A Travellerspoint blog

Entries about tokyo

Japan - Tokyo continued, Kyoto and Osaka

semi-overcast 18 °C

When we got back to the hostel, I was pretty tired so didn’t stay up late, but Ricky started playing drinking games with some of the other people in our hostel so I left him to it and went to bed!
The following morning we were supposed to get up super early to go to the Fish Market and to watch Sumo wrestling practise but Ricky didn’t go to bed until 3am and when my alarm went off at 6am, I didn’t want to wake up!

I eventually got up around 11am, had a shower and sat in the common room reading my book.
When Ricky appeared, we decided to go to the Imperial Palace only to discover that you couldn’t actually go inside and there wasn’t much to see around it so we gave up and went to Shinjuku to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building observatory to get a good view of Tokyo at night.

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We grabbed a quick bite to eat from a little hole-in-the-wall restaurant, selected our meal from a small machine, paid, received a ticket, and then gave that ticket to the chef to make our food.
Katsu Chicken and rice with a huge bowl of udon noodles for about £2.


We’re savvy diners!

We came back to the hostel and chilled out for the evening as we were both pretty knackered.
Ricky went to meet a special friend for the night and for some reason, I woke up at around 4:30am and couldn’t get back to sleep so I packed up my suitcase and got dressed, and then went to the Tsujiki Fish Market but I didn’t arrive until around 8am and a lot of the stalls were closing down and all the big fish had already been cut up :(

Check out from the hostel was at 11am so we put our luggage in the hostel’s storage room and had a nap on the futons in the common area.
We went to get some more money out as we could only get 50,000 yen a day (around £280) which was annoying because my bank was charging me between £13-15 per transaction!!

We decided we were a little hungry so we walked down a few small side streets and found a restaurant full of locals so we followed suit and joined them.

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As my father always says, if the locals eat there, it’s usually cheap and always tasty!

We went back to the hostel via a tiny kimono shop and somehow, I came out having bought one…!
However, it was only 5,000 yen and beautiful (£30).

We collected our luggage and got on the subway just after 8pm and headed to Shinjuku station to walk to the Willer Express Bus waiting area, annoyingly, nowhere near all of the other buses!
We arrived early (which is always better than late in my opinion!) but eventually got told it was time to board.
It wasn’t the best overnight bus we’ve been on but it was comfortable and I particularly enjoyed the head covers that were like a strange mix of a hairdresser-style-hairdryer and one of those slide back dome bin lids!


Either way, it blocked out the rest of the world visually, and with my music soothing me through my headphones, I was audibly detached from everyone else as well and managed a relatively good night’s sleep.

~ ~ ~ Kyoto ~ ~ ~

We arrived in Kyoto around 6:30am and had quite a trek to K’s House Hostel, but found it with the help of an old Japanese man on a bicycle who accompanied us to the main road and then told us to walk 3 streets over and continued on with his life!
So cute!

We put our luggage in storage as check-in wasn’t open until 3pm and napped on the sofas until 1pm!
We just sat and chilled in the common area until 3pm and then checked into our room.
A spacious 6 bed dorm with big soft beds – hostels might be expensive in Japan, but you get a lot for your money.

We showered and got dressed before heading out to Gion in search of Geishas.
We grabbed some dinner and through the windows we could see a few tourist/fake Geishas (without makeup) walking around.
When we went outside we found a real Geisha waiting for a car to pick her up so snapped a few pics with her before she was driven off into the night.



We walked down to Poncho To and walked down the thin passageway under hundreds of lanterns lining the street.
I felt like Chihiro in Spirited Away, expecting to see spirits walking through sliding doors; magical!

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It had been snowing for a while and with the wind picking up it was bitterly cold so we headed back to the hostel to relax in the warmth!
The next day we took advantage of the hostel breakfast buffet before getting the metro to Fushimi-Inari Shrine and walking up Mount Inari – There are hundreds of archways next to each other which form these amazing tunnels, broken up by shrine plateaux every so often.

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Toward the top of the mountain was a bit of a struggle for an unfit, overweight woman like myself as there were lots of steps but not as bad as the mountain in Thailand! I gave up and began my decent as Ricky continued to the top – only to tell me when we eventually met each other again at the bottom that I was one staircase away from the top when I gave up! Perseverance was never my strong suit…!

