Despite swearing that we were going to wake up early and enjoy a full day exploring Tokyo, we ended up sleeping a few hours later than we intended. Our bodies demanded it after the previous day’s transportation odyssey. It was alright though, as we both woke up feeling well rested and ready to go.
Our first stop of the day was at a Lawson (Japanese convenience store chain) near Nagatsuta station. This was where we had arranged to pick up our iVideo pocket wifi. I’ll explain all the details of this miraculous cost saving device in a later post, but for now suffice it to say that this was basically a mobile wifi hotspot that allowed us to access the internet whenever we were out and about.
We decided to grab some breakfast at the Lawson before heading into Tokyo for the day.
Convenience stores are probably your best option for dining on a budget in Japan. The food isn’t bad and most include seating. If you buy a frozen meal they will even microwave it for you.
We had a delicious breakfast of onigiri, or rice balls (an old favorite of mine from our bike trip down the east coast of Taiwan a few years past). The flavors were conveniently written in English on the packages so it was easy to make sure I was getting the bean and veggie variety and not the tuna or chicken.
We made sure to bring our Kindles so we could pass the hour long train ride back into the city. It was a lot of fun simply watching the scenery pass by outside the train window though. This is a habit of mine that drives Alana crazy. She says I just sit there doing nothing, but there’s so much to take in when you’re on a train or a drive, especially in a new country. Even something as mundane as the neighborhoods and houses you drive past can seem endlessly fascinating. At least in my opinion. Alana prefers to either sleep or read the ride away.
We had planned some activities for the day in the Shinjuku area. We got off the train at Shibuya station though, because we thought it would be fun to go for a walk through the city. If you’ve ever seen those time lapse videos of that really big intersection in Tokyo that everyone crosses at the same time then you have an idea of where we were. Going for a walk wasn’t the best idea though. The area in between Shibuya and Shinjuku wasn’t particularly exciting. It seemed to be mostly a mix of residential and business high rises, without much going on at the street level. To top it off it started raining, and not a pleasant warm spring rain but a cold biting end of winter rain.
We were pretty thoroughly soaked by the time we made it to Shinjuku. It reminded me of our Christmas morning hike on the Kepler Track back in New Zealand. Our first real stop for the day was the Samurai Museum. As I mentioned previously, neither one of us knew a whole lot about Japan going into this trip, but one thing I did know was ninjas and samurai (okay, two things) so it only made sense to check one of those off the list on our first day.
On the way to the museum we stopped by TOHO cinemas to take some pictures with Godzilla. We happened to run into a Krispy Kreme (Alana’s biggest weakness) in between Godzilla and the museum and stopped to get out of the rain for a bit. Alana only ever gets glazed, but since we were in Japan I tried the matcha green tea flavor.
The Samurai Museum was pretty small, but what it lacked in size it made up for in the quality of the experience. Tickets were 1800 yen ($18US) and included a free English tour. We were led around the museum by a very knowledgeable guide who showed us an impressive collection of samurai weapons, armor, and paintings. At the end of the tour there was a demonstration of some traditional sword technique by a guy who I can only assume is an actual samurai. The demonstration was really impressive and afterwards we got our pictures taken with him. Then we got dressed up in some traditional costumes and had our pictures taken again (also included in the cost of admission).
After we left the museum it was still raining pretty hard so we decided to pick up some umbrellas. We found a couple for 300 yen ($3) each. They kept us dry for a good ten minutes before a strong gust of wind came barreling down the street and completely demolished them. Not just flipped them inside out mind you, I’m speaking of pure metal wire and clear plastic carnage here. They were beyond salvaging, and so Alana and I resigned ourselves to a wet night in Tokyo.
We stopped by cafe Aaliyah for a late lunch. This cafe, a little basement space at the bottom of an inconspicuous set of stairs, serves nothing but french toast (another favorite of Alana’s). Well. This french toast was so sweet and so rich I could barely finish it, and that’s saying something. Alana actually didn’t much enjoy it, either, as it was a much softer version of the french toast we are used to. After we finished, we managed to crawl up the stairs, bellies sagging on the steps beneath us, and out onto the streets of Tokyo where the cutting wind and frigid rain snapped us out of our rapidly developing food comas.
Yes, if you’re keeping food score we’re favoring familiar western foods pretty heavily over Japanese food at this point, but don’t worry we get better at this.
We wandered around some more, passing through some famous spots like Golden Gai and Omoide Yokocho (Piss Alley). These tiny little side streets are home to a plethora of tiny little drinking establishments that Alana and I probably would have visited if we were more into the bar scene. Being cheapskates though, drinking at bars (especially at overpriced trendy bars) isn’t something we do particularly often.
We made our way through the Kabukicho area. This part of Tokyo was very stereotypically Japan at night time. There were bright neon signs everywhere and the streets were lined with arcades full of claw games and pachinko machines (kind of like slot machines).
Eventually our legs tired out and we made our way back to the train station for our long ride back to Nagatsuta. We had another action packed day ahead of us.
PS For more cool pictures check out our instagram!