Since I was a little girl, I have always dreamed of traveling to Japan. I have always wanted to stand in the middle of Shibuya crossing the energy from hundreds of people passing by me. When I was in middle school, I was obsessed with the Harajuku Girls clothing line and I knew I had to go to the place that inspired it. Tokyo absolutely blew me away. It is the easiest city to navigate that I have been to in Asia and the people are incredibly polite and helpful. Japan has quickly risen to my favorite country in Asia.
How to get there: I flew to Tokyo out of Hong Kong on HK Express. It was a 3.5-hour flight to Haneda Airport. My work schedule prohibits me from flying before 11 pm, so I got lucky and found a flight that left at 12:10 AM. It was an easy flight and I landed at Haneda at 5 AM
How to get around: From Haneda airport, I took the JR Keikyu Line directly to the Shinagawa station, then took the JR Yamanote Line to Shinjuku station, the area my Airbnb was located. The trains are the easiest and fastest way around the city. Purchase a day ticket for the JR Yamanote Line and get a map. The JR line will take you directly to Shibuya crossing and Harajuku. You will need to purchase transfers for the Senso-Ji temple and Tokyo tower.
Where to stay: The accommodation landscape in Tokyo is similar to that of New York, meaning you are going to pay a steep price for a small cramped room. I decided to stay at an Airbnb in Shinjuku for $75/night. The studio had an awesome view of the city and was spacious enough for three people. I prefer to stay in Airbnb locations because I like a more authentic experience when I travel. I enjoy just walking through the local community to find a cup of coffee instead of going downstairs in the hotel lobby. I would definitely stay at an Airbnb listing if you are looking for a spacious place in the heart of Tokyo.
Where to eat: Tokyo happens to have an Egg's n Things, and I could not resist an acai bowl for old time’s sake (I obviously miss Hawaii). I knew I couldn't go to Japan without having ramen, so I asked around to find out where I could find the best ramen in town. Afuri, located in very close to the Ebisu station definitely did not disappoint! To order, you insert your money into a vending machine and click the picture of the dish you wish to order. It took me about five minutes to figure out how to machine worked, but the ramen was well worth the confusion.
What to see & do:
Harajuku: This area was at the top of the list of things to do because I was obsessed with Gwen Stefani’s clothing line, Harajuku Girls, when I was younger. I always wanted to walk down Takeshita Street to see the street style that inspired the clothing line. The street style in Harajuku definitely did not disappoint. The Harajuku area has tons of shopping and restaurants. Take the JR line to the Harajuku stop, get off and you will be right at the start of Takeshita Street.
Senso-Ji Temple: This is the oldest Buddhist temple in Tokyo. I had absolutely no idea how breathtaking it would be in person, but it absolutely a must see in Tokyo. Adjacent to the temple is Shinto Shrine which I recommend checking out. On the walk up to the temple, you will find a large outdoor market where you can find many traditional Japanese items as well as traditional dishes. Seeing the women dressed in the traditional kimonos taking selfies made me chuckle.
Shibuya Crossing: This was my favorite part of the trip. I had seen pictures of Shibuya crossing so many times before, but you can't truly understand the multitude of people all crossing at every light without being there for yourself. I stayed there for about 45 minutes trying to get the perfect shot to truly capture just how many people are there. You will definitely feel like a little fish in a big pond.
Tokyo Tower: I visited Tokyo Tower after ramen at Afuri and it really is a sight to see. I didn't actually go to the tower but I was able to marvel at its beauty from the Park Hyatt. It resembles the Eiffel tower in photos but seeing it in person gives a clear view of its uniqueness.
The Japanese currency is called the Yen. 1.00 USD = 120 JPY on average
The Starbucks are Shibuya crossing only serves tall sized drinks
The Imperial Palace closes at 4:30 pm
The airport offers a free Wi-Fi card for foreigners to use in the downtown area of Tokyo
U.S. passport holders do not need a visa. You will be issued a 90 days visa upon arrival