Campus & Student Life
Guest Author, 2 March 2020

Oh Japan – Longtime bucket-list destination

Last week I had the wonderful opportunity to get away from Seoul for one week in order to explore Japan in all its glory. I visited Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka, and had the most wonderful time. My friend Diana joined me in this adventure and so we left last Saturday to explore Tokyo for the first two and a half days.

Tokyo Day 1

We headed for Tokyo first, and got to the hostel late at night. We stayed at Japanize Guesthouse, which was located right next to Bakurochō Station. This was extremely convenient, because it meant we didn’t have to carry our backpacks very long, and we were very well connected to the subway lines. I can recommend the hostel, in case you don’t mind sleeping in a 20-bed dormitory.

We decided to make the most of our trip by getting up fairly early, in order to explore more and take advantage of all the city has to offer. The first thing we did was head to Ginza, the high-end shopping area. The streets there are very unique and they reminded me of Europe quite a lot, because of all the paving stone sidewalks and the overall feel of the district. From there we went to Hamarikyu Onshi Garden, which is a beautiful garden surrounded by water. This is exactly what you imagine a Japanese garden to look like. With several ponds, and a beautiful traditional Teehouse in the center, it has a beautiful peaceful atmosphere. The thing I liked best about this garden was, that it is surrounded by huge buildings and skyscrapers, which reminds you that you are in the middle of Tokyo, even though you can easily forget where you are in such a beautiful garden. From there we walked to Tokyo Tower, the Asian Eiffel Tower. During this walk, the streets were very different from what we saw in Tokyo, and you could experience the futuristic vibe of the city, with many roads stacked upon each other.

After seeing the orange and white painted Tokyo Tower, we headed for Zojo-ji Temple, which had rows and rows of little figurines wearing red hats and holding colorful flowers. This was very unique to this temple, and we didn’t see anything quite like it during the rest of our stay in Japan. We were also very lucky and experienced a festival/convention about Myanmar on the temple grounds, where you could taste foods and buy artifacts from Myanmar.

At this point, we wanted to see more gardens, which is why we went to the next one, Shinjuku Gyoen. This garden is significantly different from what we had seen before. It is enormous in size, and is famous for its cherry blossoms in spring. Of course, we did not get to see those, because it is the beginning of December, however, we did get to see the beautifully colored leaves during autumn decorating all trees in the park.

Because this park is located so close to Shinjuku, we walked around this neighborhood, and this was the first time we actually saw huge crowds of people and super bright lights, which absolutely gave me the feeling of being in Japan.

We took the subway to Harajuku, which is a famous district in Tokyo. Even though it rained quite a bit, we walked from Harajuku to Shibuya. We did a bit of shopping on our way, and were even able to take amazing Japanese photos in one of the famous photo-booths. This in itself was an amazing experience, which I highly recommend. You can find these photo-booths in almost all arcades, and sometimes you can even borrow costumes for free and take pictures in all the crazy costumes! Our goal was to walk to Shibuya in order to see the famous Shibuya Crossing. Because of the rain, the blinking lights gave the crossing a very special feel, since all lights reflected on the streets, making it even more spectacular at night.

After this successful first day, we went to eat some Sushi, at Ginko Sushi. This restaurant is very special, because you order your Sushi on an iPad and it is delivered to your seat via a magnetic strip that is built into the entire restaurant. This was a very special experience and the Sushi was great!

Tokyo Day 2

After our successful first day in Tokyo, we headed out early again, and went to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Office, because you can visit one of the top floors for free in order to get an amazing overview of the city. I would recommend getting there early, because it is well known and there was quite a line. I really enjoyed the view from the government building, and we were even lucky enough to get a free tour, because there are some lovely tour guides at the top, that take you from window to window to explain what you can actually see from above. We were even able to see Mount Fuji, because the view was very clear that day. One thing that stuck out to us from the view was that Tokyo is a very green city and has an amazing amount of parks and gardens.

We headed for Yoyogi Park next, which is one of the biggest parks in Tokyo. It also houses the famous Meiji Jingu Shrine. Inside the park, you are surrounded by huge trees, which lets you forget completely that you are in a huge city. While visiting the Shrine, you can write all your wishes in an envelope to make sure they come true for the next year.

Because we had only seen Shibuya Crossing at night, we headed back there to take some pictures and actually get the real Shibuya Crossing-Experience and see how many people actually walk over this crossing once the traffic lights turn green. The crowd of people is absolutely incredible and can be very overwhelming. We also ate traditional Japanese Ramen in Shibuya, which again was a very interesting experience, since you order your Ramen in the front of the store on a special type of vending machine, and the Ramen is brought to your table afterwards. It was absolutely delicious!

Because we wanted to see true Japanese Manga culture, we went to Akihabara next, which houses an unbelievable amount of Manga and Fantasy shops. This is definitely the place to go if you are looking for a specific figurine or pretty much any type of manga souvenir. It is a crazy place, but it is absolutely amazing!

From there, we took the train to Daiba, which was my favorite part of our day. Because it is on the other side of the Haneda River you get an incredible view of the Tokyo Skyline and the beautiful Rainbow Bridge. The amount of blinking lights absolutely took my breath away. It is so different from any type of Skyline I have experienced so far.

Tokyo Day 3

Our last day in Tokyo was just half a day, since we took the Shinkansen (Bullet Train) to Kyoto at 2pm. The first thing we did that day was to go to the Tokyo Skytree Tower, in order to get an even better overview of the city. For me, it was definitely worth it, being almost twice as high as the Government Building. This ensured an even more spectacular overview of the city, and you could see the strong contrast between all the beautiful parks and gardens and the very futuristic roads, buildings and bridges.

We went to the most beautiful Temple in Tokyo next, the Senso-Ji Temple, located in the Asakusa area. This is a great neighborhood, because it combines the traditional side of Japan with many modern aspects. The surrounding buildings are extremely modern, whereas the Temple and the souvenir shops surrounding the temple represent the traditional side. This temple was definitely one of my favorite ones in Japan, because of its rich red color, and the atmosphere. Even though it was very crowded, I felt like it made the temple feel very special because you could observe people praying and hanging their wishes and desires upon a fortune tree.

Because we weren’t able to experience the fish market at any other time, we decided to do that last. Unfortunately we got there very late, so most of the stalls were already closed, although, you could see the dimension of the fish market. The area this market covers is very large, and I can only imagine how noisy it gets during the ''fish rush hour''

Our time in Tokyo was absolutely amazing, and we really tried to make the most of our days there. Our way to Kyoto was also incredible, because taking the Shinkansen Bullet Train is another amazing experience in itself!

Guest Author

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