This post is way overdue. Good day to post it since it was just announced Tokyo will host the 2020 summer Olympics. Let’s pretend I planned it this way because I did(n’t).
Michael and I had a few days off together back in August and decided to travel. We spent some time looking at flights and finally decided on Tokyo. Between the flight time and time difference we figured we would have 24 hours to spend in the city. Challenge accepted. Ready, set, go.
First things first. It is extremely hard to book a hotel from across the world. Neither of us have been to Japan before so we had to start from scratch. We had no idea what area to stay in, how the transportation systems worked, etc. Yikes – we decided to skip that step. Thought process: let’s figure out what we want to see/do and choose a hotel close to there.
So, now what did we want to do? Good question! 24 hours is not a lot of time to see a city. Let’s ask our good friend, Google. Bad idea – There. Is. So. Much. Insert overwhelmed smiley face icon.
Best part of working in the airline industry is that there is always someone who has been to where you are going. I had gotten a lot of helpful advice before we left but if there was one thing you need to know it is this: the train system is confusing (more on that later). With that being said, we decided to book a morning tour that would take us to a few sites around the city. We figured this was a good way to see a large amount of the city and not spend half the day lost on the train. Bullet dodged.
Morning set – we were doing the Tokyo Morning tour that ran from 9a-12:30p. Flight left at 4:30p so that gave us plenty of time to find our way to the airport (via train – gave ourselves a lot of travel time here) & grab some lunch. So what should we do when we got into Tokyo the evening before? Eh – we’ll just play that by ear.
By booking the morning tour our hotel issue sort of solved itself. The touring company listed hotels they would pick you up from. We went through the list and found the most reasonably priced room and boom – booked. We weren’t really picky when looking at rooms because all we really needed was a place to put our stuff, sleep, and catch a quick shower in the morning. Ginza Capital Hotel Annex provided just that (nice hotel – I definitely recommend it).
Soo..all set, right? Here’s how our 24 hours went down.
Our flight left Chicago at 1p on Sunday. We obviously celebrated the start of our trip with beer and chips/salsa at Chilis. After an hour delay on the plane (medical emergency) we eventually got in the air. And we’re off!
Having just gotten off work hours before our flight left, Michael & I slept most of the way. 13 hour flight? No big deal.
So – we made it into Narita. It’s about 5p on Monday. Now what? Convert $$$. SUGGESTION: If you’re traveling to a different country, compare the exchange right at your airport to the current exchange rate in the country you’re visiting. We chose to do it in Japan because it was a better deal. We also decided to catch a bus to Tokyo instead of figuring out the train system. We had just spent 13 hours on a plane so what was another hour on a bus, right?
We ended up talking to some people on the bus and they helped us catch a cab from Tokyo station to our hotel. Wherever those people are – we thank you. Hotel found.
Side note: the cabs in Japan are much nicer than in Chicago. The driver wore a uniform with white gloves and the car was decked out in lace. Take notes, Chicago. Maybe that’s why you didn’t get the Olympics.
Dinner time. We decided to just walk the streets and find something while exploring. There are vending machines E-V-E-R-Y-W-H-E-R-E.
We ended up at an Italian style restaurant where the waiter brought out cans of food to help translate the menu. First thing we ordered? WINE.
We walked around a bit after dinner but decided to call it an early night. Our hotel had a vending machine full of Japanese beer so we got a couple to try and headed back to the room.
If you have ever been on a cruise I would like you to think of the bathrooms on board in each room. That’s just about how big ours was. Needless to say it served it’s purpose and we were on our way to the tour. We were picked up and taken to the Hamamatsucho Bus Terminal.
First stop? Tokyo Tower. We were taken to the main observatory for a panoramic view of the city. Buildings everywhere. Pretty neat to see, though. There are so many people living in the city so all of the buildings are highrises, including housing.
Imperial Palace Plaza: the official residence of the Emperor & Empress of Japan. Very cool to see the different levels of security taken.
My favorite stop was the Sensoji Temple and Nakamise Shopping Street. The Sensoji temple is Tokyo’s oldest Buddhist temple and surrounding the area is a well-known shopping street. Did you know Buddhist temples are only an odd number of levels high?! Nakamise holds so many different kinds of souvenir shops. I got my first pair of chop sticks straight from Japan & I’m so glad Michael taught me how to use them during one of our first (of many) Chinese dinners :).
On our way to Tokyo station we drove through Ueno and saw different parts of the city. Even though we had a full morning of sightseeing there is SO much more to check out. Next time we will need just a little bit more than 24 hours 🙂
We bought two tickets on the N’EX from Tokyo Station to NRT (Narita Airport). Um – talk about expensive! We definitely should have researched that a bit more but it got us from point A to B. Sigh. The train was scheduled to leave not long after we bought our tickets so we had to find the platform fast. Let’s just say I’m glad we avoided the train system as long as we could. It was a super nice train, though!
Our 24 hours eventually had to end, but it was quite the experience! I would love to learn a bit of Japanese and go back (especially now that they are hosting the Olympics)!
Until we meet again, Tokyo.