Earthquakes and snow and sushi! Oh my!
That’s right. I’m back from Toyko, and if you read my post on my week in Seoul, you know I had quite a trip already! Tokyo was the city I was most excited to see on this trip and it did not let me down at all! The food! The people! The owls! But I am getting ahead of myself here…
We flew into Haneda Airport and made our way to our AirBNB via the Tokyo Metro, which was complicated and crowded but manageable. Out apartment was bigger than the one in Seoul and really cute. One major issue with the apartment was that all of the appliances (including the shower, microwave and laundry machine) were labeled in Japanese. And it wasn’t a simple ON/OFF switch either… Things work very differently over there. I admit it took me about 20 minutes to figure out the shower that first day and I am still not sure I actually cleaned my clothes when I washed them, but alas, we survived!
I had a very extensive list of places and things to see, buy and eat so I woke up early the next morning and set out! My first stop was the odd, yet irresistible, Mohumohu Owl Cafe! Not so much a cafe as it is a small room filled with owls, but this was still a major highlight of the trip. You walk in and basically hang out with all sorts of owls for an hour.
Owls are seriously cute, ok? I made some new best friends.
This guy and I clearly had a good connection.
Another item I got to cross off my list was eating at Funabashi-ya, a hundred-year-old restaurant that specializes in tempura! This was the best lunch I have ever had! I ordered a set meal (carefully requesting no mushrooms!) and watched as the chef made fresh vegetable, shrimp and squid tempura right in front of me! It was incredible. I was in heaven.
That night, despite it being a Monday night, I decided to check out some of the gay bars. The gayborhood is in an area called Ni-chome and all the bars are really small and mostly tucked away in alleys or nondescript buildings. I had a few beers at Dragon Men (shoutout to the cutest bartender ever) and then headed out to find some food at a small izakaya. After a delicious dinner of various skewered veggies and chicken, I headed to bed.
I woke up suddenly and noticed the window blinds were swaying back and forth a bit and thought to myself “how weird… I never felt the trains going by before today…” That’s when I felt the building start to sway.
I totally panicked. I immediately pictured every terrible disaster movie and started thinking about what time it was back home to determine if any of my family members would hear the phone ringing so I could say goodbye before the building around me collapsed… Turns out, it was quite a small earthquake by Japanese standards and most Tokyo residents slept right on through it… It lasted maybe a minute, but I swear it felt longer than that! It was really scary!
But we survived and decided the best reward for surviving a totally not major earthquake would be to spend the day at Disney!
We definitely wanted to visit Tokyo Disney while we were there, but the day we chose was not looking good weather-wise (more on that later) so we moved it up to earthquake day! (Shows you how serious the earthquake was if Disney didn’t even close their doors!) Tokyo Disney is split into two parks: Tokyo Disney Land and Tokyo Disney Sea. Disney Land seemed like it was more skewed towards younger kids, with a lot of the classic, slow-moving rides, whereas Disney Sea has the Tower of Terror, Indiana Jones and other thrill rides.
The park itself is gorgeous, but we were definitely not the only people who decided to come that day.
We also showed up too late to take advantage of any Fast Passes for the major rides, so sadly most of our day was spent in line. We actually only ended up going on four rides all day, due to the long lines! But it was still a magical experience! First, we rode the Journey to the Center of the Earth ride, based on Disney’s Atlantis and with some unexpected drops, was a really fun ride with a gorgeous design. Next up, we rode the Indiana Jones ride, which was unfortunately based on the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull story, but was still a really fun ride!
After that we took a break for some lunch inside Triton’s Kingdom, a cute underground (or should I say underwater?) area based on The Little Mermaid.
After lunch we rode the Raging Spirits roller coaster and then headed to the ride I was most excited for: Tower of Terror! Unfortunately, we ended up waiting in line for around 2.5 hours! The story for ToT in Tokyo Disney Sea is very different from either of the rides in the US. Basically, the hotel closed down mysteriously after a famous collector (read: pillager) disappeared in the late 1800s.
We come to discover that the hotel is cursed by an African statue he stole on his last adventure and yet we get on an elevator and strap ourselves in anyways. This ride includes one of the best Disney Magic tricks I have seen yet! This statue basically disappears before your eyes… I still have no idea how they accomplished that!
I could write a whole post on Tokyo Disney, so let’s move on! The next morning I woke up super early so I could check out the famous Tsukiji Fish Market! Tsukiji is the biggest wholesale seafood market in the world and is known for it’s incredibly fresh sushi restaurants located all throughout the area! I got to the market at around 6:00am and was far from the only person there! Some people claim 3:00am is the best time to show up and see the famed tuna auction! I wandered around and finally settled on a spot for the best sushi I have ever tasted!
Some other highlights of the trip include:
On the 45th floor of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building there is a free observation area where you can look out onto the entire city. On a clear day, you can even see Mt. Fuji!
We visited the Tori-no-Ichi market at the Hanazono Shrine. An amazing celebration with food stalls and people selling the traditional kumade rakes, meant to pull in prosperity, good luck and happiness for the coming year.
Had a great (and insanely cheap) sushi meal at Uobei! You place your orders through a tablet and your food slides down to you on a conveyor belt! It was so great I went back another day!
We got “lucky” enough to witness the first November snowfall in Tokyo in 54 years!
I got to witness the insanity that is Shibuya Crossing, the appropriately named “busiest crosswalk in the world!”
Some other items I crossed off my list: Going to Takeshita Street and getting a delicious crepe as well as gawking at all the amazing Harajuku fashions! Getting lost in different neighborhoods everyday and discovering something amazing, beautiful or delicious in all of them! Getting to try new foods and flavors I have never experienced before (I am now obsessed with matcha green tea). Shopping (well, mostly walking around) at the Shibuya 109 Men’s 8-floor department store.
On our last night in Tokyo we decided to check out some more of the nightlife scene, so hopped around to a bunch of the bars in Ni-chome and had a blast dancing (and drinking) the night away!
I left Tokyo knowing I would be back so soon! I definitely have a crush on the city! It is so clean, the people are friendly, the food is incredible and there is so much to do and see that one week was definitely not enough! I still have plenty of items on my to-do list, but I guess that will just have to wait til next time!
Have you ever been to Tokyo? What did you love about the city? Where do you want to travel to next? And can I come with you? Feel free to comment below with any questions or recommendations! Happy travels!