Friday, March 10
Sometimes I think we’d do well as contestants on The Amazing Race. Then we get into a situation like navigating Shibuya Station while sleep deprived and hangry, then I remember that we would promptly be kicked off after the first episode.
Shibuya Station was like being inside of an anthill when it’s upset by a misplaced foot (see: video of Shibuya Crossing). People were everywhere. We exited the station as soon as we could find the right door and proceeded to walk to our Air BnB which, of course, was five blocks away, all uphill. After a quick nap to reset, we went to the only place we knew would make us feel better – the sushi train!! Except this time, you order on an iPad, and instead of a train, the sushi was delivered on wall of tracks. Your roll or sashimi would slide to a stop right in front of you, with the delightful sound of a doorbell to indicate its arrival. Brilliant and addicting!
After dinner we went to Penguin Bar Ikebukuro, a bar where you can “drink with the penguins!” It was… interesting! We were there for the feeding, which was entertaining, but in general we just felt bad for them, even though they seemed to be happy enough.
Saturday, March 11
The best decision we made in Tokyo was hiring a private tour guide named Junko Nakahama to show us around. Junko was incredible! We highly recommend contacting her in advance of a visit to Tokyo. She took us first to the Meiji Shrine, a Shinto shrine in the middle of an evergreen forest, dedicated to the Emperor Meiji and his wife. We didn’t have to research or read a thing – Junko knew everything.
She then took us to Yanesen, one of the very few districts in Tokyo that wasn’t bombed during WWII. Our favorite stop was a restaurant we never would have entered – much less been able to read the menu or order – without Junko! She knew the chef personally and ordered for us. It was fantastic. We walked around the Yanaka neighborhood after lunch and (even though we were full) we had to try some of the food from the street vendors strategically wafting delicious smells our way.
Other highlights of our time in Tokyo included:
- Enjoying a delicious yakitori feast at Joumon Roppongi where, as we learned the hard way the previous night, you absolutely need a reservation. Thanks for the rec, Mia!
- Stopping at Itoya, the greatest stationery store in the world (aka my happy place).
- Braving the crowds at a “depachika,” – or fancy department store basement food hall – before White Day, the Japanese answer to Valentine’s Day, when women and girls present gifts to men and boys as a sign of affection.
- Walking through Harajuku, the Tokyo district most famous for its funky vibe, shopping and street art.
- Experiencing the World Baseball Classic in downtown Tokyo.
- Trying authentic Ramen in Roppongi Hills.
- Visiting a Rabbit Cafe where we played with bunnies for an hour.
- Seeing Tokyo from the Tokyo City View Observation Deck.
We understand now why people love visiting Japan, and absolutely count ourselves in that number. There is so much to do, and we barely scratched the surface. We intend to go back, and we highly recommend adding Japan to your bucket list.
On Tuesday, March 14, we flew from Japan back to New Orleans. The luxurious flight softened the fun-void of mixed emotions we felt from ending one of the best trips of our lives. We are grateful to have had the opportunity to visit some incredible locales, and we hope sharing our journey will inspire you to create an adventure of your own.
“Arigatou gozaimasu” for reading!