Tokyo | Japan

10 July 2015 – 16 July 2015

Up until this point in our trip we have pretty much winged accommodation – the odd pre-booking here and there, but a lot of the time we arrive in a city with a loose plan of where we might stay and just see what happens. Japan was a bit different as we pre-booked the lot. We just weren’t sure how things were going to pan out and we were worried that not booking was going to mean higher prices on arrival.

We sussed out a sweet place to stay in Tokyo on Air BnB. We had been trying to find somewhere in the Asakusa area, but when we spotted this gem in Koenji, we just couldn’t turn it down. At around $41 kiwi a night, we had our own small apartment for less than the price of a dorm bed for one person. WINNING.

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Sunset from the Koenji square.

The only issue with the room, which the host was very clear to point out in the listing, was that it had no shower, but we could just use the public showers down the road.

Oh my.

Day 1 – I walk the ten minutes to the public showers and they’re closed. But it’s 9am? Weird. I wait around for a while. Try open the door. I stop some men walking past and they tell me the public baths are open between 3.30pm and 1.45am! ‘Cause those are the times that I really want to shower right? No. After a night on a tatami mat in the worlds stuffiest room I really wanted a morning shower. Return home and dig out the baby wipes. Hollie = unhappy.

Japan 1 – H&M 0

Day 2 – I know not to bother walking to the showers this morning – learnt that yesterday. Have a wee bit of a splash under the hand basin tap in the toilet in our room. Later than night we swing by the public showers with our towels. It’s almost $7 NZD per person for one lousy shower. No. No, Japan, no. If we’d known it was going to be that much we would have booked somewhere else that actually had a shower in the apartment. An additional $14 a day is a deal breaker for us right now. And who needs a shower anyway?

Japan 2 – H&M 0

Day 3 – We spot a sign on a building near the square in Koenji – it says 24 hour and has a picture of a shower. We get in the elevator and go to the fifth floor. The door opens and it’s a DVD store FULL OF PORN. Lots and lots of Japanese porn. The men welcome us in. It’s really awkward. Michael asks about the shower and we’re shown to a vending machine where we can buy a tokens for the showers – we can also hire a room and watch a DVD if we like too! The man asks if we want one shower or two. We tell him we might come back later. What we really meant was that we don’t ever plan on showering in his porn shop. We slink over to the exit and wait for the elevator.

Japan 3 – H&M 0

Day 4 – So I notice that in the toilet in our apartment there is actually a drain in the floor. Drains are for water. This is brilliant. I have a right old splash under the tap from the hand basin. I even attempt to wash my hair. BOY AM I FEELING SWISH TODAY. I think about how firken’ cheap we are. Oh my lord. Look at us. LOOK AT US. We’re so stingy. Singy and unglamerous! I’m starring down the barrel of six days without a shower, technically, by choice.

Japan 4 – H&M 0

Day 5 – Brain wave. I cut an empty Coke bottle in half and use it to pour water from the hand basin tap, over my head while I stand over the toilet in our tiny room. I’m a genius.

Japan 4 – H&M 1

Day 6 – I’ve forgotten what it feels like to have a gentle stream of warm water fall on my head – all I know is a tap and half a coke bottle. Then I tell myself to shut up and I kick my own ass – how many people in the world have never had an actual shower let alone a bucket shower with clean water?

Japan 4 – H&M 2

That night we took an overnight bus to Kyoto. Six days in Tokyo, no shower and an overnight bus. It’s fair to say we were both feeling a bit worse for wear when we arrived.

Anyway, Koenji was a great location to stay in Tokyo. There was a supermarket near by and the area had a bit of a local feel while not being too busy.

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Koenji square entertainment. A man with a hose thing down his throat singing Daft Punk.

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Cute little local reataurants.

Back to our room – apart from the shower, the other slightly strange thing about the room was this guy starring at us all night.

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Hold on, I’ll give you a close up of his little weasel face,

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AH!

Even in the dark, you could make out his shadow and his beady eyes – piercing your soul alllllll night.

Looks like an armadillo but it’s not. It’s a pangolin.

Anyhoo.

I guess you’d say we did most of the normal ‘tourist’ stuff in Tokyo. We kicked off in day one by walking from Koenji – Shinjuku, we could have taken the train, but by walking the six or so kilometres we had the chance to soak in the residential backstreets. Shinjuku itself was a bit fancy, we did a spot of shopping and replaced a few clothes, had some food but the highlight was probably taking the elevator to the 45th floor of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building. There was no charge to check out the views so I guess it’s kind of like the poor mans Tokyo Tower or Sky Tree – but I’m fine with that. So fine with it that we went twice – once in the day and once at night.

From there we carried on to Meiji Jingu Shrine. It was quite busy in the shrine grounds itself so here’s a picture of the entrance gates.

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On the path between Meiji Jingu and Yoyogi Park there were a whole bunch of these pretty sake barrels.

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Yoyogi Park seems to be the place where locals go to do anything and everything.

And just around the corner is Harajuku.

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It was unbelievably busy. Too much for this Invercargill girl. Too many people! I did learn one important thing though.

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Sandles and socks people. You heard it here first.

A bit further down the road is Shibuya and the famous busy crossing.

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Can you spot Michael?

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Tokyo is blimmin’ huge. So on another day we took a train and walked around Asakusa. What a busy place.


I made some friends along the way.

We followed the river down to Ryogoku Kokugikan to visit the sumo hall and museum.

We weren’t able to see any wrestling though as it was the wrong time of year.

On our final day we took a stroll around the gardens near the Imperial Palace.

And in between all of that we managed to spend two whole days lazing on the grass, reading, drinking Orangina (yum!) and watching the world, outside Nanako University, which was very close to where we were staying in Koenji. We also made a second trip back to Yoyogi Park and shared a bottle of wine with the lovely Miss Stacey Last who has been living the Tokyo dream for the last couple of years.

OBSERVATIONS

I was expecting and even hoping to experience huge culture shock when we arrived in Tokyo, and while it was big and busy and exciting, it didn’t get me like I thought it would. Maybe it was because we had come from Seoul. Maybe my expectations were sky high. Either way, here are a few things that stood out in our first week in Japan.

1. The trains and subways are crazy. We didn’t even come close to beginning to understand how they worked. Look at it.

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Madness.

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We nailed one railway line from where were staying to central Japan – that was it. It would have been handy to have know a little Japanese – maybe then it would have made some sort of sense.

2. The advertising and billboards were just as good as I had hoped

3. Same goes for vending machines. They really are everywhere.

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4. I wasn’t expecting to see so many bikes. Whole families and a week worth of groceries all on one bike. Impressive.

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5. The food was maybe a little more deep fried than I had anticipated and fruit was SO expensive, but here are some of my faves. Sushi, katsu, AND THE CUSTARD FISH!

Costs

Rate 1 NZD = 79.89 JPY | All prices in NZD unless stated

  • Accommodation booked on Air Bnb | Koenji – $41.33 p/n
  • Bus Narita airport – Tokyo Station – $12.50 p/p
  • Tokyo Station – Koenji Station on JR Line – $3.88 p/p
  • Sushi roll from Koenji Station – $1.24 each
  • Red bean or custard shaped fish pikelet – $1.63 each
  • Chicken katsu – $7.38
  • Pork katsu – $6.13
  • Six fresh sashimi sushi from supermarket – $5.75
  • Six pieces of sushi from supermarket – $3.56
  • One sushi triangle (like a sushi ball) – $1.22
  • Six cans of beer – $8.11
  • Six carrots – $1.36
  • Overnight bus Tokyo – Kyoto | Willer Express – $49.45 p/p
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