We walked to the train station afterwards and bought our train tickets to Osaka (560 yen each) for Tuesday then went back to the hostel for a well-deserved nap!
Ricky wanted to go to some bars so he went out, but I stayed in the hostel as I had a bit of a headache.

The next day we went to a flea market held on Sundays at the Chion-ji Temple but by the time the bus got us there, some of the stalls were closing up for the day.
It wasn’t so much a flea market, but rather a boutique, handicrafts, not-so-cheap market so if you want to go and check out the things for sale (which are very nice) be prepared to pay more than average for them! I bought some cute earrings and Ricky bought some pieces he liked then we went to one of the only open restaurants at the time and had curry to fill our bellies.
Be aware wherever you are in Japan, there are appropriate times to locate and eat food, trying to find Japanese places to eat at random times like between 2-5pm is nearly impossible. If the Japanese don’t eat at that time, neither do you!


Monday reared its beautiful head, so we got up, had breakfast in the hostel again, and then went to the train station to buy 2 tickets to Saga Arashiyama (240 yen each).

When we arrived, we went to the bamboo forest and Tenryu-ji temple, plus a lovely stroll through Okochi Denjiro’s Zen garden (an actor in samurai movies) before heading to Fufu No Yu onsen (hot springs) across the Togetsu-kyo Bridge, only to be told that we couldn’t go in because of our tattoos and the links to the Yakusa (Japanese Mafia)!

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We sombrely made our way back to the train station but decided to top in the adorable café, Coffee Shop Hirose, with an old man so lovely I wanted to adopt him and call him Grandpa! His place was tiny, I felt like an Amazonian woman when we walked in and sat amongst the locals.
He had an old telephone which I adored and teeny tiny dream jugs for peoples’ coffee. I could have sat and watched him pottering away for hours.


If I ever move to Japan, I want that to be my local café; ADORABLE!

Kyoto is so relaxed that I felt like we barely did anything. People in Japan are so lovely and polite and are eager to help us bewildered foreigners with nothing more than a thank you in return!

~ ~ ~ Osaka ~ ~ ~

The next day, we packed up our stuff, had breakfast once more, and then made our way to the train station to head south to Osaka.
28 minutes later we arrived, got on the local loop line train and walked the short distance to our accommodation – not quite what I expected but we’ve stayed in worse! The beds were comfortable and the room was big enough to open our suitcase, what more do you need!?

Ricky wanted to go on the Tempozan Ferris Wheel and I wanted to go to the aquarium (naturally) so we took the subway to Osakako station, had a very late lunch then went our separate ways.
As I sat staring into the Pacific Ocean tank, admiring the graceful flight of the resident Whale shark, I was suddenly awash with sadness; these beautiful creatures made me want to go diving I the oceans every day, but these animals in particular will never experience the open ocean waters again.

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I left shortly after that, feeling like the power aquariums held over me had somewhat diminished and took the subway back to our hotel.
Ricky returned just after me, had a nap, and then went out on the town but an upset stomach prevented me from going farther than the bathroom and back but I didn’t mind, as I soon got lost in one of the many books I brought with me!

The following day, we woke up late and went to Osaka Castle which didn’t look like a European Castle, but more like an Asian Pagoda or shrine. It was inclement weather so we didn’t stay long and walked through the decorative gardens to the metro station.

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We stopped at Mos Burger, a supposed must-have of cuisine in Japan.
We were not impressed…!


Expensive and not very tasty or nourishing.

We went back to the hostel for a nap and a shower before heading out to Shinsaibashi and the shopping district.

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We took in all the lights and the interesting people watching, then sat in Starbucks admiring to deaf guys conversing.
I find sign-language so fascinating and love watching people speak to each other that way.

Apparently, Osaka is better at the weekends and the general consensus appeared to be staying in Osaka and just doing day trips to Nara and Kyoto which are both more peaceful areas.

The next day we’d run out of things we desperately wanted to see so we went to the Sky Tower and took some photos. We both bought heart-shaped padlocks and had our names and the date engraved on them so we could lock them on the available railings on the roof terrace forever.

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I love the padlock craze, I think it’s a fantastic way to leave a part of you in the places you’ve visited without damaging property by carving your name into walls! (Sorry, Great Wall of China…!)

We went to find some food in the west tower and then saw there was a cinema so we decided to waste some time by watching not one, but two films (‘Begin Again’ with Keira Knightly, and ‘Love, Rosie’ with Lily Collins) as we couldn’t decide which one we wanted to watch. Both were very enjoyable and not so much of a waste of time after all!

