We arrived at Narita airport at 9pm on the 3rd of April, tired and hungry after a long flight, we picked up our luggage and made it through customs. Sam’s first experience using Japanese was something I’ll never forget! He wanted to thank the Customs officer, instead of a simple “Arigatou” Sam said “Ariiririririririirir” He just couldn’t spit it out! (Lets blame it on the jet lag) I couldn’t help but cry with laughter and you could see all these Customs officers thinking ‘should we really let these two crazy people into our country?’
After composing ourselves we made our way to the train station. With our limited Japanese we managed to follow the signs for the Narita Express ticket booth. An old Japanese lady in the queue offered to help us buy the tickets. We were on our way!
We caught the Narita Express to Tokyo Station which took just under 1 hour. Once we stepped out of the station I was blown away by the Sakura (Cherry Blossom) overflowing in the streets. Since it was night time, they were all lit up, it looked like someone had poured a big batch of candy floss all over the branches.
I’ll just give you a quick warning now – there will be an abundance of Sakura photos throughout this post – I just couldn’t get enough! I knew they were beautiful, but nothing can prepare you for their magnificence in real life.
Our first day in Tokyo was amazing, we spent the morning exploring the Shinjuku area and finding our Hostel where we were to meet our tour group that evening.
We then went to Shinjuku Goyen for Hanami (Picnic under cherry blossoms) with old and new friends, we met some amazing people and had a great time chatting and eating yummy Japanese picnic snacks!
As the sun went down, a crisp breeze came out, so we decided to go grab a coffee to warm ourselves up. We found a quirky little cafe and played some UNO until it came time to go and meet our G Adventures Tour Group.
After a few rounds of UNO we made our way back to the Hostel to meet our group. I can’t think of a better way to break the ice with a bunch of new people than to go to a Karaoke Bar and that’s exactly what happened – even if it was somewhat of an accident!
Our guide, Hana, took us out for Ramen and then a quick walk around the area of Golden Gai to see the local sights. Golden Gai is famous for tiny bars that fit only a few people – most of them have a cover charge to ensure they make enough money. We ended up walking past the smallest Karaoke Bar when a drunk Japanese business man saw our group and started shouting ‘WELCOME TO JAPAN!’ He managed to persuade us go into the bar for one drink and a round of Karaoke..
Hana decided to go home and we ended up staying there for a few more drinks and at least 10 more songs. I was very impressed with the heart and soul some of the business men put into their songs, you would think they were performing on stage!
After we left the Karaoke Bar we wanted to find another cool place for a final drink before we went to bed. We saw a sign that said no cover charge and thought this is the place for us! We walked up a narrow staircase into a bar that perfectly fit our group of 11. The bar man was so nice and he loved to practice his English! When he found out Sam and I were from New Zealand and was so excited because the famous NZ Band, Shapeshifter, filmed their music video in his bar, click here to check it out! Starring our very own bartender Abe-chan!
The Asakusa area is famous for the Sensō-ji Temple, which is where we spent our morning with the group. It was really interesting to see and great to take in some Japanese culture!
After spending the morning here with the group, Sam and I decided to explore the many different streets and ally ways of Asakusa! We even came across a bunny cafe, so of course we had to experience this crazy side of Japanese culture.
After a quick lunch it was time to see the bunnies! We had unlimited cuddle time with all the different bunnies, then we were allowed to choose 2 to play with for half an hour in the playroom!
After playing with the Bunnies we decided to catch the subway to Harajuku! An area famous for Japanese youth culture and fashion.
Of course when you’re visiting Harajuku, you have to visit the Owl cafe! Where else in the world can you do this! I was glad to learn that the owls are really well taken care of but it was a little upsetting to see them tethered to the branches so they cant fly away.
We visited Yoyogi park before finding somewhere to have dinner. It was really big and we barely had time to walk around a quarter of it before closing time! All of the parks in Japan close around 5-6pm, I think this is great because it helps them keep the parks so immaculate.
We wandered around different streets for a while, trying to find the perfect spot for dinner, and boy am I glad we did! This was by far our favourite meal we had in Japan! From the food, to the atmosphere of the restaurant, it was all so amazing. We sat right in front of the chef, it was awesome to watch our food being cooked in front of us, it made us super hungry too!!
On day 3 we did a day trip Kamakura. Kamakura is a seaside town near Tokyo which is famous for the Big Buddha statue.
You could pay 100yen to have a look inside the Big Buddha, it was amazing to see how it was built! See the pictures below for some info.
There is a famous dish in Kamakura which is baby sardines – Sam was brave enough to order the dish! I tried ONE! They love seafood in Kamakura, even the miso soup had a fish eye in it. I stuck with vegetable tempura as I’m not the biggest fan of seafood!
Kamakura was a quirky little town, check out these cute birds that were at the train station!
After a late lunch we made our way back to Tokyo with the group. Sam and I decided to check out Shibuya for our last night in Tokyo and see the famous Shibuya Crossing! But first we went to the government building to see the never-ending views of Tokyo!
We were sad to leave Tokyo, there were many more amazing places to see. But this just gives us a good reason to go back! Next stop, Hakone!
Stay tuned for our next post exploring Hakone and Kyoto!
P.s Here is an amazing video Sam made from our adventures in Japan!