It’s almost been 2 months since I’ve returned from my biggest adventure yet! Going to Japan! Before we left, I had made an Itinerary. I’m so happy that I did, it made exploring Tokyo and Kyoto easier. All the research I did before we left was also super helpful. I took as many pictures as I possibly could and didn’t stick to my Itinerary 100%. However, I still enjoyed my trip and we had a lot of fun. Here is our trip to Tokyo! I’ve decided to break this post into two since it is a bit long. I hope you enjoy part 1! It includes the first 6 days of our adventure!
November 1st – Traveling to Japan
I woke up about 4 hours before I needed to on November 1st. I was so unbelievably excited, yet anxious at the same time. During the hours before we went to the airport, I triple checked everything! I made sure we had our passports, our JR rail pass vouchers, our studio ghibli tickets, our ryokan hotel paperwork, my clothes, etc. I think my Fiance was getting frustrated with my constant questions about if he had everything. I was a mess, but I wanted to make sure we had everything. Two weeks away from home is a long time.
After everything was checked a third time, we headed out to the airport. My parents took us, I was so excited for this adventure that I couldn’t contain myself. However, when we got to the airport we noticed that there were a lot of people there. More than usual for our tiny airport. We got there nearly two hours before our plane was going to take off. We needed every minute. Our airport is small, and it never takes long to get through security. Of course, when we had our big trip, it was the day everything was backed up and delayed. It took us 45 minutes to even check in our bags because there was only one clerk checking bags for nonpriority passengers. We quickly went to security, and it was the longest line I had ever seen for my airport. It took us close to an hour to get through security. By this point in time, I was panicking. As we were standing in line to get to the final point of security, over the intercom I hear “Last call for flight (Our flight number)”. I was freaking out, this cannot be how our journey to Japan starts! Not with missing our first flight!
We got through security and ran to our gate. As I said earlier, it’s a small airport, we didn’t have to run far but we made it! When we got settled into our seats, the airplane captain said over the intercom “We are delaying take off because we are missing 30 passengers”. It made me feel better to know it wasn’t just us. The flight eventually took off and we arrived at our connecting airport. Then after an agonizing 2-hour wait, we boarded our plane to Japan!
Our 14-hour flight was going to be spent in Delta Comfort + and I was so happy. The flight honestly didn’t feel like 14 hours, it was a smooth flight and I kept falling asleep. I did manage to take some good pictures while in the air though.
November 2nd – Arriving in Tokyo
We landed in Tokyo around 2 pm local time November 2nd. Losing a whole day didn’t feel like a lot since I had been dosing in and out of sleep, only to be woken up by food or drinks. This made the 14-hour flight and the fact that I lost a whole day feel like a lot less. We landed without any issues, and I was able to see Mt. Fuji on our descent!
Once we got off the plane we went through security and border patrol. It was a relatively simple and smooth process. Japan has everything so organized. It only took us about 10 to 30 minutes to get through everything. Then it was my first task! Finding the post office at the airport so we could pick up the pocket wifi I had ordered! This was an easier task than I thought it would be. We found a map almost right away and found it. Now armed with our pocket wifi I felt better about being able to navigate.
We followed the signs to get to the JR Office so we could turn in our JR rail pass vouchers into the real thing. They have conveniently placed the JR office near the trains. It didn’t take us long to activate our rail passes and book tour two shinkansen (bullet train) tickets. Everyone in the office spoke perfect English so there was not really a language barrier. Now, with all my research I learned that the JR rail pass does not cover all of the rail lines. So to ease our travels on other rail lines we decided to get IC cards. We went with pasmo since it was the first one we saw.
You go up to a ticket machine, change the language to English, select if you want to reload a card or buy a new card, put your money in and it spits out an IC card loaded with the amount. There is a 500 yen fee for getting a new card, but it was fine. We both put 3,000 yen or about $30 on each of our cards and we were good to go! Using the Navigation app I found which train we should take to get to the station near our Air BnB apartment we were renting. The train ride made us both a bit tired but it was amazing. I dreamed of riding on a Japanese train ever since I was little and here I was traveling to my Japanese apartment on a train. It felt unreal.
When we arrived at our train station, we quickly found the apartment using google maps. Again, I cannot emphasize how amazing having a pocket wifi was. Once settled in the apartment we realized how hungry we were. I had located a couple of chain restaurants I wanted to eat at before we left for Japan. One of them being Kura Sushi, and there was one about a 15-minute walk from the apartment. So with the help of google maps, we made our way and got there. This one was not English friendly at all, and I had to use my small amount of Japanese to get us a table. I also had to use it to listen out for our table number once it was called. That was a bit stressful, but I did it! We sat down and ate some of the best cheap sushi I think we’ve ever had.
The Kura sushi we went to also had capsule toy prizes. For every 5 plates you turned into the little slot, the iPad you make your orders from would run a little video. The video changes, but if you win you get to get a capsule toy! After eating about 20 plates, we won one! The cost of the 20 plates was around 2,500 yen or about $25. This was our first taste of cheap delicious Japanese food.
November 3rd – Studio Ghibli & Sunshine City!