We made the journey back to our hostel around 9pm, grabbed a quick bite, I reinforced the straps on my backpack with my trusty sewing kit then we went back to the Sky Tower as that was where our bus to Hiroshima left from!
We were both disappointed with this bus as the seats were smaller than the first bus we’d taken and the heating was unbearable – I barely slept and had to get off the bus every time it stopped just to bring my body temperature back down!


Posted by Lady Mantle 00:20 Archived in Japan Tagged tokyo kyoto osaka Comments (1)

Japan - Tokyo

sunny 20 °C

I discovered, when booking our flights to Narita airport in Tokyo that it would be easier, quicker and a lot less hassle it we departed from Beijing rather than the airport closest to us.
So we sped along the track on the high-speed train to Beijing West from Xinxiang East train station, checked into our hostel for the night and had a beer... or two!

We stayed at the Dragon King Hostel in the Dongcheng district and would highly recommend it, as not only is it close to a subway station, but the staff are exceptional and the atmosphere is both friendly and homely.
We checked out in the morning, wolfed down an 'American Breakfast' and walked the 200m or so to the subway.
A few stops later and a 25 yuan Airport Express ticket and we were on our way to Beijing Terminal 2.

We checked in for our flight, went through passport control where Ricky's portable charger was taken from him and I was felt up by airport security so much that I thought it only fair to be bough dinner, or at least a drink by the offer 'searching' me, given her closeness and forceful caress of my inside thigh!

The beginning of a soft porno aside, we went to our gate, only to discover there wasn't so much as a vending machine, let alone a smoking room, so proceeded to take out our books (one each of many) and passed the time by engrossing ourselves in our respective good books.
We boarded our flight an hour after it was due to depart (oh China...!) apparently destined for Shanghai, as a 'technical stop' to arrive at Shanghai airport, disembark, go through the 'exit-to-international-flights' border control and left to figure out where to go next.
This in itself was such an ordeal that a cigarette was desperately required and dutifully achieved by half walking/half jogging through the airport to a smoking room, inhaling pretty much the whole cigarette in one drag and then scrambled back to gate 16 tore-board the plane we'd just got off!
3 hours later, another bag of peanuts and an odd combination of pork curry and sushi later, and we arrived in Tokyo, but not before sitting on the tarmac in Shanghai for 45 minutes and flying over Tokyo for an extra 15 minutes before landing because of the 'danger bok' or something to that effect, as outlined by our inaudible flight attendant.

Now, I was somewhat aware that the trains in Tokyo stopped around midnight and as we were then 2 hours late to Narita, we were pushed for time to get money out and figure out which train to get.
This farce wasn't helped by my bank capping the amount I could withdraw each day, confusing me and putting added pressure on out time schedule.
Eventually, I realised there was a cap, got out what I could and we made our way down the escalator to the trains.

We were walking towards the ticket machine to purchase our tickets but were greeted by several members of staff screaming "GO! GO! GO! The last train of the night is almost here! Buy your tickets on the train" GO! GO! GO!"
We heeded this advice, practically threw our luggage down another set of escalators, launched the through the open doors of the train, and sat down just as the doors were closing.
Now, having never been to Japan before, trying to navigate a subway system with a thousand stations and not even knowing which line you're travelling on presents obvious problems.
The instructions from the hostel would have made perfect sense, had we been on the train they'd advised, however, we were not, we were heading in the wrong direction, not knowing how to rectify the situation but knowing that if we got off the train, we'd be sleeping outside.
Ricky decided that he wanted to get off, but with my last ounce of sanity, I asked the only foreigner in our car, who happened to be sat only a seat away, if he could help us.
We told him were we wanted to go and after subtly correcting our pronunciation, said the train would get us there or at least pretty close which was calming.

70 minutes later, we got off at the station 5 stops away from Asakusa before the train went in a different direction and made our way to the exit.
Now, during that 70 minute journey, not one person came to sell us a ticket so when we were faced with the arduous task of leaving the train station and in our delirious travel-raped fatigue, the only viable option we could think of was to tail-gate someone through the exit gate, hauling our luggage through the closing barricades and making a run for it.


