The above is a video from my trip there. If you can't play the video, click here.
In late 2016/early 2017, three friends of mine and I went for the first time of our lifes to Japan. In this article, I explain a few things about this fabulous country and I tell our trip.
A few words that you will need
- Ohayō gozaimasu: in the morning (pronunciation: oh-hah-yoh goh-za-ee-muss)
- Konnichiwa: basically anytime, or most specifically in the afternoon (pronunciation: kohn-nee-chee-wah)
- Thank you: Arigatou gozaimasu, although gozaimasu is optional but more polite (pronunciation: aligato goh-za-ee-muss)
Good to know
- They love green tea, you will get some in almost every restaurant.
- They drive on the left hand side. So, be careful on escalators, in most cities people will stand on the left hand side and walk up or down on the right hand side (not in Osaka though).
- There are few public benches and garbages bins for mysterious reasons (1995 attack or overload of trash, homeless sleeping on benches...?). You will however find convenience stores (called konbinis) at every corner in which there are trash cans that you can use.
- Buy a Suica card or Pasmo card for transportation (bus, subway, trains), so convenient! Both will work in most cities (Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka and Nara all accepted my Suica card). They basically do the same job.
- Wishing to buy English books in Tokyo? Go check out Kinokuniya in Shinjuku or Book 1st, both separated from a walkable distance.
- Regarding cash withdrawals, ATMs from 7-Eleven do not charge fees.
- Most convenience stores are open 24/7 (7-Eleven stores are almost everywhere).
- There are cheap lockers inside train stations that you can use to avoid carrying your luggage, when travelling (prices vary between ¥300 and ¥700, depending on the size).
My trip in 2016, city by city
On the first day, we landed at night at Haneda and went straight to our hostel, ARTNSHELTER. The next day we visited Odaiba and saw the Giant Gundam Statue. Then, we took a night bus to Osaka, quite pricey! The next morning, we arrived in Osaka around 7am. We did the whole city in a day: Umeda Sky Building (we could not go up there though because it was not open yet, we were too early), Osaka Castle and an amazing street on which there is a famous tower named Tsūtenkaku, located in Shinsekai. At night, we took a train for Kyoto.
We had booked a comfortable Airbnb, very cheap and well located. We stayed there for 3 days and 4 nights. Here is what we visited in Tokyo during our stay there:
- Higashiyama-ku and Shōhō-ji Temple (in the same ward)
- Fushimi Inari-taisha (we went to the top, wonderful!)
- Arashiyama: Iwatayama Monkey Park and the Bamboo Grove
- Sanjūsangen-dō: an astonishing discovery
- Kyoto Imperial Palace
Pro tip: during one day, we rented bikes which allowed us to go around more easily for only a few euros (roughly 10€ per person if my memory serves me well).
One evening, we went to a very nice bar, BAR ZAZAVIE (ザザビー). Great atmosphere, a bit expensive though. The one time we went there we were lucky enough to witness a jazz music concert. Address: 67−3 Kitanoshimohakubaichō, 603-8326 Kyōto-fu, Kyōto-shi, Kita-ku. Another evening, we went to a great restaurant called Kushihachi. It has delicious sushis and the staff is friendly. Address: 33-1 Kitanokamihakubaichō, 603-8325 Kyōto-fu, Kyōto-shi, Kita-ku.
Then, we left Kyoto and took a train for Nara. There we did the city in a day: Tōdai-ji, Nara Park, famous for its deer and Kasuga-taisha. At the end of the day, once again we took a night bus, for Tokyo this time.
We spent some of the remaining days in a cosy Airbnb, not too far from the Tokyo Skytree that we did a few days later. Here is a list of some of the places we visited:
- Shibuya and its world–renowned crossing, which can be observed from the first floor of the Starbucks. Furthermore, Shibuya has a restaurant we enjoyed many times, Sushi-Nova: sushis served on conveyor belts, automatically; quite cheap (or at least very affordable). GPS coordinates of Sushi-Nova: 35.660140, 139.698121.
- Asakusa and the Sensō-ji temple: great area! If you get a chance to find a hotel or a Airbnb room there, go for it! It is very relaxing and quiet.
- Ueno Park and its zoo (the zoo was closed though)
- Yoyogi Park and Meiji Shrine
- Two towers: as I wrote above, the Tokyo Skytree plus the Tokyo Tower (the one that almost looks like the Eiffel Tower)
- Tsukiji Fish Market
- Roppongi: Maman (a giant spider sculpture). There's an observation deck at the top of the building next to the sculpture, if you're willing to pay (we weren't).
- Akihabara: the video games/manga neighborhood
Eventually, the last day we left Tokyo from Narita airport. The cheapest and most convenient way to reach that airport from downtown is by riding one of THE ACCESS NARITA's buses.
Things I wish I did
- Go kart in Tokyo. Note that it requires a driving licence translated in Japanese (it costs a few euros).
- The Shinkansen high-speed train
- Get a better view of the Mount Fuji (go closer?)
- Witness sumo wrestling