Tokyo is a bustling, colorful city – a perfect balance of technology and tradition. I recently traveled to Japan for about 10 days and visited the cities of Tokyo, Osaka, Hiroshima, Miyajima, and Kyoto. In this post I am going to focus on the highlights from my time in Tokyo with recommendations for anyone looking to visit Tokyo as well!
Visit the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building Observatory
After a 13-hour flight, my group finally arrived to Japan. One of our first activities was to head to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building to get a great first look at the Tokyo skyline. It was very impressive!
Try a bowl of Ramen
Ramen in Japan is nothing like the .99 ramen we all ate in college. No, this ramen is made from fresh broth, handmade noodles, fresh meat and vegetables, seaweed and more. It was a perfect first full meal to delight in after arriving to Japan. There are ramen shops around every corner, so I recommend giving one a try!
Head to the Tsukiji Fish Market for the Tuna Auction
The Tsukiji Fish Market is one of the largest seafood and fish markets in the world. Tickets to witness their famous tuna auction are “first come, first served” and extremely limited. Our first morning in Japan we woke up at 3:00 a.m. (!) to take a cab and stand in line to see this famous auction. Luckily for us we got in! We waited until the auction began around 5:50am. A well-spoken auctioneer gave us the history of the fish market, explained how the tuna auction works, and answered all our questions.
It was finally time to head in. It was astonishing to see rows and rows of enormous tuna waiting to be auctioned off. Auctioneers were shouting – it almost sounded like they were singing. They were selling these large fish to buyers for hundreds, even thousands of dollars. After witnessing this tv-worthy site, we went into the market in search of sushi. Tsukiji is one of the best places in the world to have sushi – even for breakfast!
There was so much to see and do at Tsukiji, including popping in and out of the bustling market stalls. It was a wonderful introduction to Tokyo culture.
Temples & Shopping at Asakusa
Asakusa is a district in Tokyo that is famous for buddhist temples and festivals throughout the year. We had a great time visiting the Senso-ji temple which was bustling with locals and tourists. The streets were lined with beautiful stalls filled with handmade trinkets and treasures. During my shopping, I was stopped by a group of adorable school children who asked to interview me in broken English. They were tasked with interviewing English- speakers to improve their language skills. It was so fun! At the end of the “interview” they gave me a handmade origami. It was a touching moment and one I will always remember.
Cross the “Scramble”
If you dare! This is one of the busiest intersections in the world. Head to Shibuya station to witness this amazing site. All at once, the streetlights turn red allowing hundreds (seemingly thousands) of pedestrians to flood the streets in a manner of organized chaos. We had the chance to do the crossing twice and it was a blast!
Visit the Skytree
One of the tallest buildings in the world, the Skytree is an impressive structure used as a broadcasting, restaurant, and observation tower in Tokyo. It is currently listed as the tallest tower in the world and the second tallest structure in the world, following the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, standing at 2,080 feet. Though I never went up to the top of Skytree, I enjoyed the view from its base. This is defnitely a must-see while in Tokyo.
Ride the bullet train and buy a bento box
When it was time to depart Tokyo to head to our next destination we had the chance to ride one of the fastest (and smoothest) trains in the world – the bullet train. This high-tech train clocks in at 275 mph! We picked up a delicious bento box for lunch (see how cute they are below!) and boarded our train to Osaka. This is the easiest way to get around Japan and another must-try when visiting.
There is so much to do in Tokyo – and we just scratched the surface during our stay. Here are my major takeaways:
- Tokyo is very crowded, but very organized. Organized chaos! I rarely heard honking nor did I feel my personal space being invaded.
- The city is spotless. I mean it! The streets and subway system in Tokyo are completely clean. The Japanese people really take pride in cleanliness. Just take a look at any public bathroom. And when they are sick, masks are worn to prevent the spread of germs. Interestingly, there are no trash bins on the streets either.
- On a related note, there may be very little trash in the streets because Japanese people do not eat or drink on the go. They always make time to sit while eating and drinking which is one reason they have some of the best digestion systems in the world.
- Wear slip-on shoes. One of the major cultural differences is how frequently you are expected to take off your shoes in Japan. Most temples and many restaurants require slippers to be worn out of respect – shoes are to be left at the door.
- Respect. The Japanese people as a whole are overwhelmingly respectful. I had to get used to being bowed to or being presented with gifts nearly every place we visited. Remember to stretch your back before coming here, bowing is inevitable!
I had an amazing time in Toyko, but there is so much to see in Japan. Stay tuned for my next posts on the other cities I visited during my travels here.
Have you ever visited Tokyo? What was your experience?
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