Travel in Japan: Untouched and Unpredictable

Day 1 in Tokyo:

I made it to Japan everyone! Woo hoo! 😀10273556_10104857702631867_3211703355395924362_nThis was day was filled with so much anticipation and excitement. Here are my initial impressions of Tokyo and Japan so far. 😀

The  day began in Asakusa, the neighborhood of my hostel. DSC_0020A beautiful combination of old and new- Asakusa offers the comforts of the contemporary and glimpses of life, pre-war, in old Tokyo . DSC_0019DSC_0032DSC_0080DSC_0227DSC_0022This is also where I spotted my first geisha. 🙂 I ‘joined’ her at Starbucks, while she elegantly sipped tea on the bench.
DSC_0029In Asakusa district, you’ll also find Sensō-ji , one of Tokyo’s most famous Buddhist temples. DSC_0049 DSC_0054Giant lantern at the Thunder Gate entrance, plus traditional Japanese garmentsDSC_0037The Five-storied Pagoda of Sensō-ji
DSC_0058Two giant straw owaraji sandals hang on the entrance door, which were offered to protect the temple during WWII. They took 800 men to construct and weigh almost 600 pounds each.
DSC_0056December in Japan feels like a crisp, autumn day, with a light breeze, and golden-colored leaves hanging from the trees.
DSC_0069 DSC_0078While at Sensō-ji, you can read your omikuji or fortune.

Steps to reading a fortune:

  1. Shake this container until a small stick falls out.
  2.  ‘Read’ the stick and match it with its drawer. DSC_0060
  3. Pull out your fortune- with English translationsDSC_0061
  4. If your fortune is good-smile 😀2015-12-22 16.02.02DSC_0062
  5.  If your fortune is bad, tie it to the temple line, and hope it doesn’t follow you home DSC_0066
  6. Either way- give a small donation to the temple and the Gods

DSC_0063Also, take it with a grain of salt. Don’t gloat over a good fortune or pout over a bad one.

You control your own destiny. 😀
DSC_0064For example, instead of relying on fortune alone, you can improve your own health by wafting burning incense on your ailments, or improve your luck by throwing a coin in a pit and making a wish.
DSC_0076Now, leading away from Sensō-ji Temple is Nakamise-dori Street.
DSC_0042It’s lined with many souvenir shops, filled with traditional Japanese goods.
DSC_0048DSC_0045These panda chopsticks were just too cute to resist. 😀
DSC_0047Another standout item was the pet costume. Now your dog can be a geisha too. 😀
DSC_0044From Asakusa, I headed to Akihabara-the electric city.
DSC_0085Akihabara is filled with duty free electronic shops and anime collectibles. DSC_0082This place completely flipped my world upside-down. I felt like I had stepped into a parallel-universe.

Rows of neon pinball video game machines, called Pachinko.
DSC_0093Entire stores filled with claw crane machines dispensing plush toys. 
DSC_0087DSC_0088‘Anime’ or computerized animations- very popular in Japan.
DSC_0081Each store housed thousands of anime figurines, as well as, gumball machines dispensing random anime statues.
DSC_0090 DSC_0084If you feel like you have understood everything about the world, you must not have been to Japan yet. Hah. 😛

While in Akihabara, I also spotted my first sumo wrestler!
DSC_0092(Note: I wanted to watch them practice, but unfortunately viewing is not permitted during the holiday season, due to high tourist volumes)

Also, I noticed plenty of enticing Japanese food displays outside each restaurant, accompanied by smells of delicious noodles wafting in the air. Starting to get hungry!
DSC_0096I decided to walk to Ginza district from Akihabara, where I would break for lunch.

Both the architectural design of the buildings, and the vintage taxis in the streets give Tokyo a real 1970’s vibe.
DSC_0097 DSC_0104DSC_0127DSC_0125DSC_0150Side note: lots of people in Japan wear surgical masks when they are sick, as a courtesy to others. How thoughtful! 🙂DSC_0100I did a lot of walking on day 1, which started to give me a  feel for the city and its people.
DSC_0121It also helped me find spontaneous pitstops, like this speciality food shop.

What I thought was tea, turned out to be the most delicious mushroom broth I have ever tasted. *drool*
DSC_0102 DSC_0101Now it was finally time for lunch. 😀

On the basement level of Tokyo Station is ‘Tokyo Ramen Street,’ home to famous restaurants serving ramen soup and other Japanese fare. DSC_0120Here I ordered my first vending machine lunch.

Ordering food from a machine:

Step 1. Put money in the machine and press the picture you’d like
DSC_0106DSC_01092. Collect your change and your ticket
DSC_01073. Sit down in an authentic Japanese dining room, amongst masses of Japanese businessmen
DSC_01154. Enjoy quite possibly the most delicious bowl of chicken, egg and rice that you’ve ever tasted

So simple, but so delicious! 😀
DSC_0114Food etiquette to remember:

1. Always lay chopsticks horizontal on bowl. DSC_01102. Don’t stick chopsticks directly into the bowl, because it resembles burning incense sticks found on a person’s grave :/DSC_0117After lunch, I made my way toward Roppongi Hills, which miraculously offered an escalator ride to the top. 😀DSC_0129On the way to Roppongi district is Hie Shrine, a sacred site used for praying to the Shinto Gods.

Wooden plaques inscribed with prayers and wishes.
DSC_0135It’s customary to cleanse your hands with these ladles before entering the shrine. DSC_0145Hie Shrine DSC_01442015-12-22 16.01.32Next up was the 52nd floor of Tokyo City View, in Roppongi Hills.
DSC_0151DSC_0205DSC_0153It offers one of the best views of the city, and of Tokyo Tower.
DSC_0202 DSC_0193Also, a swanky place for a little post-viewing bubbly. 😉 DSC_0196Last up was Caretta Shiodome, for their spectacular holiday illumination.

DSC_0210I ended the day chatting with a charming group of Argentinians at my hostel who were here in Japan for the soccer tournament against Brazil. Things could always be worse. 😉

Overall, a spectacular first day in Tokyo, and there’s plenty more on the way. Stay tuned! 🙂

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