Skyscrapers, old temples, weird clothes, fashion addicted men and crooooowds!

IMG_0032When I was kid I used to put wishes upon a falling star to see the Great Wall and one day to visit Japan. My both wishes became true and I know that where is a wish there is a way.

I arrived at Narita International Airport and the feeling of walking on the Japanese land was amazing! I have never felt so overhelmed with all kinds of emotions. I was anxious, happy, wanted to scream and even shad few teardrops 😀 This is how I felt that day…one of the happiest in my life and the first after a long long time.

I will say more, I went to Japan to find some answers that I was trying desperately to find at that moment in time and to find the balance and peace that I nedeed the most. It was a good decision, I reckon 🙂

At the airport one of my Japanese friends met me and took me to my hostel. It was Halloween day and because I had to get ready for those amazing first captures of Tokyo streets, after the check-in at my hostel, we went straight to the Akiba or Akihibara to buy a new camera. The trip to my hostel was all fun …and embarassment! haha I had printed only a part of the map with my hostel, unaware that in Tokyo people don’t look for a place based on a street name but the bloc name!

The hostel was very nice and very close to Asakusa Temple, called Sakura Hostel Asakusa and on my way back from the Southern part of the country I stopped to Khaosan Tokyo Samurai. If you haven’t been to Japan yet, then one of the striking things will be shower rooms and the toilets. They are very hich tech and when I say it I do mean it! 😀 I have never seen such things in any of the Asian or European countries I have been to. Another thing will be the subway lines in Tokyo! There’s no other suway network this complicated as the one in Tokyo, therefore pay attention where are you heading to. You can download it from here in English, German, Spanish, Chinese and Russian 🙂

Akihabara or Akiba is an AMAZING place to go to buy electronics or just to see the very new releases on the market. Rest assured that most of the stuff you see there won’t be launched on other markets or if they will, then with some months gap in between and under a different name of the product. For example, my camera is a Cannon Kiss X3, for the U.S. market they named it Rebel and for European D5xx. When you’ll leave Japan you may have the chance to see people checking in some Plasma TV sets or other electronic stuff 😀

The choice was great and hard at the same time. I’ve got my camera, but then surprise…my camera was out of batteries,. Without a camera, I had no other option than to enjoy the city and go home for a good rest. 🙂

Now, let me give you some tips and insights about this amazingly alive megapolis.

Japan is known as one of the most expensive destinations on earth! But, even so the beautiful streets, tall shining skyscrapers, gardens and parks and all the ancient and well preserved temples, the blend of history and the present is unique and offers a charm that is unique in a way.

Tokyo is not just a megalopolis, it’s more than that. I loved the clean streets and everywhere you went was CLEAN! People respect each other and pay respect to elders.
Locals are pretty used seeing gaijin or foreigners, therefore if you go there to increase your ego, forget about it 😀 Even if they do stare at you, you won’t feel the indiscreet looks on you (a quite a striking difference with China where were cases when guys were talking behind my back, taking pictures with me in the glass of a subway without asking my permission and the list can go on).
When you are in Tokyo, take the boat / cruise trip…it’s interesting to listen the history of so so so many bridges. The final destination of this cruise trip is Odaiba. How COOL is that?! Take some pictures with the miniature statue of Liberty, go around and maybe do some shopping, and take the monorail over the Rainbow bridge back to Tokyo. From Odaiba you can see Yokohama 😉

Go to see the Tokyo tower and just wonder around the streets in Harajuku, Akihibara and just random places. Not very far from Tokyo tower is Roppongi metro station, at the exit awaits you the famous giant spider. Roppongi is a perfect place to hang out and has very nice restaurants. I have been to one traditional izakaya. As in ANY place in Japan, you had to leave your shoes at the entrance, but at this izakaya they had wooden lockers and the key to your locker was also make of wood. Very cool stuff! The floor was wooden and warm. Have you watched the movie “Memoirs of Geisha”? If you watched the movie then you’ll understand how this place looked like. The rooms were of different size and were split by a thin handmade paper and bamboo sticks. The door was closed from the moment you stepped into that room. On the corner of the table you had a small button used for calling the waiter. When a waiter was taking an order or bringing food, they will kneel in front of the door, open it and then talk to you…I felt weird but this was how that place was. Unfortunately I don’t remember the name of it, but if you go to Roppongi Im more than sure you can find one for your taste there. If you want to know more on this subject, I have found an article about best izakayas in Tokyo, you can read it here.

Japan is a safe country, therefore walking during the night is not dangerous (even for a lone traveler). One thing is sure, keep an eye on your watch, the subways run until 11pm, some even stop running at 10pm! If you speak some Japanese, then taking a bus will come handy and will make your life much easier. Unlike subways, buses they run until late hours. If you run out of options and you have no idea where are you and how far your accommodation is, then taking a cab is the only option you have, but keep in mind that it will be a costly trip! 🙂
Just to give you an idea…someone was complaining about taxi prices in London…well, in Tokyo from the Tokyo Train Station to Narita International Airport (back in 2009) was around 220 Euros!

Yokohama was my second destination in Japan. I haven’t seen too much, because I was still feeling tired and the jet lag made it worse.
My friend Tohgo took me to the very famous China Town. We walked quite a lot around there and and had some nice lunch at a fancy cafe there….the green milk tea mousse wasn’t exactly what I expected…a tea that you don’t drink, but eat?!….The next day I had a full day for walks in Tokyo, met new friends on the cruise trip and saw the sunset in Odaiba.

Even if the country is expensive, there are ways to save here and there and make your trip affordable. Below you will find a “to do” list when planning your trip to Japan.

How to save money on transportation costs?

1. Come to Japan with a Rail Pass. The rail pass that you’ll receive via post mail, you’ll have to exchange it to Narita International Airport or at any central train station, such as: Tokyo Station or Kyoto Train Station, etc.
2. If you do exchange it from the moment you arrive, then you can use it for the express train that links the airport to Tokyo Station and get a one way ticket with no additional costs, it will be based on your rail pass 😉
3. Some of the metro lines in Tokyo (those marked with JR) are also free of charge, you just have to show your pass to the person that stays next to the entrance and exit. Please keep in mind that in Japan when using the subway, you must keep the tickets for the exit, if you lose it, then you’ll have to pay again.
4.Use it for any trains, except the bullet train (Nozomi). If your pass is for second class, but you decided to travel in the first class, you’ll have to pay an additional fee.
5. Purchase this rail pass only if you know for sure that you’re going to travel a lot outside Tokyo and for that you’ll use trains.

How to save money on accommodation? 

1. One way is to search for a free couch or simply said – become a member on one of the couch surfing web pages.
2. Another way is to contact your hostels in advance (if you find their web pages and contact them directly) with the request of helping them 2-3 hours per day with the things they have to do in the hostel. Some of the hostels have this policy and offer in exchange of some help, free accommodation, but you have to discuss this in advance.
3.Overnight at Internet cafes. Usually they have comfy chairs and even showers. Your luggage is also safe: under your table or rent a locker.
4. Look for hostels that aren’t in the top locations or in the vicinity of some touristic attractions, but not far from a subway line.
5. Onsen evening/overnight packages are usually cheaper than day packages.

If you know some more ways on how to save money while in Tokyo, please share with me your experience 😉

Enjoy your trip to the Land of the Rising Sun!

Travel safe and wise!

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