We had so much fun in Manila and Boracay that we decided to take another trip together! We wanted to visit somewhere where it would be cold and we decided on Japan. Like the Philippines, this was going to be another first for one of our friends and we made sure it was memorable. This was not our (wife and I) first trip to Tokyo, visiting for the first time in 2014. It was awesome then and we were sure it was going to be a lot better with our friends.
Our AirBnB had portable WiFi units so we did not pick up SIM cards. SIM cards are available for purchase at the arrivals terminal however. Some of the options are a bit pricey which is why we just stuck with our portable WiFi. With our Osaka trip, we really didn’t need a SIM and the portable WiFi would have been sufficient. Also, our AirBnB came with two so our group was covered.
Our AirBnb host recommended we take the Keisei Skyliner to Nippori station and use the subway from there. Previously we used the Narita Express but the next train was departing in an hour and the next Keisei train was departing in 15 minutes. The desks are not hard to find. English signs are visible in the arrivals area of the airport and the staff at the ticket counters speak English. We picked up a round trip ticket bundle that came with a 24 hour subway ticket.
At Nippori station we picked up PASMO IC card for subway and rail travel. PASMO and SUICA are the two popular smart cards for the subway and rail systems in Tokyo. It eliminates the need to purchase separate tickets and it’s easy to purchase. The PASMO terminal has an English option which makes it a lot easier to understand. The deposit for the card is ¥500 which you can recover when you return it for a deposit. I believe every subway station, not JR station will be able to refund your yen and the remaining balance when you turn it in. I haven’t done this since I kept mine as a souvenir. I would highly recommend getting either a PASMO or SUICA card. They make taking trains a lot easier. Also, you can purchase items from vending machines that accept it as a form of payment.
We were able to book an AirBnB for our stay. It was located on the west side of Shinjuku, one stop away from Shinjuku station. The listing was two apartments side by side but was not as big as I expected. The listing was accurate but I was thinking it would be bigger. The five of us were able to sleep comfortably and the location and price were worth it.
The Fun Stuff
I can’t mention everything we did in Tokyo but I will mention some of our favorite places.
Harajuku is the place for shopping. Clothing and food shops are everywhere. Global brands like Nike and Adidas can be found on the main street as well as popular coffee shops like Starbucks. Smaller brands can be found here too. Street wear is popular here with stores like Supreme, Bape and the Neighborhood. The food was great as well. Pastries, candy and crepes were delicious.
The Meiji shrine is located next to Harajuku station. We have been here before and is a great place to walk around. The path to the shrine leads through a forest and large Torii gates. The walk is not too long and it’s very peaceful. We spent some time touring the grounds but did not see a traditional Japanese wedding like last time.
The ROBOT RESTAURANT is one of the main attractions in Shinjuku. I watched a Parts Unknown episode with Anthony Bourdain and he called it the “greatest show on earth”. After that review, we decided to check it out. The ticket is about $68 on VOYAGIN. A friend booked all our tick comes with two drinks you can get at the bar. The lounge is very bright and colorful and two lounge acts performed while we were waiting. The seating in the basement was very tight and cramped, getting in and out of the seats to use the restroom was a hassle. The show itself was great, a lot of lasers, flashing lights and “robots”. The story they showed didn’t make a lot of sense but it didn’t matter. You’re not at this show for the story. The final performance was a finale set to Bruno Mars’ Uptown Funk. Overall, I enjoyed myself but probably wouldn’t watch it again unless they changed the acts.
Tsukiji Fish Market
This was my first time here and I was a little disappointed. It was our fault since we didn’t check the times when it would be open. We didn’t get to walk through the seafood market but we did stop by a few stalls selling food. We ate some fresh scallops, calamari and fish. The mochi was also good. I wouldn’t mind stopping by to see the fish market when it’s open.
Harry Hedgehog Cafe
Japan is known for their animal cafes. We were not surprised when we walked by one for hedgehogs. None of us have seen a hedgehog before and we were excited to play with them. The wait for a seat can be long, 30 minutes – 1 hour, so you should plan for waiting. Reservations are accepted but you must pay for the 1 hour long visit. We visited the Harry Roppongi location but another one is also located in Harajuku.
Handling the hedgehogs is not difficult but you need to get over the fear of handling them. They will shake and curl up but it’s not hard to get them to wake up. They also sell hegehogs as pets and you can purchase a lot of supplies in the shop as well.
Tokyo Disney Sea
Tokyo Disney Sea was awesome. It’s not a typical Disneyland park but it does have a few Disney IPs. Little Mermaid, Aladdin and Finding Nemo. However, all the rides are in Japanese (like Universal Osaka). The Indiana Jones ride was not in service which was a bummer but the other rides were still fun even if we didn’t understand the story. We had a great time and tried a lot of great treats. If you’re a fan of Disney and want to see something other than Disneyland, you should stop here.
Trick Eye Museum
We love trick eye museums and we found one in Odaiba. They had a lot of scenes and it was fun going through one with friends.
We ate a lot! We tried a lot of great sushi, ramen, meat and dessert places. It’s hard to list everyone so I’ll just put our favorites.
Sushi – Genki Sushi
Ramen – Ichiran Ramen
Meat – Yamano
Bar – BrewDog
Dessert – Pie Holic
Like any big city, stores are everywhere, you just have to know where to look. Our primary neighborhood for shopping was the Harajuku. From shoe stores like Adidas and Nike, to “Hypebeast” clothing stores such as Bape and Supreme, you can find it in Harajuku. If you want to find a particular store, search it on Google maps.
Thoughts on Tokyo
This was my second time to this city and it was better than the first. Our friends made it a better experience since we got to share new adventures. We tried a lot of new food and went to a few new places. After visiting twice, their is still a few places I didn’t get to see but I’ll save it for the next trip. Visiting Japan is always a great time!
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