After successfully evading any immediate castigation and enjoying a victory cigarette, we got in a taxi for the last leg of our ridiculous journey and checked into out hostel for the night just in time!
We stayed at Tokyo Original Hostel and were glad to leave in the morning for the hostel we'd booked for the next 3 nights as our room was so small we could barely get our suitcases in... upright!
The only plus side was that the staff were incredibly friendly and helpful and they gave us a thank you note and origami Pikachu they'd made themselves when we left in the morning!

We walked around the corner and up the road to our longer stay hostel, Khaosan Kabuki and were much more impressed with out surroundings.
We were upgraded to a swanky private suite at no extra cost for a reason I'm still unsure of and concluded that for the rest of our trip we would pretend we were a soon-to-be-married couple travelling before the wedding to hopefully get more free-upgrades... when in Rome, so to speak!


Before we came to Japan, I'd booked tickets to the Ghibli Museum in Mitaka, a short train journey away, to see the collection of Ghibli paraphernalia, and today was the day I needed to go.
I asked at the hostel reception how to get to Mitaka and the lovely receptionist gave me a pre-printed slip with directions to the museum and I got ready to go.
Ricky didn't want to come so ventured around on his own whilst I went to the subway station.
I enjoy travelling with someone who doesn't need constant molly-coddling and can just do their own thing; it means that both parties get the most out of their trip without anyone feeling left out.

I went down to the Ginza line, paid the 170 yen to get to Kanda station and got on the train.
The subway ticket machines are off because rather than selecting a station, you select the amount of yen it'll cost to get there, according to the map overhead on the wall.
I arrived at Kanda and had to get a new ticket for the JR Chuo line but the map was only in Japanese so I had to guess the value and get on the train.
25 minutes later, I arrived at Mitake station and went to the south exit as instructed by my print out.
When I put my tiny rectangular ticket in the exit gate, it advised me my fare needed to be adjusted so I went to the machine a stone’s throw away and it told me the difference that I needed to pay; very useful, and civilised!

As I walked out of the south exit, I immediately saw a sign for the Ghibli Museum which confirmed the route I'd already commuted to memory and happily began the 10-15 minute ramble to the second small bridge over the narrow river that accompanied me down the road.


I took a right turn and then after a little more walking, I saw the sign on my left.


I exchanged my paper ticket for my real ticket, a real film piece from one of my favourite Ghibli films (Howl's Moving Castle) and went inside.


Annoyingly, but also understandably, you're forbidden from taking pictures inside the museum, only outside, which was still beautiful and equally magical.

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Inside was beautiful, wooden floors and staircases with random little doors and cast iron bannisters - I felt like I was in a Ghibli movie!
I looked at all the artwork displays, the extensive heaps of books and sketches plastered across the walls and the beautifully specific way the desk was arranged to suggest Miyazaki had only just stepped away for a moment.
I obviously bought some souvenirs from the gift shop before traversing the iron staircase to the giant metal guardian from Castle in the Sky on the roof of the museum.

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I didn't stay for long and was back on the train to Asakusa before I knew it.
I particularly enjoyed the 'real' Catbus from My Neighbour Totoro full of 'real' dust mites from Howl's Moving Castle that the children could play on.
You can see pictures inside the museum on their website: http://www.ghibli-museum.jp/en/

I walked back along the river to the station, had a cigarette in the designated smoking area (you are not allowed to walk on the street smoking!) then got back on the train to Asakusa via Kanda station and met Ricky.


We went to Starbucks for a drink then went to Freshness Burger for dinner before walking around looking for Byron Bay Café which Ricky had found earlier in the day for a Baileys and Chocolate Milk, then went back to the hostel where I wrote this and Ricky played Bomberman on the Nintendo until 3am!


I think I use hostels incorrectly, given that I much prefer the common areas when there’s no one else in them…!

We woke up around 10am and headed out to Harajuku; the Fashion District.
I’ve never seen so many beautiful, ordinary (as in, not famous!) people in amazing clothes before!
Ricky and I bought several items and for the first time ever in our time together, I spent more money on clothes than him!
Beautiful clothes!
We walked around for a while, following cool people to see where they were going, looking into kitsch little shops to see what they were selling, and genuinely just loving our environment.

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Posted by Lady Mantle 04:18 Archived in Japan Tagged tokyo fashion smoking harajuku delays spring_festival khason_kabuki ghibli_museum chinese_airlines dust_mites mitaka tokyo_metro Comments (2)

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