The first leg of my Japan trip was a no brainer, Tokyo!! It had the cheapest flights from the UK and it is one of the biggest cities in the world. Tokyo is a city that never sleeps, but was surprisingly not as busy as i was expecting. The first thing the caught my eyes as soon as i arrived in the centre of Tokyo at midnight, was the bright lights and sign lining the narrow streets.
Due to it being the middle of winter in Japan, Tokyo wasn't at its busiest, so the counting aspect of exploring one of the busiest cities in the world while avoiding the foot traffic wasn't such a problem. I was pleasantly surprised how un westernised Tokyo was, the food, the sounds, the writing, the respectful and pleasant attitude from the Japanese people all made my time on Tokyo very different, and very enjoyable.
We only had 3 days in Tokyo so we wanted to make sure we made the most of our time, so there was no time to worry about any jet lag. Tokyo is a city with plenty of things to do, you can walk around and see numerous temples and shrines that a hidden amongst the modern and tightly enclosed buildings. This creates quite the contrast.
The original idea for the trip to japan was to go skiing, so the flights had to be in winter time. luckily Japans busy tourist periods are in spring and autumn ( you'll often see picture of japan with pink blossom trees)
We flew with Cathay Pacifc, left from Heathrow airport, and had a 2 hour transfer at Hong Kong Airport. Total flight time was just over 18 hours. To get from the airport to the city centre, we took the underground, which was relatively simple to work out and was very very cheap. this become are main way of getting round Tokyo due to it being the equivalent of £1:50 to get across the city.
When we left Tokyo to go to our next destination, we used a coach, the journey was 5 hours with no changes and was the cheapest option, the train would of been just over 4 hours with multiple changes. This was a no brainer, and lucky for us the coach turned out to be the most comfortable coach I've ever been on.
Like any big city, you can have any type of accommodation you could wish for, from the cheap and simple to the lavish and expensive. We chose a hotel that was simple but had enough style to defy the price. The hotel was Hotel Wing International, it was a simple chain hotel with a 24 hour reception and it was in the area of Shinjuku. Shinjuku is the part of Tokyo that has earned the reputation of never sleeping, bars and restaurants that are open all the time, this can make you explore and loose track of time. Not always a bad thing.
Food and Drink
As i said earlier, I found Tokyo surprisingly un-westernised, which meant i had to get useful with chopsticks or i would go hungry on my trip. There is plenty of steak houses, as Japan is famed for its Wagyu beef. Plenty of sushi restaurants, but i found myself going to restaurants that specialise in ramen and rice dishes, with miso soups etc. these restaurants would have a big token machine which you pay at, then give the servers your token and wait 4/5 minutes. The choices i was making came down to luck, as all the writing was in Japanese and the pictures weren't overly clear, but i didn't have a bad experience. Meals out are as little as £3/£4 and can be super expensive if your having a large piece of wagyu.
As we was in the Shinjuku area, bars were not difficult to come buy. You can find the odd "British Pub" which we avoided, and plenty of trendy and cool bars. you can see big karaoke clubs and bars on every street, this seems to be one of the bigger past times in Japan. We did find in most of the pubs the Japanese bar staff did enjoy providing us with wasabi nuts and crackers, although i think they enjoyed our reactions more.
Things to do
The best way to see the sights of Tokyo, is by Go Kart. Yes, you can hire go karts and follow a guide around the streets of Tokyo for as little as £40. We went to a company called Maricar, and we received a quick intro and safety talk, got given costumes such as Mario, Luigi and poker etc, these were very welcome as it was freezing that particular night. We chose a time slot of 8pm, so we could see Tokyo while it was all lit up, but you can also do it through the day. We got the idea from Jenson button, who did this and put a video on his Instagram. This really is a must do, and you can get some epic pictures.
If you want a view of Tokyo then head to either Tokyo tower or Tokyo Skytree. From these you can see the whole of Tokyo, and on a clear day you can even see the famous mount Fuji. Entrance is only a couple of quid, and you can walk around the two floor viewing platforms.
I Try to get a good view of any place i visit, and you won't regret fitting this into your trip.
Temples and Shrines
You'll find that as you walk around Tokyo, you will stumble across wonderful temples and shrines, remember to be respectful as people still go here to leave messages and worship. These buildings are exactly the type, you think of when Japan comes to mind. They are free to walk around and you don't have to search or look for them. just plan your day out and on your way to other sights or activities you will find them.
Tokyo was a nice warm up to Japan, the next stage was to go to Hakuba valley to Ski. Post coming soon