Our apartment was in the Sumida area of Tokyo, which is about an hour and a half train ride from the Studio Ghibli Museum which is in Mitaka. It was our first long train ride and we also had to switch not only train but train lines! I think for some people the train system in Japan can be off-putting, but for me, it was super easy to use and understand. Once we arrived at the train station we realized we were starving and decided to do the only logical thing, have ramen for breakfast! We found a 24/hr Ichiran Ramen nearby and had our first taste of tonkatsu ramen. It was amazing, and honestly a perfect breakfast.
After we ate we had a 15 – 25-minute walk to the actual museum. We had the option of staying on the main road or cutting through the Inokashira Park. Of course, we took the cutting through the park option. I got a lot of really go photographs and we got to enjoy nature. There were also a lot of vending machines, even though we had only been in Japan for less than 24 hours, we were already in love with the vending machines. My Fiance especially loved the melon soda and the fact that we could get hot chocolate. During our stay, we ended up getting a lot of hot chocolate.
Our walk to the museum was a bit longer than it had estimated, mostly because we kept getting distracted by everything in the park. As soon as we arrived near the museum we saw the most adorable sign, it was a Totoro pointing us in the right direction. When we got to the museum there was already a long line, I got our papers and passports ready. It literally took us maybe 10 minutes to get into the museum, I was impressed by the efficiency. Unfortunately, the museum has a strict rule of no photography. So I do not have any pictures of the inside. But I do have some of the outside building.
After the museum filling my heart with child like joy. We decided to follow the itinerary and go to the main poke center! We hoped back on a train and ended up at the right station. I also wanted to stop by the KitKat chocolatary while we were in the area. Little did I know, it was actually in the train station! One thing I learned while in Japan was that there are giant shopping centers hidden everywhere you go. We wandered into this one searching for the KitKat chocolatary and we found it. It was a little stand in the back corner. I bought what I wanted and we headed out to the Pokemon Center. The main Pokemon Center in Tokyo is located inside of sunshine city. Which is an amazing building filled with a ton of stores. Once we figured out the map of sunshine city, we found the Pokemon Center and bought all the goodies we could get our hands on. By this time, it was time for dinner. When we were looking at restaurants located in sunshine city, coco curry was on the list! I knew where we were going as soon as I saw it. We navigated through sunshine city and found it where we had my first taste of coco curry. Let me tell you, it was worth the wait.
Our day was jam-packed full of traveling around Tokyo, by the time we ate dinner we were tired and ready to head back to the apartment. That is exactly what we did. We went back to the apartment with our bellies full and our hands full of souvenirs. It was our first full day in Japan and I was already in love.
November 4th – Akihabara & Ueno Park
Akihabara is known for all things nerdy in Tokyo. I’m a giant nerd and so is my fiance so we were excited to go! We arrived at another train station we had never been to before, at this train station, there was an Onigiri shop right as we got off the train. After buying a salted shrimp onigiri and a shrimp tempura onigiri we went in search of a place to sit down. Well, we didn’t find one, so we stood on the side of the sidewalk and ate them. They were so good!
Since I hadn’t put much on our itinerary for exploring Akihabara, I looked up so local attractions. One of them being an origami museum named Origami kaikan. When I was younger I loved to do origami, one time I even tried to make a thousand cranes! That didn’t happen, but I still remember how to fold cranes to this day. On our walk to the Origami museum, we stumbled upon a temple! We decided to come back to the temple on the way back from the origami museum since it was still a bit of a walk away. The walk to the origami museum was the only walk we had where we were not constantly bumping into people.
The museum was off the beaten path and we got to enjoy walking through residential areas like we were natives. While at the museum we saw many works of beautiful origami art.
The third floor was a store where an origami folding demonstration was happening. It was amazing seeing an origami master fold. I bought some origami paper and the cashier told me that there was a workshop on the next floor up where we could watch origami paper be made. When we arrived at the fourth floor, we walked into a room filled with the paper being dyed, dried, and cut. It was amazing to see.
After our time at the really amazing origami museum/store, we walked back towards the temple we stumbled upon. With a quick search on google, I found out the temple was called Kanda Myojin. It was breathtaking, not only was this the first of many temples that we would stumble upon, but it was also one of the most beautiful ones. We went inside to the inner grounds and saw many children wearing kimono getting their photographs taken. It was adorable. Also at the temple were just everyday people wearing kimonos, it was like we took a step back in time. The temple is located among many tall modern buildings, it appears as though this section is frozen in time.
Once we had admired the temple, we stopped by the gift shop and picked up a couple of things. Then we went back to the center of Akihabara. We went to super potato, where we found a lot of great nerdy merchandise. After going into a couple of anime and video game themed stores we went to an arcade! I was so excited to finally go to a Japanese arcade! We found a huge one! It was 6 six stories tall and filled with different games. The decoration was also mostly mirrors on all the walls. We spent probably close to an hour having fun and trying to win prizes. However, we quickly realized we were hungry. Before we left for Japan, I bought a Tokyo travel guide.
