If you’ve read my Top 10 things to do in Japan, then you know I’ve been to Tokyo, Japan’s famous capital in May 2016. This is part of my Japanese Travel Guide Series.
Day # 1
We left quite early from the Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris. We flew with SAS airlines and had a 4 hour layover in Copenhagen. I was so excited to start up my adventures in the land of the rising sun!
Then it was off to Narita Ariport, Tokyo. The flight was quite smooth, and I recommend SAS it’s a good company.
Once we landed we took care of a couple essential things at the airport. Our highest priority was getting all our train tickets for our entire trip and exchange the vouchers we purchased in France for our Japan Rail Pass or JR Pass : The unlimited train travel card.
The second most important thing was get a data plan for my iPhone. In Japan you aren’t aloud to own a cell phone plan unless you are a permanent resident for security reasons. Therefore you need to rent a SIM card for the duration of your stay. This SIM card is data only and won’t let you place phone calls. I just really needed access to the internet so that worked out fine for me.
We then boarded the Narita Express or NEX train to head into Tokyo and check in to our hotel in Shinjuku. The train ride is about an hour long and quite smooth. The inside is very modern and clean. Cleanliness is something that really stuck out to me during the whole trip.
The weather was overcast but I enjoyed watching the scenery fly by the train window. We saw many rice fields and small villages along the way. It’s also funny to see that the electrical lines are almost never buried, perhaps because of the earth quakes.
We then took the subway to our hotel in Shinjuku : the 3 stars Appa Hotel.
The rooms are very small and we couldn’t completely open our suitcases on the floor real-estate! But we did have nice Japanese robes with little origami cranes in welcome.
If you are looking for a great location in Tokyo for your sightseeing pleasure, I would recommend Shinjuku which is centrally located and not too far from all the major attractions.
We just dropped our bags and immediately headed back out to make the most of our first day in Japan! We were jet-lagged but excitement prevailed for sure. Tokyo is truly amazing and narrowing down what you need to see is so hard.
Here are my picks for our first afternoon there.
Our fist stop was to the famous Shinto Meji Shrine located in Shibuya and right next to the even more famous Harajuku shopping district. The subway stop is Harajuku. This shrine is dedicated to the Emperor Meji, the first emperor of modern Japan and his consort Empress Shoken. They are not however buried there. The construction was completed in 1920s.
It is surrounded by a beautiful garden and evergreen forest over 170 acres. I love walking through the huge Torii wooden gates and up to the shrine.
A lot of Japanese wear traditional clothing such as Yakatas and Kimonos such as shown in the picture above. The contrast between hipster styles and traditional garb is so interesting and so Japanese! Love it.
What’s crazy is that as soon as you enter the forest, the sounds of the city just fade away and you would never guess you’re right in the middle of bustling metropolis! What I love about Japanese shrines is that they are active prayer places and not just relics of the past. You can see people praying and the holy men performing sacred rituals. The temples are filled with baptisms and weddings, not just tourists.
As we walk towards the shrine, we see a massive wall of barrels of sake that have been donated to the Meji shrine. You can get really drunk on that amount!
Once you enter the temple courtyard, there is a purification ritual where each visitor needs to wash his hands and mouth at the fountains.
I love Japanese trees and the way they are shaped. Here is a huge domed shape tree in the inner temple courtyard.
People can buy wooden slates on which to write or use calligraphy to draw prayers for loved ones and family. If you don’t know how to calligraphy, you can have the monks do it for you.
I love doors, here is a beautifully carved wooden door.
You get to this famous district by the Harajuku station. Here is a pic of the station, with some anime art.
Harajuku is right between Shinjuku and Shibuya neighborhoods and is famous for its cool shopping stores and especially the people that gather every Sunday all dressed up in goth lolita or cossplay get up. If you’ve ever seen any of Gwen Stefani‘s music videos then you’ll see that her dancers are dressed in the Harajuku style.
But the focal point of all Harajuku teenage culture is Takeshita street. It’s lined with hipster, goth and teen clothing stores, Daiso or convenient stores – a staple in Japan – and makeup stores.
When I saw the Daiso I had to make a stop for some Japanese drug store makeup! Look out for my Japanese Make Up haul post coming soon! I’ll give you a sneek peak : two things Japanese are really good at IMO are fake lashes and 3D nail art.
A lot of the stores have some crazy styles from cosplay to lolita to street clothes at quite affordable pricing. However the clothes size are all for the Asian body type which would be petite, small or xtra small so be prepared.
You can enjoy an ice cream in a crepe (french pancake) cone. This treat is a must have for all you travel lovers with a sweet tooth. The best ice cream crepe shops in Harajuku street are Angel’s heart, Sweet box.
The shop I had most fun in was a sock shop. Apparently Japanese are obsessed with socks and love wearing them as part of their outfits. They wear them with open shoes, and even sandals! I tried taking pictures of people wearing socks but it wasn’t always easy :). They have lace socks, socks in mitten form, socks like gloves for your toes.
Shibuya neighborhood is one of the 23 wards of Tokyo. It’s a popular entertainment and shopping center around the Shibuya station. It has many department stores that cater to the latest fashions and styles. 109 is a very popular mall.
Shibuya’s most known landmark has to be it’s famous crossing which is a huge intersection where the lights all stop at the same time and millions of Japanese cross the streets in a criss cross pattern that doesn’t exist elsewhere. I tried to take a picture of it but it wasn’t easy. Here is with and without pedestrians rushing on.
Usually, cars stop only on one road and keep going on the other, but at this intersection all cars stop to let pedestrians from every corner of the intersection cross the street at the same time ! Crazy!
We decided to have dinner in Shinjuku business quarter not too far from our hotel as we were getting pretty tired. I love how colorful the skyscrapers are in Tokyo. I feel they have the most colorful buildings in the world.
Shinjuku has a lot of department stores as well, the most famous one being Isetan. But we didn’t have time for shopping unfortunately. It also has a mini Manhattan skyscraper district with huge skyscrapers including the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building.
Tokyo night life is always happening. We stumbled upon a Deadpool huge promotional statue right on the curb!
We were getting quite hungry but needed some comfort food as well and nothing too challenging after such a huge journey and jam packed touristing day.
We choose noodles and ramen soup. Yummy! Oishii desu!
Then we were off to bed and dreamland. Oyasumi! Good night!
… to be continued (Day #2)
Have you ever been to Tokyo? If so let me know or link your blog post in the comments!
I’d love to chat with you on :