City lights, city sights – Japan’s urban jungle.
Bombarding your screen with a million and one pictures. And a whole lot of words.
Sorry, not sorry.
Day 1: Shibuya & Shinjuku
The Shibuya crossing was smaller than expected, but that didn’t stop us from sitting in Starbucks just watching (and trying to capture a good shot of) the back and forth foot traffic for a good one hour maybe? We were somewhat early and shops weren’t open so we had plenty of time to kill. The crossing wasn’t that impressive yet so after downing our hot coffees, we decided to get lost around the streets of Shibuya.
Until we accidentally found ourselves walking along a street filled with love hotels..
Shinjuku was something else. We only went there at night so the crowd was heavier. And it seems this area is famous for hostess clubs where there are pictures of girls and guys being displayed outside and my guess is you “pick someone”. There were those half-curtains draped over the entrances so we couldn’t see inside but boy was i curious. And right outside these places stood a couple of Yakuzas, which was kinda scary when actually seeing in person.
Day 2: Tokyo Disney Resort, Harajuku & Roppongi
The Tokyo Disney Resort was a childhood wonderland. Before this trip, i made sure that we had a day entirely for Disneyland, to which my colleagues all gave me a look because i neither had kids nor was i one. Though that didn’t stop us from eating popcorn while roaming about, watching the parade go by, and going frantic at the toy store. I was actually gonna get Minnie ears but i didn’t and now i’m kinda mad at myself for not getting it. Ugh.
We reached Harajuku by sunset so we couldn’t stay long at the Meiji Shrine as it is located within forested grounds. Was a little disappointed that we didn’t get to see anyone in cosplay when walking the streets. Apparently Takeshita-dori is famous for its goth-loli girls but i guess we were there at the wrong time of the day maybe?
Roppongi on the other hand, is a little more upscale with stores that carry labels you’ve never even heard of. We didn’t manage to explore much of this suburb as we went there particularly for the Tokyo City View and it sure was amazing (best date night ever!). We had plans to come back another day but our schedule was pretty much tight the entire trip so we couldn’t make it.
Day 3: Marunouchi, Ginza & Tsukiji
Our initial plan was to visit the Imperial Palace during the Emperor’s birthday, but that didn’t work out. So we walked all the way to the Hama Rikyu Garden and stayed there for a while, resulting in a series of pictures that just might be my favourite from Tokyo.
We had dinner at a local ramen shop in the suburb we were staying at (Higashi-matsubara) and got chatty with the owner and chef who were pretty curious about Malaysia – missing plane and all. Its so interesting how the Japanese people love conversing with you despite the language barrier. Seriously, their hospitality is just world class!
Day 4: Marunouchi, Ueno & Akihabara
We were finally able to explore the Imperial Palace, albeit the weather being not too great. In fact, Japanese sunlight may just be the hardest to work with. Throughout our entire trip, we were constantly struggling with lighting as the sun always seemed to be glaring at all the wrong places. And its not because we were shooting at the wrong time of the day.
Ameya-yokocho in Ueno was like a street market that pretty much had everything you required. From street food to fresh seafood, to clothing to pharmacies; this place has got you covered. We didn’t manage to explore the park and temples nearby due to closing times, which is rather a bummer when trying to cram multiple locations into one day.
Akihabara is definitely one of a kind. Multiple floors of all things anime/manga, and even stores for hentai (Japanese porn) and sex toys. You’d be surprised how packed these stores are and the number of grown men that are inside.. Shocker.
Day 5: Shinkansen train to Kyoto
The train from Tokyo to Kyoto took around 2 and a half hours – equivalent to a Sydney-sider travelling to the Blue Mountains. Unfortunately i couldn’t get a clear shot of Mt Fuji as it was heavily covered by clouds that day. And i was so looking forward to marvel at that beauty.
And here’s where i start telling you about Japan’s Takkyubin service. Since we were taking the bullet train to Kyoto, the thought of carrying our luggage bags around worried me. And i remembered reading reviews that there wasn’t much baggage space on the train to begin with. So i thought the best thing to do was to use the Takkyubin luggage transfer service, whereby they’d send your luggage to wherever you’re headed to.
We went to a local store to get this done but it turns out the owner spoke no English. Despite the whole language problem, he kept going on and didn’t turn us down, which i found both worrying (that our bags would never arrive us) and amazed at the length he was going through to help us. Thankfully, i had the address of our next location written in kanji so the kind old man wrote it down for us. After a couple of minutes conversing back and forth in a language neither of us understood, he called a lady in the next room to come over, and to our delight, she could speak English. She confirmed our details and helped us get sorted out but we were still pretty worried since we were using this service for the first time.
Our bags were due to arrive between 12-2pm the next day. They arrived at 12.30pm. The delivery man even brought both bags up the lift, right to our doorstep. Such service is unbeatable – i’ve seriously never experienced anything quite like this! We were both left in serious awe.
All the more reasons why i left my heart in Japan.
Though to be honest, i wasn’t really feeling Tokyo. I found it to be too urban, and every suburb pretty much looked the same. I guess if you’re all about shopping then this would be the city for you. Fortunately, the boyfriend and i are both landscape photographers so we had the same thoughts and preferences regarding locations.
So much easier to work with.