In that travel guide, one of the suggested places to eat was a ramen shop called Kikanbo. It was a bit of a walk from where we were, but the reviews on google said it was worth it. With that, we started our walk. We got to enjoy the sites of the city and walk down some narrow streets to get to the ramen shop. There was a line outside, none of them tourists, so I was certain this was a good choice. I was right. The ramen shop was all bar seating, we got a seat together in a corner. Again, I was surprised at how efficient everything was. Our tickets of what we wanted were taken while we were still in line. Yet when we sat down they knew exactly what to bring to us. This place had the best ramen I had ever eaten. I still remember the taste and wish we had gone back. It was that good.
After our delicious lunch, we continued to walk around Akihabara and ended up traveling to Ueno Station. I love history, it was my favorite class in school and I still continue to read non-fiction historical text. So when I was researching the Ueno area of Tokyo and I found out that they had a ton of really great museums. I knew we had to go. We arrived at Ueno station, which was one of the busiest trains stations we ended up at, walked across the street and we were in Ueno park. Ueno park is massive, it contains not only four national museums but also art museums, a zoo, and an event area. It is massive. We were both feeling a bit tired, so we stopped by a cafe and got a snack. Everything in the cafe was panda-themed because of the giant pandas Japan has at their zoo. We got a coffee and a crepe cake. It was delicious and we got to relax for a little while.
We finished our snack and headed to the museum, it was about a 5-minute walk from the cafe. I love museums and this one was huge. It’s made up of three main buildings and a garden. We spent about an hour and a half in the Japanese history museum alone. It was great but I had one more thing on the agenda that I wanted to accomplish for the day. We ended up not going to the European history museum or the Asian history museum. However, the Japanese history museum was more than worth the price of the ticket to get in.
I must admit, looking back at how I planned this day, I could have planned it a little bit better. I jam-packed our day with sites and adventure, but by the time it came to our last exploration of the day, we were getting pretty tired. Still, we kept going and ended up going to the sky tree. Now, the Tokyo Sky Tree was on our way back to the apartment so I thought why not go?
By the time we got there it was around 7 O’clock at night, which was perfect because I wanted to see everything from the top of the sky tree at night. The line to buy the tickets was massive and the line to the elevator was even longer. However, we kept looking around and found a line that was for foreigners coming to visit the sky tree. The line was what I would call the “Fast Pass” line. We ended up not standing in the overwhelming line but instead, we stood in shorter line. It took us about 30 minutes to get to the elevator. The elevator ride to the top of this massive Skytree only took 60 seconds, it was amazing! Once we got to the top, the price and the waiting was all worth it. The view was spectacular. I recommend it to anyone visiting Tokyo.
There may have been a fast pass line to get up to the top, but there wasn’t one to get down. We waiting in line for an hour before we finally got back down. We were hungry again at this point, we did a lot of walking! At the train stop before our train station, we got off an went to Torikizoku and had some delicious yakitori.
My feet at this point were killing me, so we headed back to the apartment and kind of collapsed. We had such a great day of exploring, but we were exhausted.
November 5th – Asakusa Exploration
Not only was the 5th of November our 3rd full day in Japan, but it was also my 24th birthday! It was the first birthday I had ever spent without my parents. At this point, we were exhausted from the day before so we cut the plans for the day in half. We decided to just explore Asakusa and then go back to the apartment to relax.
When we got to Asakusa we walked down a shopping center that had advertisements for Kimono rentals. So I thought, “When in Rome!”, and I rented a Kimono for the day. It was my birthday after all! I wanted to celebrate in some way. However, while going down some stairs to get my Kimono put on, I slipped on some stairs and fell! OUCH! It hurt but I walked it off. I was still happy I got to wear my Kimono. We ended up going to the Sensoji Temple and seeing the Nakamise Dori that was a huge shopping strip filled with stalls. This leads to the Temple and it was amazing. It was so beautiful, there were SO many people.
After wandering around sometime in my Kimono I decided to go return it. I had taken pictures of myself in it and was able to have the experience. I returned the Kimono and we set off to get Lunch! We ate at a shabu shabu restaurant chain called Nabezo. It was so much fun. It reminded me of fondue, but so much better. The price varied by how long you were going to eat, so we went for the 120 minutes time slot. We got to relax and enjoy each others company while eating amazing food.
My boyfriend decided that we needed to get me a birthday cake, preferably a Japanese strawberry cake. We did a quick search on our phones and found a bakery not even 5 minutes away from where we were. Once we bought the cakes we went back to the apartment and relaxed until dinner time. For my birthday dinner, I wanted coco curry, because I love Japanese style curry. We boarded the train, got off at the next stop and went to what would become our go-to coco curry. We did not fill this day with as much stuff, but we enjoyed it all the same. It was a great birthday and I’m so happy I got to turn 24 in Japan!
That was my first 5 days of our Japan adventure! It was filled with a lot of things, which is why I decided to break this post into two. After our first three days were jam-packed full of stuff, we decided to slow it down a bit and just enjoy being in Japan. The last half of our trip isn’t filled with as much on each day. Which is why I didn’t divide the trip up evening between two posts. I should be posting the second part of this in the next week! So keep a look out for that, it includes not only our last days in Japan but also our trip to Kyoto!
Thank you as always for reading, and I hope you have an amazing day!