In January, I got a random phone call from my good friend from my sorority, Paige, who was backpacking through Asia, asking me to meet her in Tokyo in a few weeks to have some fun for a few days in mainland Japan. Ummm.... let me take 2 seconds to think about that - YES! #thanksnate #axo #sistasfolife
I hopped on a quick 3 hour flight over to Tokyo and met up with Paige at the Narita Airport after her red eye over from the Philippines. #longlostfriends #lettheshenanigansbegin! Lucky for us, my friend Kazunobu who lives in Tokyo, texted me to see what we were up to for the day, and offered to pick us up and drive us around #score!
Checked into our hostel, and we were ready to eat! Kazu started off our fun day by taking us to one of his favorite restaurants for lunch, Isen Honten. This place was delicious! #oishi It has been around for 80 years and it's to see why after tasting the food. They're known for their tonkatsu, panko-fried pork cutlets and is the birthplace of the tonkatsu sandwich. People say the tonkatsu here is so tender that you are able to cut it with chopsticks. #ibelieveit Kazu recommended the pork sirloin cutlets and these were SO. DAMN. GOOD! Honestly, me writing this blog 4 months later, my mouth still waters when I think about them. If you visit Tokyo - you need to eat here. #thankskazu #welcometojapanpaige
Next up, Kazu took us to his favorite temple, the Kanda Myojin Shrine (神田明神). This shrine dates back 1,270 years and has been rebuilt several times due to fire and earthquakes. The shrine has 3 major kami (神), spirits worshiped in the Shinto religion, Daikokuten, Ebisu, and Taira no Masakado. Daikoku is the god of farmers, agriculture, and wealth, while Ebisu is the god of fishermen and luck - making these two the dynamic due of business fortune. This leads many businessmen and entrepreneurs coming here to pray for wealth and prosperity. In addition, this shrine is very close to the techy neighborhood of Akihabara Electric Town, so it's become a mecca for tech geeks. It even sells charms and blessings that specifically bless electronic devices against types of harm that could come to them, avert identity theft, and to bless start up businesses and keep them running smoothly.
Kazu said this is the shrine his family and him come to on New Years day. He also educated Paige and I on the proper way to enter a temple and pray.
I'm so glad Kazu taught us this! I feel way more comfortable visiting shrines and temples in Japan now that I know the proper etiquette #themoreyouknow
Kazu also introduced us to omikuji (御御籤, 御神籤, or おみくじ), a fortune-telling paper strip. To obtain one of these, you shake a small box until a small, numbered bamboo stick falls out. According the the number on the bamboo stick, a fortune is given you by a priest or miko. Most shrines don't have English omikuji but lucky for us, this place did! Back in the day, the omikuji were used for decision guidance and if their plan was going to successful or not. Now a days, the fortune tells you if it's a good, ok, or bad fortune, and informs you about your chances of finding a new job, love, your future health, business success, and more in greater detail. The custom is to take the fortune with you if it's good and if you don't like them, then you leave them behind at the temple. Paige had a good fortune and decided to keep it, mine was 'ok' - I was hoping for better fortunes on travel and kids, so I decided to leave mine at the shrine.
Next, we headed over to the Akihabara neighborhood. Paige and I wanted to try one of these infamous maid cafes and dragged Kazunobu, who had never gone to one, with us. #inforatreat The first maid cafe popped up in Akihabara back in 2001 and have grown in popularity. So what in the world are maid cafes? Basically, waitresses dress up in maid uniforms and treat you like a beloved employer or master. They serve cute food and drinks with smiley faces and animals drawn on them, and perform songs and dances. This seems like such a weird and different concept than anything we'd experience in America, so naturally we had to check it out. #notdisappointed
The food and drinks are a bit pricey but the experience (as we all kept referring to it) was pretty funny. When we walked in, we had animal ears put onto our heads #kawaii In order to get the maids attention, we had to hold our hands up like little paws and say "meow meow!" #hahaha (side note - this is how Kazu and I greet one another now). Paige ordered a coffee, and I ordered a cocktail. With both of these orders, the maid would come over and serve us our drinks. Before we could drink them, they would lead us in cute chants and cheers while drawing hearts in the air. They even drew a cute animal in chocolate sauce on Paige's coffee. As Kazu would say "It was quite the experience". I'm glad we got to introduce him to his first maid cafe experience #hopefullynothislast
Another highlight of Tokyo is "the scramble" or Shibuya crossing. So Kazu took Paige and I over there so she could walk across the world's busiest intersection.
Using the world's busiest intersection :)
Kazu then took us over to Tokyo Tower (東京タワー) on our whirlwind day. Tokyo Tower stands at 333 meters (1,092 feet) and is the world's tallest, self-supported steel tower. It is modeled after the Eiffel Tower but is 13 meters taller. #outdoingparis #biggerandbetter
After driving us around all day (#thankyoukazu #personaltokyotourguide) he dropped us off in Shinjuku so we could meet up with 2 of Paige's backpacking friends for dinner. #newfriends We found a little yakiniku restaurant across the street from the famous Robot Restaurant (#funnestrestaurant #lovethatplace) Yakiniku means a restaurant where you grill meat and veggies at a little grill at your table. The restaurant's saying was "no meat no life" #true #yum
I wanted to introduce Paige, and her friends Carly and Chris, to one of my favorite spots in Tokyo, Golden Gai. This is a little spot near Shinjuku is 6 alleyways with over 200 tiny shanty-style bars, clubs, and eateries - most only sitting between 6-10 people. We found a rob zombie themed bar with no cover charge (#rare) and all drinks were 666 yen (#uhoh) Carly, Chris, and Paige loved the neighborhood and the bar #whowouldnt #gladtheylovethatspotasmuchasido I would say a good part of our conversation revolved around how fascinated they all were with the toilets in Japan - especially after the toilet situation in most other Asian countries. Not gonna lie - Japanese toilets are awesome and I want to take one home with me to America. #impressed #weneedthesetoiletsallovertheworld #toiletconvos All in all, fantastic first day in Tokyo!
