Despite the rocky start at the beginning, we managed to make sense of the Tokyo Subway quite quickly (definitely much more tourist friendly than some of the other rail lines that we took on this trip). We rode the train to Honkomagome where we walked through the Rikugi-en Gardens. The translation of “Rikugien” literally means Six Poems Gardens, and it produces 88 miniature scenes from famous poems. Since our trip fell within the season of Fall, the leaves were turning and were phenomenally beautiful. We spent the next hour and a bit taking photos and marvelling at the beauty of these gardens.
About halfway through the gardens we stopped at a little stall and ate what tasted like rice cakes in miso paste and as I type this, the cravings are so real!
There was also a stone bridge named Togetsukyo (also named after a famous poem) where we struggled to take photos. It’s a bridge featured on their advertisements and one of the places we were most keen to get a photo on. Unfortunately, the bridge itself is quite narrow and a guard stands at the beige directing traffic so people only walk on the bridge in one direction at a time. This meant that a pool of people collected quite quickly, giving us little time to take a photo. My extremely talented boyfriend managed to snap a photo of me though (whilst I managed to get one of him walking away, oops!)
Another thing we noticed is that there are stamps almost everywhere we went (and I wish I realised sooner so I could’ve had a book or somewhere to collect all these stamps!) If you’re heading off to Japan, I highly recommend bringing a place to place these stamps so you can collect throughout your trip. Luckily our admission tickets were the perfect size and we managed to get them stamped:
It was around lunch time at this point and since we were in Japan, we figured it’d be the perfect time to search for some sushi. I’m not exaggerating at all when I say that we walked around looking for sushi for about an hour and a half. A lovely man tried to help us find a sushi restaurant however he spoke very little English and we ended up parting ways soon after speaking to him. We finally decided to eat at a small restaurant which I’m pretty sure was part of a chain where we had chicken katsu and Japanese curry. We were absolutely starving at this point so finding this place was a welcome opportunity to eat and rest our tired feet.
After lunch we boarded to train again to visit the Sensoji Temple in Asakusa. We visited a matcha shop close by and watched the ladies make mochi. We couldn’t leave without buying some matcha ice cream and it was absolutely divine.
Walking up to the temple, we had the opportunity to make a wish and check our fortune. It’s a bit difficult to explain, but I’ll make sure to add it to the video diary of the trip. The temple itself was an experience in itself, and I was completely awestruck. There were crowds of people but despite the chaos outside the temple, everyone inside was completely reverent and respectful.
After Sensoji, we headed to Harajuku to see the Meiji Shrine, however we didn’t make it back in time. Upon exiting the station we saw that there was a cat cafe in the building directly across from us, so we ended up going there instead. The cats were super sleepy and super adorable! I’m more of a dog person myself, but these cats were something else.
We walked for a little while to explore the area and we came across a strip of twinkly lights and heaps of shops and loud music. In retrospect, I wish I bought more in Harajuku than I did (though I probably wouldn’t have been able to fit anything else into my suitcase).
It was so great going into shop after shop and seeing all that Harajuku had to offer. We even got a set of woven bracelets with an engraving on it to commemorate the trip. At the end of the strip we came across huge buildings housing Forever 21, H&M, New Balance and a number of other branded stores. We shopped for another hour or so before calling it quits and relaxing in a nearby Starbucks.
Our relaxation time didn’t last very long as we rushed to Shibuya Station to experience the Shibuya Scramble Crossing. On the way two amazing things happened:
- We found a CINNABON – the reason this was so amazing is because I must be the only American who is not an infant that hasn’t tried Cinnabon. We pounced on the opportunity and bought a box to take back to the hotel.
- We saw people dressed like characters from Mario Kart in actual go-karts on the road! They were adorable and nice enough to pose for us as we were crossing the road and frantically trying to take photos before the pedestrian light turned red.
The Shibuya Crossing Scramble was one of the most graceful things I had ever seen or experienced. Going through the crossing was a lot easier than it initially looked, with everyone managing to get to where they wanted to be without knocking into each other. The majority of people crossing around us were taking videos of themselves and the crossing, so we felt absolutely no shame in doing exactly the same thing. It’s insane how many people went through the crossing each time the light changed! It honestly felt like the entire population of the city was there.
We finally found sushi near the crossing at a place called Genki Sushi. What I loved most about this place was their method of food delivery – upon ordering, your food was delivered using a system that looked like a sushi train however it was like the food itself was the train stopping at your table like a train stops at a station. That description completely butchers the real-life experience, and while it seems like such a little thing, we were happily surprised by it.
We made our way back to our hotel during peak time and experienced being “packed like sardines” on the train. Thankfully we were only travelling a few stops and didn’t pass out from lack of oxygen. By the time we reached the hotel it was around 9:30pm. After over 25,000 steps. 36 (?!) floors climbed and the plan of visiting the Fish Markets bright and early tomorrow, we said our good nights and headed to bed. I enjoyed my Cinnabon with some Japanese coffee in bed before dozing off. It was the perfect end to a great day.