December 17, 2019
JAPAN (DAY 13-18): TOKYO
DAY 13: KYOTO TO TOKYO
We spent the morning in Kyoto doing last minute running around. Our Air BnB would not be ready until later in the afternoon, so we didn’t want to arrive in Tokyo too early with all our luggage in tow.
And, unlike Kyoto, our Air BnB was too far from the train station to leave in a locker for the day.
After a 3 hour JR train ride from Kyoto to Tokyo, we checked into our Air BnB in Roppongi. Although clean and spacious, there were some things I was not too impressed about (i.e. number of towels provided, house rules, etc.).
With barely enough time to set our bags down and refresh, we left the apartment to catch the Yomiuri Giants game.
This felt like a playoff of game! Both the Giants and the opposing team would break out in chants. Beer ladies (yes, they were all women) would carry entire kegs of beer on their backs as they walked up and down the aisles.
It was quite the sporting experience from beginning to end!
After the game, we headed straight back to the Air BnB because, the 4 were now becoming 5!
We decided to grab some snacks and drinks at the local 7-Eleven, and take them back to the apartment for a night in.
We had a few crafts to finish before the Soca in Japan weekend begun.
DAY 14: TSUKIJI MARKET & MORI DIGITAL ART MUSEUM
In the morning, four of us started the day at the Tsukiji Market.
Trying food as we walked through the market, we eventually stopped to sit down and eat.
Our 5th met up with us on the way to the MORI Building Digital Art Museum.
THIS IS A MUST IF YOU’RE VISITING TOKYO!
There are several rooms to explore, and we spent several hours doing just that. Each, with their unique installations. We also enjoyed yummy matcha tea (extra cost),that just happened to light up with flower designs!
We then headed back to our apartment to get ready for the 1st soca fete of the weekend at Club Cactus.
DAY 15: SIGHTSEEING, SUMO WRESTLING & M.A.S. IN THE CITY
Despite being overcast and raining, we made it to the Tokyo Skytree, Sensoji Temple and Asakusa Shrine that morning.
As Japan’s national sport, it was definitely on our bucket lists!
Sumo tournaments take place over several days, and last all day. People come and go throughout the day. In my observation, the most foot traffic came later when the bigger matches take place.
*SIDE NOTE* The sumo tournament we attended only happens a few times a year in Tokyo. Pre-booking tickets is best. Viator also has tours available (like this), if you will not be there during the tournament dates.
It was now time to showcase our craft project (blinged out Carnival cups with the Canadian flag and DIY costumes). The Soca in Japan itinerary had us on a party bus that night, playing mas.
*SIDE NOTE* Carnivals around the World (i.e. Trinidad, Toronto, Miami, Grenada, etc.) typically provide costumes when you register with a mas band. Although extremely passionate about soca, Japan’s is still in it’s infancy, so we were instructed to bring (in our case, make) our own.
The party bus left from Shibuya Chelsea Hotel (where the after party would be), we toured around the streets of Shibuya while dancing and singing to soca. 5Star Akil made an appearance as well, to film part of his new music video.
This was such an intimate and unique experience. Passersby, would catch a glimpse of the party on the bus as we waved through the windows. Mouths would drop, and cameras would be pulled out to snap a picture.
Being the small world that it is, one of our 5 knew some of the other travelers that came for the Soca in Japan weekend.
From that point on, we rolled with a big crew.
To end the night, we walked to Ichiran Ramen for a much needed late night snack.
This was a unique dining experience…and hit the spot! To read more about what it’s like, click the link above.
DAY 16: IMPERIAL PALACE & ASAKUSA
With the soca event running into the early hours of the morning, we started this day later than normal.
Once we were up and moving, our first stop was the Imperial Palace. It was closed, but we were able to walk around the grounds.
From there, we made our way back to Asakusa. Because of the rain a few days earlier, we were unable wander up and down the aisles of shops and restaurants. So, we chose to go back to explore.
This day was much more cooperative weather wise, and therefore, the crowds were much heavier. That said, we still managed to bump into 2 of our new found friends.
Hungry, a quick google search directed us to Hinatomaru. Here, we found spots around the bar, and ordered and ate while standing.
The sushi melted in our mouths, the sake flowed, and our itamae was beyond entertaining!
Living in the USA for quite a few years, he spoke perfect English. Moving back to Japan to care for his elderly parents.
He provided a ton of laughs and amazing sushi. It took me months to have sushi back in Canada after this meal…
This event ended earlier than the night before, so 9 of us found a spot to eat, before setting out for the rest of the night.
Along our quest, we came across a lone photobooth on the street. The mission quickly detoured to trying to fit all 9 of us in it (see results in pic below).
Unsuccessful, we re-focused and landed on finding somewhere for karaoke.
We made a great decision! After renting a private room for an hour, we quickly got into the singing. This turned into a battle between the sexes as we loaded song after song.
