It still seems crazy to me that when searching through SkyScanner for the cheapest flights, I have the option of selecting my departure location as either Guangzhou, or Hong Kong. This time, it actually worked out cheaper to get the ferry over from Shunde to HK and fly out from there, rather than leaving straight from Guangzhou, which to me seems mental. So on Wednesday 18th of Jan, that’s exactly what me and Kyle did. We grabbed a quick Subway sandwich, had our rucksacks on our backs and off we went…
I won’t spent too much time chatting about the transport and our few hours in Hong Kong, I have a habit of describing every detail of a trip, and if I don’t get out of that habit for this post, we’ll still be here in 2018 listening to how me and Kyle had 3 seats to ourselves on the Ferry, a coco-pops McFlurry from Kawloon Park, or about how we enjoyed a sausage roll and a cider on Lan Kwai Fong… Anyways, I’ll skip straight ahead to the crrazzzyy city that is Tokyo….
The flight was only about 3 and half hours and we landed at roughly 4.30am (local time). It was freezing, we were tired, hungry, and low on battery, so we sat down for a while to recharge our phones, and ourselves. We soon hopped onto a metro after a very friendly and well-spoken guy helped us with our tickets, and off out into the world we went. The closest metro stop to our hostel was Asukasa (A18), we walked over the bridge, heading towards the SkyTree, and a curious looking building which throughout the trip we
gave many names (turnip, carrot, potato, onion, etc.), and arrived at our hostel about 8 hours before check-in. Thankfully, the incredible staff at Oak Hostel Fuji allowed us to check in and head for some rest at 7am! This hostel really was great, the staff were friendly, the facilities were spotless, the beds were super comfy, and even though we were in a 12bed mixed dorm, I never even noticed there were other people in the room (apart from when Kyle’s snoring got a little out of hand). They were the kind of beds that go into the wall, so there were basically just 12 square holes in the wall, 6 on each side. I’d stayed in a hostel in Bali which had a similar set up, and I seriously think it’s the way forward!!
Anyways, after a nap and some food (from what came to be our local bakery, Tom Toms), we decided to explore the area around our hostel, Sumida. We strolled around the streets, thankful for the blue skies and actually enjoying the chill in the air (which reminded us of home), and we stumbled upon the Tokyo SkyTree… not that we hadn’t noticed this giant tower, but we hadn’t made plans to visit it that day, but, as the saying goes, when in Rome! We got our tickets and we stepped into the Cherry Blossom Skies (Spring) themed lift, and up we went, at a crazy fast, yet insanely smooth rate, which brought us out at the Tembo Deck, which stands at 350m. The lift got us there in 50 seconds, and supposedly reaches a top speed of 600 meters per minute, which is stupidly fast. Even at this great height however, we were nowhere near the tip-top of the tower. Standing at 634m it’s the tallest free standing broadcasting tower in the world, or at least in 2011 it was!
Looking back I’m so glad we did this, not only on our first day, but literally less than 12 hours after landing. The views were incredible. The city seemed to stretch on forever, and it was an amazing start to our trip. Being able to stand there, with a panoramic view of the city, a city that we’d be exploring for the next 5 days was definitely a highlight of my trip. We walked around taking in the amazing view, and stopping to find out what some of the more prominent buildings were. Also, 3 lovely Japanese school girls (yes dressed exactly as you’d imagine) stopped and asked for a photo. (I really thought we’d left that behind us in China, but as the week went on, the roles were reversed as we were the ones doing the asking.) After paying and sitting for one of the proper Tokyo SkyTree photos (Kyle’s idea), we went down to the lower level where, much to my excitement, was a small section of glass floor. Unfortunately, It wasn’t the best; the glass was pretty scratched up and there were too many frames to be able to enjoy it properly (not that I’m complaining that there were supporting structures, it just doesn’t make for a great photo that’s all…), none the less, it was pretty cool to see just how high we were.
Later that day, we headed across the bridge, leaving Sumida and heading off in the direction of Asakusa to explore for the rest of the evening. Turns out we were super close to the huge main area which consisted of long market streets all decked out for the New Years (Asakusa Kaminarimondori Shopping Street), strange but cute indoor market arcade type places, and a very grand, big and busy temple called Sensouji. All around the temple were people dressed up in the traditional (some not so traditional) Japanese kimonos. Some of them were beautiful and really colourful. It was definitely a strange feeling walking around, admiring the architecture, the stalls etc. while weaving our way through people who really look the part, less than 12 hours after landing in Tokyo. I must admit, it felt pretty damn good to have my camera in hand for the first time in who knows how long! We spent a good while taking it all in, watching people use the water spout fountain, the incense burners, and throwing coins in for luck/to pay their respect.
We noticed there was a section outside the temple where people were collecting pieces of paper from draws, so we decided to have a gweld and check it out. It was a fortune type thing where you give a donation, pick up the metal hexagonal box, and gently shake it until a wooden stick falls out. On each stick there was a couple of Japanese characters, and you had to match up the characters to the corresponding draw, and inside that draw was a piece of paper telling you your fortune. We both thought this was pretty cool so we took it in turns going through the process… This is where I took one of my favourite pictures of the whole trip. I managed to capture the exact moment when Kyle shook the box way too vigorously, and out shot about 4 or 5 sticks. I snapped just as the horror on his face was in full force. (Sorry mate, I can’t help but share this picture!!) Anyways, after that mess, he was obviously given a Bad Fortune, and this wasn’t just a mild-bad fortune like: You will have a bad day… it was brutal. Like, I cannot believe they print and give people that as a fortune. After the shock of reading his terrible fortune had subsided, I decided I’d have a go too. Low and behold, I had an equally as bad fortune; at least we were in it together! This then set off the theme of trying to gain any good fortune we could get for the rest of our travels! If there was a place where you could give a donation and receive a good fortune/good luck charm in return, you bet your boots we did it!!
We spent the rest of the afternoon/evening exploring the area (trying to find a scarf for Kyle), and just trying to come to terms with the fact we were actually in Tokyo. For Kyle, this had been a lifelong dream, and for me, I was just happy to give my itchy feet some much needed attention in a new country! We decided to stop off for some dinner before heading back to chill at the hostel. We found a little hole in the wall type place, super traditional, and ordered the Sutadon: Bowl of rice with fried pork of garlic soy sauce flavour. I decided not to have the egg, as its custom for eggs to be served raw in Japan, and my western brain just could not accept that as ok! The food was great, cheap, and just what we needed. The few hours before bed were spent in the hostel communal area drinking cans from the alcoholic vending machine, chatting, and messing about with photo editing apps. All in all, we had a pretty incredible first day in Tokyo. We climbed into our beds with a slight buzz, heads spinning from all we’d seen, and thinking about what the next 10 days had in stall for us…