On April 1st, I arrived in Tokyo, the capital of Japan and the worlds biggest city with the craziest streets and the busiest metro. My 21st birthday was just around the corner and I was excited to be spending it in Tokyo!
My first full day was spent on my own, as Victoria and Joachim, the two friends that I spent the next two days with, were celebrating Joachim’s birthday on that day. I decided to spend the day in Shibuya and Shinjuku, which is Central Tokyo and where everything happens. The area is also known as Cool Tokyo.
Shibuya is Tokyo’s most colourful district with the busiest streets and with the best shopping and entertainment. It’s the center for youth fashion and culture and this is where the trends are born. I arrived at Shibuya Station at around 12 AM and went straight to the famous Shibuya Crossing, which is one of Tokyo’s most popular tourist attractions, which is quite funny, because it’s just an intersection. But it is CRAZY! It’s decorated by large neon advertisements and video screens and with an estimated 2,500 people crossing every time the light turns green, it’s the worlds busiest intersection. Since I had heard that seeing it from above was the only way to grasp the madness, I decided to do just that. I looked in the windows above and saw a bunch of people staring out of a large window of a shopping mall just behind me, so that is where I went. And the view was great! The hundreds of people on the crossing looked like giant ants trying to fight their way through. Whenever the pedestrian lights would turn green, flocks of people would cross the road and as soon as they turned red, the streets quickly filled up with people waiting to cross again, and repeat!
After staring at the madness for a while, I decided to join them on the crossing in order to reach my next destination – the Takeshita Street (really funny name, I know) in nearby Harajuku, which is well known for its fashion boutiques, restaurants, cafés and youth culture. That street was even more nuts! As soon as I turned the corner to enter the street, I found myself in the middle of chaos. People were EVERYWHERE. I’m so glad that I don’t get claustrophobic and I’m REALLY that glad it’s a pedestrian-only street, because it was almost too much to handle as it was. There was no going back though, the crowds were pushing me further along the street and when I finally reached the end of it, the relief was overwhelming!
At the end of Takeshita Street is one of the entrances to the enormous Yoyogi Park, where the crowds had decided to make me go. I was excited for a bit of peace and quiet, but unfortunately, even the park was full of people. I went to look at some of the temples in the park, but soon felt the need to get out of there and make my way to Shinjuku, which I hoped would be just a little bit less crowded.
Shinjuku is home to Tokyo’s skyscraper district and the main business area of Tokyo. I was actually surprised that Tokyo wasn’t all skyscrapers. As a metropolis, I would have thought that the buildings in general would be taller. But Tokyo is just really wide and doesn’t have any spectacular skyline like Hong Kong.
I had read that the Metropolitan Government Office has two observation decks, which are free to visit, so that was my plan for the afternoon. Unfortunately, after several hours of walking backwards and forwards, I just couldn’t seem to find the building, so instead, I snuck up to the top level of some other tall skyscraper. I wanted to get a good view of the city, but at the top was a sky bar, where I had to buy something (really expensive) in order to see the view. I decided not to, but I still got a decent view from the other side of the top level.
I ended that day by catching the subway from Shinjuku Station, which is the world’s busiest railway station, handling more than two million passengers every day. The whole day had been nuts, so why not just end it with that? 😉
On the second day, I met up with Victoria and Joachim and we spent the entire day in the Ueno Park and other great spots for viewing the cherry blossoms! See my pictures from that magical day here!
On the day of my birthday, April 4th, which was also my last day in Tokyo, we didn’t have any plan of what to do or see. I really like Tokyo, but the one problem that I had with it was that everything costs money. And since I’m travelling on a really tight budget, that meant that I couldn’t do much while I was there. I felt as though I had already seen what I could/wanted to, but still the third day was actually the best one. The three of us spent the entire day wandering through the streets of the Taito district, stopping at whatever we found interesting on our way. We ended up finding a really beautiful temple and some lively shopping streets with a great atmosphere.
In the evening, we went out to an Italian restaurant, and I had a margarita pizza, which I had been craving for ages! For dessert, Victoria and Joachim bought me a birthday cake and the waitress decorated the plate with chocolate, which was really sweet! Although I couldn’t have my family with me, it was a lovely birthday and I was so thankful to have Victoria and Joachim there with me! It was actually really nice to just have a slow day to hangout with no set schedule or a huge list of things to see!
In many ways, Tokyo was quite different from what I had thought it would be. It was definitely more expensive than I had thought (and hoped), but so was the rest of Japan. The skyscrapers didn’t impress me, but the rush of the city did. Everywhere I went, there were people. Even at the park, I couldn’t find a quiet corner. At the end of the day, my head was spinning and I couldn’t wait to get to my own bed, where I actually had some space of my own.
Tokyo is a pretty full-on city and there is LOTS to see and do there, but unfortunately, most of these things are quite expensive. Even the viewing tower is crazy expensive. Since I’m a budget traveller, I didn’t want to do any of these things, so I was pretty much done with Tokyo after just two days. It feels weird to say that about the worlds biggest city, but as a matter of fact, Tokyo is a really expensive city to be a tourist in and I was just not willing to pay the prices.
Still, the day where we didn’t have any set itinerary, my birthday, was my favourite day. It was nice to just wander about the streets, not having to worry about looking at maps to find the next sight. And now I can say that I’ve spent my birthday in the worlds biggest city! That’s pretty awesome, isn’t it? 😉