Unfortunately (or lucky??) for us there is a a McDonalds right across the road from our hostel - literally 20 steps. We ended the night with some drunken McDonalds - perfect meal to soak up the alcohol before bed. Paige and I split a yummy egg cheeseburger, fries, and a chocolate pie. This would soon become a theme of our trip..... #notproud #butohsogood
The next morning, we started our day visiting the famous Tsukiji Fish Market, the world's biggest seafood market moving on average 2,400 tons of seafood per day #yum #yesplease Based on my last time here, I was on the hunt to introduce Paige to the best oyster I've ever had in my entire life #searchingforhappiness I found it! Paige and I got to enjoy huge, fresh, delicious oysters before our breakfast sushi. #thankyouoystergods #iwanttoeatoneeveryday #anoysteradaykeepsthedoctoraway
Paige and I ended up eating breakfast at the same spot Nate, Mel, and I went to, Sushi Zenmai. Enjoyed another breakfast of champions of delicious sushi and beer #ilovejapan
With our bellies full of sushi yumminess, we headed over to Meiji shrine to meet up with Chris and Carly. On the way over to Yoyogi Park, Paige and I saw a sign for a hedgehog cafe! #yesplease We headed up to the cafe but unfortunately, they didn't open for another 2 days #damn #justmissingit (Btw, I did put the info for the cafe at the bottom) #wishwecouldhavehungwithhedgehogs #nexttime
The Meiji Shrine (明治神宮) is a Shinto shrine dedicated to the spirits of Emperor Meiji and his wife, Empress Shoken. It was completed in 1921, after the emperor's death in 1912. It's located in a forest that covers an area of 170 acres with 120,000 trees of 365 different species, donated by from all parts of Japan.
These barrels of sake wrapped in straw are donated annually by sake brewers around Japan to show respect for the souls of Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken.
At the Meiji Shrine we also saw ema (絵馬) – wooden wishing plaques of Japanese shrines. The kanji for ema is made up of two kanji's, one for picture and one for horse. Back in the day, horses were seen as vehicles of gods, and people donated horses to shrines during the Nara period so the gods would be more receptive to their prayers and fulfill wishes. But horses were expensive (#shocker) and so people who couldn't afford horses would make horse figures made up of wood, clay, or paper which is how the wooden wishing plaques with a picture of a horse on them were born. Now a days, people write their wishes or prayers on wooden plaques, usually with a picture of if the current year's zodiac, and hang it up on the shrine grounds.
We then headed over to the Harajuku neighborhood, known as the center of Japanese youth culture and fashion, so we could enjoy some shopping.
We worked up quite an appetite shopping, so we went on the hunt for some ramen. Chris, Carly, and Paige got to experience ordering lunch from a vending machine :) It's pretty common in Japan and makes the ordering process much more efficient. After getting our food tickets and ordering some ramen, we sat down to enjoy one of Japan's traditional delicious dishes. #mmmm #oishi
Tune in next time for the second half of our trip in Tokyo :)
Follow in our Footsteps:
Bunka Hostel (this hostel is amazing. The beds are comfy and clean. Paige said it was the best hostel she's stayed in in all of Asia)
〒111-0032 Tokyo, Taito, Asakusa, 1 Chome−１３−５
Website (in Japanese, but can book through Expedia or Booking.com)
Isen Honten (80 year old pork cutlet restaurant)
〒113-0034 Tokyo, Bunkyo, Yushima, 3 Chome−４０−３
Hours: 11:30am - 8:30pm
Kanda Myojin Shrine
〒101-0021 Tokyo, 千代田区Sotokanda, ２−１６−２
Maidreamin, Akihabara Center Street Store (multiple stores)
1-14-1 Sotokanda 2F Takarada Chuo Dori Bldg, Chiyoda 101-0021 Tokyo Prefecture
Hours: Mon-Fri, 11:30am - 11pm, Sat 10:30am - 12am, Sun 10:30 - 11pm
Yakiniku Spot (一草堂ビル)〒160-0021 Tōkyō-to, Shinjuku-ku, Kabukichō, 1 Chome−１３Golden Gai
1 Chome Kabukicho, 新宿区 Tokyo 160-0021
McDonald's by our hostel :)
〒111-0032 Tōkyō-to, Taitō-ku, 台東区Asakusa, 1 Chome−２４−１
Open 24 hours
Tsukiji Fish Market
5 Chome-2-1 Tsukiji, Chuo, Tokyo 104-0045
*to see the tuna auction you have to get one of the limited tickets and get there around 3am-4am or book a tour
〒104-0045 Tokyo, 中央区Tsukiji, 4−11−9
Open 24 Hours
Hedgehog Cafe HARRY, Harajuku
1-13-21 Jingumae | 4F, Shibuya 150-0001, Tokyo Prefecture
〒151-8557 Tokyo, Shibuya, Yoyogikamizonocho, １−１
Megan Bond - AUTHOR
Just a girl raised in California and loved exploring Southeast Asia with my husband! We're back in the States but still exploring the world as much as we can!