I recently spent 3 weeks in Japan and I loved it!
I'm a fan of Japanese culture and I knew I would like the place - but it exceeded my expectations.
Arriving in Japan
I flew from Bali to Tokyo on the 1st of October. It's actually quite a long flight - 7 hours - I didn't realize it's that far.
I arrived on Tokyo on a perfect sunny morning. The first thing that I noticed about it was how ordered and clean everything was, and how polite people were! Those two things continued to impress me throughout my entire trip.
My favourite places in Tokyo
This area is most famous for the street fashion, which is at its most creative and innovative here. I loved it, I came back here several times.
I walked around Takeshita a lot, this is a busy street with lots of shops and trendy goods. There was some really unique stuff that I had never seen outside of Japan. I bought a lot of things with cat ears on them (for example a wallet) and other cool stuff.
I also had a typical Harajuku crepe, rolled in a cone and looking like an icecream. They had lots of creative foods there, including rainbow grill cheese, but I didn't get to try that.
Shibuya is famous for the busiest crosswalk in the world. That was the first time I saw people standing in line to cross the street. I actually enjoyed the busy craziness of this places. There were also plenty of shops, restaurants and malls around here.
What I liked the most, though, was the Hachiko statue. Hachiko was the dog of a man who worked on the trains. Every day he went to Shibuya station to start his job, and the dog waited for him at the entrance all day, until he finished his work. One day, the old man died. That day, Hachiko the dog was waiting for him as always, but he never came back. So the dog stayed there, in front of Shibuya station, waiting for his owner, for the rest of his life.
The Japanese people were so moved by Hachiko's loyalty and love for his owner, that they built him a statue to remeber him. I love this story so much :)
I actually came here by accident - it was close to my hotel and I walked by it so I entered :) Then I realized I had read about it online. The Garden of Unborn Children was here.
The garden is filled with little statues of children, to represent those lost to miscarriages, stillbirths and abortions.. The statues have colorful knitted hats on their heads and pinwheels in their hands.
There were also temple buildings and shrines of course, and a nice view to the Tokyo tower.
This is another famous temple and I expected it to be quite touristy, however there were not many people when I visited. A pleasant surprise :)
The temple is in the middle of a forest and it's a nice walk to get there. Actually, I walked around the forest for a while after I visited the temple, it was so beautiful and peaceful.
I also loved the giant wooden gates throughout the forest. Felt like a fairytale.
This is a hipster area a bit far from the center. We came here to have some drinks and food at an izakaya. The place had a cool vibe at night, with many small cozy bars and mostly local people.
I had to come back here the next day since I forgot my shopping bags from Harajuku in the izakaya... However, my friends assured me that I would find them, and I did! The bartenders kept them for me.
After I picked up my stuff, I walked around Koenji a bit. I saw a lot of vintage and second hand shops, live music bars, tiny restaurants, and food stalls. A cute hipster neighborhood worth visiting during the day :)
This fish market is famous for auctioning giant tuna and selling huge quantities of fresh fish. However Google kind of lied to me about it - the market had moved, but Google maps showed me the old one, so I ended up there.
There was still plenty of stalls and food, just not a lot of fish. Oh well. I had a lot of street food, including rolled omelette (love this), mochi on a stick and some other things.
OK so this is a thing I wasn't aware of before coming to Japan. The "conbini" are convenience stores that have snacks, meals (like ramen) and an assortment of items like batteries, face masks and even white shirts. They also have microwaves and disposable chopsticks/cutlery. Some even seats and chairs to eat. And fast WiFi!!
The conbini food is fresh, cute and cheap - and much better than you would expect from a convenience store. I often had my lunch here!
From the sweet snacks I loved the warabi mochi, chocolate daifuku and coffee jelly (among others). I like how those are not very sweet and have a very different texture than what I'm used to - and also relatively little calories! I also liked the creampuffs and fluffy pancakes of course, but those had a bit more calories :)
From the salty food I loved the egg sandwich (unfortunately that was also kinda high in calories) and the soba was surprisingly good.
By the way I'm talking a lot about calories because every food item in Japan had the exact number of calories printed on it! Why don't we have this in other countries?
I was so excited to have sushi in Japan! A friend took me to a semi-local place in Shibuya and it didn't disappoint.
I had a tray that included grilled eel, sea urchin, tuna, salmon, and a bunch of other fish. That also came with miso soup and some pickles. Some of the fish had a very strong taste but the tuna and salmon were perfect! It was also my first time eating eel (I loved it) and urchin (was ok).
Later I had more sushi in Osaka, but I this one in Shibuya was the best :)
I didn't eat much ramen in Japan, since I don't eat meat and it usually contains pork. However I did eat a porkless bowl while I was in Tokyo. It was actually really good! The dumplings had seafood inside them.
The cool thing was we paid for the ramen using a machine in front of the restaurant, then just handed our order to the waiter when we walked in. So convenient :)
I went to the izakaya in Koenji to have some drinks with friends. Izakayas are bars that offer small-sized food (like tapas) that goes well with drinks. We had edamame (of course), fried cheese (I didn't know that was a thing in Japan but it is), tempura and other things. Smoking is also allowed inside these bars, which was a bit weird but part of the experience.
Safety, Cleanliness and Politeness
What impressed me the most about Tokyo and Japan, however, was how polite people were, and how clean everything was.
There were no trash bins on the street - you had to carry your trash with you home. People were always cleaning after themselves. When I landed in Tokyo, even the plane looked pristine - the Japanese had folded their blankets perfectly and cleaned their seats!
People were also extremely polite and respectful. No one ever bothered me or annoyed me in any way. I walked through the center of Tokyo at 2am and didn't feel nervous for a second. Definitely the safest city I've been to.
Also, I had never bowed this much in my life :) In Japan everyone bows to each other all the time. So nice.
Where I stayed in Tokyo
I stayed in First Cabin, a luxury capsule hotel. I wanted to experience a proper Japanese capsule place and still have a comfortable stay - and that's exactly what I got :) The place even had a hot mineral water pool!
The capsules were actually tiny rooms and had plenty of space. Women were separate from the men. The women's bathroom included vanity mirrors with seats and all essentials provided - skincare, toothbrushes, razors, etc. etc. Every night a new pajama was waiting for me on my bed. And obviously the place was crazy clean.
After 5 days, I left Tokyo on the Shinkansen - a train that moves at 300km/hour - to Osaka. The Shinkansen was crazy fast and super comfortable. It was not cheap - I paid over $100 - but it was so much better and more convenient than a plane! Plus, a normal train ride would take 9+ hours, while the Shinkansen took only 2.
Overall, I loved Tokyo. It's insanely big, with so much stuff to do, and so many different areas! Usually I don't feel great in cities, but this one was so organized, clean and full of nature. At the same time there was the busy vibe of super modern city. I will definitely come back here and spend more time, possibly a month. It's not the cheapest place, but it's so worth it!
My Japanese adventures continued in Osaka :)