06 April 2012

Tokyo Travels... with details!

A couple weekends ago, Amos and I took a spontaneous overnight trip to Tokyo. It's under a two hour trip on the Shinkansen, and we wanted to take advantage of being so close to the world's largest city. Embarrassingly, we might not have known it was the world's largest city until we were walking around and asked Siri. (Siri's answer: Tokyo metropolitan area has 37.2 million people). How did we not know this? I thought I paid attention in school.

View of Tokyo from the Metropolitan Building

Since we've been in Japan, I've been Googling and reading blogs like crazy to find how to get places, where to stay, what to do. Cue moment of self-reflection when I realized that I never put details like that in my blog posts. So here it is! A blog post with details, not just pith and reflection! You're welcome, to-be travelers.  Click below if you want to see photos and read more...

We took the JR Tokaido Shinkansen from Nayoga Station to Tokyo Station. It's 110 minutes and extremely easy. We left Nagoya around 9:30 and arrived in Tokyo just after noon. We had planed to leave much earlier, but we had also planed to have a quiet Friday night in... Instead we got talked into Yamacha-ing and Karaoke-ing until past 1AM. We are disastrously susceptible to peer pressure.

For a reserved seat on the JR Tokaido, tickets are ¥10,070 each way, which is about $125 USD. Not cheap. I just learned that you can get tickets for cheaper if you get a "Hikari Hayatoku Kippu" (¥9,200) or the "Puratto Kodama Economy Plan" (¥7,900). These require a day's notice and a reservation on a specific train line. We didn't do either, flew by the seat of our pants, and travelled in the most expensive way possible. 'Cause that is how we roll.

We did spring for a reserved seat so we could make sure to sit together. Sometimes with the non-reserved, you take your chances finding two seats next to each other. With it being a longer train ride, and our newlywed codependence, we splurged to sit together. Awww... One day we'll be sick of each other and more interested in saving money than proximity, but we're not there yet.

Tokyo Sky Tree and Asahi Brewery

We stayed at Hotel Niwa. We scored a great last minute deal, and we were pretty impressed with the quality of the room and hotel. The room was small (this is Tokyo, after all), but totally manageable. Truthfully, the location was kind of meh; It was a five minute walk from a subway stop and the Tokyo Dome, but there's not much to do around the hotel except catch a train somewhere else. I would stay there again if I found a killer deal. Otherwise, we'll look to more central locations, like Shibuya or Shinjuko or Ginza, or we'll look to more unique and artsy hotels.

The view from under clear umbrella, 'ella, 'ella.

When we first arrived, we took a rainy walk of the Imperial Palace Gardens. I actually loved it. It was empty, and with our boots and umbrellas, we had the place almost to ourselves. It was a nice change of pace from the intensity of the crowds in Tokyo, and an easy way to stretch our legs from the train ride. (It's right next to Tokyo Station). The sakura were not yet out, but the plum blossoms were beginning to show, and it was beautiful.

We met up with Saori, a good friend of Amos' that lives in Tokyo. The first thing she asked us: Do you want to see historical Tokyo or weird Tokyo? We didn't even hesitate: Show us weird, Saori. Show us the weird.

We saw girls dressed up in Lolita Goth, entire shops devoted to dog clothing and condoms (they were separate shops, to be clear), Kit-Kats flavored like pancakes, and fake boobies to stuff down your shirt. Let's just say that Saori delivered on her promise.

Since this was our first time in Tokyo, we also had to do the standard touristy things like the Shibuya crossing and the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building. I'd bill both of those as a 'don't miss' but I probably won't swing by them the next time we're in the city. Once is enough.

My most vivid impression of Tokyo was the crowds. Holy moly, there are a lot of people in that city. (This, actually, inspired us to ask Siri in the first place). By the end of our second day, we were getting used to it, but it was quite overwhelming at first. Honestly, I wouldn't hit Tokyo as a first stop in Japan. I'd travel a bit, get used to the language, culture, transportation, and then head to the big city.

We saw a shinto wedding at Meijing Jingu Temple. Amos made fun of me that I stopped and watched. I protested: everyone else is watching! Wedding are happy; People want in on the joy. Besides, when I was getting married, I secretly loved that everyone on the street was looking at me as I walked around in my dress. I felt like a million bucks.

Besides a wild goose chase to a whisky bar that was closed for a private party, we easily found great food and drink in Tokyo. We ate Japanese flavored Korean BBQ to pancakes topped with pork and eggs that were cooked at our table. We even found some Lagunitas beer! I accidentally ordered a lager, which I really don't like (I don't know what I was thinking). Amos came to my rescue and traded me for his pale ale, even though it's clearly the superior beer. He is the nicest husband ever, officially.

On the way home, we grabbed eki-ben on the platform before boarding. It's bento boxes sold especially for travelers. They were delicious and made the Shinkansen feel even more swank.

All in all, we really enjoyed our time in Tokyo, especially seeing Saori. It was much more vivid then Nagoya. People were dressed up in all sorts of clothing, things were more informal, crowded, bustling, lively. Nagoya is home to people in conservative business suits, where jeans are always underdressed, and even the most crowded train has nothing on Tokyo. I heard that our city has a reputation for being a little 'provincial' compared to Tokyo and Osaka (we only have 8 million in the metropolitan area).

Honestly, I think that's just fine with us.


  1. It's mind boggling to think there are cities/metropolitan areas with that many people.

    I've always wanted to visit Tokyo (and pretty much all of Japan). My dad went to high school in Yokohama and I love hearing his stories.

    Also, another Seattle blog friend just recently moved to Japan! Her fiance is in the Navy and got stationed there. You were both at the penis festival at the same time. Ha!

    Here is the link to her blog in case you want to connect. I've hung out with her several times and she's really fun.


  2. Wow! Small world - I'll look her up. Thanks Stevie!

  3. You felt like a million bucks becuase you LOOKED like a million bucks. Also you still do- that first photo of you is stunning! (you're so pretty, wanna be friends??)

    Glad you two are traveling! And still liking each other! :)


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