Tokyo, Japan: November 2016

Right after Germany I traveled to Tokyo with some friends – I have been wanting to go to Japan ever since I moved to Korea, knowing that it was only a two hour flight.  But for some reason, I just never got around to going.  The tipping point was a friend of mine used to live in Japan and was planning to go, so I figured it would be a great opportunity to hop on and join.

I landed in Seoul and stayed in the airport while I waited for Andy to drive my car to the airport with my weekend bag.  Since our return flight arrived late we needed a car at the airport because the bus stops running at 10:30PM.

As is the norm, first stop once past security and immigration was the Asiana lounge.  I really needed a shower after flying all night/morning.  On this trip it was me, John, Andy, and James.

Our flight took off on time, and they even served a meal even though it was a 2 hour flight.  I don’t suggest eating it because it was the most disgusting thing I’ve ever had, and that’s surprising because Asiana usually has really good food…

By the time we landed we only had about 30 minutes to catch the train, so we rushed as fast as we could through immigration and towards the train – the ticket guy was slow and deliberate, but we at least got the tourist discount.

There is also the equivalent of Korea’s CU, and that’s Family Mart.

Airport train

It’s about an hour into central Tokyo, and we stayed in Shinjuku.  Once we got off I knew it was going to be a good weekend just by looking around – everything was so clean, orderly, and the air was clear!

From the station we had to walk to our AirBnb, which was about 15 minutes.

Our AirBnb was everything we needed, with nothing extra.  It was a comfortable space and even though we were 4 people, we weren’t too cramped.

View from the room

Even though it was almost midnight by this point we set out to find what Tokyo is known for – Ramen.

Most of the time, you order from one of these machines and then give the ticket to the Ramen chef.

No frills kitchen, with most of the space in the establishment is seating at the counter.

And then of course, the Ramen –

The ramen was amazing.  There’s really no other way to describe it, it’s just so flavorful and tasty and really, really good.  And FRESH!  So much effort goes into making ramen, and it shows.

After we ate we decided to sight-see around Shinjuku, there’s this area called Golden Gai which is about 200 bars that are each the size of a bathroom that you can go in and get a drink at.  I mean each bar seats about 4-6 people, and that’s it!

When we chose our Airbnb we wanted to be in a centralized location, but I guess we didn’t realize that while it makes everything close to walk to, you also have to put up with the crowds and noise…

Next morning we finally got to see what our area looks like from our balcony.

We wanted to get a fairly early start, so we set out at 9 but didn’t end up eating until a bit past 11 because we stopped to buy a SIM card and look around a bit.  We found a small shop that served a few different types of things like curry and udon, so we stopped in.  It had about 10 stools inside and of course you had to buy a ticket outside first.

I got udon with a fried onion on top.

Next was picking up a metro card and jumping on the subway!

James told us about a huge park near Shinjuku so we went to go check it out, because it was a fantastic day with a deep blue sky so it would be perfect for a few photographs.  Plus, Japan is known for it’s gardens.

They also had an arboretum.

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It’s hard to describe, but the entire place was immaculately maintained and the amount of detail and thought put into everything was astounding.  It seemed like someone put so much effort simply into where to place trees, it was phenomenal.

This flower took a year to grow and has only one root and hundreds of flowers.

The garden also had a tea house, where we stopped in to get some tea.

From there we went to an area known for gaming and arcades, which we spent a bit too much time at… In the meantime walking over there we passed by some overhead freeway systems which reminds me of pictures of the earthquake way back when.

Hard to see because it blends, but there’s a bullet train crossing the bridge in the background.

My favorite thing was watching the subway trains and regular trains on elevated tracks moving through the city.

Arcade!

We spent waaay more time there than we should have, but it was amazing seeing all the different kinds of games and just the sheer amount of people who were in there playing.

I am still completely fascinating with the different layers of the city- I love the elevated subway system they have in some areas.

As is usual, you always have to get sushi in Japan.  Although this place was pretty… Meh, I mean it was a restaurant for shellfish and grilled fish that also had a sushi counter – so it was partially our fault.

And I thought Korea has a lot of lights…

Nightlife was fun, the people are super nice and even though they don’t speak much english they do what they can with gesticulations.

The following day we packed our bags and headed to Tokyo Tower, and the temple next door.  Japanese temples are by far out of this world fascinating.  I mean, the level of detail in the structure, and the colors, materials, proportions, EVERYTHING.

By this time it was closing in on lunch so we set out to find some food, and on the way stumbled upon an interesting parking situation.

Around the corner we stepped into a ramen shop which had the best ramen I have ever had in my life.  Seriously, it was really, really good.  As in, I’ll talk about it for years to come.

And it was a place with 10 seats and narrower than my dorm room in college.

I found the apartment buildings to be fascinating, each apartment is so small and narrow – it makes me want to try living in a studio apartment!

I know I’ll be back in Tokyo but I wasn’t sure when, so a must-see for me was the imperial palace.  This really blew me away with the attention to detail, overall beauty, and the manicured state of everything.  I was in awe the entire time.

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By this time it was time to head to the airport for our evening flight, so we departed Tokyo station and headed for Narita.  Once at the airport we of course, got some airport sushi.

Without a shadow of a doubt, this was an awesome two days.  I absolutely love Japan and will be back beginning of next year.  I’m so happy I finally got to go, and it’s my next “random weekend trip” destination.  The people are so nice, the food is amazing, and the sights are stunning.

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