This past weekend I took advantage of a long holiday to go to Tokyo, Japan for a much-needed few days of relaxation, time with fun friends, and of course some delicious food! It was my first trip to Japan, and all I can say is, I can’t wait to go back!
Tokyo is only a short four-hour plane ride from Beijing, which means it only takes about a half day to travel there. This is a nice change from the long flight from China back to the United States! When I arrived, I met up with my friend who was gracious enough to let me stay with her for my whole trip. It’s great having friends all over the world, isn’t it? Once I got settled, she asked me if I wanted to go to a sake tasting! Of course I said yes. 🙂 The tasting was led by a sake specialist who concentrates on importing sake from the Akita region of Japan into the United States. She had even prepared food pairings for all the different sakes we tasted, and the whole experience was really eye-opening for me. Although I’ve had sake before in a few Japanese restaurants, having all the different types explained and introduced to me in an educational way really helped me appreciate it for the taste and the thought that goes into each type of brew. It was an excellent first night in Japan, and just the welcome I needed! You can read more about all the sakes I tasted on their website.
The next day I met with another friend Ai who was visiting Tokyo from Kobe. She and I ventured on the subway to head to Harajuku. If you haven’t seen a Tokyo metro map, you will be blown away. I’ve gotten a handle on Beijing’s subway system, but Tokyo’s lines opened up a whole new level of craziness, and I’m glad I had my friend to help me navigate the system at first.
Once at our stop, we headed to Meiji Shrine. The whole area was gorgeous with lots of greenery. We were even lucky enough to be there on a day when a wedding was taking place, and stopped our touring to view the procession of the wedding party from one gate to another.
At the shrine itself there is a section to make a prayer, and I think I did it correctly after watching a few other people. I also left a written note in an area where people can hang their wishes on a wall.
After wandering around this peaceful place, it was time to go visit some more exciting parts of Tokyo, which led us to Takeshita street! This whole area was full of shops and vendors. It was really neat to see the variety of things to buy (and eat!). I’ll tell you an anecdote to give you an idea: As we were walking, I noticed a store with really small clothes and thought that they were really small, and seemed silly to buy for a baby because they’d be outgrown so quickly! My friend then had to point out that the shop was selling dog clothes, not baby clothes. Hehehehe.
The silliness continued when we walked into Kiddyland, and frankly I was a little too scared by all the crazy music and the idea that there was a whole floor devoted to Disney toys and the like. I took a quick picture before running away.
The next day my friend Sheila and I went out for a few more touristy adventures. I’m glad she indulged me, because after living in Tokyo for four years, she’s already done most of this! Tokyo Tower was amazing (even though it was a little tourist trappy and I was greeted by a life-sized Tokyo Tower mascot), and gave an excellent view of this enormous city. There is now a tower that’s taller, but since it’s so new, the lines are three hours or more. I think I’ll stay content with the views from here though:
Although my days were pretty filled, there is still a lot of Tokyo that I have yet to see. I had such an awesome time, and it was so easy to get to, that I will definitely be planning a trip back there some time soon. Just the blue skies and slightly warmer temperatures made it a great respite from Beijing, and it was fascinating to see a radically different culture. In addition to seeing the sites, I really enjoyed all the different culinary adventures in Japan. These are so unique that they merit their own post, so keep your eyes out for another Tokyo post in the future!