where you line up and click on/ pay for all the additions you want to your ramen, then they give you a form to fill out to determine how spicey and garlicy you want it, then you wait to be seated.
The seating plan was one of the best bits! There was just two rows, with the kitchen in between them. Everyone had their own little wooden booth, with bamboo blinds in front of them which the kitchen staff rolled up to take your paper with your order and give you your food and drink. We were saying how the wood in between us was probably a good idea because the ramen was so good that we ate like animals and would have probably splattered broth allover each other.
Seriously though, a pint of Asahi and that bowl of ramen was the best combination. How could something so simple taste that delicious. The noodles were the perfect softness and the broth had so many different flavours.
With full and satisfied stomachs we got another can from a 7-Eleven to drink whilst walking to the karaoke bar (yes I may have left England, but England clearly hasn’t left me). Our walk was interrupted but a fun little street gig. A really enthusiastic and talented Japanese band played drums and guitars and sang on the street and we all danced around them. We didn’t understand the words, but that didn’t matter.
Karaoke was SOOOO FUN! We went to Karaoke Kan (from the film ‘Lost in translation‘) and I could have carried on for hours and will definitely be encourage my friends at home and other travellers along my journey to go to karaoke nights. The four of us had our own private room and we got to take maracas and tambourines and there was funky lights that made patterns on the ceilings and walls and there were two microphones.
The song choice was so widespread and of course we did the classics- Oasis, Adele, Madonna, Beyonce… you name it! I’m really going to try and save some money so we can go again towards the end of our trip.
The journey back to the hostel was fun, drunken people stumbled along the streets and an American guy told Jenny he was going to England next week and when she asked where he said Belgium. We got back quite late; our hostel is actually quite far from the centre of Tokyo which has been the only issue.
We have a lot of things left to do on our Tokyo to do list; the robot restaurant, SEGA arcade, Alice and Wonderland restaurant and so much more…hopefully we will get a chance to do it all before we head up to Mnt. Fuji!