Japan had been on my travel wish list for years, starting from watching Spirited Away when I was younger. Me and Dave bonded over our love for all things Studio Ghibli, so made a plan to visit Japan together. After glancing at flights after Christmas blues we got a bargain of a deal and we were officially booked to fly out November 2016!
So we arrived in Tokyo Narita Airport on the 16th November after flying with Turkish Airlines and went in search of the south wing of the airport to collect our pocket Wi-Fi*. This I highly recommend doing. It was an absolute life saver and meant we never got lost throughout our trip. To return we simply had to pop it in the provided envelope at the end of our trip and put it in a post box at the airport. Easy peasy! For 17 days use of Wi-Fi on the go, it cost us £71.00 and it was money well spent.
So then a hop skip and bus later, we arrived in the buzzing lights of Tokyo. The journey was amazing – Tokyo is built on so many different layers that it felt like we were being driven round and round into some kind of vortex. We arrived at night which I think just made it feel even more magical, the lights – the noises! We got off the bus to be greeted with a group of buskers singing and knew we had definitely arrived in Shinjuku.
We walked through the streets of Shinjuku towards our hotel. We had booked to stay at the Shinjuku Granbell Hotel which was in a great location. With no free arms from dragging our suitcases and bags, I was desperate to get my camera out to start snapping straight away at the visual feast before us. It was everything I had expected and more. We went for a drink in the beautiful rooftop bar to celebrate our arrival once settled into our new home for the next week. We had arrived!
At 3am we both woke up with jet lag and excitement so decided to just start our day early!
We arrived at Asakusa around 6am before there was barely anybody on the streets except a handful of commuters visiting Senso-Ji shrine before work. It was so peaceful and an experience to see it at that time as generally it is very busy.
We also read our fortunes (Omikuji) here. You give a small offering, and then pick up a metal box that has a tiny rounded slot at the bottom where a stick will come out. This will be infront of a set of small drawers with kanji numbers on. It is tradition to shake the box a few times in the hope of receiving a good fortune. Once you receive the stick, you match the number on the stick to the number on the drawer. This drawer will have the omijuki which you can read. Me and Dave got the same fortune which mentioned about building a new house which was a coincidence since we were in the middle of renovating our newly bought home! If it is a good fortune you can take it home with you, but if it is a fortune that you do not want to come true, you can tie the omikuji to one of the ‘omijuki trees’ symbolising that you are leaving the fortune behind.
After, we enjoyed a lovely breakfast and banana milkshake (heaven!) at a nearby cafe and we headed to the Electronic District, Akihabara, but planned to return and explore it at night to see the lights. We visited the Anime Centre which was worth a trip.
Next stop was Shiro-Hige’s Cream Puff Factory. For any Ghibli fans out there, I highly recommend seeking out this wonderful little café tucked away in the quiet Tokyo suburb of Setagaya. It is said that the owner of this café is the sister-in-law of Hayao Miyazaki and here you can find Totoro cream puffs and Ghibli inspired biscuits. There is a bakery/shop downstairs and a restaurant upstairs which we ate in. It was such a lovely experience and met all our Ghibli geek needs!
We then headed back to Shinjuku to visit the National Geon Garden. An array of gorgeous autumnal colours and the perfect place to rest our feet after a busy first day. I have since read about an amazing glasshouse within the gardens which we sadly missed when we visited.
We headed back to our hotel, and on the way saw a group dressed as Mario!
After a brief power nap back in the room, we went in search of food, and went to this lovely little restaurant that only fit a handful of customers in and felt very intimate.
Afterwards we went to Golden Gai to try Sake for the first time. Being a self-confessed ‘light-weight’ when it comes to alcohol, it knocked me out!
The area of Golden Gai is composed of narrow passageways just about wide enough for a single person to pass by and has the tiniest drinking dens, fitting from as little as 5 people in them. Each one has its own décor, we went into one which had an array of posters of girls shoes dripping with blood which could have been quite concerning had it not been for the sake that had already gone to my head!!