Konnichiwa from Tokyo

Isn’t that clever? I bet I’m the first one to use that post title.

Inspired Karate

With a population over nine million and a transportation system to go with it, I was completely intimated by visiting Tokyo. Most especially by the subway system that we certainly had to use if we wanted to see anything beyond our immediate hotel area.

Turns out it wasn’t so bad. Once we jumped in and made our first outing on Tokyo’s extensive underground, the second and subsequent rides were painless. And we felt old hat. Transportation in Japan is expensive. A cab from Narita airport (which is in a completely different city by the way) to the downtown area of Tokyo starts at 22,000 yen. That’s $255!?!

So subway travel in Tokyo was inevitable.

No worries. It all makes sense. There are lots of maps. It’s intuitive. And there is English signage everywhere, albeit a bit hard to see at times.

Rockin’ the Tokyo subway.

The odd thing about Tokyo for us is it didn’t feel much like a foreign land. Aside from the Japanese signage everywhere and the frequent temples and architectural stand outs, we could have been downtown western anywhere.

Tokyo Street
Tokyo Pub

Tokyo grew on us quickly and we’ll certainly be back. There were many areas that met our preconceived ideas of what Tokyo was like. Once we took the subway to get to them.

Stinkin’ Hot

Can you feel the heat?

I knew Tokyo would be hot in August. Someone described it as comparable to the humid summer days we get in Ottawa. I can handle that for sure. What didn’t register though was Ottawa gets thick humid heat pushing 40 degrees at times and that must be what he was talking about. On top of that, hot days in Ottawa are best spent by the pool. Not hoofing it up and down hills, around corners and into alleys for five or six hours of exploring each day.

I had a perpetual sheen of sweat everywhere. Thank Sweet Jacob that it was overcast everyday!

Rob went running early in the morning to beat most of the heat. Though one morning he was comparing his run to what hot yoga must be like. Despite the crazy heat, we saw dozens of locals running in the afternoons, often clothed wrist to ankle in layered running gear. Some even wearing surgical masks.

Oh the joy of running.

Dining Around Tokyo – Vending Machines and Convenience Stores

We ate most of our meals in Tokyo at the incredible lounge in the Sheraton Miyako Hotel. We could have taken all our meals in the lounge but how fun is that?

Each day we had breakfast and a small dinner at the hotel. We made lunch our main meal while we were out and about.

When you google ‘dining on a budget in Japan’ you get a variety of options enjoyed by the locals. So on two of our Tokyo days we gave eating like a local a try.

Vending Machine Options

We ordered lunch from a vending machine. Literally. Don’t worry the meal didn’t come out of the machine. There are hundreds of small restaurant shops that have plastic molds of their fare displayed at the front. Even the high-end ones. It’s not tremendously appealing looking but you get a good idea of what is available.  Once you decide what you’d like, simply enter the restaurant and select and pay for your option from a large vending machine right inside the door. Take the ticket up to the counter and the kitchen prepares your feast. These are sit down restaurants with no table service.

Our Udon noodle bowls and curries were delicious but since we suck at pulling the camera out, we don’t have a photo to share. But there is this one…

Vending Machine Beer

Another popular local choice is grabbing ‘to go’ food from convenience stores. It’s better than it sounds and is somewhat comparable to getting sushi from the grocery store in Canada. We also ordered some yummy looking grilled meat on a stick here. It turned out to be ‘fat’ on stick. Literally, it was pieces of skin skewered on a stick. I can’t recommend this.

Sorry no photo of that either, we suck.

Screaming Cicadas

Cicada Singing in the Streets of Tokyo.

These little guys are loud. Once you get near any space remotely green you hear their crazy loud song.

According to Wikipedia,

“some cicadas produce sounds up to 120 [decibels] which is among the loudest of all insect-produced sounds. The song is loud enough to cause permanent hearing loss in humans should the cicada sing just outside the listener’s ear. In contrast, some small species have songs so high in pitch that the noise is inaudible to humans.”

The din of the cicadas was pretty cool, if not a little deafening. So was the silence when we entered a building after.

Rob is going to write about the Imperial Palace, the Western Crane Park and Temples so I’ll leave off here for now.

At risk of jinxing ourselves, overall we enjoyed Tokyo immensely and were surprised that our time there went off without a hitch.

We’re in Kyoto now but will be heading back to Tokyo for one more night before we fly to Hanoi.  Did we miss any ‘must do in Tokyo’?

Take care and thanks for reading,

9 Replies to “Konnichiwa from Tokyo”

  1. Guinness! Japan can’t be that bad if it has that delicious drink. I like the concept of the vending machines. Very interesting. Is the food like a Japannese restaurant or its different and more western? Oh, who was that hippie wearing those sandels on the train? Must be a retired person for who wears sandels to work? I like your blogs.

  2. Loving the blog Colleen! Your Tokyo notes bring back memories from our pre-kids visit there in ’99 🙂

    Keep sharing!

  3. I had a Chinese friend who visited Japan a few years ago, and she went to a restaurant that was rather amusing to her. It had little closed off booths, where people ordered soups and didn’t see any servers or other guests. The best part (for her) was that business people (nice suits) streamed in and out, and yet there was the most loudest slurping around her. These guys could never ‘slurp’ openly in public, but they could do it in (visual) privacy!

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