So, we’ve been posting weekly guides on what to do in a city/neighborhood. Hopefully it has sparked your inner travel bug and you’ve started planning your next trip to some exotic destination. As great as the guides are though, we have found that they dont give too much insight into what WE are experiencing. So from now on, I shall be writing a weekly post recapping what has happened that week. From ramen shops to lost-in-the-woods hiking trips, you’ll get the scoop on what we loved, anecdotes on embarrassing moments, and everything else in between. Who’s excited?! This first post will be a bit tricky since we’ve already been in Tokyo for three weeks and in a nut shell, I’ve LOVED IT ALL, but I shall try to just give you my top 5 highlights. Tokyo is absolutely amazing and everyone should try and visit at least once in their lifetime.
1. Sushi Galore [Tsukiji Fish Markets and Conveyor Belts]
Earlier this week we signed up for a tour of Tokyo’s famous fish markets. As you can tell, we have a thing for using Airbnb and we couldn’t wait to try out the relatively new Airbnb Experiences. Our guide was an Asakusa local, Toshi-san, who owned his own cafe in the area. He took us through the inner markets (which are usually closed off to tourists), around the Senso-ji Temple, and then back to his shop for a sashimi feast with the fish we had purchased at the market. Despite security cracking down on us and basically kicking us out of the inner market (strictness tested and confirmed), the whole thing was a blast and the sashimi meal at the end....holy cow. So. Much. Goodness!
As appealing and affordable as the conveyor belt sushi sounds, it’s all a trick. Especially for someone like me who would eat sushi for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert. With the delicious options slowly winding past taunting you, and at such a cheap price, who wouldn’t go bananas and snatch every plate. That’s how they get you! 10 minutes and 20 plates later you owe wayyy more than you had originally intended to spend. Moral of the story: conveyor belts are heaven but eat with extreme caution.
2. Ooo La La It’s A Spa Day [Saya-no-Yudokoro]
To relax and unwind from all of the exploring and strolling (about 7 miles of walking everyday!!) we headed over to an onsen. Onsens are Japanese bathhouses built using natural hot springs and are a very popular way for the young and old to unplug from the outside world and re-center themselves. BUT, as Shane neglected to tell me until we were on our way there, traditional Japanese onsen’s are nude. Men and women have their own separate areas to relax but once you are in there, it's a clothes-free zone. Ohhhhh, gooooootcha. Definitely a new experience for me. Oh well, when in Japan do as the Japanese do! Shane and I parted ways for three hours and I had the most pleasant, relaxing clothes-free spa experience. Submersing myself into a hot spring tub outside in a zen garden while it’s lightly misting rain is an experience I will never forget. Coming out I felt lighter mentally and physically. Oh, and they have a whole section dedicated to just napping. If I could, I would be there every day.
3. Dessert Overload
When I first started dating Shane, I told him I wasn’t a dessert person. Two bites of ice cream and then I want a steak. Wellll that’s not 100% true. I told him I wasn’t a dessert person so I could avoid the sweet-binging that takes place once I start. I admit it! I LOVE DESSERT. If you are in the same boat as me or in denial about being in the same boat, Japan is the place to indulge your sweet tooth. I don’t think I’ve ever eaten so much soft serve ice cream before. You can find the mundane flavors like vanilla or chocolate, but it’s the truly wacky ones like cherry blossom or black sesame that get you out of your flavor comfort zone and trying new things!
Shopping. It’s my kryptonite. It has been a real test of my will power to not say "to heck with the trip around the world" and spend all of our money on the amazing fashions finds I’ve seen all over Tokyo. The Japanese seem to really love shopping with all of the high rise department stores, malls, and boutique shops that are available. From Prada to unknown mini boutique stores, any sort of fashion taste or trend you can think of, it’s here. Some of my favorite areas to window shop and secretly weep internally are: Harajuku, Omotesando, and Nakameguro. If you are looking for some cool vintage finds, check out the Shimokitazawa and Koenj neighborhoods. For the ladies, it seems that a popular trend right now is 90’s fashion. Think Rachel Green’s closet during the first three seasons of Friends, or Cher from Clueless. Cute plaid skirts, over-sized fuzzy sweaters, and berets. Also, I’ve been surprised by the number of US college sweaters that vintage stores carry here. Who knew?
Even though I have been an angel with not spending (mostly), I did splurge on some face masks. I’m a sucker for them and you can find some affordable quality face masks at the huge department store Don Quixote. The place is magical. It even has it’s own catchy theme song (you’re welcome). I picked up a wide range of face masks for less than a dollar, including a basic skin brightening pearl mask, and a more exotic snake venom mask. (I'm hoping my face doesn’t just peel off after applying that one.)
5. Get Lost
One of our favorite things so far in Tokyo has been getting lost in the winding backstreets of quiet neighborhoods. It's easy to get caught up in all of the tourist areas and attractions, but sometimes the best way to see a city is to just wander and check out the daily life of the locals. We’ve really felt a connection with Tokyo while exploring it’s charming little neighborhoods and seeing people’s daily lives unfold. From mom’s riding around the streets on bicycles with toddlers blabbering away happily in the basket up front, to old ladies sweeping up leaves on the sidewalk, to the cozy cafes and shops that look like they are in the owner's living room. It’s the little everyday things, and not the top sight-seeing spots, that we find ourselves enjoying and appreciating the most.
That's all for this week! I will be back next Thursday with another round of updates from Tokyo. Sayonara!