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Planet Tokyo

Tokyo Travel Blog

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the inside of my "room"
With a population of 35 million, greater Tokyo is the world's most populous metropolitan area. It is also a lot of other impressive, unique or simply crazy things. But first things first.

When looking for accommodation in Shinjuku, I had two low-budget options: a dorm in a hostel or a capsule hotel. Not fancying the idea of spending my night in a hole in the wall, I chose the hostel dorm. Well technically speaking, it was a dorm. A collection of beds in a room. At the same time I could say that I also had my own room.
Tokyo subway map
Yep, my accommodation for the night would be a hole in the wall with a curtain separating me from the outside world. Moreover, the feeling of the place was definitely not that of a hostel. The other occupants chose to draw their curtains and hide in their comfy "rooms" rather than interact with other people. I don't really blame them, sleeping in a hole probably creates a feeling of isolation. Nonetheless, Ace Inn is a clean place, relatively good value (for Tokyo), with friendly staff and at a pretty good location. You could even walk it from Shinjuku if you happen to miss the last train home (I did and it took around 30 minutes). But make sure you have a 100 YEN coin handy in the morning, otherwise you wont be able to shower...

I decide to start exploring Tokyo.
The busiest crossroad in the world
Tokyo has 3.5 times the population of my country. Its size is mindblowing. All you need is a glance at a subway map and you know you'll spend hours getting lost around the city. I spent 20 minutes walking around Shinjuku station, the biggest metro station in the world, only to realise that I didn' have a clue where I was. Tokyo is big.

When I finally exit the subway I stand in awe. The view of Shinjuku at night is one of the most impressive urban experiences in the world. Thousands of people dressed in the latest fashion crossing what is the busiest crossroad in the world. Skyhigh glass buildings all around. Neon lights as far as the eye can see. Simply put, Shinjuku and Shibuya make New York and London look rural. Tokyo is futuristic.

Realising that I'm not in a country of eternal summer anymore I go in search for some warm clothes.
5 storey pagoda
Shinjuku is a great place for that and offers a lot of urban clothing shops. I soon realise that everyone (except for me with my mountains pants and overworn tshirt) has a real sense of fashion. in terms of shopping and restaurants, Shinjuku is the young people's area. Shibuya is for the Gucci-type. Tokyo is a shopper's mecca.

The next day is spent sightseeing in the midst of pouring rain. We visit the Hamarikyu gardens and take the ferry up to Asakusa. The view isn't that great, but sailing up the river is just one more thing you can do in Tokyo! We go through the Nakamise arcade and visit Sensoji Temple and the 5-storey pagoda. Tokyo is traditional.

A visit to the museum of modern art reminds me that I havent been in a gallery in ages. The Tokyo MOMA has a very interesting display of Japanese contreporary art, does not tire and is definitely worth a visit.
viewing the insides of a medium-sized, 150kgs tuna
So Tokyo is artistic too...

Art may serve as food for the mind and soul, but what about the stomach? Back in Hoi-An, my Swedish friend, the chef at Hai San restaurant had told me the following story to illustrate Japanese obsession with fresh fish. Given that Japan is responsible for over a third of the world's total tuna consumption, the Japanese need to import it from other countries, Vietnam being one of them. When the Vietnamese fishermen go out to the sea for tuna, it usually takes 3-4 days for them to come back. However, the Japanese cannot wait that long so they have a special arrangement where they meet the fishermen out in open sea and transport the tuna back to Japan the following day! Tokyo residents get to taste fresh tuna from Vietnamese water before the fishermen's families even get a chance to glance at it.
the line for the freshest sushi in town...
So for my last day in Tokyo, I have to see the Tsukiji market, the biggest wholesale fish market in the world. At 6am the market is packed with extraordinary fish of every kind and size and has hundreds of workers zooming by in their trucks. Tuna, octupus, squid, eal, eggs, urchins, clams breathing away in water, fish guts. Everything you can imagine the sea holds is there, dead or alive, fresh or frozen, with its guts or not. The view of so much fresh seafood is making us crave some fresh sushi so my friend Lisa and I decide to queue outside the most popular stall in the market for some sushi breakfast. After only half an hour of patience we are tasting what is probably the freshest sushi in the world. It was delicious.

My first and last night in Tokyo I ate in Shumi Kitazawa which is full of shops and restaurants.
because it is so japanese to just go crazy with your umbrella in the crowd...
I had excellent Thai food and, on my last night, the best Japanese I have ever had. This is Japan after all. They like everything perfect and they do not make any compromises when it comes to food. So Tokyo has some of the best restaurants in the world. Not to mention takoyaki!

Last but not least, the Manga Kisa. The Japanese version of an internet cafe offers something more than a decent pc with broadband access. These are places where people pay money to sit on a chair and read a comic (Manga). You can also rent dvds and of course you can browse the internet. You get to pick the type of chair you sit in, whether you want your own booth and whether you are spending the night there or not. There are showers, free drinks and plenty of comics. If you feel like a hotel is too much of an expense for you or you have just missed the last train and dont want to spend $50 on your taxi back home, consider a Manga Kisa!

Other interesting observations about life in Tokyo? Japanese REALLY like videogames, the signs on the metro are really funny (see pic) and it is true that you can buy almost everything from a vending machine, from noodles to Radiohead tickets! Tokyo is a very unique place.
Shibuya at night


I advise everyone to visit Tokyo in their lifetime. It's like nothing you've ever seen before.

john1112 says:
Nice blog!, thanks for the recomendation.
i dont think i could ever sleep in one of those capsules.

:D
Posted on: Jan 14, 2010
nomaden says:
nice entry. :) wow. i feel like i can relate to your stories.. haha.. ive never been outside of the country but 40% of my time is spent watching dvd or reading mangga and listening to Japanese conversation.. i also watch that Japanese reality show and one time they feature that big fish market as well as that shibuya meeting place and shinkansen (not sure of the spelling).. hehe.
Posted on: Oct 26, 2008
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the inside of my room
the inside of my "room"
Tokyo subway map
Tokyo subway map
The busiest crossroad in the world
The busiest crossroad in the world
5 storey pagoda
5 storey pagoda
viewing the insides of a medium-si…
viewing the insides of a medium-s…
the line for the freshest sushi in…
the line for the freshest sushi i…
because it is so japanese to just …
because it is so japanese to just…
Shibuya at night
Shibuya at night
406. My room!
406. My room!
I dont think my backpack will fit
I dont think my backpack will fit
Room may be small, but toilet is e…
Room may be small, but toilet is …
Shinjuku at night
Shinjuku at night
neon city
neon city
Shinjuku
Shinjuku
food display
food display
heavy rain at Hamarikyu gardens
heavy rain at Hamarikyu gardens
Tea ceremony at Hamarikyu gardens
Tea ceremony at Hamarikyu gardens
Nakamise arcade
Nakamise arcade
coockie making machine
coockie making machine
Way to home, by Nada Hideo
Way to home, by Nada Hideo
at MOMA
at MOMA
getting a foot massage in Akihabara
getting a foot massage in Akihabara
neon streets
neon streets
Tsukiji market
Tsukiji market
octapus at Tsukiji market
octapus at Tsukiji market
tuna auction
tuna auction
needlefish?
needlefish?
the best sushi of my life!
the best sushi of my life!
Tokyo
photo by: maka77