In the words of Adele, hello from the other side… of the world! I know it’s been pretty quiet over on here over the past week and there is a good reason – I’ve been filling my days exploring every nook and cranny of beautiful Japan!
After a stint in Southeast Asia last year Paul and I knew we wanted to return to Asia soon, but we weren’t sure when our next opportunity would arise. Luckily for us it happened earlier than expected when Paul discovered he would be in China at the end of March. So last October we booked our tickets and began dreaming of the all the sushi, udon and ramen we would eat (I mean we have these dreams pretty regularly anyways…)
When you book a trip so far in advance it can feel like it’s never going to happen. Even after landing in Narita and seeing the “Welcome to Japan” sign I still barely believed I was in the place I’d first learned about during the Nagano Olympics. Yet here I was. The way the planning worked out I eneed up with a day to explore Tokyo on my own before meeting up with my favourite travel partner.
Whenever we plan a trip I tend to get an idea of which cities or countries I will love and which ones I will think are interesting, but may not steal my heart. Sometimes these ideas become reality (like Paris) and other times I’m completely surprised both for better (Scotland) or worse (Vietnam).
Tokyo was a city that I thought I’d enjoy but not necessarily fall in love with. I mean, it’s MASSIVE. No seriously, the population of the Greater Tokyo Area is 38 million people. Canada’s population is 35.2 million. Even the “smaller” cities here in Japan are comparable to Toronto.
But what I underestimated about Tokyo is the very thing that I love about Toronto, New York, Paris and London – it truly is a city of neighbourhoods.
Now, when it came to planning I knew the best way to approach all of the amazing things to do in Tokyo was by breaking down all of the reccomendations by food/drinks, sight seeing spots and shopping in each neighbourhood we wanted to visit. This was by far the best thing I did to prepare for Tokyo, because it allowed us to get to an area and have a landmark or two for when we arrived (especially in the form of coffee #jetlagstruggles).
But, my other pro-tip? Tokyo is an incredible place to just wander and discover. So definitely have a few spots in mind and then let the sights and smells lead you, because there is something amazing to see and eat on just about every winding street.
Now we covered a TON of Tokyo in our time here, so I’be broken down our time there by neighbourhood, which you can read
As we continue to make our way through this amazing country I will be sharing updates so stay tuned for Kyoto, Osaka (which we also used as a base for a few different day/overnight trips) and Okinawa.
In the meantime here are some random observations/fun facts about Japan:
- Nobody wears sunglasses (seriously, even on the brightest day)
- The streets are SO clean and yet finding a garbage can is impossible (tip – look for ones next to vending machines)
- Punctuality is king here – everything runs on time. Your Shinkensen train is scheduled to leave at 7:35am? Guses what – it will take off at 7:35am on.the.dot. So don’t be late!
- You can find seriously delicious food in mall basements and cafeterias (food halls are one of my favourite things!)
- Kawaii, the quality of cuteness, turns even the most mundane things (like scissors or day planners) into adorable accessories and can be found everrrrywhere here. Yes, everything is cuter in Japan
- Japan’s dessert game is strong💪🏻 Yes there’s the ole standby’s – Pocket, Hi-Chews and Match flavoured everything (Kit Kat’s, ice cream, you name it!). But there is so much more dessert to explore – cakes with various fillings (bean paste and even custard creams), Mochi (Japanese rice cake) and even Sakura flavoured items (try it – trust me)
- The subways are surpringsly easy to navigate – for those of you who are a little hesitant about using the metro in Japan, there is actually more English than I expected and someone is always willing to help
- The Parisian influence is really strong here – from stripes and tote bags with French sayings to cafes and boulangeries there are little snaps of French culture adorning the people and streets of Japan (sooo much baguette)
I’ve been completely blown away by the friendliness we’ve encountered as well. The other day we were standing on the street debating what to do, with our map up and someone walked over and asked if we needed help or directions. No agenda, just wanted to be helpful. The warmth of this country truly stands out.
Stay tuned to read more about our adventures across Japan!