DAY 17: AKIHABARA, HARAJUKU & NINJA SHINJUKU
Being our last full day, we packed in a lot!
A little away from the chaos, we stopped into bigger department stores and rode the Instagram worthy escalator at Tokyu Plaza Omotesando Harajuku.
More than ready for our Ninja dining experience, we were sat in a private room for nine.
All of the meals ordered were visually stunning (and delicious), some even smoking, and the sake and conversation flowed as we reminisced on the last few days.
We then met up with some more friends in the Shinjuku area near the Robot Restaurant. We found a bar to celebrate both our last night there, and a fellow socaholics birthday!
DAY 18: TOKYO TO TORONTO
We had the day before our late afternoon flight. So, 4 of us stored our luggage at Haneda airport, while the 5th said goodbye and headed for her flight out of out of Narita airport.
Despite a “small mishap” of me spilling my ENTIRE match latte on the shuttle bus to the airport, the commute was pretty easy. It was cheaper than a taxi, and we did not have to worry about carrying our 50lbs suitcases up the Tokyo subway station stairs (very few stations have elevators/escalators). We just had to walk about 10mins to the InterContinental ANA Tokyo hotel to grab it.
*SIDE NOTE* Japan is known for being extremely clean. Me, spilling a drink on a bus, was a nightmare. Luckily, everyone on the bus pitched in to provide me napkins and wet wipes. Before we arrived at the terminal, the bus was sparkling clean again!
We wandered around the Tokyo Dome and decided to check out the Ferris Wheel karaoke. Piling into two separate cars, we took in the last views of Tokyo while belting out Alicia Keys and Celine Dion.
- Air Bnb is recommended, as hotels can be pricey.
- 7Eleven has great snacks for on the go! Try the Onigiri (rice balls) wrapped in seaweed, and filled with a variety of different things
- Club Cactus https://www.timeout.com/tokyo/clubs/club-cactus
- Club Harlem http://www.harlem.co.jp/club/about.html
- Haneda airport has a LOT of food options that will have you wanting to sample a bit of everything one last time before you jump on the plane. Go early, and go hungry!
- Hinatomaru https://trulytokyo.com/hinatomaru/
- Hooters Shinjuku http://www.hooters.co.jp/en/shop/shinjuku/
- Ichiran Ramen https://jw-webmagazine.com/ichiran-ramen-how-to-skip-the-line-at-ichiran-ramen-shibuya-32396eadc25a/
- Instant ramen noodles from 7Eleven – Leave lots of room in your suitcases to bring back – it’s made by a Michelin Star chef, and it’s DELICIOUS! http://www.eatingwithkirby.com/2018/05/michelin-starred-tsuta-ramen-instant-vs-the-real-deal-review.html
- Kit Kat – Japan makes a variety of flavours (my fav is the matcha), and can be found at most convenient stores around Japan
- Ninja Shinjuku http://ninjaworld.jp/shinjuku/
- Royce Nama chocolate – famous worldwide, can be found in Haneda airport
- Tsukiji Market
- Pocket WiFi rentals can be done from any major train station or airport https://tokyocheapo.com/business/internet/rent-wifi-router-japan/
- Soca In Japan – if you’re looking for a Carnival experience, plan your trip around Tokyo’s soca weekend schedule https://www.socainjapan.com/
- Tattoos – it is important to understand the Japanese culture around tattoos. Out of respect and tradition, places such as onsens, may not allow guests with tattoos to use these Japanese hot springs https://blog.gaijinpot.com/how-to-onsen-if-you-have-tattoos/
- TripIt is a great tool for organizing your trip and building an itinerary that fellow travelers can view and contribute to
- Viator is a great site/app to have when picking tours/excursions! They are organzied, easy to find, and often have quicker access to sites when you are with them https://www.viator.com/
- Asakusa Shrine
- Imperial Palace
- MORI Building Digital Art Museum – MUST DO!
- Ryogoku Kokugikan – sumo wrestling tournament. If there is not a tournament while you are there, try a Viator sumo stable tour
- Sensoji Temple
- Takeshita Street (Harajuku)
- Tokyo Dome Ferris Wheel (wait for the cars with karaoke in them!)
- Tokyo Skytree
- Tokyu Plaza Omotesando Harajuku
- Tower Records Shibuya
- Tsukiji Market
- Yomiuri Giants game at Tokyo Dome
- Japan Rail Pass – looking into the 7, 14 or 21 day passes depending on how many cities you are traveling too while there https://www.japan-rail-pass.ca/jr-pass
- Tokyo Metro https://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2375.html
- Shuttle to Haneda Airport (we walked 10mins from our Air Bnb in Roppongi to InterContinental Ana Tokyo to grab the shuttle) https://www.limousinebus.co.jp/en/areas/bus_stop/hnd/roppongi_akasaka/for/57/