We spent an amazing 36 days in Japan! We did a lot of traveling, and we went back and forth between a lot of locations, cities, and districts. To make things easier to read and write, we have grouped everything in our travels into city locations and not exactly by time. Missed our first post on Japan? Read it here!
First up is Tokyo!
Tokyo is divided up into districts and wards. To keep things all organized we kept all the districts and wards of Tokyo separate, even though some of these locations we visited days and sometimes weeks apart from each other. The districts and cities we visited in Tokyo are:
* Ginza (Imperial Palace)
* Ueno Park
* Nakano (Nakano Broadway & Sunshine City)
* Mitaka (Ghibli Museum) & Sumida (Tokyo Skytree)
* Odds and ends and final thoughts on Tokyo
Shibuya is nothing short of amazing. It's huge and colorful and full of life and interesting characters. If Shinjuku is the business district, then Shibuya is the district where everyone comes to play. Shibuya is also our first post on Airbnb in Japan!
We picked this location because the apartment is within walking distance of almost everything there is to find in Shibuya. It was also price very attractively. We paid under $100 a night for the entire apartment. We were pretty amazed at the price as a similar apartment in New York City would run hundreds more per night. The location we found was right in the heart of Shibuya, a stones throw from Harajuku and had a breathtaking view of the Yoyogi National Stadium. The Yoyogi National Stadium was built for the 1964 Summer Olympics in Japan.
The picture of the view on Airbnb taken by the host of the apartment. This is not our picture.
Our picture of the same view, standing on the balcony of the apartment.
Airbnb hosts picture of apartment. This photo is to compare what we were "sold on".... note that the blue sofa is a futon and used for the bed...
and here our the pictures we took upon arrival...
This is the same room as the host took. The furniture floorplan changed a bit but overall exactly as shown. The futon had already been made into a bed upon our arrival. We haven't slept on a futon since our very first apartment 15 years ago, but keep in mind Shibuya was day 28 of our trip. We were so exhausted we didn't really notice.
Kitchen. Yes, that's the kitchen. A single plug in stove top, a microwave on top of a small refrigerator, and a sink.
The showers in Japan take some getting use to. The tubs are very thin and most times the water is multi connected. In the shower pic the sink water connects to the shower faucet and the in the toilet picture, the silver thing on top of the toilet is another sink to wash your hands while the toilet is flushing (using the water from the reserve tank).
We were very happy with the location. It was clean, had a gorgeous view, and was literally right next to everything we wanted to see in Shibuya. The apartment was very, very tiny, but was only being used as a base of operations to sleep and leave all our luggage at.
The one thing that you probably didn't notice yet, is the lack of "seating". This is something that is apparent in almost every place we stayed at. Even in this modern age, Japanese homes (at least the ones we stayed in) do not have as much seating as you may be accustomed to. Make sure you are use to sitting on the floor if you plan to stay in Airbnb locations in Japan.
Now that things are settled with where we stayed... let's explore!
Potstickers at Harajuku Gyoza Lou
The story of Hachiko and why he has a statue is one worth reading. I've included a brief tidbit taken from the website Nerdnomads.com
"Eizaburo Ueno, professor in agriculture science at Tokyo University, had long wanted a pure bred Japanese Akita dog. He had looked for the perfect Akita puppy for a long time, until one of this students encouraged him to adopt Hachiko, from the Odate city in Akita prefecture. Hachiko, or Hachi which became his nickname, and his new owner soon became best friends, and Eizaburo loved his dog above all and treated him as his son. The two of them were inseparable.
As Hachiko grew older, he started to see his owner off to work in the morning at the Shibuya Train Station, in central Tokyo, and went to pick him up at the station in the afternoon when he returned from work.
On May 21, 1925, only two years after Hachiko was born, Hachiko was as usually sitting by the exit at Shibuya train station waiting for his dear Eizaburo. But his owner never showed up…..
It turned out that Eizaburo had suffered from a cerebral hemorrhage and died suddenly and unexpectedly while at work.
Hachiko moved in with a former gardener of the Ueno family, but throughout the rest of his ten year long life he kept going to the Shibuya Train Station every morning and afternoon precisely when the train was due to enter the station, waiting in vain for the return of his beloved owner which sadly never came back."
The statue now sits near Shibuya crossing in his memory.
Shibuya was celebrating Earth Day in Yoyogori Park while we there. Of course we had to check it out.
Churros in Japan... I wonder how those taste...
Pro tip - don't order churros in Japan at an Earth Day festival...
Cactus and succulents are art in Japan. Not really. We just thought this was funny being from the desert.
This was a random ramen shop we walked into one day while spending most of the morning looking for a different ramen shop. We gave up and just ate here. We've been having trouble locating it online but all signs seem to point to "Ramen Gold Den Round". Golden Round maybe? If you can't find it, don't worry, there's many more out there like it.
Mario Karts on the streets of Shibuya!
Kaikaya by the Sea
In all of Tokyo, if you have the choice to eat at one restaurant that is not Sushi, you must, must, must eat at Kaikaya by the Sea. This was a recommendation from the concierge at Park Hyatt Hotel. They were able to get us a last minute reservation here, and we were truly grateful as the meal was one of the best we had in all of Japan. The atmosphere is warm and inviting and the food is delightfully colorful and full of flavors. The signature dish, and highly recommended, is the Maguro no Kama no supearibu, which is the jaw of tuna and roasted sparerib style.
More on Shibuya and Harajuku coming up!