Already when hovering in the air above Tokyo I knew we were in for an experience beyond the ordinary. Just look at the order of this harbour, all down to seemingly millimetric perfection, much in line with the country we were about to encounter.
We arrived in Toyko at 11am local time. Most part of the day was spent queueing. Twice to get through the border, then near an hour to activate our Japan Rail-passes at their airport office.
This in turn made our mantra for the day something along the lines that “at least it moved us an hour closer to bedtime” → Beating that jetlag blues. After all, for us it was around 2 o’clock in the morning that we had landed upon Japanese grounds.
Once we were settled into our AirBnb (believe me did that take some time! Hey, here is a secret travel tip: Do not follow the wrong co-ordinates on Google Maps. You might not find the place you are looking for ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ ) we hit the streets of Shinjuku – known for being a major administrative hub, housing the world’s busiest railway station along with the Tokyo Metropolitan Building where you can enjoy a decent view over the city free of charge. (If you are, surprise, willing to queue for it!)
We were however on the food hunt. Following a HappyCow recommendation we ended up at Ripple – part of a smaller chain of restaurants called AinSoph serving vegan food around Tokyo. Mum had their falafel burger and myself a burrito – particularly tasty after the joke* of a “meal” that SAS had served me on our way over.
(*The philosophy of my in flight meal seemed to be “let us replace all the non-vegan items with different flavoured jams.” Whereby my mum is sat with a full 3-course breakfast meal; myself with a bread roll and three types of condiments. Considering they had plenty of notice AND offer their customers a vegan meal plan option, I would have expected something a wee less spartan! Greetings, Hangry Bastards ™!)The following morning we had coffee at the Starbucks surveying Shibuya Crossing. (I have never in my life purchased so many cups of Starbucks coffee as I have during this trip! Who am I!)
All the best seats were obviously already occupied by dudes and their tripods, but the building also contains floor upon floor of stationaries. The top ones that sell books and magazines feels like a haven escaping the crowds of lower floors.
After satisfying our caffeine depots, we went to a Purikura. In other words it is sort of an interactive photobooth experience. Snapchat IRL. Instant airbrushing and doe eyes making you look like a far more kawaii version of your normal self.
I won’t explain it in much more details, I think the severe confusion you are struck by definitely adds to the comedic effect of it all. However I will add that I have not laughed like that in a la la long time!
For lunch we walked just around the corner of Shibuya Crossing. Initially we ended up in a long queue (I swear, the Japanese love queueing more than the British!) but soon realised it was for the wrong place (phew!). It is relatively easy to miss restaurants and cafes when in Japan as one immediately thinks it ought to be visible on the ground floor – but look up! (Or in some cases down, it may well be a basement you are looking for.)
Up a tiny staircase we went, entering an Indian veggie place called Milan Nataraj. The bright side of chasing vegan grub in a country of fish fanatics – you really avoid the queues and the crowds!
The buffet hostess was lovely and happily pointed out my options as a vegan. (This was before I realised it is clearly labelled on the buffet table itself.) There is a lunch time All You Can Eat (only my four favourite words in that particular order) buffet served daily for about ¥ 1500, which is a price similar to most dishes on the set menu. But the more the merrier, right? At least as a vegan in Japan, one never knows when there will be food other than plain onigiris the next time!
After lunch we took the train to Harajuku with its fair fashionistas, wacky installations and high pulse. It feels a bit like Tokyo’s response to Camden. The crowds down Takeshita Dori (starting under the wee dinosaur) were just mad. Then again, these little prefectures that make up the grand mass that is Tokyo are more populated than my hometown…
Our final stop before retreating back to the airbnb for the night was the Ueno Park. It is said to be one of the better spots in Tokyo for Hanami.
Due to the colder spring the cherry trees (this one above, that must have been standing under heating lamps or so, was under severe papparazzing! iPhones from all angles!) were far from ready to bloom this last week of March. We still agreed that it was a beautiful park on its own — of course yet hopeful to be able to visit it again later on and see what the fuss was all about.
This was part 1/7 of my Japan Photo Diary. Next post will be of Shibu Onsen and the arrival to Kyoto.