Day 1 in Tokyo:
The day began in Asakusa, the neighborhood of my hostel. A beautiful combination of old and new- Asakusa offers the comforts of the contemporary and glimpses of life, pre-war, in old Tokyo . This is also where I spotted my first geisha. 🙂 I ‘joined’ her at Starbucks, while she elegantly sipped tea on the bench.
In Asakusa district, you’ll also find Sensō-ji , one of Tokyo’s most famous Buddhist temples. Giant lantern at the Thunder Gate entrance, plus traditional Japanese garmentsThe Five-storied Pagoda of Sensō-ji
Two 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.
December in Japan feels like a crisp, autumn day, with a light breeze, and golden-colored leaves hanging from the trees.
While at Sensō-ji, you can read your omikuji or fortune.
Steps to reading a fortune:
- Shake this container until a small stick falls out.
- ‘Read’ the stick and match it with its drawer.
- Pull out your fortune- with English translations
- If your fortune is good-smile 😀
- If your fortune is bad, tie it to the temple line, and hope it doesn’t follow you home
- Either way- give a small donation to the temple and the Gods
You control your own destiny. 😀
For 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.
Now, leading away from Sensō-ji Temple is Nakamise-dori Street.
It’s lined with many souvenir shops, filled with traditional Japanese goods.
These panda chopsticks were just too cute to resist. 😀
Another standout item was the pet costume. Now your dog can be a geisha too. 😀
From Asakusa, I headed to Akihabara-the electric city.
Akihabara is filled with duty free electronic shops and anime collectibles. This 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.
Entire stores filled with claw crane machines dispensing plush toys.
‘Anime’ or computerized animations- very popular in Japan.
Each store housed thousands of anime figurines, as well as, gumball machines dispensing random anime statues.
If you feel like you have understood everything about the world, you must not have been to Japan yet. Hah. 😛
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!
I 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.
Side note: lots of people in Japan wear surgical masks when they are sick, as a courtesy to others. How thoughtful! 🙂I did a lot of walking on day 1, which started to give me a feel for the city and its people.
It also helped me find spontaneous pitstops, like this speciality food shop.
On the basement level of Tokyo Station is ‘Tokyo Ramen Street,’ home to famous restaurants serving ramen soup and other Japanese fare. Here 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
2. Collect your change and your ticket
3. Sit down in an authentic Japanese dining room, amongst masses of Japanese businessmen
4. Enjoy quite possibly the most delicious bowl of chicken, egg and rice that you’ve ever tasted
1. Always lay chopsticks horizontal on bowl. 2. Don’t stick chopsticks directly into the bowl, because it resembles burning incense sticks found on a person’s grave After lunch, I made my way toward Roppongi Hills, which miraculously offered an escalator ride to the top. 😀On 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.
It’s customary to cleanse your hands with these ladles before entering the shrine. Hie Shrine Next up was the 52nd floor of Tokyo City View, in Roppongi Hills.
It offers one of the best views of the city, and of Tokyo Tower.
Also, a swanky place for a little post-viewing bubbly. 😉 Last up was Caretta Shiodome, for their spectacular holiday illumination.
Overall, a spectacular first day in Tokyo, and there’s plenty more on the way. Stay tuned! 🙂