Getting There – JAL First Class
Hotel Review: Ritz-Carlton Tokyo
Guide to Tsukiji Fish Market
Room Service Review: Ritz-Carlton Tokyo
Day in Tokyo
Taking the Shinkansen “Bullet” Train
Hotel Review: Ritz-Carlton Kyoto
Tea at the Ritz-Carlton Kyoto
Day 1 in Kyoto
Day 2 in Kyoto
Room Service Review: Ritz-Carlton Kyoto
Getting to Hiroshima
Hotel Review: Sheraton Hiroshima
Day trip to Miyajima
Day in Hiroshima
St. Regis Osaka
One day in Osaka
Day in Narita
A Traditional Ryokan Stay
On my list of things to do in Tokyo was to walk across Shibuya station’s crazy crossing, known as the scramble. After waiting a while at the intersection, it seemed that suddenly all the traffic lights were red at the same time and everyone started rushing in all different directions at once.
I’ve heard that the view from the Starbucks on the 2nd floor of one of the nearby buildings has a great vantage point, but as I was just one of those walking down below click here to watch a hilarious Youtube cartoon video about how the intersection would look if everyone was texting.
Some readers might be surprised to learn that there is an amazingly large forest right in the middle of Tokyo. I went there during a previous trip, and the Meiji shrine dedicated to the 19th Century Emperor and Empress is a great way to spend an afternoon. It’s also nice to know that the 200-acre park is there for anyone to take a walk in and enjoy the fresh air.
Today though, I wanted to do a little window shopping. Shibuya’s nearby 109 shopping mall isn’t just for gyaru (explained to me as fashionable girls that prefer shopping to school studies) or gyaru-o (the male equivalent). It’s a fun experience to just walk around and look at all the shops. Toe socks! Cell phone charms!
The beauty shops are a mecca for those who love products since they are way ahead of most other countries with both cutting edge and wacky items (do Kinoki foot pads really work?), and you can find just about anything there.
Oil in a hairbrush
I cracked up at a lot of the Japanese-English translations on items, which I love reading and hope never get corrected. How poetic is this on a pair of socks, “Coloring is attached to a life. Socks which nestle up to your leg.” It makes me smile every time.
Socks that nestle up to your leg
Food courts are a little different in that instead of ordering something at a counter and sitting in one big communal area, some Japanese shopping malls have separate restaurants where you wait your turn on chairs outside of the eating area. Once your party is taken to go inside you sit down, order and eat in the seating area designated just for that restaurant. I think it is a better experience and not so noisy since it isn’t just one big room.
Sometimes you can judge how popular a place is by the line outside, and choose your restaurant accordingly. Of course, in between meal times the chairs go empty.
While you wait outside, there are often plastic fake food meals to peruse, so you can decide what you want to eat ahead of time. They look lifelike because the plastic models are handmade for specific restaurants, meaning that even the noodles will match the ones that the restaurant uses. During the molding process the plastic ingredients are chopped and mixed the way the kitchen would, so the end result is a very realistic plate. I think this is waaayyy better than just looking at a paper menu. You actually get to see how the food looks, and as an added bonus it is super colorful.
There are even prices for “sets” so you know exactly what different meals cost. Walking inside this restaurant to enjoy lunch, we were greeted with a friendly “Irasshaimase!” (Welcome). Some menus have English translations on them, but this one did not. All I had to do was to point to the dish below and all was well.
I stopped by a Coldstone creamery to get a sweet treat after lunch. They even had fun flavors like the Greeeen Tea Party, yum.
Just as the girl was about to start making my ice cream, I noticed a sign on the glass display that said, “We Sing For You”. I swiftly dropped a tip in the jar and watched as she and her colleagues did the happiest little ice cream making I’ve ever seen, complete with appropriate song from Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs “Heigh-Ho”. (Edit: I am not sure if there was a tip jar per se. I go to Coldstone a lot and in hindsight maybe this location didn’t have one.)
Click here to watch my fun Youtube video taken while they made my ice cream.
If only everyone had such a great attitude at work!
Going back outside to walk around on the city streets I thoroughly enjoyed just taking it all in. Coming to a crosswalk a bright sign caught my eyes. No elephants allowed to cross here? Reading the English below, it looks like it was just a cute way of saying, “No littering, please”. Walking is popular here, and there are far less overweight Japanese people probably in part due to their frequent exercise (and smaller food portions).
Where else but Japan is it cool for a man to wear bunnies on his back pockets?
I had a blast just looking at the little everyday things, and wandered into a Japanese grocery store. There must have been 50 different types of marshmallows alone!
Too, too fun. The people were always friendly, smiling, and more than helpful. After getting lost on purpose down long streets, doing some people watching and eating what I thought was a tasty round pancake (which ended up having a chunk of Octopus(?) inside), I realized the day had slipped by too quickly and it was already night time.
That was ok though, since I’d be heading to Kyoto the next morning via the Shinkansen “Bullet” Train.
Here are some other fun experiences to have in Tokyo via Voyagin, a unique travel experience booking platform based in Japan.
What is your favorite thing to do in Tokyo?